Modular Installation to Old House

Q1 Is there a new version of either hardware or firmware due soon?
We’re shooting for July for Hub V2.

Q2 I leave my car in the garage and take transit to work, should I consider dropping a Presence Sensor in the car to confirm it is located at home?
I’ve seen people do this, and yes, it works best with Cars, dogs, and young children.

Q3 If any adult users of the home have the app installed, will they need a Presence Sensor?
phone works as presence sensor.

Q4 Any ideas what other clever uses someone could put to a Presence Sensor?
@jdroberts puts a presence sensor in a metal enclosed thing, so it doesn’t detect it when it’s inside. just lift the cup and it triggers something.


Unfortunately “phone (mobile SmartThings App) as presence or Geo Location” is currently very unreliable and myself and various Community members would strongly recommend against, well, relying on it. I know SmartThings is exploring various ways to improve this feature, and there are a few Community members who have done some successful hacking for incremental improvement.

I can say that I’ve literally made the following comment a dozen times:
IMHO: Please consider implementing your system slowly and incrementally. Pick a function area (lighting automation or basic security, for example, but not both at the same time), and buy just a few components needed to get that working. It is easier to familiarize yourself with the product and platform – and easier to debug problems if you minimize initial complexity. As you add more devices and automation, be prepared to encounter hiccups to overcome, but the value will grow faster than the issues.

A few too many folks have initiated Topics here saying how frustrated they are at having spent “$ thousands” on a product that completely doesn’t work. Usually turns out that they are encountering a difficulty with a very specific few features (such as phone presence…, ahem, and that unfortunately messes up many of their automation rules. Or a relatively small temporary platform outage (which are becoming less frequent, BTW), is perceived as a major breakdown due to the pervasiveness of the system in their home.

Browse the Forums and enjoy learning the positive and negative experiences, and you’ll also find several threads answering the exact same questions of your initial post. :wink: … and plenty of Community members that will help you with specific decisions, best practices, debugging, etc…, especially if you can focus on one thing at a time.


There are discussions in the forum archives on many of these questions that might be helpful, such as cats and motion detectors. I’m having some vision issues today, but I’ll see if I can dig some out for you over the next few days.

Meanwhile, read this on presence sensors before getting in too deep. :wink:


Cats, motion sensors, ST:

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On the thermostat…

That thermostat itself is capable of controlling both heating and cooling, but both systems have to be wired to the thermostat. In old houses, the air conditioning was often added later, and didn’t always get connected to the original heating system thermostat. Sometimes it had its own thermostat and sometimes it just worked with local settings. So it really depends on how your individual house was wired. But thermostat can do it once the heating and cooling systems are connected to it.

As far as which thermostats are best, different people like different ones. A lot of people in the SmartThings community like Ecobee. It has some great features, including the ability to put sensors in different parts of the house. However, the integration with smartthings is cloud to cloud, which can be a little tricky. Other people love nest, but there the integration with SmartThings is less well developed.

I would start a new individual topic and just ask people for their opinions on the best thermostat to use with SmartThings. You will get a lot of different answers! But that can be helpful in itself. :blush:

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On the garage door opener, opinions vary as to how important it is to follow the underwriters laboratory safety guidelines for unattended operation of garage doors.

If you just hotwire a relay like the one you mentioned, which is UL approved for appliance control, but not for garage doors, then you forego some safety features like the beep before it starts to close.

If you’re willing to spend about $50 more, you can get one of the
UL approved solutions like the Telgard or the Linear GD00Z.

(If your housemate pays you rent, Local housing codes may require you to use a UL approved solution, btw. Individual homeowners can make their own choice. The hotwire option is used by a lot of people, although I’d go the UL route myself. It’s a personal decision.)

The linear is also very popular, and GaryD has written a device type for it which works well with ST.

Battery life is hugely dependent on how you set up your own installation.


General industry guidelines for the previous generation of both zigbee (HA 1.2h and Zwave were that the batteries should last in normal use for about 1 to 3 years. Door locks and smoke detectors, which are devices which are awake much more often, aim for typical use of 1 year with conventional batteries. Some smoke detectors have special batteries rated at 3 years.


