My needs are simple, must I hope to make sure I'm looking at the right thing before buying

(Jay) #1

Hi Community,

I’ve been reading a lot in the past week about smart home and SmartThings, but since I don’t have any of those smart hubs with me yet, there is no way for me to be very sure of whether this is the right thing I should get.

Before getting into the actual scenarios, there is a bigger problem that I need an answer for.

My family is moving to a new 5-floor concrete house (Ground, 1, 2, 3, and Root for easy referencing). The router will be on level 3 and a WIFI extender/hotspot will be used to ensure WIFI coverage for all 5 floors. The question is, would z-wave or zigbee protocol provide enough coverage to control sensors/devices on G floor, or must I rely on WIFI and only WIFI? There is reinforced concrete between the floors. Is there any sort of signal extender for those protocols?

Then about the functionality of the SmartThings hub. Unlike many other users, I do not intend to control anything at all, but I’d rather to preset all the automation rules and let the things control themselves for me. To me, a smart home is the one that can think and act by itself, not the one to receive orders and execute them.

The only time that I will pull out the app on my phone is to set the house to “Sleep” mode to activate even more preset rules (I guess there’s no inexpensive way to let the house know that I’m about to sleep other than touching an icon in the app).

The rules I have in mind are not rocket science, they’re just like:

  1. Auto on/off the lights along the corridor and staircases at night when someone is using them. Motion sensors may be used here and I guess this can be done by a few shortcut groups, one for each corridor/staircase. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. Auto on the bathroom light when some one walk in, keep the light on while they’re doing their things (note that people may not move at all while doing certain thing), and auto off when the person walks out and close the door. Still don’t know what to use here yet (motion sensor or door open/close sensor, or both). If using door sensor, it may not work properly if the person does not close the door (i.e. to wash hands only), or if the door is open and close again but the person is still inside, for whatever reason. If I can do this, I can do the same thing for the kitchen and the study room as well.

  3. When I turn on my PS4, the TV should be on as well (haha, this crazy idea just pop out)

  4. The air conditioner auto off at 4am and the fan auto turn on to take over the job. Well I may need a thermostat and a smart plug for this but they added up would be even more expensive than the hub itself. Is there any cheaper way?

  5. When I change the mode to “Sleep”, the app should warns me if there is any window left open or if the Roof door isn’t locked,

  6. While in “Sleep” mode, trigger an alarm on my phone when unexpected motion is detected on G or R floors. By alarm I mean something that can wake me up at night instead of just a push notification or an email. I initially thought of a siren, but that may wake up the whole neighborhood for a false alarm which is not nice at all.

  7. Have two buttons on Ground and Root floors for my family member to press to temporarily pause the alarm mode if they need to access the motion monitored zone, during the “Sleep” mode, then press again to unpause it. This is because my parents do not use smartphone.

Well I only need to know if the above are achievable at all, even with custom coding.

Thank you in advance for all constructive replies.

(Keith Croshaw) #2

So z-wave has repeaters to buy, just like WIFI. There aren’t many Zigbee repeaters but most devices that are powered at all times act as repeaters, so zigbee outlets / plugs / lights.

All of those rules seem dooable, the PS4 seems a little tough but you could plug it into a “Metering” Smart Outlet and when the power goes above whatever the standby current is turn on an outlet for the TV. ( I don’t know if this will perform fast enough for you, my Aeon Smart Outlet reports power very slowly, I’ve heard the SmartThings outlet is faster. Honestly I’d probably go for a Logitech Harmony solution for that.

For the other rules I recommend this simple rule builder by @JoeC

Works great for me for most situations, (Not power consumption at the moment though,)

Good luck! Remember take it slow! One project at a time, get it working good then move on.


Concrete interferes with all radio frequency signals, including wifi, zigbee, and zwave. You’re going to have some issues. Zigbee and zwave themselves typically only cover about 30 feet per device indoors, so basically you need a mains powered device that can repeat the signal every 30 feet or so. These can be light switches, outlets, even light bulbs in some cases. But it is part of the planning.

Everyone has different requirements for peace of mind. For me personally, my minimum requirements for an alarm system are that it work when the power is out, that it be professionally monitored 24/7, and that it communicate with the monitoring office via cellular, not Internet. That lets SmartThings out on all 3 counts, so I have a completely separate security system that I do pay a monthly fee for. But some people hate paying a monthly fee, so it all comes down to your personal priorities.

If you’re trying to solve this very cheaply, as in the $99 hub seems like a big investment to you, you may be able to, but it’s likely that you’ll end up with a system that requires a lot of daily maintenance to keep operational.

It never hurts to look and see what’s out there, if only to spark new ideas. :blush:


The PS4 being linked to the TV for power on is easy with any universal remote.

Harmony from Logitech is very popular, comes in several models, and has some integration with SmartThings.

