My Lighting plan for new house, your opinions please

Before i pull the trigger on ordering I wanted to seek input on my general plan. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

First some context:

  • 5200 sq ft home 2 levels split evenly
  • Did not want to go to the expense of RA2 select
  • Love the Caseta and Smartthings so far and tested both but want to be able to exceed Caseta 50 limit.
  • Goal is to find a balance between price, quality, reliability, design, function
  • Have a decent budget if required (but happy to spend less) up to 5-7k usd. Which led JD to recommended a control 4 consult which I have tomorrow but i think that may push me over the top
  • Like the DYI and moderate control but do not want to go down the rabbit hole in deep programming or a lot work arounds. Other than the ones i’m suggesting now (lol)
  • Alexa throughout with 12 zones of Sonos already installed. Lots of voice control.

The Plan

Make Lutron Caseta (with pro-bridge) my core lighting system. Use it mostly on the main level and stretch out the 50 limit by avoiding devices like wall plugs (other than 1 for a repeater) minimize picos (because they take up a device spot and are not recognized by ST) and do not use Caseta for non critical lighting like kitchen under-lighting, rope-lights, wall unit spot etc. My plan would be to include any critical and automated lifestyle and away lighting on this system in case ST or the internet goes down. This will include my ecobee4. Caseata on a day to day will be used through ST and as a fall back/back up system that can be run by the lutron app if need be which is not cloud based.

All other dimmers, switches, sensors, wall plugs and non critical devices will be through Z-wave and when ever possible Zwave plus, probably on Levinton or GE. I’ve test a Leviton a zwave plus dimmer and wall switch, so far so good.
I expect about 25 devices (when i’m done) on Zwave. Thought is, if ST or the internet is down, for lighting, i can simple return to a on - off switch and i’ll live with all ST scenes and automation not working for that period of time. While key lighting like outdoor night lighting will remain working through Lutron Caseta?

Outdoor cameras will run through ST but the fall back (to view) will be app direct if ST or net is down or i’ll just keep them separate. Same with a couple of sensors like flood. Security system is separate and I think i’ll stay clear of door locks for now.
Garage doors and security system will be handled by their direct app.

In theory I hope this works and meets the goal of being able to expand to a larger system with ST as the primary brains with a solid fall back plan.

I hope for any input but here are a couple of things i want to confirm:
All Zwave switches/plugs will work as a normal dumb light if ST or the internet is down?
I can set a scene and schedule in ST and a different one in Lutron so if i’m away and I can pause the ST and rely on the Lutron app to perform the important task like away lighting.
Is there a email that goes out when ST is down?
Do you think 15 Zwave plus units (well placed) will provide ample coverage? (i can always a a few more)
Ff i ever sell do you think the buyer will shit his pants? lol

Thanks in advance, I’m excited to get options good, bad or indifferent.



If I were to do my setup over again, I would install ALL the switches and power outlets first — that would give you a good base for a strong Z-Wave mesh.

Also, you may want to look at the zooZ switches and dimmers, version 2.0, as they can be used with existing dumb switches in 3-way setups.


I strongly, strongly… suggest… starting SMALL!.. Just a few lights, and smoothly add to your devices as you grow and the devices are needed. I’ve been using ST for a long time, and i’ve gone from 1 device up to over 200, and then back down to around 90.

Don’t just throw a bunch of devices out there, and then find a use for them. Get your use cases together and build you network and devices with a purpose in mind. I do like the idea of installing your switches and power outlets from the router out, and doing those initially it does help build a good network.

As for coverage, start with a device is very far and see how reliable it is, and if it isn’t add a repeater right in between until you get reliability. That is the only really good way i’ve seen to do it personally.


It depends on exactly how you set them up. If it is an individual switch controlling an individual relay on the same circuit , then yes, it will continue to work manually.

If you are using features like double tap, or if you have it controlling devices on other circuits or in other parts of the house, then it will not work unless the hub is also working.

I can set a scene and schedule in ST and a different one in Lutron so if i’m away and I can pause the ST and rely on the Lutron app to perform the important task like away lighting.

I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure what you were saying here. If you have two scenes doing the same thing, they may or may not both fire, it just depends on the exact details.

At the present time, there’s no easy way to pause a smart lighting automation in SmartThings, but There will be with the new app.

Lutron and smartthings use the term “scene” somewhat differently. In SmartThings, scenes do not have triggers, they are instead activated by routines or other automations.

So I think the general answer to what you were asking is yes, Lutron scenes set up through the Lutron app can run whether or not smartthings is operating. But the answer to any one scene will depend on the exact setup.

Is there a email that goes out when ST is down?

This answer is complicated. You should always get a notification on your phone if your hub goes off-line. Also, you can sign up for notifications from the official status page, but they often get sent out an hour or more after an outage actually occurs.

I’m tired right now, so someone else can explain about simple device viewer and other wellness monitoring options.

