Trying to create a smarthome without spending a fortune

So, I want to have a sort of smart home, but I don’t want to spend fortunes on it.

The problem is that devices which are officially supported cost a lot, whereas no name devices may be cheap as chips, but are unsupported.

In a nutshell this thread will be my place to share my experiences how I succeed and where I fail!

I started years ago with a simple Aqara switch in the bedroom. In those days one had to install a custom handler do a thing… And it worked. There were pages detailing the specific steps.

I also tried using a Aqara wireless zigbee button, which was supposed to work once you had jumped through the hoops, but it seems that either my hoops were the wrong size or I was jumping through them in the wrong order, I just couldn’t get it to work.

Back to the present.

I have installed strip lights along my stairs. They look amazing. The kit I purchased was wifi based and the link to smartthings worked, but, I wanted it to link directly to the hub. So I purchased a non name zigbee LED controller off Ali Express Its defined as Zigbee 3.0 Led Smart Controller DC12V 24V 5050 3528 RGB/RGBWW/RGBCCT/COB Led Strip Light Dimmer for 2MQTT/Tuya/Alexa/Google.

The claim that it also works with Smarthings, with the helpful advice that you need to “add it as a thing”.

That got me very far. I turned it on and of and inside out, but Smarthings was finding two other things which I have no idea what they are and again and again, but not this dimmer.

Now, although I can follow instructions, I don’t really have a clue what i am doing programming wise etc etc. So I tried resetting it again, turning it on and off five times, and after trying this and trying that and googleing it all over again, I thought, hey, maybe the five times they want you to turn it on and off again is AFTER the first time you turn it on. So the next time, I turned it on and off six times. lightly hopeful, I went back to the add device on my smartthings app, and bingo! It was there listed as a generic dimmer and it just worked!!!

Did it work because I had already added a whole bunch of different channels from here Topics tagged edge_lighting ? No idea. Just know that it works.

in case things helps others, the model number on the “instruction manual” is YSR-mini-Z-01. The one I purchased is the two port dimmer.

So, if you are looking for a led controller which works with smarthings directly and doesn’t cost the earth, this one does! I haven’t tried the colour controllers though.

My next stage is to control my bedside light via a smart plug because the switch is in a tricky position and I want to control it with a wireless switch. I have a few Ikea Tradfri plugs which work fine, and I have ordered an Aqara switch WXKG11LM which I have read online work without issue with Smartthings. See here [Edge] Driver for Aqara Switches and Remotes

I will update this post when it arrives and will post how I got it working (if it works!)

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Sounds like a good start!

If you can wait a few months, there should be quite a few matter compatible devices, which will be inexpensive and work without needing any custom code straight out of the box. And will operate with a local connection. So that’s all good. It’s just that it’s not here yet, there are only a few matter compatible devices you can buy now, although a number of people have been trying the Tapo smartplug. Right now they have a three pack for $49 with a $10 off coupon, so that’s $13 each.

One of the other advantages that matter should bring (although again, it’s not here yet, is that there are some major international home automation companies like aqara and Tuya/smartlife who are intending to release at least one model hub, which will be a “matter bridge.“ Once they have done that, and Smartthings supports bringing in a matter bridge (they have said they will do that but we’re not there yet), then you’ll be able to add a lot of devices to their own hub, and then add that hub to your SmartThings account, much like a hue Bridge works now. Again, no custom code required, and many of these devices will be quite inexpensive.

So that should give us all a lot more choices and a lot fewer headaches in the future. :sunglasses: :bulb:

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BTW, everybody has their own favorite brands when it comes to budget items, but for me, because I have to pay someone else to do anything complicated (I’m quadriparetic) it’s not a deal unless I can add it without custom code. Also, I only buy from places which have easy returns, so typically Amazon. (Also, because of my physical limitations, I have deep concerns about fire safety, so I only buy devices which are UL or ETL certified.)

So some of my favorite budget options in a smartthings setup if you don’t want to wait for Matter are:

Hue Bridge with gledopto or Innr devices
Ikea smart plugs and bulbs (buttons may require custom code)

I already have an aqara hub which I use to bring their sensors and buttons into Apple home. So I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will get updated to be a Matter bridge eventually and then I will be able to use that route to bring them into smartthings as well. But again, we aren’t there yet.

There are other devices where I do get more expensive models, but the above are my go to’s to check first in order to save time and money.

So there are lots of different ways to approach a budget set up, depending in part on whether you count your own time as a cost as well. The key is just to find the one that works for you. :sunglasses:


we can’t know anything for sure, until the products are actually available for sale, but some companies have made early announcements about matter compatibility.

Shelly and Tapo have already announced that they plan to upgrade many of their existing models to work with matter.

Hue plans to make its Hub a “matter bridge” so it should be able to bring in a number of devices that way.

Meross is not going to update its existing devices, it’s going to create new model lines.

If you connect IKEA Zigbee devices directly to a smartthings hub, they will not be using matter, but that may be ok. Of course, we will have to wait and see what actually gets delivered. But the trajectory looks good.


Gledopto, Meross, Innr and Tapo are all well known budget brands, and easy to search for on Amazon. Shelly is harder to find just because it’s such a common name.

If you haven’t checked out Shelly devices yet, give them a look: they have some very cool stuff, and reasonably priced, particularly for UL certified in wall relays. I personally only get the ones which are UL certified, and those do cost a few dollars more, so obviously that’s a personal choice.

The official Integration is cloud to cloud, but once they support matter it should be local without requiring custom code. :tada:

And Shelly on Amazon:


One more option for some people who have strong technical skills, so I realize it might not work for you, but I just mention it for others who might be reading along…

Also, this is pretty much the opposite of the approach that works for me as it takes time and tinkering, as well as meticulously following multi step technical instructions. But if you’re up for all that and you have a SmartThings/Aeotec hub, the following is a possible option to saving a lot of money building out your smart home. :thinking:

There are literally hundreds of very inexpensive WiFi devices that can be “flashed’ with Tasmota firmware. This will violate the warranty and leave them unusable with their own app—but it will let you use them with a community-built edge driver to bring them into SmartThings.

Again, you have to read all the instructions and follow them precisely—one false step could leave the device unusable and unrecoverable. :scream: But if you enjoy hacker projects and you have strong technical skills, this is a popular budget option.

Sonoff WiFi devices and Tuya WiFi devices (not the Zigbee models) are probably the best known brands that you can do this with, but there are lots more. Safety certifications vary a lot, so select carefully if that’s important to you. Also if you are in North America, read product descriptions carefully: many of these devices are intended for Asian markets and have different current and load specs. (Oh, and going this route may strip the device down to its basic on/off/dim features, particularly for Tuya. So you may need to do extensive research before starting to find out what features a particular model will end up with.)

Here’s the thread about the edge driver (the topic title is a clickable link).

Again, speaking personally, I’d rather spend $9 for a Meross ETL certified smart plug that just works out of the box, supports 15A, and I can buy from Amazon than spend $4 for a no name no safety certification device limited to 10A that I had to scour AliBaba for and then spend several hours getting it to work with custom code, but that’s just me. Choice is good. :sunglasses:


Brief Update

WXKG11LM switch arrived and paired easily and quickly. Only limitation is that the only presses which work are single press, double press and hold. There are other options displayed on the swithc options but they do nothing.

I have also since ordered a Yagusmart Zigbee Smart Wall Light Switch, Neutral Wire Optional which paired easily and worked fine. However, it needs a very deep backbox and doesn’t support decoupled mode so I sent it back.

I have used a Aqara Switch QBKG39LM E1 Wall Switch (No Neutral, Double Rocker) which paired easily but I am having difficulty in getting both switches to decouple. Presently only one of them will work as intended in decoupled mode. The other will always send power to the relay no matter what.

I purchased a Choifoo smart zigbee bulb

The bulb works fine and pairs easily, however, it is difficult to control the colours via the available options presented in Smartthings. Also, the dimmer seems to not always work as intended.

And yet another Aliexpress purchase, a GU10 bulb ( Tuya Zigbee Smart Led Bulb GU10 RGB C+W 5W Dimmable Lamp), which I was hoping to use a few of in a bathroom so that they only turn on dim when the lights are turned on in the middle of the night…

As with the other Tuya bulb above, it pairs OK and works, but the colour control and dimmer are iffy. They can both be used if all you want to do is adjust the dimmer, but they are both rather impractical to use if you want to change the colours. The only way to get the GU10 back to white is by removing the device and re-pairing it. The regular bulb can be changed back to white but in a roundabout manner by selecting one of a few white temperature presets but this isn’t intuitative and doesn’t appear to be automateable either. So buy them if all you want to control is the time or the dimmer fuctionality because they appear to do that OK. But not if you want to be able to mess with the colours.

So how am I doing with my “cheapy” AliExpress purchases so far?

Simple Aqara wall switch - perfect
Wifi led controller - perfect
Zigbee led controller - perfect
Mini switch - perfect
Wall switch - 50/50
Bulbs 50/50

So far so good. The price diference between these items and alternatives from the UK has been quite significant and hasn’t yet been reflected in significantly reduced functionality (for my needs).

As an idea of the savings,

The switch cost me around £20 whereas an alternative Aqara on Amazon goes for just under £40.

I paid around £7 for the GU10 bulb which start at around £11 from UK sellers, however, it may make more sense to purchase Ikeas version at only around £8 (although I have not tested the functionality).

The Led controllers are at least double the price in the UK to what they cost on AliExpress.

Update Dec 23
Long overdue update!!! (some parts are repeats of earlier but with additional info)

Aqara Wireless mini switch WXKG11LM

Connects fine - although will need to be put into pairing mode a few times until the hub actually sees it. Button presses which work are single and double press, and hold. triple press and others are not recognised. Annoyingly this button has a habit of disconnecting from the system randomly without warning and needs to be paired again (fiddly and random process). Which then means that all routines have to be fixed. However, by keeping the default name, its quite simple to go into the routines and connect them to the “new” device.

MOES Smart Light Switch Tuya ZigBee No Neutral - 3 gang
I’m afraid I can’t quite remember the issue I had with this! I think it was that it doesn’t have decoupled mode or that the third gang wasn’t recognised…

Aqara Smart Wall Switch E1 Version Switch (the 2 gang no neutral version)
This one wouldn’t decouple both gangs no matter which driver I chose. I ended up putting it away for use one day in a location which I don’t need the decoupled feature.

I do need to find a decent way of hiding the exisitng dumb switch. I don’t fancy blanking it off completly in case it is ever needed, but I haven’t managed to find a nice eway of covering it. I am working on using a switch blanking plate (cheaply available at any DIY store) and fixing the wireless swtich on top of that. However it is proving difficult to fit the plate over the switch in a detachable manner. I am trying to use magnets, however I haven’t had much luck in glueing the magnets to the hard plastic. The adhesives I have tried so far havent held. I’m waiting for a special plastic glue which will hopefully work. Any other suggestions?!

Tuya Zigbee B22 Smart Led Light Bulb
Connected without issue. Works very well paired with a Aqara wireless switch. I have it set up so that when it is turned on during the night it turns on very dim - other than the silly thing that the first time it is turned on at night it turns itself on on max brightness for the first second, its brilliant. I did have one small issue that it sometimes flickered for a few seconds when turned on but I have manged to resolve that by adding a colour temerature to the routine which turns the light on.

Tuya Zigbee Smart Led Bulb GU10 RGB C+W
This bulb connected OK but didn’t play ball - I think the issue was that if you changed the colour temperature it was impossible to set in back again without unpairing it…

AQARA E1 Zigbee Hub
When I read an article how to use matter to link Aqara devices to smarthings via a matter bridge and then saw this cheap Aqara hub, I though my problems with my mini switch unpairing itself were over!
This hub is very cheap, slightly tricky to set up and link to smarthings though (seach for the post on this forum somewhere!!!),but once set up is easy to use. However, although I finally managed to get it to show my switch to smarthings, any press was only recognised as a long press. I was told (again search this forum) that Aqara have released a fix for some hubs which ensures that it now transmits full functionality, but it’s not available for this hub yet, so its joined my pile of stuff which hasn’t worked as expected.

