New Home | First Smart Things

My wife and I are in the process of having a new home built! It should be ready in about 4-6 months from now. We will already have a limited budget due to the requirement to purchase new furniture etc. I get the benefits of having a connected house, but I bet my wife isn’t really sold. What do you think would be the first items I should get to get her interested in expanding? I’m thinking 4 smart sensors (one for each door + garage door) to be able to know when our home was accessed?

Beyond that, I would like

  • water sensors in a couple key areas (basement, under dishwasher and
    sinks) as we are still recovering from a dishwasher leak in in our
  • Replace wall light switches with SmartThings compatible switches.
  • Sonos integration
  • Smart Door locks.

I think I would be able to set aside a small amount of money each month that I could save/put towards another component in the house. What are your thoughts?

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Or you could get one of those 0%-interest credit card deals and pay it off in 6 month. :smile:

I think the Smart Door Locks have the most impact, and seem to have the least about of hassle. If you put all of the wall switches in initially, you don’t have to use any of the “smart” features. Let her get used to the normal switch, and then add in motion activated.

The door lock and the auto turning on a light at night, when one of the kids or wife gets up to get a drink of water have had the most impact and the least resistance in my experience.

The door sensors aren’t bad, but they won’t have much impact unless you trigger something else from them.

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I second the impact of door locks. I just installed two of them. With a combination if presence, it has a high wife approval factor.

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It surprised me, but for my wife the Door lock was a biggie as well. She loved to be able to go out for walks with the dog and not have to worry about grabbing a key. It was also nice that when the kids walked home from school they could get in with a code rather than having to carry a key. The odd part here is you can do this without getting it connected to your ST, but the connection is just icing on the cake.

Another good WAF thing for me was replacing “unused” switches. We had two switches in our house that didn’t do anything. One is for a long since removed lightpost in the front yard. The other was for a light way in the back of the basement, but was my the side door. Stupid area for it so I put in a switch in the basement and wired the old switch out of the loop. I put in z-wave switches hooked to no load and now can use them in conjunction SmartApps to add extra functionality. Obviously not a good use for you as you’re building new and therefore shouldn’t have any ‘dead’ switches.

If you’re wife is energy or cost conscious z-wave outlets can be a good thing to seller her on as well. I have an phone charger plugged in 24/7 behind my bed for charging my phone at night. Because it’s buried behind the bed it isn’t really possible to unplug it and plug it in each time I stop or start using it. But with a z-wave outlet I only turn on the outlet at 10:45pm, and then off at 5:30. Outlets placed in other locations for similar use are good too to keep chargers from sucking power when not being used.

Z-wave light switches are also handy for security. When I’m gone I have different lights coming on or off at different times each night. This gives a better illusion of someone home then lights on timers that always go on or off at the same time.

Z-wave dimmer switches can make for nice nightlights too if you have young kids. For a while I used a nightlight app in my daughters room. When the app ran it turned on the lights are 15%, then every 15 minutes dropped 5% to fade too off.

Putting a relay on your garage door opener is also very handy. You can use an app to monitor if it’s left open for too long and alert you in case you forgot to close it. Plus you can close it from anywhere you have a network connection. Furthermore, you can rig it up so that when you come home it automatically opens, then watches a door… if it sees the door open and close within ten minutes of your arriving home, it automatically closes the garage door.

My wife… tolerates my geekiness (barely), but these are all things that she’s enjoyed and (thought she won’t admit it) would miss if they were gone.

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As you can see, it is going to be different for you than it is for us. My suggestion would be to start with a few items that you think will have high impact. From there, you can show what automation can do and see where she wants to take it. Hue lights are pretty damn cool with their range of color and can be used for all sorts of options. If you don’t want to go full bore into Hues, get a friend of Hue light and use it for things like weather when you wake up, etc.

For my family, I’m just starting to show them what automation can do. For example - no one ever has to lock the door again. It locks when we all leave (phones leave) and unlocks when someone comes home (phones or cars arrive - I have presence fobs in the cars). This is great since my daughter ALWAYS forgets to lock the front door on the way out to the bus in the morning and my wife leaves through the side door, never checking it. Since we have cats that like to run out, I have a multi sensor on the front door that notifies me if it is open for more than 1 minute.

We have a clocked drain in our basement stairwell that will cost a lot to fix. At the moment, I have an automatic pump (not connected to HA) that turns on when water reaches a certain height before it comes through the door. I placed a zwave moisture sensor there as well to let me know if the rain is coming faster than the pump can pump out.