The newest generation of Z wave, Zwave plus, and the next coming generation of Zigbee, zigbee 3.0, both promise much improved battery life. The industry-standard is expected to change from a typical use range of 1 to 3 years to a typical use range of 3 to 5 years. With smoke detector batteries probably lasting 10 years.

A few zwave plus devices are now on the market, but both these standards are supposed to really come into play in 2016. So you can expect improved battery life in future devices, but not most of the ones you’re buying now.

Also, since you’re in Canada, we should also mention that the new standards should also mean improved operation at very cold temperatures. You’ll see zwave plus devices, for example, listed with a much broader operating temperature range.


a) excessive temperatures, both hot and cold. Read specs carefully.

B) excessive polling. This is a choice you make when you operate your network. Much discussion in the forums so I won’t go into more detail now.

C) not enough devices. Or not doing a network heal after adding new devices. Mesh networks like zwave and Zigbee get stronger and work more efficiently when there are more devices. When you have fewer devices, especially devices that are more than one hop from the hub, they have fewer choices for the message path they take. If Paths fail, The battery powered devices have to make multiple attempts to get through. This then uses more of their battery life. So again, just something to be aware of. Especially if you’re seeing battery life drop quicker than you expect.

D) endless loops. Device a triggers device b which triggers device a and so on. This is almost always unintentional, and is usually easy to fix what you realize what’s going on.

E) battery choice. There really is a difference in different types. It’s an individual decision whether you want to get cheap batteries and change them more often or get better quality batteries and change them less often.

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Here’s my best effort answers to your questions. (@April did a good job of answering 1-4, so here are the rest)

Q5 Do these kind of thermostats control heat and air conditioning, or would I need a separate control for the AC as well as the heating?
They do heating and cooling.

Q6 Are there other thermostats I should consider, such as the Lyric?
A few users use Ecobee and like them. I use a Nest (which I like), but has very poor integration with Smartthings even though official support was promised long ago.

Q7 Will these sensors report the status of the door to the hub, obviating the need for an open/close sensor?
They indicate locked/unlocked. If you want to know if the door is ajar, you’ll need a door/window sensor.

Q8 Is there a cheaper alternative for the garage access door?
Q9 Is there a cheaper alternative for the basement suite door?
Check amazon for cheaper z-wave deadbolt locks. also sells a generic z-wave deadbolt lock that works.

SmartSense Multi Sensor x 2Detects if the garage doors are open or closedQ10 Will a Open/Closed Sensor work just as well?
Yes, if they are aligned properly. It depends on your garage door and sometimes its hard to stick both sides of the sensors so that they can be next to each other

Q11 Would the Multi Sensor allow me to confirm the temperature in the garage for use in a scene?
It will report temperature that you can use with smartapps

Evolve Z-Wave LFM-20 Fixture Module x 2Actuate the garage doors to open or close themQ12 Will adding this extend the mesh to the garage, approximately 5 meters from the house?
Generally, any plug-in powered (not battery powered) z-wave device acts as a repeater. The range varies depending on what’s in the way. Sometimes you can go 10 meters, sometimes only 1-2.

Q13 Any other danger and damage sensors I should consider?
I use the combo smoke/CO2 detector and moister detectors. You can also put sensors on things like safes and cabinets to tell if they are opened

Q14 What interesting uses have these been put to?
You can have it turn on a dehumidifier (by activating a z-wave outlet) if it becomes too humid, or conversely with a humidifier.

Q15 I’m assuming most people are using these to tell if something has been moved or actuated, but has anyone come up with any creative uses?
You can use them as a switch to turn on/off lights or activate various things around the house.


Wireless CamerasI will have IP Cameras at the front door, back door, garage, and server. These are connected to my home server, which runs software to capture video.
SmartSense Motion Sensor x 0Q16 We’re going to get a cat - how can we stop the beast turning on all the lights? By knowing that we’re all away? Does this mean that if I am home, the cat can turn on all the lights by running around?
Most motion detectors have a limited range (or adjustable range) of view to avoid seeing animals on the ground. Now, if your cat jumps up on furniture, the cat may trigger some motion/lights. This takes some adjustment. Best tip: Put the detectors high enough so they only trigger for humans.

