Need Reassurance

Hi all : ) I’ll try to make this short and to the point. I am new to SmartThings and have the kit and a Zen Thermostat due in tomorrow. I also picked up a GE Connected bulb a few days ago. I have been doing my research on everything, to where I have exhausted finding any new information on all my preconceived devices (yet to come) ~ it all sounded good and made me think that I was on to something. However, I decided to sign up and become part of this community and had hoped I would learn more detailed and candid information. Well…I certainly got my wish! Now I am wondering if I should even get into this whole home automation thing.

I am basically quite surprised how many threads there are on so many users having issues. And I do realized that not always is everything going to go as planned, but still, I’ve become concerned. I also understand that there is going to be more negative comments because, after all, that is when someone comes seeking answers for problems they encounter. I did read a thread or two where ones were attempting to spread the word how well their system worked and it wasn’t all bad.
I must say, I love the concept - security, convenience, etc., and the fact I can self-monitor our home when we are gone - sometimes months on end and miles away. I thought it would be beneficial for us, not to mention the fun and challenge of connecting our home, one device at a time. But I am really having second thoughts. And maybe I should add that I am on my own here and would need to make this all work, maybe not flawlessly, but fairly smoothly to convince my non-techno hubby that it’s worth the cost. Thanks in advance for any positive thoughts to move forward and/or constructive criticism on the system.

1 Like

There, there. :sunglasses:

Not everyone has problems with ST. I’d venture that most have problems occasionally, but if you aren’t expecting perfection, then I believe you’ll be pleased with the system overall.

3 Likes

@GJsHereToo, I will add that I have only been a ST owner since Thanksgiving and I have come a long way in understanding what I can expect to get from ST in the short-term… entertainment.

If you enjoy tweaking things and playing around with new devices and experimenting with what HA has to offer, ST is a great platform to play with! You have the flexibility and freedom to install/use SmartApps and Device Handlers created by the community to expand beyond what ST developers can get to and some of these apps will make your ability to accomplish an HA task much easier!

If you have expectations of 99.999% up-time and a UL listed security system, you will be disappointed.

My personal experience is that while certain time-based scheduled events are currently having issues and there is the occasional hiccup with my Sonos speakers playing custom messages, I have had almost 0 issues with my setup, which includes Amazon Echo & Harmony Hub integration, 6 GE Z-wave outlets that are rock solid, multiple dimmer switches, motion sensors, plugs (wall warts), push buttons, 4 ZCombo Smoke/CO detectors, etc., all working perfectly fine for over a month.

I am very happy with my hobby and I enjoy playing with the HA configurations, but the one thing that keeps this ST things alive is, without question, this community! People like JDRoberts, Tim Slagle, bravenel, Mike Maxwell, SBDOBRESCU, 625alex, tgauchat, … the list goes on and on!!!

If you run into trouble, search is your friend… but, if you can’t find what you are looking for, just ask! There are many helpful and talented people in this community.

And welcome aboard! :smiley:

3 Likes

SmartThings was having a lot of problems recently, especially with scheduling, but I haven’t had any problems since they added the extra server.

I think the main benefit of ST is being able to find out what’s going on at your house when your not there. I’ve only had ST for about 1 month, but so far that part has been reliable.

I wouldn’t trust ST to replace an existing alarm system, but if you don’t currently have one, then the security features are an added benefit.

Before I decide to automate something I think about what would happen if it suddenly stopped working and I only move forward with things that wouldn’t cause a lot of problems.

I think you’ll be fine as long as you don’t automate anything you depend on or make a lot of changes all at once. You’ll probably find it to be a fun and addictive hobby.

Wow…even though I’ve only received two responses, I’m pretty much persuaded already to stay in the game. I guess I’ve studied on my own for so long that I really didn’t have anyone to bounce off of. You, Belgarion and infofiend, are right - I don’t expect perfection; and please correct me, but I think UL listed security system means hardwired, and if that’s right, it doesn’t pertain to me… I really think I’m good to go : ) And reading all the devices you’ve listed made me feel pretty ‘smart’ that I knew each one of them; even that ZCombos are First Alert! ~ too simple, so simple but I’m self-taught.

