Smartening The Mill House

Right. Having just placed several orders, eyed up several more devices and committed Tim-the-builder to making a number of holes in the walls and ceiling, we’re pretty much on the no-turning-back path now :smiley:

Hi! I’m Mike, and The Mill House is an old (1862) house in Peterborough in the UK: it has a number of interesting features including foot-plus thick millstone walls (getting WiFi through THAT was fun), but we’ve just started remodelling the living room and adding some HA features.

I’lll leave this post as the intro, and tack an outstanding issues list as well as progress on subsequent posts.

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Stage 1.

A ST v2 UK hub and starter kit. Easy.

Well, no. I started out putting it in what’s known as ‘the old office’: it’s the small alcove off what used to be an antiques shop in which our broadband terminates, where one of the WiFI APs (a Mikrotik Routerboard 951) is and where all the structured cabling terminates.

[As an aside - we ran about 8 pairs of CAT5 runs to double RJ45 walls sockets around the house when we bought the place. This isn’t enough, any more than the /27 of static IPs we thought would be all we’d need!]

Unfortunately, the rest of the house is the wrong side of three stone walls, two of which are separated by 3’ of rubble infill, so my first test (a smart socket on the TV in the living room) didn’t pair up with the hub. Ok. Plan B - move the hub to the living room.

This - almost - worked - see, there are two RJ45s in the living room: a WiFi AP uses one, and the other… appears to need some TLC from a punchdown tool before it’ll pass Ethernet. Ah well - time to swop out the cheap T-Link AP for one of these: These are fab: not only are they tiny and dirt cheap, the guys from are fab, and the AP takes Power over Ethernet (please, Samsung, make the next hub do that?) and they act as a two port hub when in bridge mode, which means I can hook the ST hub into the second port. Et voila! The socket pairs up! I left that and moved on.

For my next trick, I swapped out a bulb on the inner landing for a Lightfiy RGBW (plus screw to bayonet adaptor), installed and set up @Sticks18’s custom device type for it, and left a motion sensor on the bookshelf. Five minutes with a SmartApp later, and we have a motion-activated landing light that is full spectrum daylight during the time we’re awake, and a low (10%) warm orange glow after bedtime. (Precise definitions to ST of ‘bedtime’ and ‘awake’ are being worked on, never fear.)

This met with considerable SA (spouse approval): it’s been in for a couple of weeks now, and everyone (wife, son and me) just accepts it - you walk into the (usually gloomy) landing and the light comes on. And the cats don’t trigger it :smiley:

Next? The TV.


Sounds like a nice place, but that’s still young! I love old places, so send pictures one day. I’ve been to Peterborough many times when visiting Perkins Engines on business trips.

My first plan for stage 2 was to replace the two dead CFCs in my room (both wife and I are on call sufficiently often that separate rooms are the only way we get sleep some nights :D). A great plan, marred by the fact that the bayonet to screw adaptors I had for the (screw fit) Lightify bulbs didn’t fit the slightly deeper than expected light fitting. They were fine on the landing, but…)

So - plan B while a different set of adaptors arrived from Amazon - fit a light in the notoriously hard-to-wake teenager’s room, and set it to wake him gently from 7am and turn his bedroom light off at 8am (when he damn well better be downstairs!). It started out fine - easy to fit, son has iPhone app installed (he’s 15, the only way of parting him and his iPhone would involve surgery!) and is happy.

Two, um… interesting problems. First up, the Gentle Wake Up app gets it into its head that the time I’ve specified is an hour late: what it appeared to be doing for some bizarre reason was saving it as BST (i.e. an hour ahead) and then not reading the timezone back when it came to set the trigger. Perhaps unwisely, I reported the bug on the forum and then set the wake up time back an hour. You can guess what happened…

…Yup. The bug either was fixed or silently fixed itself, resulting in a teenager woken up at 6 am… To add insult to injury, that particular bulb (and only this one so far) has an occasional habit of turning itself on for no reason, and had already woken him once at 1:30 am! I’m told this is fixable with a firmware upgrade, but for that I require the Lightfy hub (fortunately only a measly £20 from Amazon).

The light was moved to my room - there’s a fixture in the entry way that has a screw fitting, so it made a decent test bed, and only I get to complain when it doesn’t work or lights up at 2am. I now have a Lightify hub, so I’ll refresh it sometime over Xmas and see what happens. As a general observation, Gentle Wake Up (when it works) is kinda nice, though the LIghtify bulbs do jump quite a bit in brightness from off to minimum dim, which is sometimes enough to wake me.