SmartSense CR-2 Battery LifeQ17 How long is the battery life for most of the SmartSense products?
I don’t have these, but most z-wave products last 6months - year on battery. Use amazon to buy a bunch of cheap batteries as replacements.

IFTTTI love using IFTTT and I’m very much looking forward to expanding my recipesQ18 Would it be possible to write a text-based log of events to OneNote, EverNote, or another destination using IFTTT? Has anyone done this?
IFTTT can log certain events (presence, locks, motion, open/close, temperature, humidity, brightness), but not everything. It’s limited. SmartThings keeps a (time) limited log of all events, and I know some people have third-party smart apps that will log as well.


I recommend this $30 Z-Wave tilt sensor. It has a very simple mechanism and works very reliably for me.

Somewhat cheaper than SmartThings Multi-Sensor (though, if you’re clever with placement and a custom SmartApp, you could use both features of the Multi-Sensor (orientation and contact), for redundant monitoring). This kind of “power” is why we love SmartThings – it isn’t trivial to put in place such customizations, but it isn’t super hard either, and the folks here on the forum enjoy helping out with such ideas.


April, thank you for your thoughts!

Q1 Is there a new version of either hardware or firmware due soon?
I’ll hold off purchasing the SmartHub until the July or later release

Q2 Presence Sensor in the car
I see that even Alex Hawkinson does this with his car, so I’ll add one or two into the mix!

Q3 Phone App as Presence Sensor?
This is great news!

Q4 Any ideas what other clever uses someone could put to a Presence Sensor?
Oh that’s a nifty idea, using a way to block the signal!

Terry, thanks so much for your advice. I take to heart your words around using a geo-locative device as a method of accessing something significant - such as a door lock.

I also see the benefit of your suggestion to grow the system slowly, minimising the initial complexity and allowing the mesh to heal. I hope the hub+cloud approach of the new system will help remove some of these issues. Very much enjoying the clarity of the SmartThings web site (compared to some other home automation offerings) and the engagement of the community.


I’d also say check out this forum discussion here regarding different user’s setups. I know I get great ideas when I see what others have done!


JDRoberts, you are an absolute superstar. Thank you for your detailed responses.

The article on the Presence Sensor was very useful indeed. A lot of the time I’m just looking for existing use cases, but the comment you made on being able to simply try it, and return a sensor if things don’t work out, is an obvious but probably much overlooked one.

The thermostat issue is interesting, I’ll get my electrician to look at the two systems to see if there are any issues with the connection, and research the community forums for any other suggestions.

As for the garage door opener, I had no idea about this underwriters laboratory safety guidelines - I’ll look those up, and keep researching.

Thank you also for your thoughts on the battery life issue - I’m assuming that each device reports a battery status too, so I can tell when they need replacing?

Lots of superstars here. I’m just an engineer. :wink:

As far as battery life, yes, the devices report their status.

If you use one of the dashboard apps like the popular SmartTiles, you can review battery status easily.

(SmartTiles was developed by one of those many community superstars, @625alex , and now has official support so it’s an easy install. )

As far as the garage door controller, it’s pretty straightforward. You buy the $90 UL certified Linear (which includes a tilt sensor) and use @garyd9 's free device handler. Or you buy the $30 relay, a $30 tilt sensor, and Hotwire the door without the unattended mode safety features. Your choice, unless your township has a different requirement. (GaryD is another one of those many superstars. As is @tgauchat . :blush:)

Me, I’ll pay a little extra for UL certification, but a lot of people don’t care.

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Engineers built this world, maintain it, and repair any damage. To me, that’s a superstar.


Well, I have the house and have upgraded the electrical supply. I’ve not checked to see if the light switches have a ground wire yet, but I can always get an electrician to run them around if I need them.

I’ve pulled together a list of things I want to install:

Of course I’d do these in phases, and test their integration. All I need now is for SmartThings to release Hub 2.0 and I can get started. Can’t wait.

