Project: New Construction Home from bottom up. What do you recommend?

project_wholehouse

(Susan ) #1

Hello! New here.

We are currently building a new home. We would like to make our home a smart home and are looking into using SmartThings + Alexa.

The home is about 3000 square foot on the first floor with an additional 1600 square feet on the second floor.

The rooms on the first floor include: foyer, dining room, den, great room, kitchen, breakfast nook, master bedroom with two walk-in closets, sitting room, master bath, mud room, laundry, full bathroom, laundry room.

The rooms on the second floor include: Two bedrooms connected by a bathroom-each have own walk-in closet, a family/theatre room, another bathroom, another bedroom with walk-in closet.

There is also a two car attached garage that leads into the mudroom (will be used most) and a one car attached garage.

We are interested in lights, thermostats, cameras, in-ceiling speakers, doorbell, motion sensors in bathrooms/closets, theatre system, appliances, fans and whatever really good idea anyone comes up with.

Ours will be the first completely smart home in our sleepy little community so we really want to do something great but do it right.

I’m interested to hear what some seasoned veterans have to say on these issues and the best way to do this!

Thanks :):grinning:


(Brian Spranger) #2

I would install POE wifi access points on each level maybe multiple per floor depending on the floor plan.

I am using ubiquiti products for my network and love it. Separated my private data from my smart house/IOT, and guests using vlans.

Having a solid network/infrastructure is important.

Perhaps do 12v lighting? No flickering vs 120 v bulbs. Probably more control options.

I am still on the fence for sensors.


(Allan) #3

I built my house 3 years ago and got into SmartThings a year and a half ago or so. Hindsight is 20/20…there are a bunch of things I would done differently not only with home automation but just the house in general (better outlet placement, more outlets, extra circuits run to things like the garage, Ethernet throughout the house, etc). But as far as HA goes I would have put hardwired sensors on everything (doors, windows, etc) I could and brought them all in using ST_anything ([RELEASE] ST_Anything v2.9 - Arduino/ESP8266/ESP32 to ST via ThingShield, Ethernet, or WiFi). All my lights would be on GE dimmers, all the ceiling fans would be GE 3 speed fan switches, the lights I didn’t “care” about would be Leviton paddles that match the GE’s nicely. I’d probably get Aeotec for motion because the “new” SmartThing ones arn’t very good (the old ones which I still have some of are great). I’d also hardwire security cams, ones that run on PoE (like Lorex or similar) so I could just run Cat 6 Ethernet to their locations.

As far as lights themselves are concerned I’ve been pretty happy with the Cree 65w 6" retrofit downlights. Also using the Phillips 40 and 60w “warm glow” candelabra bulbs in all my ceiling fans. Not as happy with those…with the GE dimmers they sometimes don’t turn on. Or more specifically they turn on and instantly off even though the GE switch is on. I blame the switch more but I don’t ahve the issue with the Cree bulbs and the same switch. I think it has something to do with the older GE dimmers slowly ramping up the lights from 0% to the last known value. The new Z-Wave Plus GE dimmers when switched on go straight to the output without ramping up so I’m going to try a couple of those and if the problem goes away (I think it will) I’ll put those in for my ceiling fan lights and move those switches to others I haven’t replaced yet. If the problem still happens I’ll switch out the Phillips bulbs for something else. Just a little harder to find the small candelabra bases.

If you have the ability see if they will do a multi-zone HVAC system with proper balancing/bypass damper. The Keen vents are a neat idea but restricting air flow from your furnace can/will kill it after a while. A standard furnace is meant to blow xxx CFM of air and restricting it can burn up the motor, burn up your heater core, or both. The Keen’s are supposed to have a pressure override to prevent that but a properly configured multi-zone HVAC system will be a lot more efficient then restricting at the vents. But that also means it probably won’t be on your HA system since it would have it’s own controller. But still…having a system designed to be able to properly heat/cool one floor independently of the other floor will always be better then one that heats/cools both but restricts air flow at the vents.


#4

Welcome! Sounds like a very exciting project! :sunglasses:

If you’re just looking for inspiration, you might look at a few of the project report quick browse lists in the community – created wiki. In particular, look at the “get started” list, the “whole house” list, and the “impress your friends” list for some of the more unusual projects. All creative stuff and should give you some more ideas of what’s possible. :sunglasses:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=How_to_Quick_Browse_the_Community-Created_SmartApps_Forum_Section#Quick_Browse_Links_for_Project_Reports.2FQuestions

All of that said, for a project of that size my first question would be “why SmartThings?”