Like I stated previously, I love the technology and I too look at it as a hobby, and boy do I love a challenge; especially when I do my research and resolve any issues on my own. But I have always looked to forums for answers (I have a couple questions coming soon) and only hope to contribute the little I know that might be of help to someone in the future. Thank you for the warm welcome!! GJ : )

1 Like

Several Topics with the exact same question have recently run their course here on the Forum.

I lost count, but I believe the result was net “Not yet.”…

“UL Listed”

UL listing gets complex because it’s very specific about exactly what it applies to. When it comes to security systems, there’s one standard for the physical devices, another standard for the installation service, and a third standard for the monitoring center. So any or all of those might be UL listed. In addition there are different UL standards for single-family residences versus commercial buildings, etc. However, “hardwired” is not part of any of the standards. Both wireless and hardwired sensor systems can be UL listed. SmartThings itself is not UL listed in any of the categories.

Comfort Factors

When it comes to your original question, the answer is also complicated because it really just comes down to your particular needs and preferences as to whether or not you can feel “comfortable.”

I am quadriparetic (use a wheelchair and have limited hand function). So I use a lot of home automation, but I need it to be very reliable.

There are many things that can go wrong with SmartThings that might be very easily fixable by someone who was ablebodied. Maybe you just have to open the app, change a number, and save something again. Maybe you just have to take the batteries out of a sensor and put them back in in order to get it restarted. But while these glitches may be so easy to fix that many able-bodied people don’t even remember that there was a problem, I have to literally pay someone else to do that. So I am very aware of which systems have very few glitches and which have a lot.

When it works well, SmartThings is absolutely my favorite home automation system. It is versatile, it works with devices that I like to use, and it offers excellent trigger and notification options. However, it’s also the glitchiest system that I have. It was working really well in August last year, but then there were a number of major changes in the fall, and since October I have yet to go 10 days without having to call someone else in to reset something. And sometimes it just is unavailable for several hours or even days at a time.

In contrast, during the same period I was running Amazon echo, the Phillips hue bridge, some HomeKit devices, the GE Link Hub, Beecon+, the Kuna camera, staples connect, an automated sprinkler system, a home security system, IFTTT, Logitech Harmony, an Apple Watch, and a medical monitoring system, and none of them had more than one or two glitches in a period in which SmartThings had dozens. None of them have the same breadth of features that SmartThings does, or the same flexibility, but they were all more reliable. And not once did I ever have to have anyone else do anything to get those systems working again.

The glitches in the other systems were almost always when a cloud service was temporarily unavailable, typically only for a few minutes. With SmartThings, it’s quite common that when something stops working it doesn’t come back on its own. You have to do something to get it working again. What you have to do might be very minor for an able-bodied person, but it does take some effort, If only to track down what the solution would be.

(I should also say that my security system, for which I pay a monthly fee, has had no errors at all in about 10 years other than two false alarms. My biggest complaint about that is the same as everybody else’s– – I feel that I pay a little bit too much for the value that I receive. But I certainly can’t complain about the reliability.)

Luck is a factor

I think my SmartThings experience has been fairly common based on reports and the forums. There are certainly some people who’ve had almost no glitches, although they have still had some days of outages due to maintenance updates. And some people have had much worse problems where the system just couldn’t be restarted again without the assistance of support. But most people, I think, find that the system works quite well for several days or even a week and then weird things start happening (in the forums we tend to call them poltergeists) like lights coming on that shouldn’t or a particular set of devices no longer responding to controls. And then they have to try a few different things to get it going again.

