SmartThings Community

Starting Brand New with Smart Home - Looking for Insights on Resources and from Your Experiences

project_wholehouse

(Patrick) #1

Hi gang,
I’d like to start building a smart home in increments and I have a number of questions I’m hoping the community might be able to answer. I’d like to start by adding lights incrementally and would like your opinions based on experience. Sorry for the text dump - I want to do this right.

  1. With Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Wemo - which one is considered to be the most reliable. Also, which can operate when wifi is out?

  2. I just purchased all new LED bulbs last year so I think I’d like to go with the wall switch approach for integration. When a wall switch is in the off position, does this disable the ability to control the light remotely? Or do the new wall switches not work that way?

  3. Are there any wall switch dimmers that don’t make LED lights blink like crazy? I have a number of lights with candelabras and would love to have them dim nicely without blinking. Do most new dimmers work with LEDs?

  4. I am upgrading my network to the Google Wifi routers when they become available, When I make this change, do I need to somehow deactivate all of my setups and reactivate them with the new Google Wifi routers? Is this complicated?

Thanks for everybodys thoughts.


#2

Welcome! :sunglasses:

( I’ve moved your topic to projects so you can get individual answers based on your particular set up.)

  1. Wemo switches require Wi-Fi. (Wemo bulbs are zigbee.) Zigbee and zwave do not. However–SmartThings itself is still primarily a cloud-based architecture. If either your Internet is down or the SmartThings cloud itself is not available, many things in a SmartThings system will not work. For example, the app on your smart phone requires that the SmartThings cloud be up and your hub have Internet access or you won’t even be able to toggle devices on and off from the app.

(It is technically possible for a phone to use just local Wi-Fi, no Internet, but that is not how SmartThings is designed.)

If you live in an area with frequent Internet outages, it is unlikely that SmartThings will meet your needs. ( also, what country are you in? The available devices does vary somewhat.)

2). There are many ways to handle the issue of switches with smart bulbs. See the following FAQ (this is a clickable link)

  1. you should definitely be able to find smart dimmers that work with dumb dimmable LEDs. But you should not try to combine a smart dimmer switch with a smart bulb unless the switch was specifically designed for that purpose. The two devices confuse each other and you can end up burning out either the bulb or the switch.

  2. changing your Wi-Fi router should not impact your zigbee or Z wave devices at all. You will need to change the Wi-Fi settings on any Wi-Fi devices, including any WiFi bridge devices that let your Z wave/zigbee devices talk to the Internet. For example, if you have a Phillips hue bridge and some Phillips hue bulbs, you won’t have to do anything with the individual bulbs. You will have to enter the new Wi-Fi password into the hue bridge, but that’s a one step change.

  3. A number of community members have posted project reports on new House builds that you might find interesting. You can use the quick browse lives in the community – created wiki and look under project reports to find these. There is a list for “whole house” projects and another called “get started”. Both might have topics you’d find interesting.

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


(Scott G) #3

Welcome! I encourage you to visit the wiki http://thingsthataresmart.wiki for a lot of good info especially regarding the various protocols.

  1. Wemo isn’t really its own protocol. Most Wemo devices I believe are zigbee, but they may or may not be compatible with all zigbee hubs. Either protocol is reliable and both work without wifi; however since SmartThings is cloud based, it needs internet to issue commands to your devices. This is a SmartThings issue, not a deficiency of either protocol.

  2. All smart wall switches that I’ve seen return to a neutral position. You can think of them as having a button on the top for on and one on the bottom for off with a rocker style paddle over top. For switches, you’ll quickly find that zwave is your best option. Greater selection and cheaper.

  3. Most newer ones work fine with LED bulbs. Sometimes they prefer a minimum load on the circuit, so a single LED bulb might not work well but adding more will alleviate the issue. I haven’t had any flicker issues on my fan light with 3 candelabra bulbs in it.

  4. Nope. SmartThings hub needs an Ethernet connection, not wifi. For the most part as long as it has internet, you’re good. The zwave/zigbee all connects to the ST hub not your router. If you have any LAN devices like the Hue Bridge, you might have to rediscover it and possibly set it up again.

Or just listen to JD! Always good advice!


#4

Also, as soon as you mention smart bulbs of any kind you will get some responses from community members who are passionately in favor of smart switches with dumb bulbs rather than smart bulbs, and some community members who are passionately in favor the other way. It’s one of the long-standing discussions in the community. :wink:

Personally, I use both in my house ( but again, not with a standard smart dimmer controlling a smart bulb), it just depends on the specific use case in each room. :sunglasses:

Anyway, if you’d like to learn more about the arguments pro and con for each, start with the following thread:

There’s no one right answer here, different things work for different people, and even for different individual use cases. :sunglasses::bulb:


(Patrick) #5

Thank you so much for the response! I will investigate all of your recommendations!!!

@JDRoberts Regarding outages - I don’t have many in my area. However, if there is an outage I can still use the wall switches to control the lights right?


(Patrick) #6

On your fan light with candelabra, do you use a single switch for the fan and lights or do you use a switch for the fan and light separately? Also - is there a brand of switch that you’ve found to be most reliable?


(Patrick) #7

@Sticks18 On your fan light with candelabra, do you use a single switch for the fan and lights or do you use a switch for the fan and light separately? Also - is there a brand of switch that you’ve found to be most reliable?


(Mark) #8

Yes, if you have a smart switch wired into your light circuit (with regular, dumb bulbs in the fixture), then you can still control your light by toggling the switch regardless of what’s going on with your internet, ST hub, z-wave or zigbee networks, etc.


#9

It depends on the exact devices being used.

That will be true for many set ups. But there are also some switches which don’t in fact directly control the current to the lights, and depend on sending wireless messages to the SmartThings hub which then sends messages on to other devices. Those particular set ups will not work if the Internet is down.


Also some switches can do different things if you tap them once or you tap them twice. In most cases that won’t work if the Internet is down.

But the multiple options devices are still very convenient when the Internet is working. So some people will have one switch in the room which does actually control the current to a light and it will still work even if there is no Internet. Then they’ll also have the multifunction switches in the same room. So if the Internet is down, you use the one on/off switch. If the Internet is up, you can also use the multifunction switches for greater convenience.

So it just depends on your own needs and preferences, and whether you’re willing to pay for additional devices. :sunglasses:


#10

As far as different switches and features, see the following thread. The light switch discussion starts around post 35, with brand details in post 42.

You’re going to hear me say this a lot, but it’s still true: different things work for different people, and different use cases.

If your number one priority is reliability, you’re going to choose a different brand than if your number one priority is “value.”

It’s very much like cars. Some people will choose a top line BMW, some people will choose a Honda Civic. And they might both be very happy with their choice.

There’s hardly ever a one best brand/model. It’s almost always a matter of fitting your particular needs for specific use case and budget with the available features and cost.

Many people choose SmartThings specifically because it’s a very inexpensive system. So they come into it with the budget mindset.

Like most home electrical devices, home automation devices typically fall into good/better/best tiers.

In this community, you’ll often find that the “good” devices are the most popular just because they’re the cheapest. People don’t necessarily worry about whether one device will last two years and another will last five. They just go “look what I found for $14!” :wink:

So the more specific you can be about your own needs and preferences, the more helpful other people can be with recommendations.

Also, we really do need to know what country you live in. This community has members from all over the world, but the device selections do differ even between the US and Canada.


(Scott G) #11

My fans have a separate switch for fan and light, so I updated he light switch with a dimmer. GE makes a zwave switch for fans that gives low, med, high speeds, so I have that for the fan control.

I have a mix of GE and Linear zwave switches/dimmers and haven’t had any failures. There are several other brands out there. I haven’t seen/read about any being particularly less reliable. A lot of them are the same devices just rebranded.


(Christopher Masiello) #12

For the record, I think Smart Switch with dumb bulb is by far the best option. All of the power of automation with the rock solid manual controls you’ve always had.
That being said, there are many lights/lamps in my house that are not on a light switch. The two choices there are smart bulbs and smart plugs. I am HEAVILY in favor of smart bulbs for that. I LOVE the Cree connected bulbs (also their dumb counterparts). They’re $15 and they give the closest to incandescent light that I’ve seen from any LED.
Finally, I have a few smart plugs for things like Christmas lights and outdoor flood lights.
Oh yeah, I actually just got started with Hue products this week. We’re finishing the basement and I need to create a princess pink play area for my 5 year old daughter. Not enough usage to give a good breakdown on them yet.


(Patrick) #13

I’m guessing I’ll end up with a variety of setups as well. Are you just using Smartthings - so does it control your Philips Hue? Have you ever tried wink? How easy was smart things to use your first time?


(Christopher Masiello) #14

So I am using the Phillips Hue bridge to connect my Hue bulbs and their app to control the bulb colors. I have the Hue connected into SmartThings too, so I can control On/Off and dimming (no colors) via ST. I also have them connected to IFTTT.com to do some other cool stuff. I’m a big Mets fan, so I want to get them to blink blue & orange when the games start (162 days and counting until I can use that now).
As for getting started on Smart Things, it was not that hard, because I only had a few things connected. A few switches and bulbs. Nothing else. Pretty easy to get that straight. Also, I documented and trained on complex software systems for many years, so I’m pretty good at figuring these things out.
As I got more comfortable, and my budget allowed, and my wife stopped threatening to murder me in my sleep, I slowly added pieces here and there. Bulbs, motion sensors, open/close sensors. One here, one there, so again not too complicated.
It got really cool when I pulled in some stuff like Amazon Echo (amazing), MyQ garage opener (works pretty well), Ecobee thermostat. It hasn’t gotten cold enough to know yet.
As for Wink, I tried it out a while ago and thought it was the worst user experience ever. Put it up on Ebay right away. I understand that it’s gotten quite a bit better of late, but I don’t know for sure.
My main advice is - start slow, figure out how to do some basic stuff, then add slowly.


(Chris ) #15

If the bulbs don’t have a switch is the only way to operate them via an app or automation. For me personally I vote for the smart switch and dumb bulbs.


#16

Again, this is one of the longest running never-to-be-resolved discussions on the forum. :wink:

There are all kinds of ways to add switches to smart bulbs. There are all kinds of reasons to choose one or the other, but it all comes down to the details of each person’s set up and preferences. :bulb::level_slider:


(Christopher Masiello) #17

Yes, if you have a smart bulb with no switch, you can use the app, an automation, and/or a button controller. I have Aeon Minimotes that I use to control my switchless smart bulbs. You can get them for under $20 and control up to 8 different combinations of things. The other thing is an Amazon Echo/Dot. They work wonderfully.


(Chris ) #18

Thanks. I was just trying to imagine where a bulb would go that didn’t already have a switch. Maybe a lamp that’s always switched on?


(Patrick) #19

I’m sure I’ll end up with a mix of both options…seems to add more flexibility.