I love Alexa. And I love the idea of SmartThings. And if you have a small budget, some good technical skills, and don’t mind a system that needs quite a bit of handholding, SmartThings is powerful and flexible and can be a great hobby. But some of the things on your list it just doesn’t do very well yet: home theaters, cameras, appliances, and anything where you’re not OK with at least one outage a month.

There are expensive high-end systems like control4 which can do all of those things very well, but they generally cost about 10% of the price of the house plus an annual maintenance fee.

There are low-end systems like Apple’s HomeKit which don’t offer as much power as SmartThings, but which will give you a much longer “maintenance free operating period” and won’t require that you install custom code to do things like manage user schedules on your smart locks.

To be clear: I’m not saying don’t get SmartThings. It’s a great system for many people. But it’s not the first choice if you want a system you can show off to the neighbors and have confidence that it’s going to work almost all the time. :wink: You can search the forums for discussions of stability if you want to look into more details. And most of the time when something fails you either just have to wait a few hours or there’s a fairly simple work around.

But it’s not like buying a dishwasher and then feeling confident it’s going to work every day for at least a year or so. They had at least one outage for every month in the last 18 or so except for January, and more if you count the times they took the system down for maintenance. (we usually get a few days notice on the maintenance outages, but you can’t refuse or postpone them.)

It’s not home automation per se that’s unreliable. There are plenty of low-cost systems, including Alexa itself, where outages are very rare and it’s quite easy to meet an MFOP of 6 months or more. But most of those have a much more limited feature set than SmartThings and they aren’t trying to add new stuff as quickly.

Again, I’m not saying don’t get SmartThings, but before you plan a whole house around it, know what you’re getting into.

I usually tell people who are just getting started to go ahead and buy the SmartThings hub and 4 to 6 Devices and automate one room that you use a lot, like the TV room or the kitchen, and then just live with it for two or three weeks. The glitches are not subtle, so you’ll know whether it’s something that you’re comfortable with while you’re still in the 30 day return period. You just need to be honest with yourself about the amount of time and effort it requires to keep the system going.

In your case, all of the advice you’ve gotten about wiring and stuff is great and will apply no matter what system you end up with. (And I would add to make sure that you get deep switch boxes where your light switches go, at least 48 mm and even up to 60 mm, just because that’s something that’s easy to do during construction and then it gives you a lot more choices down the road.)

But as far as picking a platform to plan your whole house around, I would research very carefully. In fact, if you can, I would go ahead and get a SmartThings hub for wherever you are living now and just do that three-week test and see what you think. Do come to the forums whenever you get stuck or are just looking for more ideas–The community is great and much of the power of SmartThings is pretty hard to discover on your own. :sunglasses: It’s amazing what people have come up with, as you’ll see when you look at the project reports.

JMO, obviously. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


(Susan ) #5

We definitely don’t want to go with a high end system. When I looked at Apple’s Homekit it seemed like there weren’t many options yet? We are Apple users and really like Apple. Is there another system you would recommend? I’m open to all suggestions!


(Susan ) #6

You’re right about the multi-zone HVAC systems. My husband is an HVAC contractor and he has been looking at the new Mitsubishi systems and others. They are very expensive though. Not sure we can justify the costs. Since you just built a new home yourself and have been through this you mind if I ask what products you are using in your home for the various categories? I know you mentioned some bulbs. I’m just really new to this and don’t know anyone who has tried it. Speakers, TVs, curtains, thermostat, doorbell, cameras? Are you using these things?


#7

HomeKit has added quite a few new devices just in the last two months and is expected to add a bunch more in the next six months for technical reasons.

Right now, you’re usually have two or three choices in each device class, as opposed to maybe 30 or 40 choices for a platform like SmartThings, but each of those three choices will be good quality and work well for simple automations. So we are starting to see professional homebuilders installing HomeKit as an option in their homes, something which speaks well to its reliability.

I should say that I personally prefer the echo for voice recognition, so I choose devices that work with both HomeKit and Alexa. I do use Siri from my Watch when I’m in the yard or for some things that are easier to do with that. I found that a number of devices work with both, including the Lutron Cseswitches, Phillips hue smart bulbs, and the ecobee thermostat. ( all three also work with SmartThings, by the way)

For simple rules like lights that come on excessive for simple rules like lights that come on at sunset, or when a closet door is opened, I find HomeKit works very well with almost no maintenance and with excellent reliability.