And while I hope that stability will improve in the future, SmartThings senior staff have been promising an improvement in reliability for at least a year, and it hasn’t happened yet. Things get better for a few weeks, and then get worse again. So I just have to assess the system as it is now.

Answering two questions

So now you have to address two separate issues.

One) will the system meet your needs if it stops working two or three times a month until you go through A manual process to restart it again? For some people, the answer is sure, no problem. Given how inexpensive SmartThings is, and how versatile that is, they may still consider it a very good bargain.

On the other hand, if you have a child who is a bolter and you want sensors on your doors and windows that will notify you immediately if they’re opened, you probably will not be willing to risk downtime that can occur unexpectedly at any time given the recent frequency of those occurrences.

So different people will answer the same question about the same system differently. You have to think this through for yourself.

Two) are you physically able to do the manual resets that are required? Obviously this affects people like me, who literally can’t take the batteries out of the sensor. But it also affects people who have a location which is many miles away. It’s difficult to take the batteries out of the sensor to reset it if it’s a 4 Hour drive to where the sensor is located.

So you can see why different people might feel comfortable or uncomfortable with exactly the same system. Because it all comes down to their personal needs and preferences. SmartThings in its current state is definitely not a “set it and forget it” system. It’s not that hard to set up (it’s not that easy either, but people in the forums are always willing to help), but no matter how experienced you are, and how careful you are, it’s likely to require some babysitting every month. And it’s likely to fail a couple of times a month. Maybe not for very long, and maybe with an easy fix, but still it’s something to be aware of.

And sometimes the fix can take several weeks or even a couple of months just to get you back to where you were before. You can find lots of examples of this in the forums.

Again, for some people that will be just fine. They’re willing to do a complete reset of their devices every couple of months if that’s what it takes. And to reset individual things once or twice a month. Again, they appreciate the versatility that SmartThings offers and its very low price tag and still consider it very much worth the price. Other people will find the inconvenience outweighs the value and move onto a different system, potentially at either a higher cost or with fewer features.

Everyone has different requirements for peace of mind. With many different factors going into that. I can’t say what would or wouldn’t meet your standards for feeling comfortable but hopefully that will help explain why there are such varied answers. :sunglasses:

3 Likes

I’ve been using ST for a little over a year and things generally work well. My ST setup (only 16 devices) has occasional glitches but things have been okay for the last month or so. Not problem free, but okay. And while things usually work as expected, I would personally NEVER use ST for anything critical (door locks, remotely opening/closing garage doors, etc.). I’ve had lights randomly turn on or off and I get false “A door has been opened!” notifications, so I can’t trust ST for critical security features (I don’t want my garage door opening for no apparent reason when I’m away on vacation, nor do I want to be told my house is on fire when it’s not). I was initially going to use ST as a home security system but realized it was too unreliable for that, and I paid to have a professionally installed, monitored system installed.

For me, it’s fine as a HA system that controls non-critical convenience functions but I’ve encountered far too many problems to use it beyond that.

I’ve noticed that SmartThings is starting to get scathing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. I also see they’ve implemented a paid, monitored solution that probably needs a much more reliable platform than what they offer today. These two things may be enough to incent them to invest the time and money in order to stabilize the platform. Or not. Who knows?

Also, responses to support requests submitted via email used to be near-instantaneous. Now they’re pretty much non-existent and this forum is where I go for assistance. I get the sense that SmartThings is experiencing severe growing pains that they may or may not live through. There are some pretty big things happening in the world of HA and I’m minimizing any additional investment in ST while those developments play out. That said, it’s still a fun toy that, for me, works most of the time.

1 Like

Whoohoo! First HAF post! (Normally we get WAF - Wife Acceptance Factor - posts.)

I have a fairly large install. At last count 57 devices including switches, outlets, bulbs, motion sensors, door sensors, locks, cameras, and thermostats. I have a few issues. Some more annoying than others. You will have days where things are wonky. You will have days where things are perfect. If you’re expecting it to work as well as other “5 nine” services, you’ll be disappointed.

