New to HA Looking For Opinions

Hey there everyone. So I have finally dipped my toes in tot he home automation arena and wanted to get opinions on setup and what can or cannot be done. As an IT professional i thought this would be fairly easy but with the amount of products available its quite difficult to decide on what to get.

So I picked up the ST Hub a couple of weeks back and have bought a few lamp lights for the interior of the house which we are waiting to receive. Outside of that we have not purchased anything else as we are a little overwhelmed on what to buy and which products to choose. I wanted to first ask to make sure what I am wanting can be done and thoughts on what to use.

So what I would like to automate:

  1. Garage door, open and close on its own upon arrival and leaving and can be remotely closed if left open
  2. External door locks front and back, open if near.
  3. Thermostat, I know these are available but after research there just seem to be so many to choose from, any real use advice would be appreciated.
  4. Home theater, after research I would like to use an Amazon echo to control my upstairs theater, turn TV on music on etc, as well if possible to control TVs in another room downstairs. My receiver, Denon network receiver 2112, in my theater has 2 zones with the 2nd zone controlling speakers in the lower level. Not sure if its possible to automatically turn these on.
  5. Outside lighting being able to remotely turn it off and on, thoughts on lights to use outside
  6. We are also looking to buy cameras on the outside of the house.

I think these are the main things we are looking at but I am sure there is something else I am forgetting. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this as well as any thoughts or help on this.


Hi Tony, and welcome to the wonderful world of HA!

I have been using SmartThings for about 4 months now and love it!! I have about 40 devices so far and this number is growing weekly. I have learned a lot from these forums and when I get stuck I have always found answers here (good or bad) . My advice is to start with a couple rooms at a time and then expand from there. The addiction will take over and guide your way to the next level.

I have been one of the lucky users who have not struggled with a lot of the issues you might come across on the forums. I like to think it is because I am not a programmer or in the IT field and and keep things as simple as possible. I am also not using a ton of custom device types, or Apps. I am just now starting to play with some like Alexa Helper, Big Talker, LANNouncer and Smart Tiles. However, the more custom stuff I use the more concerns I have about stability.

Anyway, I suggest you subscribe to the Best Deals Thread here to understand what a good deal really is: (Pre-Subcategory creation) Deals/Sales/Coupons/Pricing.

The wiring on my house is not conducive to HA switches so I was forced to use individual bulbs everywhere. It works out to be about the same price if you can get a good deal on bulbs. Overall I am very satisfied with the results,

You are definitely going to want some door sensors. You can’t control a lock very well if you can’t confirm a door is open or closed. They are also great for home security, turning on lights, or just to know when people come and go from my house.

You will probably also want some motion sensors. They are great to automate lights and for security monitoring. I haven’t touched several of my light switches in months!

In regards to Locks, I have 2 Quickset and one Yale lock. They both work equally well for my needs. I live in North Dakota and the batteries do take a beating but I have yet to replace any and it has been 18 below zero several times this winter.

I have not done any automation with my entertainment center yet, but it is very high on my priority list. It sucks having to find my remote to turn off the TV when I can turn off the rest of the house so easily using Alexa. I just need to justify the high price tag on the Harmony System first. From my research the Harmony system will do pretty much anything a person could need with a wide variety of products, and integrated well with Smartthings

I am in the process of automating my garage doors now. I am pretty sure I an going with the GoControl/Linear system, but still researching and looking for more feedback on that still. It definitely is not something I want to jump into due to the high cost. My door sensors already provide great feedback, but being able to close them remotely is something I just gotta have for sure!

I also have 1 camera from the compatible list installed and I am not impressed. I was expecting to have much more control and better integration with things like motion and sound sensing. If I could do any programming or Samsung does a better job supporting these I suspect this will eventually be a reality. It also appears that integration with Smart Home Monitor is going the pay to play route and this is very disheartening.

Sorry this reply is so long but I hope you find some value in it. Be prepared to let your geek play (and your wallet) and have some fun!!


Thank you for this and greatly appreciate your thoughts on this. Quick question which locks did you go with and do people just use the Smartthings app on their phone? It seems there are different apps out there thanks

I’ve had my ST setup since late September and I’ve followed pretty much the same path as @darincraven. I planned my implementation in waves:

Wave 1
Presence (phones and arrival sensor)
Some Lightbulbs

Wave 2
Multipurpose Sensors (on all access doors)
Motions Sensors (in all common rooms)
More Lightbulbs
Smoke and CO Detectors

Wave 3
Water Sensors
More Lightbulbs

I’m about to start wave 4, which is a smart thermostat, a couple of garage door openers, and some Aeotec bits and pieces. Wave 5 will involve locks and window sensors and will coincide with me replacing the doors and windows in the house.

The wiring in my house means it’s easier to use bulbs that switches. I use the SmartLighting aspect of ST, but I’m also looking into the excellent Rule Machine. My general goal is to have most of the aspects of my house automated, with minimal need to interact with the lights or environmental controls.

For what you’re asking for:

  1. I’d recommend the GD00Z-4 garage door opener
  2. I’m still researching this, and spend time on the forums to find the best answer
  3. I’ve picked the ecobee3 because I like the remote sensors, the interface, and the fact that it doesn’t smear location information over the internet (okay okay, Nest isn’t that bad)
  4. I’m sure @JDRoberts could share his use cases with you for this
  5. You can get bulbs rated for outside, or switches - depends on the wiring in your house
  6. I’m treating all cameras separately from ST at the moment

As for other things, I’d recommend installing and playing with a few additional things:

I’ve also been playing with HomeRemote, which looks promising.

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Both of these use cases generally require reliable accurate operation of the “Presence” Capability, which, if you search the Forum, you’ll find is among the most troublesome for a long time; though it is also the feature that has some of the best tweaks and workaround recommendations.

I’d recommend deferring presence based automations until you’ve been familiar and successful with other features of the system.

I use a Schlage Connect Z-Wave lock with PIN pad and it is quite reliable. Remote lock/unlock is a little slow for some unknown reason but seems to work as reliably as any other Z-Wave devices.

Thanks it’s just gotten overwhelming with all the choices. The presence feature sounds very interesting and one I’m going to look in to. But I think overall I need to start small and plan it out cause I had no clue it did all these other things. Thanks again for the replies.

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The best idea is to start with motion sensors and lighting, then grow from there.


I posted this in response to another new user, but I think it works here for you too.
Welcome aboard!

If you read through the forums you will see that there are a lot of issues plaguing ST, especially since the release of the V2 hub late last year.

I’ve got somewhere around 75 devices and my system runs pretty good.
I won’t say that is 100%, but it is really good, especially since the most recent updates.

Now, I can not guarantee that anything I tell you will work for you, as it seems that any problems are inherently unique to each users situation, but there are some things you can try that might help.

I have 13 automation set up using Smart Lighting. They all work really well for me and most of them are using time based automation.

The rest of my automation is done using Rule Machine. I also use a lot of time based automation as well as presence automation.

What I do not use:

Routines set up under the routines tab in the app. I use Rule Machine and create my own routines.
Sunrise/Sunset as a trigger for anything. This is a VERY common failure system wide.
Modes. Just because they failed a lot for me at the beginning and I’ve not had the patience to give them another try.
SHM or alarms of any kind. ST is NOT ready to be in the home security business. A false alarm going off at 3 am and not being able to turn the alarm off happening even once is 2 times to many for me.

I keep things as simple as possible. When I build a complex rule I will take a couple of days to go over that rule multiple times. I do this to streamline the rule. To keep it simple and have as few steps as possible.

For example, 3 days ago I set up a rule in my master bedroom using times of day, lights, and motion.
It started out as a very complex rule made up of 3 different rules. These three rules worked in conjunction with 4 other rules I already had set up for that room. I kept going back over the rules so that I could look at them from different angles. Every time I changed it, it still worked. But it became simpler.
There are now only 4 rules for that room, they are simple, they work, and they actually do more than what I had set up with the original 7 rules.

I will tell you that my system has been better than 95% reliable and consistent.
I have had some hiccups, such as about a month ago I had to completely reset and rebuild my entire system. Which actually worked out better for me. I streamlines my system and it runs better as a result.
I have had some things not fire on time, but I figured them out and worked around them.

It took some time and work, but my system does everything I currently want and it’s doing it very very good.

This is what I’m using in my house:

40+ GE switches (on/off, dimmers, and fan control)
6 Phillips Hue bulbs with the Hue Hub
1 NuTone GD00Z-4 garage door opener
7 GE Link smart bulbs
4 Minimotes (1 is used as a locally running back up device)
8 GE outdoor modules
4 plug in dimmers
2 plug in appliance modules
3 Amazon Echo’s
1 Amazon Fire TV Stick with voice
and a couple of things I’m forgetting about for sure.

Good luck, welcome aboard and use this forum a lot. You will learn a lot. Just ask questions as almost everyone here is more than willing help you out.


Thanks for the reply this is some great information. One question the rules machine I have seen other apps mentioned is this just a matter of downloading on your phone or how does the setup work with these apps? I get the premise of what they do just reading about them I didn’t fully understand on where to install it.Also it seems you can import custom scripts on to these? Thanks for your help.

Rule Machine is a very complex and thorough smart app. It is independent of any other apps. But it will do just about everything you are looking for.

The authors did not intend it to be an app that does everything, but they have done an outstanding job.

Follow this link, read the install directions carefully, and ask lots of questions. Start out small and work with the app until you figure it all out. Experiment with it.

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