Do you think 15 Zwave plus units (well placed) will provide ample coverage? (i can always a a few more)

It depends on exactly where they are placed in the home. If you put 15 units in three rooms on one floor they may not help at all for something on the other side of the house. I thought I had given you the following links already, but there are two different FAQs that should help. (These are clickable links)

Read the FAQ on range and repeaters, and in particular start with post 11 in that thread, then go back up to the top of thread and read the whole thing.

And then read this FAQ, which is specific to Z wave coverage for a large house:

The Zooz is definitely an interesting line and worth looking at, but we should also note that if you are using the original dumb auxiliary switch, you can only do on/off, you cannot dim from the auxiliary . You would have to walk over to the master switch to change the dim level. That will work for some households but not others.

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I’ll do that for sure…in moderate stages. When you said you built to 200 and went down to 90 in ST, what was the cause/reason you went down?

I know I use more devices then a lot of people want to buy, but I’m all about reliability, and that means a strong mesh Even if the network gets a little busy.

So as I have said elsewhere, I just put one repeater of each protocol in every room, and if I can afford it, I put two, at least in the big rooms. It does mean spending more money upfront, but you save a lot of troubleshooting time down the line. Because then the problem is never the mesh. :wink:

another thing to consider is if the electician doing the installation… they have their own ideas of how wiring should occur (as well as code to follow) and may find issue with how the lutron switches are wired - i just built a house and installed all light switches as leviton zwave plus dz6hd switches. the builder’s electrician had some issues figuring out how to wire these guys and then had to also order the leviton ‘slave’ switches in those places where we wanted multiple switches on a circuit. (eg stairways or large rooms) in total i have around 75 zwave switches in my ST. i looked at the lutron caseta switches and found them a bit problematic - they had issues working with the LED lighting i chose and didnt wire in a ‘standard’ fashion (something about them not using 3 wires or something? idk, not an electrician) and overall i felt the levitons were more solid feeling.
re: the concerns about ST cloud based… well, i’ve used both ST and vera (yet another zwave hub) and am fine w/ jumping to another local based hub should it come to that.
but i digress. i think you’ve thought things through well and i commend that. i would for sure run the ideas by your electrician to make sure it works for them as well.

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Well, @Dave_MB I started off pretty early and built my ST network from one switch up, and hide high hopes of not just smart control of my house but of true automation. I had tons of different devices that ST supported or a community DH supported that became so unreliable or stopped supporting that i had to remove them. (Netatmo Weather Stations, Blink Camera, devices from Wink (Spotters, Pivot Power Switches). I had a lot of virtual switches that were needed to get around ways that ST worked, and then a lot of devices I found a didn’t use anymore (keychain zwave remote, other Zwave remotes and Aeon MiniMotes) once I got voice control with Alexa. I originally had all of my Hue bulbs iterated through ST, but it became pointless to use them thru ST because of how unreliable it was.

I rebuilt my network when I upgraded to the V2 hub, and stripped out a ton of stuff I didn’t use, and that never really worked or was a nightmare to maintain. I got tired of resetting the ST branded Zigbee motion sensors that would become unresponsiveness from time to time, even though I had a good mesh network for Zwave and Zigbee.

I reduced a ton, and I use ST for convenience but there isn’t much that I use it for that is critical. I have a notification play on Sonos when a presence sensor arrives and maybe it changes the mode, but it doesn’t unlock doors, or do anything fancy because it is just not reliable.

I’m an enterprise software developer, so I got tired of having to do IT on my home network consistently, so I reduced it back to very, very simple to try and reduce the maintenance.

I really was excited about ST at first, and I wrote some of my own SmartApps, and used community device handlers, but I couldn’t get over how unreliable it was. It is just a fun, nice to have HA system, but I don’t use it for security, and i don’t rely on it for anything critical.

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@spikenheimer I would be really curious about what the electrician thought wasn’t normal, the neutral wire which is required for most Zwave/Zigbee switches is required has been required to be on new home construction for quite a while. If you are doing 3 way or 4 way switches you will need the add-on, but i can’t think of anything that require them to not wire it in the “normal” way.

Very interesting… I would be curious if you found out more, or if they were just running up the price on you because they didn’t know about these newer switches?

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That is exactly what isn’t "normal”. Wiring smart switches in 3 way seems to vary by smart switch, and isn’t your standard travellers, constant hot, switch leg and neutral combination. It’s basically using the house wiring as comm wiring instead. I can see how it would make some electricians nervous.

Hmm. I have 2 good friends who are a residential and commercial electrician with one 15 years and one 10 years experience and they didn’t have any worries when they were helping me wiring up my smart switches. I must just be lucky.

I’m a commercial electrician and I’ve been doing it for 12 years. I have no problem figuring out conversions from regular 3 and 4 way switching to smart switch wiring. I just recognize that not all electricians are dynamic learners.

