Newbie Help Please

I’m very new to this, and am still trying to decide what system to buy. To be honest, I’ve never really given much thought to home automation stuff until recently. I purchased 2x Nest thermostats and 3x Nest CO/Smoke detectors a few weeks ago. They’re all nice, but now that the new has worn off, they’re just wifi addressable devices, which I figure I can do with something else, for less. They are all still within the return period, so I’m seriously considering returning them and going a different route.

My interest was sparked when I was in Lowes yesterday and saw the Iris system. After researching, it seems to be a Z-Wave & Zigbee compatible controller. It looks promising, but paying someone $10/mo. for the privilege of having advanced control of the devices I already purchased isn’t too appealing. So this lead me on a Z-Wave quest, which naturally ended up at the VeraLite. To be honest, I was on the verge of ordering the VeraLite when I came across the SmartThings discussions.

As a computer systems engineer, I love to tinker and am comfortable with a soldering iron in hand (though designing simple circuits is still out of my reach, I have no idea why I’d use a resistor/capacitor/diode, or how to determine which one), but I can follow a schematic and copy someone else’s work. Being a programmer in a past life, I have no problem writing code, and am a unix guy at heart (with a fondness toward iOS and Mac OS)

Ideally (like many I’m assuming), I envision using my iPhone as a hub for all for all of this data and control.

My primary interests in this are:
= Thermostats - See current temperature, adjust, and change from heat/cool/off
= Smoke/CO Detectors - Notify me remotely of an alarm (and ideally, be able to turn alarm off via phone).
= Garage door opener (up/down & opened/closed sensing)
= Water sensors
I’m hoping for alerts either via push notification, in-app or by SMS.

That said, still being very green at this, I have a few questions I’m hoping someone can answer.
= Can SmartThings control all of these things?
= While I’m not planning on integrating an electronic door lock right now, I see that SmartThings can’t set the pin. When is this expected to be resolved?
= I like the fact that Iris can use a backup plug-in Verizon cell modem for $5/mo. Can SmartThings (or VeraLite?)
= I see that many folks are simply using an addressable AC plug attached to a relay to control the garage door opener. I was planning on pickup up a Linear FS-20Z-1. Can SmartThings control it?
= I’m confused about discussions that VeraLite doesn’t require cloud access, but SmartThings does. Can someone elaborate? I’m assuming this means for control from remote, not between devices?
= If I was using an IP camera, where would I have it record to with SmartThings or VeraLite (Iris apparently goes to their cloud service as part of the $10/mo. extra).

Thanks for any help!

Also… Does anyone know if SmartThings or VeraLite can use the Iris branded products that Lowes is selling? It seems that their water sensors are about $10 less than anywhere I’ve found.


Let me try and answer a few of your questions:

My primary interests in this are: = Thermostats – See current temperature, adjust, and change from heat/cool/off = Smoke/CO Detectors – Notify me remotely of an alarm (and ideally, be able to turn alarm off via phone). = Garage door opener (up/down & opened/closed sensing) = Water sensors I’m hoping for alerts either via push notification, in-app or by SMS.

The short answer for all of these is absolutely. Though, the level of control differs depending on third party device.

= I’m confused about discussions that VeraLite doesn’t require cloud access, but SmartThings does. Can someone elaborate? I’m assuming this means for control from remote, not between devices?

Vera is set up to control the devices locally (i.e. on your network) where smartthings hub acts more like an “antenna” (right now) and simply connects your devices to their cloud. Their cloud does all the controlling(right now). This means no internet, no worky.

As for the Iris devices. The trend seems to be you can use all of their non iris branded devices. I use the GE light switches, the smoke/CO alarm and the water sensor with no issues. Before you buy anything just search the boards here most people have bought and tried a lot of third party devices and comment on the various levels of success.

For starters, welcome. You sound like you have a pretty good grip on the ideas that go on here.

I can answer a couple of your questions from first hand experience.

I use a different thermostat than the Nest, its the CT30 from a company called 2Gig. I found it on Amazon for about $70 or so… its fully z-wave compatible and works well with my SmartThings system. It does all the desired things you ask… I can change from Heat to Cool to On/Off. It displays the temp and allows me to change it, all from my android smart phone. This is just me, but I would return that fancy Nest and buy the one that I have for a lot cheaper. But check out all the ones that are available, and be sure to check the Preliminary List of Tested Devices.

There are a slew of devices that will report Open/Closed states… the Multi by SmartThings offers the most features and is pretty flexible. There are even z-wave compatible garage door openers, as well as ways to convert your current opener to z-wave. Check the forums here about that.

I have used the Iris light switches from Lowes without issues. They work as designed with my SmartThings system. Be cautious about using any other Iris devices, but the regular light switches seem to work fine.

In short, yes. SmartThings can do what you want it to do, and without a monthly subscription fee.

I like the potential upside. Remember, this is a young company just starting out. As this community grows with time and users, the things that we will be doing is going to be a lot greater than it is today. The system is open sourced and encourages outside projects. So when other developers get on board things will start happening.

