SmartThings Community

Switching from Alarm.com Home Automation

project_security

(Scott) #1

I’ve been researching a lot over the last few days about the SmartThings hub. I am interested in switching from a very expensive monthly subscription system (Alarm.com/LiveWatch) to SmartThings. I understand that I have to replace all of the proprietary Simon XT sensors (6 open/close door sensors, and 4 motion sensors), but the lack of a monthly service fee, means the initial costs will be paid for in a little over a year.

My current home automation system includes a Kwikset Zwave deadbolt, a Schlage Zwave lever lock, Zwave light switches for exterior lighting, several indoor Zwave plugs (for various floor lamps, patio music amp, etc.), a couple of Zwave outdoor plugs (for Holiday lighting), a Zwave smoke detector, a Zwave CO2 detector and a Zwave strobe siren.

In addition to all of the Zwave products, I have added over the past year - a Honeywell Lyric Thermostat, two Nest Protect smoke/CO2 detectors and most recently several Phillips HUE bulbs, light strips and a Bloom.

I’m wondering if anyone here has migrated from an Alarm company home automation setup to the SmartThings hub? If so, are there any oddities I should be aware of? Compatibility issues? Setup issues? etc?

I’m guessing that in order to use all of the Zwave products, I will need to disassociate them from the current Simon XT panel, then (obviously) relink them to the SmartThings hub? That process should be straight forward, and pretty easy … right?

I have notices several threads stating that user codes can not be modified on the Kwikset and Schlage locks … PINs need to be maintained through manual programming on the locks at this time? But the locks can still be locked / unlocked via the APP or some other action?

I’m looking forward to taking this plunge, it appears to me that the SmartThings systems has more flexibility than the current Alarm.com system, as well as from what I’m reading better sensors, with faster reaction times.

Any thoughts, concerns, support will be greatly appreciated!


Which alarm systems work best with Smartthings?
(Scott) #2

Step 1 in switching now complete - verified that I am out of contract with Alarm company. No cancellation fees, no equipment to return.


(Chrisb) #3

I haven’t used Alarm.com, so I can’t comment specifically on switching from that system. But to answer a few of your questions:

I believe that all the z-wave items you have listed should work just fine.

Removing from old and reassigning to new should be easy, but it will be time consuming. You need to exclude each device individually and then re-add 'em to ST. Also, some devices need to be pretty close to the ST Hub in order to pair… like 15 feet or less. Usually you can pair over a greater distance, but not always. So be prepared with a long ethernet cable and extension cord if you need to get your hub close to a device.

re: Z-wave locks: You are correct. There are some user created apps that do manage codes somewhat, but by default ST will not handle codes. But it can lock/unlock easily via ST.

re: Reaction times: I’m not sure what you’re used to, but be aware that ST is a cloud based system. Hub 2.0 is supposed to have some local control built in, but the current hub is basically just a pathway. It does no decision making on it’s own. So there is a bit of a delay from action to action. For example, I have a switch setup so that when it is turned on, it turns on another switch. Sort of a wireless 3-way setup.

When I turn on switch one: 1. it sends a command to the hub, which 2. passes the command to the cloud, which 3. checks if it needs to action on this command, then if so, 4. sends the action to the hub, which then 5. sends the action to switch two.

Now all these things happen fast, but not instantly. There is perhaps a 0.5 to 1 second delay between when I turn on switch one and when switch two reacts.


(Scott) #4

Thanks for the response.

I’m currently seeing significantly longer lag times in activations with my Alarm.com system. I think the system acts in the same way you’re describing the ST system, but my internet connection is 3G cellular based. The slower connection is probably causing the additional lag.

In the morning I have a trigger for the living room motion sensor that turns on lights in my living room and kitchen. It will take until I am almost to my coffee maker in the Kitchen before the lights will turn on - I would estimate approximately 10-15 seconds.

