Starting out, Some pointers and hints

(Glenn Brockett) #1

I started on this SmartHome thing about a month ago. I had tried X10 a decade or so ago but it was too flaky for my wife (SAF=0%). I see how daunting this stuff can be. Here are a couple of things I found on the board that I feel new users should try/do/know.

SAF = Spousal approval factor. This is the most important measure of your Smart Home (SH) installation and can make or break your project.
Automation = The key to higher SAF.
Integration = Making the system pieces work together. Lights, thermostat, door sensors, presence…
Simple controls = make the interface intuitive, let the kids learn how to use it.
Scenes = Cause lights to move to a pre-set pattern with a single command or button press.

The best thing you can do for SAF is make it intuitive or background. Most of the smart lights you can get automatically turn on when power is restored, this means you can leave them on a switched socket and they will turn on and off normally. with the added factor of turning off on a timer or command. Another is to spring for an Amazon Echo and integrate that first. Voice commands!

The key word in a Smart Home is Automation. The more you can move common tasks into the background, the better. Turn on the house lights when you get home. Turn them on at sunset. Turn them off around bedtime if nobody is home. Set the thermostat to a lower temperature when you are gone or all of the lights are off and the bedroom door is closed at night. Turn the heater off if an outside door is left open.

For interfaces I suggest using one of the multi sensors in a “Mood Cube” as this is the simplest way to make the lights fun and intuitive. I also up-cycled an old tablet into a home control panel using “SmartTiles”, easy to set up and use. Another idea is to spring for an Amazon Echo or Dot and integrate that. Voice commands!

Other uses I have set up are alerts for freezing conditions in the attic, laundry room or greenhouse as well as over temp alerts for the attic and greenhouse, temperature graphing throughout the house for evaluation purposes, flash a light when someone knocks on the door, flash a light when one of the family arrives home.

Other ideas I have seen here but not implemented are setting up an alarm system, sending a photo from a web-camera if a door is opened, leak sensing, scheduling your water heater, Set TV room lighting when the TV is turned on,

For applied uses, learn to use one of the rules engines (CoRE is my favorite), it’s a steep learning curve for anything more than if-then, but very powerful. If you have a head for programming, try writing your own apps. It is easy to modify the existing ones out there for your own uses. Even if you don’t program, get an account on the IDE (Integrated Developer Environment) for getting details on your installation or adding other’s apps to your install.

Updated information:
I had forgotten about switch covers such as the Sylvania Lightify that can be placed over your old switches for easy, no-wire retrofitting. In one case I will be placing one nearby the old switch and putting a clear switch lock on the old switch.

(Mark) #2

If you mean smart bulbs, as opposed to a switch (or in-wall relay) that is z-wave/zigbee compatible, I’d advise against that. When a smart bulb is in a switched fixture, and you turn off the light switch, how would you turn the smart bulb back on using the ST app or an automation? That was one huge limitation in terms of WAF for me. If you want to use a smart bulb with a light switch, you need to get a battery-operated switch that covers your regular wall switch. There’s a zigbee device by osram, and a z-wave device by Enerwave that each have device handlers created by community members.


Welcome! I think you’re absolutely right that thinking about how other people will interact with the home automation system is crucial. At our house, we have three housemates with all our various friends and visitors plus home healthcare workers. Finding interactions that work for everybody has been a real challenge!

BTW, there are many ways to handle the switch for a smart-bulb issue. :sunglasses:

As @marktheknife mentioned, One of the newest is the smart switch covers which fit in place over the existing switches. There are several other ways as well.

If you read the user guide for your smart bulbs, you’ll see that all brands say these bulbs are intended to have continuous power. You can actually shorten the life of the bulb significantly by frequently turning the power on and off to them. Plus the fact that none of your time-based or motion based automations will work while the power is turned off at the switch. So it’s better to find a networked solution that meets the needs of people to have a physical switch.

Fortunately, we have an FAQ for that:

(Glenn Brockett) #4

Yes, I understand the switch issue, but this is for initial setup. I forgot about the switch covers. I will add that.

My wife no longer flips the switch off every time, but uses the voice command. So I will be migrating the system to wall light switches. Our house is older so in wall switches are not really an option (no third wire).