Making Things Work


2013 is going to b the year I complete my Home Automation Project. Last year I built my own streaming media service at home. Any device that can access the network, can remotely can view or play local or remote media (audio, video and pictures). Example, let’s say I want to watch a movie I own. It’s already cataloged on my storage and is readily available through DLNA services. You can connect via Ethernet or WiFi and enjoy the movie on any device. I use various DLNA services and including some Main Stream ones like Twonky with Aggregate. What’s the secret sauce? All rooms have connectivity for both wired and wireless so there are no throughput issues. Servers run the back end services so I don’t need to have my PC’s running all the time.

So with this great infrastructure, I wanted to put HA on top. Hence my backing of Smart Things. My network is not reliant on brand or special software. It just works. I am now installing Z-Wave switches/dimmers/receptacles where appropriate, but there are some things that I’m wondering. My biggest? Is Direct Association. This terminology is represented when you go to a fancy hotel in Vegas, or someone’s house that has been rigged with Home Automation. Basically it allows scene controllers and devices to interact together. I should go for those right? Well they are a premium cost. So now my question is will SmartThings bridge that gap.

Technically speaking you would need to poll all the devices in the house with there status, and then have the SmartThings hub respond when it detects a status change. This introduces some “lag”. So now on my scene controller, when I press all off, it make take some time to actually tell all the devices to go “all off.” Do I get the Direct Associated devices or simply rely on SmartThings. Here are my requirements so far:

Remote control of lighting
Status Polling of Lighting
Scene Changes
Presence Lighting (Bathroom, Stair Cases, Hallways)
Security Locks

Kristerpher, a great post with a great question. This has come up in debate recently and there are two arguments that come into play. Who’s data is considered absolute? The clouds, or the end device. It’s something we think about constantly. We think a healthy mix of both, with relying more on the cloud at the moment. The reason for this being to, as you mentioned, cut down on lag. When you change the state of a device, the state is saved in the cloud. So if you want to change the state again, the cloud remembers its last state and changes from there. This cuts down on the cloud receiving a command, sending a message down to the device to query its state, the cloud receiving it and sending down a command to change. The argument against that would be the cloud not being 100% accurate. It’s a toss-up.


The lag we’ve been seeing for things like Z-Wave switches are .5-1 second. Most of the time it is unnoticeable, even with a SmartApp that turns off 10 switches at once. I have noticed lag on some fluorescent lighting you would see in an office environment due the bulbs not being able to turn on immediately. Still not much though, MAX 1.5 sec. So at this moment let me say this:

Remote control of lighting - 100% supportedStatus Polling of Lighting - Depends. The cloud saves the state, and you can see its state and last reported action in the mobile app. There is no current SmartApp that can check the state on command. Doesn’t mean one cannot be built though.Scene Changes - 90% Supported through use of SmartAps. We’ve done most of the work, but anything custom could be developed for sure. We could do scenes that dim the lights and etc. Some people like very specific things for some scenes, and there is lots of room available for that. Benefit of an open platform. A developer build custom scenes and put it on our SmartApp store for free download or sell them.Presence Lighting (Bathroom, Stair Cases, Hallways) - 100% supported through use of SmartAppsSecurity Locks - 80% supported. We’re working on which brands models we support. We currently have great success with Schlage Nexia Devices

Z-Wave in-wall switches and outlets work great. Check out this list we just put up of confirmed supported devices:

I’d also like to say you are completely right on one important aspect. 2013 will definitely be the year for the Internet of Things. Your setup seems amazing. Post more about it! :smiley:

Thanks! I’ll be sure to update this post as I make progress. I’d like to have all my devices in place when your equipment arrives, that way I can get started right away. And since you asked, I can break down the details of my HA install, so everyone can get a better idea of what my sandbox actually looks like. So far, the list of items that I have GE/Jasco, Kwikset, Lockitron and Pebble, all are devices that are compatible with SmartThings. But let me go back to my original question with the information you provided.