Thanks a lot Mark and Carl for your help, I really appreciate it!

Another question… I don’t see a repeater/range extender on the SmartThings web store, what if you need one?

Thanks again!

@doctauri most zwave devices will act as range extenders, as long as they are not powered by battery. Zwave is based on a mesh network architecture. Chances are good that you will never need an extender, unless your placement of devices (or lack thereof) requires it.

Should the need arise, there are a few options. Aeon Labs has one, afaik. You can get those from zwaveproducts or Amazon or some other online retailer. SmartThings is compatible with most (but not all) of the popular zwave devices out there, even if you don’t buy them on the SmartThings store. Although, buying from the SmartThings store certainly helps support the company and platform.

@florianz, my thinking was that I have a mother-in-law cottage on the property, possibly (more than likely) out of range for the mesh, so my thinking was a more powerful repeater might do the trick.

Thanks for your help!

A couple of notes regarding Vera vs SmartThings debate. As was mentioned previously, Vera is fully functional home automation controller and does not rely on Internet to operate, whereas ST is basically a dumb gateway that relays events between your sensors or actuators and the ST cloud service.

ST supports both Z-Wave and Zigbee (Home Automation profile), but don’t expect Iris devices to work with ST for the’re not HA-compatible. Vera can control any Z-wave device and many devices over local TCP/IP network. ST promised TCP/IP control since inception but so far failed to deliver.

Although Vera does not support Zigbee natively, it does have a USB host port and drivers that support most common USB serial adapters, including FTDI, which allows to extend it almost infinitely. Also, Vera is based on Linux and thereby is more open. At very least you can get shell access through ssh. ST hub on the other hand is a closed embedded system with no user access.

I hope you’re confused enough now :slight_smile:

@doctauri: Regarding the Iris devices: some of the stuff Lowe’s sells and puts in the Iris display adheres to common standards and therefore works great. I have two of the flood sensors, which are just Everspring flood sensors. They also sell GE/Jasco switches and outlets, which work well.

The items that are fully Iris branded will in general not work. Examples include the open/close sensor, smart button, and fob.

There is a list of compatible devices that have been tested here:

Oh, and one note about the range extender: keep in mind that Zigbee devices are totally separate from Z-wave devices. In both cases, in general a device plugged in (i.e. not running on battery power) will act as a repeater. But adding more Z-wave devices won’t affect the range of your Zigbee devices, and vice versa. This is true for ST or Vera or whatever.

Ok, so I just took the plunge. I appreciate everyone’s help, and I’m sure I’ll be back once it arrives.

And for any SmartThings folks reading… Expedited shipping would be appreciated :wink:

Thanks again everyone.

@FlorianZ & @Gray: I was in Lowes yesterday (I need to stop doing that), and looking at the Iris display. They offer a repeater.

As I understand it, Iris is similar to SmartThings in that it’s both Zigbee and Z-Wave, so, does this repeat both services, and if so, why would Iris need it and SmartThings not?

Thanks again!

@doctauri: The Iris range extender looks like one of those proprietary Iris devices that won’t work with other systems. At least one reviewer suggests that it doesn’t seem to work with that person’s Z-wave devices, so I’m not sure what’s going on with that.

The Iris hub seems to have an odd limitation of only 16 devices without a range extender. ST doesn’t have that limitation; I currently have over 20 devices and others here have more.

In most cases, the devices you have should be able to form a strong enough mesh network that you won’t need repeaters. For example, my hub is on the first floor and I have Zigbee motion sensors in the basement and on the second floor that work fine. If I wanted to have some in the attic I might need to consider plugging in a Zigbee device upstairs to make sure that would have a dependable signal. Note that I can plug in the motion detectors and then they act as signal repeaters, but off of battery they don’t.

Z-wave doesn’t seem to travel as far. I have hard-wired Z-wave switches and screw-in modules that aren’t too far from the hub. If I wanted to have a Z-wave device in the attic I could get a repeater, but the easier solution is just to put a Z-wave outlet or switch on the second floor.

Not to undermine SmartThings hardware sales, but all of the IRIS pieces are much cheaper, so I’m wondering if any will work with ST’s? Just as an example, the GE switch for IRIS is about $7 cheaper than the Jasco. Not a ton of money until you add up enough switches to do an entire house.

@tonyfalcone: I addressed that above. Jasco makes the GE switches and outlets; Lowe’s just adds a “works with Iris” branding to it. Same basic story with the flood sensor. Both have Z-wave certified logos on them, and work as standard Z-wave devices.

The specifically Iris-branded stuff like the fob and door sensor will in general not work with ST or any other system besides Iris.

Thanks Gray, I’ll be making a trip to Lowes later this week then :wink:

@tonyfalcone: I’m pretty sure that you can also still order the Jasco switches and outlets online from them with free shipping.

Yup on orders over $49, but I need a few other things there anyway.