When it does work though, it’s pretty awesome.

Just for clarification:
5 nines = 5 min a year down time
4 nines = 53 min a year down time
3 nines = a bit under 9 hours a year down time
2 nines = a bit under 4 days a year down time
1 nine = 36 days a year down time

SmartThings is somewhere between 2 and 3 nines for me. When they get to 4 nines, the negative posts will drop significantly. If they can get to 5 nines, they’ll be as stable as most well regarded internet services, and will be considered to “just work”

As you can see, they have a bit of a ways to go.

There are two concepts from ST veterans that I followed that have made my experience with this system acceptable, glitches and all. One, have a backup for physical devices. Don’t rely on ST to be the only method of control for a device. For example, for lights use controlable physical switches and dimmers, or if using smart bulbs, use ones that have their own app or remote. This way when ST fails you won’t be left in the dark. The second concept is to try and set your system to be automatic so as to avoid using the ST app as remote control. Use the app to set smartapps up but not to constantly control devices. I do not believe the ST app was designed to easily use as a remote contol for your devices. If you need/want to use your phone as a remote, I suggest using SmartTiles. It is fast and easy to use to control devices and to view your systems status.

Good luck.

2 Likes

Two more quick thoughts…

The GE link light bulbs are my least favorite, because they have a firmware flaw that causes them to drop off the network every few weeks. It’s the reason why they are not on the official “works with smartthings” compatibility list. I know they’re cheap, and there are a lot of people using them, but the flaw is real. How much of a problem it is for you just depends on your own circumstances.

Instead, I would recommend getting the hue bridge with the new Hue “White” bulbs. (Not the older Hue “Lux” bulbs, which cost more and are less bright.) These bulbs are only $15 each at Best Buy and other places, so are very similarly priced to the GE. But without the engineering flaws. Using the Hue bridge also gives you a number of other Control options, especially nice if SmartThings has a glitch on a particular day. One bridge can control up to 50 bulbs.

Amazon usually has the starter kit, which is one bridge and two bulbs, for $80. It’s sometimes on sale for less than that at Best Buy. Make sure you get the square bridge, which is the second generation, not the older round bridge.

If you can, I’d return the GE bulb you already bought. There’s no point in adding yet another point of potential instability to your system. :sunglasses: :bulb:

JMO

1 Like

Second, just wanted to mention that there are several community members who are women and are the “tech-support” for their families and who post from time to time. (This always tends to jump out at me because it’s my mother who’s the computer programmer and my father who doesn’t know anything about electronics.) :wink:

Small data point: I have 3 GE Link bulbs connected to SmartThings via a Hue Bridge V1 and have never had a problem with them. Never a single drop-off. YMMV

1 Like

Lucky is good. :smile: I hope it continues for you.

I had 10 GEs, all on the Hue bridge, and had the drop off problem with 3 of them. But still seemed pretty random among those three. Sometimes it would be one, sometimes it would be a different one, sometimes it would be all three.

I’m not sure exactly what triggers the drop off, I don’t know if anyone does know for sure, but it’s not all the devices all the time. It’s just a known issue with the brand.

1 Like

I also have 4 GE LInks from my days with Staples. I had no major issues with them connecting to the ST hub. A week ago, when the ST cloud was wonky I moved them over to my Hue hub so I can have a second means of control. I found that they seem to work better, the obvious is they now show correct status eventually and show “switch is off” under Recent. The dimming is also smoother, without the stepping effect. And most important is Alexa is still happy with them :smirk:

2 Likes

Hi all : )
Oh my gosh, I’ve been biting at the bit to get back on here. My DH and I had a very busy day trimming a mature tree, all while I was anticipating the arrival of my new ST kit and Zen thermostat…and taking a sneak peek online periodically of the responses from all of you here on the forum. I so much wanted to acknowledge each one of you for taking the time to comment. That will have to wait though as we had a very long day. However, when I have the time, I will re-read all the entries as there is much I would like to relate and just plain comment on : )