So far the best setup of HA I have experienced is in the Aria Sky Suites. I haven’t seen to many residential setups, and that’s just my own experience. Their approach is the direct association and centralized system. Enter the suite and depending on the time of day, the curtain pulls back, music comes and pathway lighting turns on; centralized. Walk into each room, and scene controls exist. Along with modular controls for specific parts of the room; curtains, blinds, lights, and music - direct association. Visit any TV you can control all the scenes and also have modular control. Next to each bed, a Control4 device. I like this, but it seems like it’s necessary for ease of use. I can imagine someone having difficulty working with just a control interface through the TV simply to turn off the light.

Of course I put the system through it’s paces and love the Master Off/On, Room Refresh options. But what bothered me is the slowness of the GUI. And that’s why I chose SmartThings and backed it as soon as I discovered it was on iOS. (This is not a Mobile OS debate. Please.) Having the handheld GUI, and the cloud based accessed brings modular, remote and orchestration all together.

But I digress. Here is my house setup:

2 Ingress/Egress Doors, 1 Kwikset Deadbolt and 1 Lokitron - I like the Lokitron. It goes the extra step of working with preexisting setups. But I think that’s my choice for the Front Door, because I can use the knock feature and guest feature. I also don’t use my front door and think having the key code showing might encourage attempts to unlock. However, on the rear-door, I use the Kwikset. I use the rear-door, and I plan on using the presence feature to unlock and lock that door. Right now, it automatically locks, and I can of course enter with a code. My girlfriend has her own code too.

Light Switches - I chose GE/Jasco Z-Wave, because there are some name brand companies out there that make devices. I didn’t pick Z-Wave over Zigbee. The choice was made because SmartThings is also compatible with Z-Wave. So I just picked Z-Wave. Dimmers where appropriate and switches for on and off. I plan to use the SmartThings motion sensors for stairs and hallways.

Outlets - Floor Lamps and Table lamps. The receptacles will be GE and I will use them to replace all the switch controlled receptacles in the house. I might cheat and hook up one of my Access Points to it, so I can remote reboot (lol). I will be using the Smart devices to cheat where I need to; I’m not sure what exactly I will be plugging in though.

Temperature - SmartThings Challenge! I don’t have central air (house is 150 years old). So I use windowed Air Conditioners and Linevolt Thermostats for Baseboards. I did my research and found that I can do LV remotely. I will need to get a relay switch that steps in between the heating unit and the Thermostat. With that I can read the temperature and then interact such as switch on and off the heat. Instead of using the LV Thermostat, I can get a regular Z-Wave Thermostat and it will work. What’s the challenge? Maybe there is a better way or I can use Adruino to accomplish this without putting in relays. EDIT: I forgot to mention my preferred solution, can someone at SmartThing check out the compatibility for this:

And if anyone is curious, I can go over the network setup. Without any cloud service I’m able to access everything at home from afar. I plan on putting SmartThings on it’s own network.

Very impressive! I’ll have to check out the Aria’s system you linked. I’d like to know more about it. I’m glad you chose GE/Jasco outlets and switches as those work great. I just installed a few of each just the other day.

Our Z-Wave developer added the security layer for Z-Wave locks in the latest hub firmware. We have 3 Schlage locks installed and working and just ordered some Kwikset ones to be 100% sure.

For your window unit, you could use an arduino with a relay just fine. You could also use the Evolve LFM-20 Z-Wave relay that I use for garage door control.

woah that AC unit looks fancy! I’ll look into it.

With regards to line voltage - I also have electric line voltage heat - 120VAC @ 22A which is enough to handily annihilate most relays and is generally nerve-wracking to work with.

Honeywell has a decent-looking if expensive solution - $250 gets you a kit that will let you control one line voltage thermostat via WiFi. I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to bridge it to SmartThings.

Aube, for about $40, sells a relay/transformer combo that will both switch your line voltage line and provide a 24VDC output and control line. You can then install a Nest or just build something to interact with the 24V output - it’s MUCH easier to work with.

Several companies sell $50 digital line voltage thermostats - I suspect that hacking one of these is the best option since they already have temperature sensors and are driving a low-voltage LCD and MCU somehow.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to build your own device unless you’re already familiar with high-power electronics - there are too many caveats, gotchas, and requirements and the proper relays/triacs are all in the $30-$50 range - and then you have to add a heatsink, figure out how to power the controller, etc.

Would love to hear what your experiences are since mine have hit a wall :slight_smile: