SmartThings Community

New to HA so apologies in advance for silly questions


(Paul Maxwell) #1

Hi all

I’m fairly technical and have worked in IT for 25+ years and have (finally) decided to do a bit more with home automation but I have a few questions that I hope you don’t mind answering. I’m planning to start fairly easy but progress over time. Currently, the house (3 stories) has excellent WiFi courtesy of Linksys Velop mesh so have signal everywhere - Google Home is my preferred automated assistant and have a few around the house along with Chromecasts.

So, what do I want to do - few easy projects to start with.

    • bathroom lighting. Just re-fitted the bathroom and will be fitting LED lights after Christmas but I’d like multi-coloured, dimmable, remote control. I think my preferred way of doing it is with a dimmable z-wave switch (or just the dimmer unit behind existing switch).
    • ‘welcome home’ on dark nights by switching on lamps as I approach the house (probably using IFTTT or Android Tasker
    • TV automation. No idea what I can do with my Samsung telly but very interested to find out and in particular, if I can access Plex media server on it via Google Home
    • starting / stopping PCs using ST IDE (once I’ve gotten used to it)
    • thermostats when boiler gets replaced next year
    • smart kitchen appliances (when I win the lottery !!)
    • anything else I can glean from the forums :grinning:

I’m slowly updating lamps / lights / switches to be efficient LEDs and will buy based on whichever standard I decide on. I think my preferred method of controlling lights is by switches rather than HA bulbs but open to comments / suggestions based on experience.

Questions
Does the ST hub ‘talks’ directly to the z-wave devices or does it use existing WiFi ?
Based on above, what is the range of ST hub - will it reach throughout the house bearing in mind that a decent WiFi router doesn’t and I want to avoid repeaters (hence the mesh network) ?
I know you can get repeaters but do they interfere with ‘normal’ WiFi or other signals (TV senders on 5GHz) ?

Apologies if these seem like noddy questions but although I’ve read loads, I’m still not clear on the basics and whether or not z-wave should be my preferred technology.


#2

Welcome!

Wi-Fi, Z wave, and zigbee are all three completely different communication protocols. The SmartThings hub actually doesn’t use Wi-Fi at all – – but you cable it to your router and it can talk to Wi-Fi devices that way.

The hub is a white plastic box that has three radios inside of it: a certified Z wave controller, a certified zigbee coordinator, and an inactive Bluetooth radio. So it talks directly to Z wave devices using the Z wave radio, directly zigbee devices using the zigbee radio, to devices on your local area network connected to your router via the cable to your router, and to everything else over the Internet.

And there are also some specific official integrations, such as with Logitech Harmony (which then can give you control of home entertainment devices) and with the Phillips hue bridge.

SmartThings also has and IFTTT channel on the free IFTTT service, which gives you yet more integration possibilities. :sunglasses:

And some community members with a strong technical background have designed more integrations using additional devices like small computers, and they have then shared their project reports through this forum, so there are even some integrations with systems like lightwave RF, although they may be only partial integrations or, again, require strong technical background to set up. Not everyone will be interested in this kind of integration, but they are available.

One of the good things about smartthings is because it is a multi protocol platform, you don’t have to choose just one protocol. You can pick your devices based on whatever is best for each specific use case.

There is more about this in an article in the community – created wiki if you’re interested:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Supported_Network_Protocols


#3

Also, the following FAQ is old but still applies and might be of interest. (This is a clickable link)


(Andy - United Kingdom) #4

Welcome
the only thing I would add is that (I assume as you posted in the UK part of the forum) as you are in the UK then our devices are more restricted that the US guys.
We don’t have as many that are compatible with our hub.
That being said, I can do everything I want with ST and have not really found this to be too much of a problem.
Just be careful when buying that the kit you buy is for the UK (different frequencies)


(Paul Maxwell) #5

Thanks all - yes, UK based so already aware of the limitations & restrictions in choice (same in IT). I still think a ST hub is a good place to start and then do a bit more reading (thanks for the link above) on z-ave / zigbee options.


#6

Since you have a strong technical background, you might also find the following of interest:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Welcome_FAQ

And the following FAQ lists both US and UK resources:


(Paul Maxwell) #7

Goodie - lots of reading.

Just to refer back to one of my questions (now I understand that the ST hub communicates with its own radios, not WiFi), what is coverage like ? We have a 3 story house with router on ground floor and before moving to Linksys mesh, barely got a signal on the top floor. I’m worried that a ST hub won’t be enough so have to supplement with repeaters that (probably) will interfere with something else.


(Andy - United Kingdom) #8

One of the advantages of the ‘mesh network’ established by both z-wave and zigbee protocols is that it’s reasonably easy to extend.
Most mains powered devices will repeat their respective network messages thus extending the network.
E.g a plugin socket in the hall would extend the network upstairs. If you then plug another socket on the landing then you can probably cover most of that floor.

The only things to be aware of is that z-wave has a restriction on the number of ‘hops’ back to the hub (I think it’s 4 but @JDRoberts will be able to confirm)
Because of this you would think that zigbee is better… but that is more susceptible to wifi interference.

In reality, the best place to site your hub (away from wifi wireless equipment) is in the centre of the home, both vertically and horizontally.

As another example… I use a zigbee socket plugged into a wall socket near a front, upstairs window… this extends the zigbee network over my driveway so that the presence sensors in my cars maintain reliable connections.

Personally, I prefer z-wave equipment as I have very strong wifi signals in my house and my local area seems full of wifi too.
However, experience has shown zigbee motion sensors to work much quicker than the z-wave ones I’ve tried… so… I have a mixture


#9

When in doubt, check the FAQs. :wink:


(Paul Maxwell) #10

Thanks all - I’m gaining more understanding the more I read. I will be able to position the ST hub in the middle of the house (where there is good WiFi) and then use the mesh capability of z-wave / zigbee to cover the whole house. I think I’ll be OK with the z-wave 4 hop maximum and as I get more adventurous, will look at zigbee for the outdoor stuff. Wonder if I can light the BBQ from the lounge…

@JDRoberts - hugely helpful…thanks for your time & reading material
@Cobra - really helpful especially the ‘real life’ usage


(Andy - United Kingdom) #11

One thing to note:
As from your reply I suspect you don’t have your ST hub yet.

IT DOES NOT HAVE WIFI !!

You need to connect SmartThings to your router/network with an Ethernet cable


(Paul Maxwell) #12

Spotted that thanks. I have one of my Velop mesh ‘repeaters’ mid house that has an ethernet connection so I don’t need to connect directly to the router.


(Andy - United Kingdom) #13

That’s great - Just don’t put it too close or it may interfere with Zigbee


#14

Start with post 11 in the range FAQ, then go up to the top and read the whole thread. It should clear up some of the range questions.