But I must share with you all that I did receive the ‘kit’ and thermostat. And I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was after opening the box and unpacking the items. The first thing I noticed was the sleeve that comes on the kit seemed a bit worn; it was in tack but looked like it had been slid several times across a dirty surface. I didn’t pull the tab on the sleeve but decided to just slide it off (keeping everything neat in case of a problem and possible return) - and what falls out is a crinkled up, plastic bag with a small booklet inside. The tape that obviously held it shut at one time was yellowed and non-sticky. I didn’t even feel a need to open it to see if it even pertained to my new Smart Things toy, at least not for now. I just proceeded to open the magnetic box from the center and examine all the parts.

Well, the carton tray that held the sensors and outlet was kitty-wamped; ie not sitting straight, as if it was shoved in. I checked out the hub which appeared to be okay; although, I had wondered if it was the 2nd Gen hub - no indication anywhere on the box or to a newbie like me except when I finally got the back off and knew the compartments were a tell tale sign it was for the battery backup ~ the difference from the 1st hub I learned along the way. (Also I think the old kits had a presence sensor.) Anyway, as I dug further I came to the batteries themselves, power plug, along with the ethernet cable. It was evident that the wire wrap on the cable had been remove and re-twisted back on. The cable itself looked pretty pitiful to me; thought it was unraveling (?) or coming apart. And then it was just one more thing that made me think that this kit had been sold previously or tampered with somehow ~ the carton tray near where the batteries were placed had a couple of holes punched through it. I just could not get past how ‘used’ this kit appeared. I must say, all the pull tabs and little cardboard inserts were in place on the sensors, but, still, I really felt I got someone’s returned goods. And sorry, not for that kind of money!!

Oh yeah, one last thing before I sign off, that little booklet in the old plastic bag was instructions for a Voice Remote for a Xfinity TV…go figure! Ugh!! Needless to say, I already have the unit packed back up, got UPS coming by to pick it up tomorrow (I think) and when I receive my credit, I’ll try this all over again : ) I am determined to make a go of it…all with my DH’s blessing : ) AND hopefully, a brand new kit.
Tomorrow we’ll install the Zen thermostat. It was packaged well and looks new! I think we ought to get it up and running, even as just a stand alone unit, just to make sure it functions properly.
Thanks for listening : ) I shall return…Good night, GJ

1 Like

My setup has very rarely had issues, and it was usually a user error or batteries dying in a device. I have about 50 devices and it is almost never a problem.

1 Like

I’m a user since Christmas.
Got the kit and an arrival sensor.
I’ve added some stuff. In terms of reliability/security, I’m an odds player.
Mind you, we were robbed 2 years ago. My wife walked in on the guy. We looked at a LOT of home security.
I also wanted some home automation/entertainment/etc. Nothing provided “everything” we wanted. And I didn’t want to spend money on even an inexpensive security system AND deploy ST. ST will, in theory, do everything the security system will, but the security system will only do 'so ‘much’ of what ST can do. I didn’t want to deploy both.
Do I expect 100% reliability from ST? Nope. Do I expect it to perform as well as any other relatively inexpensive security system? Heck yeah, it should (and seems to so far) assuming there’s no ‘reliability’ issues. I also know I don’t have someone in a call center responding for me. I do not expect it to be bulletproof…or more accurately…burglarproof.

My expectation is that it will be functioning as expected 90%(?..or higher?) of the time. Knowing that I’m gambling that I don’t get the “one time it’s not working is the time the guy decides to rob us”…being that of the roughly 4000 days we’ve lived in this house, we were robbed once. Good enough for me. I don’t have a ton of nice stuff in my house. The last jerk got all my wife’s good jewelry, and even though they caught the guy, the “Gold Buyer” had already sent it on to the smelter.