I have not been too active on here lately, but I wanted to post an update on where my house is and where I think I am headed next.
My home is a 2,450 SF 1-1/2 story home with two HVAC. In all, I have about 110 light bulbs (switched fixtures), 14 lamps, 4 counter lights, 41 switches, 9 two-way switches, 5 ceiling fans, 4 bathroom vents, 3 smart outlets (12 at christmas time), 2 HVACs and a partridge in a pear tree. My home alarm is hard wired and not smart. I also have about 20 low voltage garden lights in the front.
What I Have Done So Far
17 switched lights and 12 lamps have been changed to Philips Hue lights. All other lights are dimmable GE LED’s.
7 Phillips Hue switches have been added to the setup.
24 light switches have been changed to GE Z-wave switches.
5 two-way switches have been upgraded to GE Z-wave add-on switches.
Exterior garden lighting is on GE Z-wave appliance outlets
2 HVAC units were upgraded to Ecobee Thermostats (1 up and 1 down). I have 12 remote sensors on these (one in each room with a register).
1 Kwickset Z-wave front door lock
1 Ring Doorbell
1 zigbee contact sensor on mailbox
What Works So Far
- I have learned that the Z-wave system in itself is solid within in its own environment, and that Phillips Hue system is solid within its own environment.
- I find the Ecobee system is rock solid within its own environment.
- I find the Smart Light app to be very reliable given the limited functionality of it, albeit I find sunset/sunrise scripts are only 90%.
- I find WebCore to be very reliable as long as the pistons remain small, but I find motion based commands to lag considerably.
- I get a reliable notification when there is motion at the front door.
- I get a reliable notification when mail is delivered.
- Front door lock is solid - no issues.
What Does Not Work So Far
I am disappointed in the reliability of SmartThings to read a Z-Wave switch action and issue a Phillips Hue command. I have two or three switches where I have to toggle the switch on and off a few times. I attribute this to interference, but I have exhausted changing wifi, z-wave and hue channels to resolve this. I have an environmental issue where every house in my neighborhood has multiple wifi networks (I have two myself) and there is a lot of interference.
On both Webcore and the Smart Light App, I find the sunrise and sunset commands to be hit and miss…roughly only 60% accurate if I had to guess. It is not an exaggeration to say that 3 days out of a week that I have to either still manually turn on exterior lights at night or turn them off in the morning.
In general, I find WebCore pistons to only be reliable if they remain small. Large WebCore pistons run unreliable. The Catch 22 to this is I need multiple pistons to operate a single light, which leads to conflicts. I am really disappointed by the size limitations for pistons for reliability.
I find the WebCore lag time unacceptable for motion sensor based operations. It is not always long, but it is too long often enough to not be reliable.
I am struggling with home detection due to battery life. My wife does not want location services on her phone because her battery drains quickly. The fix was a Samsung presence sensor, which also quickly burns through batteries. This issue, kills what I wanted the SmartThings hub for the most.
The maintenance free operating period (thanks to @JDRoberts for coining this term) is unacceptable to use SmartThings for critical applications.
SmartThings is bricked without internet. This is just piss poor design from the root. Really, this is. Vera was all local, but sadly did not have the 3rd party product integration. But I should not have to choose giving up my GE Z-wave plus device type or local control.
Wife Approval Factor
Wife approval factor was long lost on this project. Mostly due to the unreliable and inconsistent nature of this beast. My previous forays into HA were invisible to here because they worked, but were limited in scope. A part of it is also my wife apparently fears a house smarter than her For example, she does not want lights to come on automatically; if she wants them on, she will turn them on. Same for off. She was more open to this in the beginning, but the unreliable nature of smartthings has completely turned her off.
So Where To Next
I’m still figuring this part out. I am recalibrating the “What do I want out of this” before I can answer this question. Some key functions I want are:
Automatic detection of home mode (Home, Night & Away). I may use the Ecobee sensors to determine this sense using my phone alone does not work and I cannot rely on hers (we may get her a new one this fall so this may change). While she wants to still manually turn lights on and off, I still want lights to automatically turn off when we leave home or when we go to bed. The ecobee sensors have a long lag time, but should be sufficient for this task.
Automatic operation of exterior lights based on sunset, midnight and sunrise. I am still working on the reliability of this solution. One thing I have done was I moved the Hue Lights automation to the hue app and the z-wave automation is still on SmartThings (SmartLight App). I hate having this in two locations, but it eliminates the single point of failure and so far is working.
Automatic turn on of interior lamps only when no one is home. My wife does not want lamps coming on in the evening when we are home. This I understand as with kids, anyone, including her, could be taking a nap. However, when the home is in away mode, I still want them to come on. One, makes home look occupied and two, we come home to a lit house. Lights should turn off at Night mode as per bullet above based on no occupancy after a set time so lights don’t remain on if we are on vacation.
Upgrade patio door locks and garage door locks to the keypadless kwickset z-wave locks. We have gone to bed or returned home to find an occasional door gets left open. I don’t live in a “bad” neighborhood, but homes and cars do get robbed if unlocked doors are found. A sad reality and an easy fix as I find this to be one of the reliable aspects of SmartThings.
Ceiling fan integration. I’m just not there yet. I would like fans to turn on automatically when the room is occupied and the temp is above a set point. Then turn off when unoccupied (not at night) or the temp is sustained below the setpoint. Easy enough in WebCore, but the infrastructure is lacking. All my fans have integrated fan and light on one switch. Still giving this thought. Again, I want to also retain local control (WAP) in addition to automation.
Bathroom ventilation integration. Pretty soon, I will be replacing all my bathroom vents and installing a new house ventilation system. I would like to use smartthings to integrate the systems. Auto on and off based on humidity in each bathroom. Also would like to operate the fresh air vent based on indoor vs outdoor air quality comparisons…but then override on when a bathroom vent is on. I am in south louisiana so a dehumidifier will also be part of the fresh air vent, but this will be controlled by a humidistat. I dont know of any smart ones, so I may pick up a used Ecobee and keep it in that system.
Some Key Decisions To Be Made
I really wanted to upgrade more of my house to the Hue lights. These things are great. I love the app, I love the native Siri control. I do not love the lack of a native wall switch replacement. The reliability of using SmartThings to translate Z-wave to Hue just is not there. Most of my switches (almost all) are in multi-gang boxes, so a retrofit with the hue switch on top just does not work. Having Hue in just my lamps really limits what I can do with the app. The ideal situation is having total lighting control in one app, and they only using SmartThings to tie it to total home modes or other smart systems. But I find running some lights in Hue and other lights in SmartThings is a broken HA approach. If SmartThings was actually reliable, I would go all in and leave Hue behind. The other night, we have some locally severe electrical storms. Internet was intermittent. Hue was reliable, SmartThings was not.
Alarm System. Not really discussed above but I really like my dumb alarm system. I looked at some other options to upgrade to a smart alarm system, or integrate it with SmartThings with konnected or switching over to Scout. The more I investigated these options, the more I liked my system. So much so I just renewed the contract and upgraded it to 4G from landline. I looked up the manual on my alarm system and I did find some ways to integrate this into SmartThings. I can use a relay module to notify SmartThings using a Z-wave sensor that the alarm has tripped. Additionally, I can have zones programmed to arming zones; one for home, away or sleep and then use SmartThings and Z-wave relays to set the alarm. One thing I would never do is setup SmartThings to allow disarming the system. I want someone to physically enter the code. The problem I have is the local alarm company sells home control systems so they are not interested in helping me with this, even if I am willing to pay them for the installation and programming. I have not given up on this, but it is not likely to be a priority for them.
Anyway, not really looking for anyone to come solve my problems for me. This is certainly not a rant and I’m not looking to leave SmartThings. I am re-evaluating its place in my HA scheme and I am finding it to be more of a unit protocol translator and human cyborg relations than to be the centralized controller that I originally wanted. I am working through these issues at my own pace. But thought I would share the story and welcome any feedback.
As far as other systems are concerned, I have already thrown out Lutron systems because the range on Caseta is too small for my house and the bigger systems are closed systems. I have thrown out Vera and that remains the case because it is closed to 3rd party vendors and requires too much custom scripting (same for HomeSeer); the Vera days are behind me. I am looking into HomeKit again as it seems to be much better than when it first came out. I do not find my connection to be very reliable when not at home and I suspect that is wifi interference related again. I have also dismissed anything that requires individual bluetooth or wifi devices as I think those wireless protocols are not reliable in my house. Zigbee and Z-wave work flawless so I intend to remain on these systems.