I would also suggest investing in a thermostat that can be controlled. We have Nests upstairs and downstairs and it makes a difference. Being able to control it remotely is great when we come home from a long day out. We can pre-cool the house before we get there.

Dimmers and outlets, although very useful, may or may not be as sexy as some other items - no keys at all, in my mind, is a big impact! But, they add really great functionality to your house like @chrisb mentioned and are next on our list to add.

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Okay… I just asked my wife what her favorite things were… she begrudgingly admitted that there were some nice things:

When we’re got mode set to away, we get notified if doors or windows with sensor’s are opened. We also get notified if motion sensors trip. Obviously this isn’t as secure as a monitored alarm system (ala ADT or whatever), but it’s also no monthly cost either.

She also said she really liked the keyless entry for kids when they walk home from school. She likes the security of not having to worry about them losing a key and not being able to get in or someone else finding the key and being able to get in.

Another feature that I didn’t mention before is that I have it setup that when a car comes home it unlocks the side door. My wife stated this was nice because she’s often coming home with a lot of stuff from work or from stores and not having to fumble for a key is handy.

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I’ve noticed getting used to a connected home and then not having it becomes really annoying. I just finished packing up my apartment for a move and disconnected my setup a few days ago and took everything down. It was super inconvenient to have to go and turn off each light. It sounds like ultimate first world problems, but its weird how much a part of your life it becomes.

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We try to be a 0 debt household. Both cars are paid off, credit card is paid down to 0 each paycheck. Our only actual debt is the mortgage. … but thanks!

Thanks! I agree that the door locks will provide the most impact immediately. One thing I would like to know… I know you can have the doors locked upon leaving and upon arrival, but is it easy to set the doors to lock automatically after arrival? (IE doors unlock for 30 minutes when someone get’s home?)

When I start putting in (assuming she sees enough benefit to letting me keep buying pieces) wall switches, I think I will replace the backyard exterior light, master bathroom and bedroom ones first. That way I can program the backyard light to come on upon arrival and not worry about her feeling unsafe walking from our detached garage to the house.

My plan was to trigger the door sensors to notify our phones if we are not present and one is activated, or if one of the sensors is tripped in the middle of the night.

You are looking to set it similar to how I set it up.

Yes, you can have doors lock after x minutes. Put a multi-sensor on the door as well and that can trigger it. I have mine set to re-lock them if they are unlocked after we have gone to bed.

It’s one thing I wish ST really had - a “demo mode” in the app where it has a few devices and you can see how to set them.

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Thanks for the feedback! I’m certain the wife will see this benefit the most. As we will have a detached garage, I’m hoping having both the deadbolts in the garage and the backdoor to the house unlock upon arrival will be a good selling point. We won’t have to worry about remembering if the doors are locked in the middle of the night or while we are at work. Additionally, we can provide access for family that might need to check on the dog or borrow something without giving them a dedicated key with anytime access!

Thanks for the excellent feedback! As I said above I agree that the locks will have the biggest WAF immediately. I do not have any “dead” switches, but we have an unfinished basement. I plan on building a kick-ass home theatre and bar area down there in the next couple of years. I never thought, until now, about putting in some Z-Wave switches to control other aspects of the room!

I’m more “green” than my wife is, however she is very budget conscious. She may not see the immediate return on investment involved in purchasing smart outlets, but she will be a fan of seeing the energy bill have a long term slight decrease. I hate wasting energy, yet always seem to leave lights on. I’m hoping to incorporate some motion (and maybe ambient light sensors?) into the equation to ensure lights are only on when necessary.

I’m all over the garage door relay! Have you done it? I wasn’t sure if you needed to have the door sensor installed to know the open/closed state, or if the relay was smart enough to know this? For peace of mind, I would likely just install the sensor anyway. That way I can be alerted if the door is opened manually and the motor was bypassed. I would enjoy having a better sense of what is happening on my property, without paying an alarm company to “monitor it”. … I’m also considering a few DropCam’s to be involved in watching the garage and other key areas.

Thanks for the reply! I agree that the best impact is the locks, and that will be my priority! Are the HUE lights worth it? I enjoy technology, but always considered those lights as a gimmick. It could be cool to be gently alerted to the current days weather by a lamp giving off a specific colour, but I think my plan will be to have a Sonos in the bathroom triggered to a motion sensor. Since we get up at the same time in the morning, I would like the Sonos to great us with the days weather forecast (and traffic alerts?) and then start playing our music library while we take care of the morning activities.