Thanks for sharing the experience. I’m beginning to understand that ST is an awesome product but evolving fast, and may not rate high in reliability…at least not yet. I was about to dive into this whole home automation head first (2 weeks after it entered my mind lol ) with the assumption that if the device was ST approved it would work and work well with everything else. Thanks to input and reading more , I’ll take a more cautious and progressive staged approach. On that basis, I ordered a bunch of Lutron Caseta dimmers, switches and pico’s as my starting point with due consideration that the platform is robust and integrates with sonos, ecobee4 and a couple of other items. I’ll test out about 30 lights/devices to start (including picos for 3 way switches) and slowly build form there. I’ll have a dual set up, and tie Lutron Caseta into ST but be ready to fall back to the Lutron non cloud based app if things go wacky with ST.
Any additional lighting or devices that go beyond the Castata 50 limit, will be a trial and error and a slow cautious build, at least if the the plan is to control them through ST. I also plan to stick with the larger brand names that appear to be very committed to smart, with the expectation that they’ll be around long term, evolve and have more to lose and gain, even though I often support the smaller brands and start ups in other purchasing. I think I may categorize any devices that requires smart things to operate (without its own app) or cloud based, as not critical to the daily operation and safety of the home. One other thing that will influence my decisions is to think beyond myself by asking if i sell the home in time, what will it this look like for the next owner? Thanks to this forum, my biggest take home was to reverse my “get it all done at once” mentality and enjoy the evolution of smart home and all the new devices coming to market by building it over time. When I was younger, I have to admit that building a stereo system a little at a time provided more long term excitement that buying it all at once, which I can afford to do now but couldn’t back then. I’ll take that approach now…enjoy the ride, start with a good base and build it over time and have a lot of fun (and a little technical frustration) along the way.
Thank for the help everyone…now how the hell do I get Alexa working in my car…lol

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Hey JD, special thanks for your input, it helped more than your probably realize. FYI , as you suggested, I had a consult with a control 4 specialist (as it turned out I know him) and he recommended the Lutron Caseta path for me, infact they are selling and install it iand the really like it(and the are a sizeable firm) . He cited expense as one reason (probably a 20k or more for my project) and also mentioned that Sonos has taken a many steps back with control 4 which was high on my list. Anyway I thought you may wanted to know.
Your reliability concerns really hit home with me, and you probably wont believe it, but my hub went down for a about 30 seconds while I was typing this.

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We’ve got our fair share of electricians asking us to confirm that they’re reading the Zooz 3-way diagrams correctly because they don’t make much sense to them. This is probably due to the simple fact that electricians are trained to do electrical work while to understand how smart switches communicate between one another, you also need to have some basic knowledge of electronic communication.

We’d seen electricians damaging GE switches (by powering up the add-ons) very often. Now that the technology got more popular it doesn’t happen quite as much but we always recommend giving your electrician a warning that z-wave switches wire differently and having them at least take a look at the diagrams in the manual.

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Glad to help. Sounds like you had a productive meeting! :sunglasses:

BTW, If your primary interest is lighting on a time schedule, by voice control, by geopresence, and by motion sensor, there’s an interesting approach which is local (except for the voice control), very reliable, and can be shifted to smartthings later if you choose to do that. This consists of:

  1. Lutron Caseta switches with the Lutron SmartBridge

  2. Amazon Echo or Google Home

  3. Philips Hue Bridge

  4. Philips Hue Motion Sensors

  5. Apple HomeKit via an IPad running the newest iOS

By adding HomeKit you can very easily link the Hue motion sensors with the Caseta switches.

The available rules options are much less sophisticated than the ones in smartthings, and there’s a much more limited selection of devices, But as a starter set up it’s a very practical and easy way to add just a little more to a solid reliable lighting system.

So it’s just one more possibility to consider if you are building things out in stages. :sunglasses:

it was more the issue with trying to use the switch in multiple locations for the same circuit - hence the need for the slave switches…

Wow that sounds worthy of consideration. I completely ignored home kit (based on how far behind they are) even though our eco system is Apple with a bunch of Apple tv’s, 2 mac air, imac and mobile devices. Are you suggesting I could run everything , Casesta, hue motions sensors and a few lights from Hue, through homekit with moderate lighting automation capability (less than st)? Can we use both Alexa and or Siri for voice control? Really the more I think about this, sonos voice control and lighting is the majority of want/need/cost and complexity. Outside of that, we’ll probably go with just a few other one off items like garage openers, thermostat and perhaps the new Kohler toilet ( …just kidding. Any resource links would be great. I’ll study up and thanks once again.

Yes and yes. :sunglasses:

We use Alexa for choice (a Dot in most rooms), but Siri, especially on the Apple Watch, on occasion with the same devices. And Siri via cellular is then a voice backup if Alexa is ever misbehaving, (That has only happened once or twice a year, but since I have limited use of my hands, a voice backup method is important.)

I can also use Siri Anywhere i’m Out of range of an Alexa device.

The rules engine is much more simplistic than SmartThings, but intuitive and easy. The app is called Home and is already installed on any device running iOS 11.

There is an article in the community-created wiki on devices that work with both HomeKit and SmartThings. There aren’t many, but there are some, including both Lutron Caseta and the Philips Hue Bridge.