For a more complex rule like being told that the guest window is left open when rain is expected and the guest is away from the house, There aren’t any options in HomeKit for that right now. SmartThings does those kind of convenience notifications better than anything else I’ve found in my price range. But it’s not a disaster if we don’t get the notification on a particular day.

Different things work for different people. That’s why I suggest that you look at the “impress your friends” and “get started” project reports list and see if you can get a sense of just how complicated you want your own automations to be. And keep in mind how reliable you want it to be. Those two factors together will help you narrow down your platform selection.


#8

Here’s the official Apple page on HomeKit devices. Many of those will also work with echo and quite a few will also work with SmartThings:


#9

And the following is the FAQ for this forum on device class features which will give you an idea of what features, for example, different switches might have and why you might care. :sunglasses:


(Allan) #10

Yeah, Mitsubishi VRF is really expensive. But I was thinking something more along the lines of simpler, like a multispeed furnace with shutoff valves for the first and second floor independently. They had that as a option for mine but I stupidly didn’t go with it and regret it. In other words you can heat the entire first floor, entire second floor, or both. So in the summer when its hot upstairs you can have the AC only cooling it. Vice versa in the winter for the first floor. Might be listed as “Dual Zone” system.

Didn’t do speakers, personally unless you are a audiophile I’d put in Amazon Echos on each floor especially now that they can multi-stream to all at the same time. I wanted to do surround sound but my layout (open concept, high ceilings) wasn’t conducive to it so I skipped it and just did a Vizio sound bar with sub and surrounds. TV doesn’t matter…I have two Vizio (P75 and M70, both 4k) with a Harmony Elite & hub that can control everything and also be accessible through Alexa (Alexa…turn on TV, Alexa tell harmony to turn down the volume, etc).

I have a EcoBee 3 with 5 remote sensors and it works pretty great. It also controls my humidifier and since it knows the indoor humidity and outdoor temps it can vary the humidifier automatically to prevent frost. The stock humidifier controller I had did a horrible job at that and I had a ton of ice on my windows the first winter before I put in the EcoBee.

Personally I’m not using a special doorbell. I have debated Ring and know people that love it…helped a friend with a UPS claim where the delivery guy walked half way up the driveway and pitched a box 25’ onto his front porch. Needless to say they took care of the claim once they got a copy of the video.

No special curtain and the only camera I have is a D-Link that is on the non official but kinda supported list which we use in our nursery. Like I said though I’d get a actual security system that uses PoE cameras if you go that route. Integrating into SmartThings or HomeKit or whatever you go with would be “nice” but don’t base your security cameras on integration as you might not be able to get the best bang for your buck. I am really looking at the Arlo Pro system and a Arlo Q Plus since it will do PoE.


(Brian) #11

Ethernet
Outlets
Hardwired security
Simple zoned HVAC

The rest can come later. Make the cake, don’t worry about the frosting until after. :slight_smile:


(JBrown) #12

Agree with @vseven hard wire as much as you can.


(Dtm) #13

Do you have any outdoor poe ap’s? Or have any recommendations for one? Don’t have a big house but signal from r7000 does make it much past the exterior walls.

Separating the smart house from private data also sounds like a great idea, I struggle to understand things like vlans…in my mind I could handle making a guest network and keeping everything separated on that…is that about the same as a vlan?


(Brian Spranger) #14

Ubiquiti makes vlans and guest networks pretty easy, or at least their community or YouTube channels do.

I do not have any external APs but I want to get one because I have a park in my back yard and my wifi coverage is enough to keep connected but not actually do something.

I have some of their unifi security cameras and there good quality.


#15

Outlets - the ones split 1/2 always on, 1/2 smart with button on face to turn on smart half - plan on smart devices not always working

Outlets indoors - everywhere - closets, storerooms, fireplace mantels, pantries, above kitchen cabinets (above to hid power supplies and controllers for undercabinet lighting)

Outlets outdoors - landscaping, on decks and below (to hide power supplies and controllers for stairway and handrail lighting), front entries

Switches - dimmers - all smart, but must function normally without a smart system

Suggest not allowing electricians mixing lighting and outlets on same circuit. Accidentally overloading an outlet should not kill your lights at the same time.

Whoever did our house put garage and outdoors on one circuit - ugh!!

As others have suggested - Ethernet, cable TV, audio, cameras, motion detection, HVAC (plenty of conductors between stat and furnace), etc, etc

I really like LED strips. Appreciate HUE and OSRAM, but prefer less expensive 15 foot long, RGB+W, double row strips. Requires power supply and controller (Fibaro or Dresden or?) that must be hidden near an outlet.

Good luck on your project.