We have a dog that we don’t want escaping out either. It might be a good idea for us to put a sensor on the gate as well, so we know if putting her in the backyard is a bad idea.

The moisture sensors are also high on my list. In our condo our dishwasher pump decided to detach the water hose and pump massive amounts of water under our cabinets. I believe that moisture sensors in key area’s are a no-brainer. It looks like most are battery powered, do they alert when the power is low, or just a notification if they drop off the network?

Connected thermostats is actually what got me interested in this area to begin with. My builder includes a Nest Thermostat in the house when we take possession. Hopefully by then Nest and SmartThings can start playing nicely together. I would love if my other presence sensors could help determine auto-away mode etc.

Awesome! I’m planning on doing the same thing with the garage doors and our house entry doors. It’s probably the largest cost to implement out of the whole system (3 x locks | 1 x garage door relay), but I think this will get her interested in what else we can accomplish. She always complained about my need to have a home theater PC, but now she uses it more than me and it helped us eliminate cable! If she starts living with it, I’m sure she will also come to love Home Automation.

I can’t wait. I’m sure she will get used to it’s comforts as much as she has gotten used to our Home Theater PC. I will update my progress once we take possession of our house.

Thanks for the reply! This is the one piece I was the most concerned about. I don’t want to implement something and then not have it work as either of us expect.

There are many different ways to slice this depending on your needs. I didn’t think I could do something and then I looked around and found I could. So, a lot of functionality is already built-in to the system.

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They can play together. It isn’t officially supported, but it works very well (I developed the integration).

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That’s awesome to hear! I would enjoy if Smart Things had a nice “test platform”, where one can play with a sandboxed environment to see what setups are possible prior to install.

Cool, Do you have any documentation that I can research your solution?

I think the door locks are the easiest, most reliable and best way to get a high WAF when you first start setting up your smart home. The cool things wear off SO fast if they don’t work well, a great example is Hue. It is great to see the different colors, and scenes but the 1st time she tries to turn the light on or off, and can’t find her phone it goes out the window.

I have 4 kids and a wife, and the most reliable pieces I’ve found are a z-wave door lock. People never have to find their key, or worry about losing it, and it auto locks after a time period or when no presence detected, or when you switch to night mode etc.

The garage door relay that notifies you when it has been left open, was the very first thing I did, because too many times the kid would leave to school and forget to close the garage door.

In common areas in the house, I had a few places where I had motion detectors turn on/off lamps, if you set the long enough time to not turn off motion detection when someone is sitting and reading, they have worked wonderfully. They are great when someone gets up for a drink of water late in the night, or if your hands are full when you come home. I have one room now, that no one turns on or off the lights ever they just walk in and walk out, and the timing is set correctly, and everyone in the house has uses the room and never thinks about the lights.

I’ve set up a couple of dimmers, and if you don’t get the ramp up and ramp down rates right they have caused small mutinies in my house, a long with some automated lights turning on or off before people are ready.

Start small with a door lock, and then move on to other things and I think it is your best chance of success. I got my door lock at and it works great, and was significantly cheaper than other places.

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I second LiquidationLocks. I got both of mine on ebay from them and had them in two-three days. Much less expensive - another high approval factor in our house!

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I was thinking about this yesterday. Kinda like a Public Test Server some online games do.

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Exactly. Just allow someone to signup and give them some test devices. If you want to get fancy, give them a website as well that shows the devices and then when they make changes on their phone, it shows them on the website.

Now, that is pretty far down the line, I would love to see a test environment just on the app so people can play with it before…think of it as a way to pull them into our world.

Personally, I would also like to see a simulator for current users that details everything that happens. Basically, a summary of actions. For example, I really want to see all the changes that will occur when I change modes without having to actually change modes. Select “this is a test”, change modes, and see a very verbose output showing what happens.

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Thanks for all your advice. We just confirmed our blueprints last night. I will order off of liquidation locks soon.

Thanks for sharing confidence with this vendor. They appear to offer good deals… although I should check if they ship affordably to Canada.

I would like to be able to do a basic drawing (autocad style?) of my floor plan, and then drag and drop SmartThings onto the floorplan. The other part of the interface could include the screen from the app. It would take a lot of work to get it right, but it would really help me sell the product to my wife and family.

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