I had not thought about the proximity of the hub to Zwave devices for adding them to the ST hub. I know that the Schlage lock on the back door needs the Simon XT panel right next to it. As the Simon XT has a battery, as well as a cellular internet connection, that wasn’t much of a problem. I think I have a 50’ ethernet cable in the basement … I’m going to have to go find that.

For re-adding plug switches to the ST hub, can I activate them in the Office then go locate them where they’re going to be used (upstairs guests rooms, outside, etc.)? Again, my experience with the Simon XT panel was that they needed to be activated where they’re going to be used, because a mesh net was being created to connect the devices together. On the Simon XT, if I connected the Zwave plug switches in the Office, then moved them, I would constantly get messages from Alarm.com saying the particular switch lost it’s connection.


(Burin) #5

I’m wondering about this as well. Right now, I have a system (trial period) w/ Frontpoint and have 7 door/window sensors and a motion detector. After that, I’ll be in a 3 year contract :frowning:

I just bought a SmartThings hub and have added a few z-wave devices over the past couple weeks. I’m new to all of this and have been doing research for the last couple of weeks to see how these two systems could interact.

It hasn’t been promising so far. The non-Z-wave sensors are great w/ the security system (I guess?) but there’s not a straightforward way to get them hooked up w/ SmartThings.

Did you have your Z-wave devices set up w/ your Alarm.com system?

Is there a way to get them to be set up w/ both systems? Primary & Secondary controllers?


(Scott) #6

I just ordered my ST hub and sensors, so I have not yet set anything up.

It is my intention to replace my Alarm.com / Simon XT system with the ST system, not run both together. I realize that the ST will not be a monitored system. I think the inclusion of alarms / strobes, flashing HUE lights, numerous Zwave enabled lights turning on and the LiveWatch yard sign / window stickers should be deterrent enough.


(Scott) #7

My ST install was completed yesterday. I’d say it was VERY successful!

On the outside chance someone else is thinking about doing what I just did, I’ll describe how the install went, some small issues I had, and why I am very pleased with what I’ve done.

THE INSTALL -

Very straight forward and easy to setup the entire system The SmartThings APP walks your through the steps, after I got past the first sensor or two, it was a breeze. I had 5 smart motions and 6 smart sensors installed within an hour. I then moved on to the Zwave devices. The process for the Zwaves is exactly like the sensors, a couple of times I hit the “+ CONNECT NEW DEVICE” button, instead of the “Switches & Dimmer” button - the difference being that “+ CONNECT …” just does a whole scale search, where the specific type of device narrows the search to just the specific brand/type of switch. There were a couple of old Zwave switches that were added, but said they were the wrong type of device - that leads to a little extra setup for that device, but nothing too difficult to complete. It took me about another hour to connect 2 entry locks (a Kwikset & a Schlage), 2 light wall switches, 9 interior light plugs, 3 exterior light plugs and a FortezZ siren.

Once all the sensors and Zwave devices were connected and functioning, I then tackled the HUE lights. Again, very easy to install, and very impressive that there is so much control (by individual light bulb). And that concluded my install.

SMALL ISSUES -

The biggest small issue was learning how to program activities / triggers. Having switched from Alarm.com with a very small actions list, there was a lot to learn with programming SmartThings actions. I got stumped once, and jumped on the ST Blog to see if I could find an answer - I ended up clicking on their chat link and someone in ST customer service walked me through what I needed to do. Once I got that brief tutorial, I figured everything else out on my own, and spent the majority of the evening setting up triggers & actions.

I was not able to connect an Evolve garage door actuator. Not because I couldn’t get the device to connect, but because my garage door opener is MyQ. Some quick searching this morning on this forum, I found what I need to get for that to work, and I ordered the MyQ bridge from Amazon this morning. Hopefully that portion will be completed by Sunday.

I was not able to connect a generic smoke detector or CO2 detector. I know these are Zwave, but I lost the manuals and don’t know how to connect them to the Zwave network now. I tried everything I could think of, even took them off the walls to look for buttons on the back - no luck. I do have a couple of NEST Protect devices in the house - hopefully there will be ST support for those soon. Otherwise, I’ll order some First Alert detectors some other time.

The final small issue, actually leads me to why I’m glad I made this move. After setting everything up, I was trying to figure out how to use this system as an alarm system. I downloaded the Smart Security app from within the ST app, but couldn’t get it to operate correct. So again, I jump on this forum looking for help, and stumble on the SMART ALARM thread. I have never been good at programming, or even following directions, but I took my time, followed the directions closely that were provided by geko, and within 20 minutes I had the SMART ALARM smart app on my ST iPhone app and was setting it up.

REASONS WHY I’M VERY PLEASED …

The SMART ALARM smart app has put the cherry on the sundae that is SmartThings for me. The SMART ALARM smart app operates exactly like my Alarm.com system. I have specific motion sensors turned off so my dogs don’t set off an alarm, while other motions and all doors/windows are left active. It’s set so the FortrezZ siren goes off, and all the lights in / on the house turn on. It is exactly what I was looking for!

With my Alarm.com system, my home automation was very sluggish - probably because of the cellular data connection. And my Zwave devices were constantly reporting issues, then not functioning correctly because of it. The SmartThings sensors are responsive, and events trigger quickly. When I push a button on the app to turn on/off a light it happens almost instantaneously. With Alarm.com, I could turn off the light in the Kitchen, walk to my bedroom, turn on the TV in there, get into bed and finally the light would turn off.

Geofencing works! Could never get this feature to work with my Alarm.com setup. I played with the geofence distance to get it to change modes just as I pull into / out of my subdivision.

VERY pleased with this transition, and looking forwarded to doing even more with my SmartThings as I get more comfortable altering actions and installing more smart apps.


(Chrisb) #8

Glad everything works well for you. And a huge +1 on the SmartAlarm program from Geko too. That’s a very nice piece of software that I recently got up and running on my setup too. Very important to follow the instructions on it, but once you get it going, it’s GREAT!


(Scott) #9

I might have a problem here … I think I’m addicted to SmartThings!! Is there an STA (SmartThings Anonymous) Group I can join??

I was busy this weekend … made the following additions to my ST system -

MyQ installed and connected (MyQ device loaded from ST IDE)
Outdoor motion sensor connected at the front porch - to turn on outdoor lights, and Office light if motion is detected while in NIGHT mode.
Second FortrezZ siren/strobe added to the interior of the house
First Alert ZCOMBO (from Lowes) added to basement
First Alert ZSMOKE (again from Lowes) added to the stairwell
Zwave light wall switch (again from Lowes) added to the Patio lights
HUE Lux bulb (from Apple Store) added to the Office

All kinds of tweaks and improvements to triggers & actions as I’m learning.

More and more impressed with the ST System as I use it, and program it. I have not had a single Zwave device disconnect since I set everything up - that was unheard of with my Alarm.com system. One of the devices that constantly disconnected with Alarm.com was the back door Schlage level lock, I don’t think I could go more than 3 - 4 days without that lock disconnecting for several days and not working like I wanted, then reconnecting itself and start working again.

Definitely NOT regretting moving from Alarm.com to SmartThings!


(Chrisb) #10

[quote=“Goldndoodle, post:9, topic:5361, full:true”]
I might have a problem here … I think I’m addicted to SmartThings!! Is there an STA (SmartThings Anonymous) Group I can join??[/quote]

Yeah uh… sorry the only known support group is this forum, and unfortunately this group tends to support the habit rather than breaking the habit. :smile:


(Nicholas Trausch) #11

Were you able to use your Honeywell Lyric with Smartthings? I want to take the plunge but haven’t found a clear answer on the Lyric yet…


(Scott) #12

I was not able to connect my Lyric - but to be completely honest, shortly after I set up my Smartthings system, I tried switching my Lyric from Cool to Heat mode and hit a lot of problems. The Lyric would not switch modes to heat, and after several l o n g calls to Lyric Tech Support - which were useless, their only comment was to call a heating & cooling specialist for a service call, for a DIY unit! During one call to them, I replaced the Lyric with an old Zwave Thermostat I had in the basement, and the furnace fired up right away. The “tech” kept saying that the Lyric must not be receiving power - to which I replied “the Zwave Themostat needs power, it’s working. The Lyric was working on COOL mode, it had power. It won’t work in HEAT mode, something is wrong with the unit!!”

So, after 4 calls, and 2 replacement parts, I finally asked for my money back, and they agreed, then didn’t return the money, which lead to me filing a dispute with my credit card company, and ultimately Amazon accepting the return, even though it was months past their usual return policy.

I replaced the Lyric with a Honeywell Smart WiFi thermostat - FAR better unit than a Lyric (this is the one I bought - http://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-TH9320WF5003-Wi-Fi-Smart-Thermostat/dp/B00FLZEQH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417308940&sr=8-1&keywords=honeywell+smart+thermostat).

The Lyric was iffy (at best) when it came to geofencing to change temps, and the build quality is lousy (at best). Their “Tech support” was horrible - possibly the worst I’ve ever seen. I did more useful troubleshooting on my own!

The Smart WiFi Thermostat will connect to Smartthings through a SmartAPP (Honeywell Smart WiFi Thermostat APP), and once it does the geofencing / temp changes are always perfect. A Honeywell Smart WiFi Thermostat, connected to SmartThings is a MUCH better thermostat than a Lyric! Avoid the Lyric! (Just my $0.02)


(Nicholas Trausch) #13

Thanks for the reply and notes. After some initial issues with my Lyric install where I had to add a C wire for additional power, I have not had any issues and have actually had pretty good results with the geofencing features.

Not sure this will deter me from jumping into the SmartThings arena as I think everything else looks great. I’ll just know not to have any expectations for now. Hopefully it’ll all open up a bit more once HomeKit begins deploying across devices.


(Scott) #14

Having run my ST system for about a month with a Lyric Thermostat - and I will admit I was very happy with the Lyric while it was working in COOL mode during the summer - I can honestly say I am MUCH happier with the Smart WiFi thermostat and it being integrated into ST.

But as I said above, I had very unreliable geofencing experiences with my Lyric - sometimes I would be 50 miles from home, and it would say I was still at home and still cooling the house. I also had problems with it constantly looking to see if I was within the geofence, and it would switch temps back to the “cross geofence” temps - that happened a LOT - I would get home, it was exceptionally sticky outside, I’d turn the AC down a few degrees, half an hour later Lyric would check to see where I was, see I was home, would change the temp back up a few degrees. I’ve read they since fixed that bug in the app, but it was pretty frustrating for a lot of the summer.

The Lyrics are popular thermostats, I would imagine that either ST will eventually release an Official APP for integration, or one of the fantastic Community Developers will put together, and share, a SmartAPP to will integrate it. Like they did for the Smart WiFi thermostats.

As far as HomeKit goes … don’t hold your breath on that one. There have been some posts on this forum that would suggest that Apple’s control over HomeKit would be a barrier to ST wanting to be involved. And realistically, from what I have read, the ST APP is basically doing everything HomeKit would do anyway - it’s combining a lot of different home automation into one app - I’ve got HUE lights, Zwave Locks, MyQ Garage Door, WiFi Thermostat, Zigbee Switches, Zwave switches, motion sensors, etc., etc. all combined into my ST app, so I don’t have to open 6 different apps to control things - that sounds exactly like the description of HomeKit to me.

The only thing that HomeKit has over ST that I can see, is Siri integration. As most of my actions are fired automatically - nothing happening on the motion sensors after a certain time at night, things turn off, alarm turns on. People/dogs start moving around in the morning, lights turn on, alarm turns off. I leave the geofence, things turn off, alarm turns on. I arrive back over the geofence, things turn on, alarm turns off, garage door opens. Lights turn on a sunset, off when things stop happening, back on when things start happening, off at sunrise. Since I’ve got almost everything automated through the ST app, I don’t need to grab my iPhone to say “Siri, I’m going to bed” to trigger the turn everything off, set the alarm actions.

I guess what I’m getting at is this - if you don’t mind having to have a second app to control your Thermostat, jump into ST it’s a GREAT system. Just don’t expect HomeKit integration, and don’t let that be a deterrent to not jump in - ST is a GREAT alternative to HomeKit as it is, and probably already light years ahead of HomeKit.


(Artem Russakovskii) #15

I’d like to second the C (common) wire recommendation to fix the heater not turning on or turning on randomly issue. I had the same thing happen after switching from an old battery-powered one to the Nest, and the solution was to hook up the optional C wire (blue) that’s usually present but not actually connected (if you’re lucky). Then everything starts working again, and the thermostat starts receiving power when the heating/cooling system isn’t on. My Nest not only didn’t work right, it also was discharging completely in a matter of hours.


(Artem Russakovskii) #16

On the topic of Alarm.com, I’ve just set up about 1/3 of my Alarm.com system after deciding to go for it as opposed to ST. The primary benefit for me is that the alarm actions are integrated with home control, and all of that is connected to a live security watch operator who can dispatch police. That’s what I’m paying for monthly, and I’m OK with that.

I’m relatively happy with the emPower rules, but they’re probably not as flexible as ST. I’ll have to play around more with those once I get more sensors.

What I did want to point out, which I’m quite annoyed with, is that even though I discovered that my Qolsys Alarm.com panel I bought from LiveWatch was recently updated with the Dual-path capabilities (see this photo: http://i.imgur.com/fGS1eDU.jpg), I’ve still had issues with lights either not turning on correctly (say, I turn on to 100%, but it turns on to 0%) or not reacting at all after a “cool start” if you will, meaning after I haven’t used the light controls for a while. It was happening before I enabled Dual-path, and it’s happening after, so I’m starting to think Dual-path isn’t used for communication with Z-Wave home automation devices but rather for arming and disarming. Not sure… but I hope they can fix it, as I don’t feel like splitting my system into Alarm.com and ST.

In the long run, I think ST is going to be miles ahead of Alarm.com, but the benefits of Alarm.com is their dealer network and contracts with actual monitoring companies. If ST did that, I’d probably jump to it in no time.

The Alarm.com Android app still doesn’t have widget support. I mean… come on. It’s been YEARS. Give me some toggles on my homescreen already!


(Chris) #17

I use them both. I have Alarm.com through FrontPoint as my primary controller for Zwave before I added ST. I want to keep that setup because I have some automation set up through Alarm.com to turn on lights if a door opens. I know I can do that through ST too but I already have one sensor on the door and I just want to keep that.

As for the other Zwave devices I was able to add ST as a secondary controller and I can work with all of the devices I had registered in my security console. I also have some connected directly to ST (schlage lock for example).

All seems to be working great so far.


(Marc) #18

Interesting setup. Can you have ST make changes in Frontpoint? Or is the integration only one way from FP to ST?


(Chris) #19

Unfortunately it’s just one way, but I can control any z-wave device either through ST or FrontPoint. I add them to FP and then it gets synced into ST. I’m adding three new zwave switches today and just verified that will work.


(Artem Russakovskii) #20

Oh wow, that’s fantastic news. I had no idea they’d be able to work like that. Does ST only see Z-Wave devices or even security sensors on doors and windows too?

What security panel do you have btw?

I think I’ll wait for ST 2.0 at this point though. That should be out soon, no?