Next up: presence, and modes. These require more thought than you think.

Interesting I have 5 lightify bulbs here in the USA and they never turn in in the on their own
I have seen lights turn on when the hub reboots. Are you sure that is not happening

Definitely because the other Lightify light is just outside my door, and it doesn’t come on :smiley:

Guess the USA ones have newer firmware then, which makes sense as they come out in the UK first.

OK, I lied. Next up, the TV, as I said the first time :smiley:

Pretty easy - plugged the TV into the smart outlet. Wife is happy, as the TV does draw a noticeable amount on standby.

And then Amazon went and heavily discounted the Harmony Ultimate on Black Friday. Oops. (Note to UK folks: £69 today, but see below).

As folks in the UK may be aware by now, this is easier to set up in the ST to Harmony direction than the other. The former was pretty quick, and I now have ‘Watch TV’ etc actions in ST. The latter is still waiting on Logitech fixing the OAuth-with-the-EU-hub issue, which prevents you actually hooking up the Ultimate to talk to ST. It’s also waiting on the mirror going back up on the opposite wall, which was doing a surprisingly good job of reflecting Harmony IR back to the TV stack!

Next up (honest), presence and modes.

Catching up (honest).

So - presence.

As we started off with the standard ST starter kit, we had a presence sense. As Anne at that point didn’t have an iPhone, and never goes ANYWHERE without her handbag, that was easy - configure it as ‘Anne’, drop it where all lost things go (the bottom of Anne’s handbag - it’s a family joke!) and bingo.

I have an iPhone, so that was easy. So does James.

One interesting problem - for some reason James’ refurb iPhone was dreadful with presence. It’d register him as home about a mile away, and sometimes further. I was almost at the point of dropping another presence sensor in his school bag, but he’s just bought a new iPhone, so the problem went away. Anne got his old phone, but the presence sensor just worked, so I didn’t bother installing ST for her on the phone.

We’re not doing much with modes, yet - there’s a mode triggered when everyone leaves called ‘Away’, but other than that, nothing yet. Although I have a Hive 2 waiting to be installed, which is going to result in rules of the form:

IF mode is not ‘Away’ AND it’s 7am AND the temperature at the top of the water tank is < 40 degrees THEN boost the hot water

(We have solar water heating, and I have a plan to rig a sensor to measure the top of the tank, so that we can make sure there’s hot water for showers and washing up if there wasn’t enough sun the previous day!)

Next up - the living room refit.

Mike, this makes for interesting reading. I’ve got ST and I’m in an old Tower Windmill how did I never find you before :slight_smile:

I’m just up the A1 in Newark so your neck of the woods as well. I’m also pretty sure I’ve got some similar challenges. I’ve got a 25 year old house pinned on the side of a 200 year old Windmill, to make things nice and easy I’ve got a 3ft brick wall to get though and no line of sight between sockets (between Mill and House). The ST (v2) hub is installed in the house where the mesh works well and is extremely reliable, in the Mill not such a positive story, still it’s a bloody big windmill and I’m not about to start knocking out walls!

As for the Wifi I have an enterprise grade access point in the house and one in the mill with structured cabling running between the two areas with the SSID. Sorts that problem out a treat. No way around this, the cable between the two makes the difference. It also allows me to operate to switches to service all the ethernet needs of the property.

Back to ST and HA.

I’ve got both Z-Wave and Zigbee devices on the Mill side primarily because I’m using ST motion sensors and Danfoss TRV’s. I’ve got sockets on both sides of the wall in an attempt to get the signal through the wall but it’s just not perfect. I’m now in the process of thinking about going higher (where the walls are thinner) unless I can find an alternative. I’m also debating making the Mill just z-wave and focussing on repeating that but I’m still experimenting. All I know if I know is that I have Hue and it works amazingly well throughout the mill, I just can’t manage the same mesh experience with devices and repeaters.

I’m going to tag @JDRoberts for the next point.

What I really want/desire/yearn for is some way to repeat the signal through the wall, in my mind this would be perfectly implemented with a pocket socket that has an antenna on it that I could feed into the Mill (or vice versa). Definite hole in the market here!

Enough rambling, good read! Thanks for posting!

As one of my professors used to say, “physics counts.” A 3 foot brick wall is a 3 foot brick wall: it’s going to kill signal, as you’ve discovered.