I wish it were that “easy”. I’ve given up on automated wall light switches (for now) due to lack of neutral wires. In an old house, installing neutrals requires tearing into walls. Yuck.

I’m eternally grateful for connected lightbulbs (GE Link, Hue) + Aeon Minimotes to get around that problem.

Things are progressing nicely, with a few hiccups.

Wave 1 involved the installation of:

  • SmartThings Hub in the living room
  • SmartThings Arrival Sensor in the glove box of the car
  • 2 x Quirky GE Link bulb in the living room

Wave 1 issues included:

  • Windows Phone not providing accurate presence information
  • Arrival Sensor being a Presence Sensor (the old one)
  • Arrival Sensor having much lower battery value than expected
  • Arrival Sensor not providing accurate presence information

Wave 1 resolution actions included:

  • Asking on the forums when we can expect a Windows Phone / Windows Universal update
  • Confirming the Presence Sensor is the same as the Arrival Sensor
  • Expecting the presence information for the thing in the car to improve as the mesh develops

Wave 2 involved the installation of:

  • Quirky GE Link bulbs in the front entrance, back entrance, hall, garage x 2, and storage area
  • SmartThings Multipurpose Sensors on the front, kitchen, back, and garage access doors
  • SmartThings Motion Sensor in the front entrance, hall, back entrance, and garage
  • SmartThings Motion Sensors for the living room, kitchen, storage area, and utility have been purchased but not yet installed
  • First Alert Smoke and CO Detectors in the hall and utility

Wave 2 issues included:

  • Windows Phone app “Smart Lighting” SmartApp not recognising any triggers
  • SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor not connecting when in the garage
  • Quirky GE Link bulb not turning on in the utility room socket

Wave 2 resolution actions included:

Wave 3 will involve the purchase of a number of SmartThings Outlets, plus some SmartThings Water Leak Sensors and two more Quirky GE Link bulbs.

Wave 4 will involve the purchase of an Indoor Siren and a few Minimotes, plus hopefully two Garage Door Controllers, a Doorbell, and a few Wireless Touch Panels (I’m looking at you, Aeotec!).

Wave 5 is where I sort out the thermostat, locks, and windows sensors, but this ties in with a general replacement of all the external doors and windows (it IS an old house after all).

However, all purchases are on hold until I can resolve the issues with the triggers.

As you can see from this screenshot of my SmartTiles:

  • The Arrival Sensor (Glitch) is at 63% rather than 100% as with the other new battery devices
  • (I have a Toyota Matrix - so there’s a Glitch in the Matrix. Shut up.)
  • The garage door Multipurpose Sensor is reporting that the door is open, shaking, and warm (24C)
  • The garage door is actually shut, still, and around 14C
  • I find it odd that the Arrival Sensor is detected, but the Multipurpose Sensor is acting a little messed up,
  • They’re both in the Garage, so maybe I should get an Outlet to repeat the mesh?

You can also see here how the Arrival Sensor freaks out a little bit:

(That’s understated Englishness for “lost it completely”)

Anyway, that’s where I am so far. Not ideal, especially considering the lack of Triggers. Hopefully ST will get back to me soon about this.

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The presence sensor is still flipping out:

But to be fair, the three battery powered items in the garage are not connected to the mesh properly:

  • Garage Door
  • Garage Arrival
  • Garage Motion

I suspect the problem is simply the need for a repeater, so I’ll up the purchase of the Outlets in wave 3 to… Monday. Woot!

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Wave 3 is complete. Four SmartThings Outlets have been installed. Two are in the living room, and highlight the dining table. Two are in the kitchen (along with two of these lovely little 360 Electrical Revolve things), and trigger the under cabinet lighting when there is motion. I’ve also put a Water Leak sensor under the kitchen sink, and one under the washing machine. One more GE Link Quirky bulbs has been installed, taking the total to 9.

I’m hoping the four new outlets, two of which are closer to the garage, will help connect the mesh to the zigbee devices in there. Since a hub outage on Saturday, two of the devices are reporting constant knocking and constant motion, which messes up the Smart Lighting app there. I will power off the hub tonight and let it attempt a heal.