RoomieRemote is another possibility, although you’d probably also have to buy an IR blaster.

(Keith Croshaw) #5

I really wish there where z-wave / zigbee to “Ethernet” converters. It doesn’t even have to be real ethernet, Cat 5-6 would just be a pretty standard physical media, just some way to get hardwired drops to repeaters throughout a house like this would be awesome.


You can do the equivalent of that by etherneting to a secondary controller. People have Vera installations (zwave) across multiple outbuildings putting a controller in each building and running cable between them. The same should theoretically be possible with SmartThings, although I don’t know anyone who actually has.

Lightbulbs often make good repeaters along stairwells. Mains powered motion detectors also are used for this purpose.

Lots of multi floor buildings running zigbee installs, you just have to plan for it.
(Zwave’s addressing scheme limits it to about 250 devices per network, while zigbee can easily do thousands, so you more typically see zigbee in networks for big buildings.)

(Brice; #7

FWIW I’ve got a basement plus three floors with the SmartThings hub on floor 1 and devices on all floors. I’ve never had any problems with connectivity of any devices, and I don’t have any standalone repeaters, just the devices that do something and also act as a repeater (like a light switch).


I’ll bet your floors aren’t reinforced concrete, though. :wink:

The numbers in this graphic are the amount of signal lost as it attempts to traverse each material.

(Brice; #9

True! I missed that part.


You should be able to use SmartThings for the items in question.
A simple in-wall outlet or light switch on each level should allow you signal coverage on each floor. I’ve got several of these installed and I’ve never had any issues with signals between multiple levels on any of my homes.

As for the PS4, if you have a newer TV there should be an HMDI port labeled with HDMI-CEC. If the device that is plugged into that port is also a CEC capable then it should turn on the TV when you turn on the device. I believe the PS4 is a CEC device, but haven’t tried it personally.

I would personally wait for the new V2 hub, if you are not in rush for automation.


Do you live in a concrete house?

(Jay) #12

Well I have another issue… most of the devices listed on Amazon or SmartThings shop are 120V, and we’re using 220V here in my country.


Here you go JD.
The house we sold last year was built in the late 50’s by a guy who was paranoid about fires and tornados. He didn’t use any wood for the structural construction of the house. Only the doors, window frames and some faux ceiling beams where wooden. The exterior walls were roughly 12.5” thick. Made from 4”x4"x16” stone bricking on the outside, then 8” concrete cider block covered with a wire mess and then ½” of Venetian plaster on the inside. Interior walls were also 8” concrete cider block covered with a wire mess and then ½” of Venetian plaster on each side. So you ended up with 9” walls between all rooms. The floors and ceilings were 4” poured concrete with massive ¾” rebar reinforcement. This place is basically a cold bunker year round, and a real pain to remodel. No real signal issues there,and none in our new stick built home. Glad to see that bunker go.


Excellent. :blush:

With the right placement, you can definitely get signals through the air spaces, sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error.

It’s one of the best things about mesh: you don’t have to get a signal all the way back to the hub in one hop, just to the nearest neighbor node.

Zwave has a 4 hop limitation, so a lot of network engineers will say “3 floors” for a concrete building. Zigbee is more like 10, depending on the exact profile used.

The hop limitation is why it’s almost always best to place the hub geographically in the center of the network, so you can go 4 hops in all directions.

If you have a 5 floor concrete building and you put the hub on the third floor, you should be able to at least get a signal along the stair wells in both directions.

If instead you put the hub in the basement and you lose signal in the flooring material, you could run out of zwave hops before you get to the top floor.

“All home automation is local,” it just depends on the exact layout.

(Nico) #15

Talking about IR blaster, is there any solution to control any universal remote with Smartthings yet ?
to control split AC, TV, dvd player that controlled only by IR remote

Because, I use conventional split AC and TV. Can’t use controllable thermostat and Harmony remote
Hopefully there’s a way to use device that can act like my ir remote


Why doesn’t the Harmony work for you? It has an IR blaster, so if it doesn’t work I’m not sure anything else will, either.

(Nico) #17

is harmony work with split AC ?
What I imagine is IR blaster device that installed near the TV or AC, so I can control my AC and TV.


Different Harmony models work in slightly different ways, but I would think there would be one that worked.

I have the Harmony Home Hub.

The Hub is a box about the same size as the SmartThings hub. It includes an IR blaster. The remote is a regular universal handheld remote. It communicates with the Harmony Hub, but doesn’t use IR, so is very lightweight. There is also a second tiny IR blaster, about the size of two dice stuck together. It plugs into the hub with a long cord so you can position it where you need it.

The Harmony/SmartThings integration is still in closed Beta, but you should be able to get in touch with Logitech (they make Harmony) to see if the IR control will work with your devices.