You basically have four choices: a) drill a hole, b) go around (meaning bounce signal out the window of one building back into the window of the other, C) run each side of the wall as a separate location with its own hub, D) use a different protocol (like Wi-Fi) that you’ve already successfully run on both sides.

So it’s pretty much the same as the discussion in the how to article on automating an outbuilding in the community – created wiki. It’s just your issue isn’t distance, it’s the thickness of the brick wall.

If it was me, I would probably just put a hub on each side of the wall and run it as two separate locations. Just because long-term that’s going to be the easiest. With any other option you’re going to run the risk of running out of hops.

Regarding cabling, there are some ways to do that for Z wave networks and there are some ways to do that for zigbee networks, but I don’t know of any way to do that for SmartThings – controlled networks because it doesn’t really handle secondaries very well. If anyone would know, @johnr might.

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Thanks for clarifying, I’ve read the FAQ and tried various things but it’s just not 100 reliable hence the idea of moving higher where walls are thinner, then I increase the hop factor. Never had these problems with X10 :slight_smile:

Thanks for the referal/tag.

Out of interest if I go for another hub then can I trigger events on one fro the other or are they completely autonomous?

Thanks again.

They’re autonomous, but you can use ifttt as a “man in the middle” by sending an email or a text to be used as a trigger.

If you have an android phone, you might potentially be able to use Tasker as a man in the middle as well, but that one is going to be a little trickier.

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As JD said 2nd hub and be done with it. Since you have WiFi through the wall just stick a 2nd SmartThings hub over there. I’m not aware of an off the shelf ZigBee RF to Coax and Coax back to ZigBee RF. I’m sure it could be done but why would you when you can just add a 2nd Hub.

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Thanks gents.

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I love the challenge.

My first thought was ensuring you had wifi coverage and I was thinking APs, WDS or the new mesh routers by Google, Linksys or Eero, but you have all of that sorted.

The issue with Hub 2 is that its basically a separate entity (from my reading above).

Going high in theory should work, but I would them be planting repeaters on the wall which means electrical work. Doable but probably not ideal.

So thinking left field, by leveraging the wifi, how about Energenie for power outlets and Domoticz for the lights (or simillar) Picking them because people have already implemented ST DH and Apps.

I love a challenge too but sometimes i’d give my right arm for a solution that can circumvent walls or would allow me to put a dry wall/partiion where that wall is :slight_smile:

The painful bit is that the main use case in the Mill is for TRV’s, Its also nearest the driveway/entrance so a zebec repeater at that end of the property would be ideal for presence detection.

The weird bit… Hue works flawlessly thought the wall :slight_smile: but there is better line of sight for bulbs that sockets. I need to do some more investigating with sockets and repeaters!

Nice thought though on the sockets!

In the words of the great Gytha Ogg, “I aten’t ded.” Just phenomenally busy, and rather blessed with a setup that mostly works, so am not massively encouraged to tinker.

Well I wasn’t, anyway.

Just spent a week visiting friends in Lerwick, who have a new (to them) three-storey house in sore need of smartening up due to some very idiosyncratic lighting arrangements (porch, hall and two floors of landing lights (10 fixtures) on one two way switch circuit!) and one of the couple being registered disabled. Hence, I’ve been ‘smartening’ their house and it’s got me thinking about the Mill House again.

Amazon will, thank goodness, deliver to Shetland, so we took delivery of a pile of Hue bulbs, a Hue dimmer switch and tap switch, a Hue motion sensor, a Hue hub and FOUR Amazon Echos (Plus, Show, two Dots). And you’d be right to wonder what this has to do with a SmartThings forum…

Well, it looks like the Mill House is about to be hit with the old software engineering maxim of ‘plan to throw one away’. The lights here are a hodgepodge of Hue controlled (the Hue Beyond ceiling lights) and ST controlled (everything else) and I’m rather conscious that it’s a bit of a mess should anyone else need to work on it. Giving serious thought to ripping out the current Hue-ST gateway (Hue (Re)-Connect) to replace it with Hue B Smart and moving all the lights onto the Hue hub, and then using SmartThings largely as a rules engine and for ‘clever stuff’.

As ever, watch this space.

God knows why I’m only just replying to this! Like you say, phenomenally busy!

I did just that. I moved all the bulbs to Hue, in fact I added another Hue Connect. One win the mill, one in the house. No issues with walls and it’s working seamlessly. Smartthings as you say is the rules engine turning stuff on and off based on motion or anything else I need to drive a change!

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