Aqara Wall Switch D1 Zigbee Smart Wireless Single key version
Works faultlessly. Only issue whihc still needs resolving is a decent way of mounting it over the exisitng dumb switch as described above)

Ewelink GU10 Zigbee LED Bulbs
Bought three of these for another bathroom to see if I have better luck than with the first GU10 I tried. And yes, these work perfectly although I did have to change the driver from the deafult in order to get it to properly show all functionality (mostly colour temperature issues). I have grouped them together via the “create lighting group” functionality and, although they are still on a dumb switch, now that I know they work, I have ordered a wireless switch to control them (Tuya Zigbee Wireless Smart Switch - 3 gang version I’ll update if it works or not!!

And another review of my savings buying unreturnable stuff from Ali Express.

Yes, everything off Ali Express is significantly cheaper than from Amazon or Ebay (although UK purchases are returnable unlike those from Ali Express).

I have had a couple of dud purchases, but total price is still significantly cheaper than had I sourced all my items from the UK. The GU10 bulbs I just purchased… The cheapest available on Amazon is £11 for one. I paid the same for three. They both appear to be Chinese, so I can’t see there being a quailty difference.
The Aqara wireless switch (full size) cost £13 - UK purchase would have been £24, almost double! Aqara E1 hub £15 instead of £30. One note of warning though about aqara products, if you are intending to use only their system, be aware that it is region locked.
The 3 gang Tuya wirelss switch I have just purchased: £7 on Ali and £18 on Amazon.

My feeling is that the best way of going smart on a budget DIY basis is to do it bit by bit. This way you won’t be investing fortunes on stuff which may not work the way you want it and, you are basically upgrading your home with really decent functionality but paying for it in installments!

Its interesting to see how not only I am enthralled by the new tech when it works well, but the rest of the family love it too! e.g. Its a really wonderful feeling when the bathroom light doesn’t blind you during a nocturnal visit to the bathroom.

I use Sugru for a lot of home automation projects. Great stuff! It comes out of the package as a pliable rubber, similar in consistency to modeling clay. You roll it between your hands briefly to warm it up, then just mold it in place. After 24 hours it dries to a rubber consistency. Holds very well. Comes in lots of colours, including white, black, and grey. It works with many plastics, although not all. And it’s very easy to remove when necessary.

Sold by Amazon UK:

See the manufacturer’s site for ideas and specifications.

That said…

Another popular option is an inexpensive socket cover instead of a blanking plate. This leaves the original switch available underneath if needed.

I’m glad things are going so well for you!

Two cautions about buying from Ali Express.

  1. counterfeits remain a problem there, so much so that many manufacturers, including Aqara, will not honour warranties if the items were purchased there.

For example, here is the US warranty statement published at Amazon.

This warranty does not apply to any products purchased from third party sellers on eBay and other online marketplaces. We strongly suggest that you do not buy Aqara products from any unauthorized sellers, as such products may be used, defective, counterfeit or may not be designed for use in your country.

  1. even if two identical looking electrical items are both manufactured in China, it is more likely (although not guaranteed) that the ones sold at Amazon will meet UK safety standards. You may not care about this for battery powered devices, but it can be a critical fire safety issue for items which are wired to the mains.

Sometimes things are cheap for a reason… :thinking:

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I agree that there can potentially be an issue with purchasing electrical appliances or similar. But I’m not sure there is a huge amount to go wrong in a bulb, wireless switch or 12v device?


Joining this conversation a bit late, but, looks like time is making a difference for the price of these. Six months later, I now see that same item is going for $26 on Amazon US. Unfortunately, here in Canada they want $71 CDN, or about $54 USD. I didn’t know about the Tapo devices, so I recently bought a couple of Leviton D-215P to play with @ $25 each. You can use the Linked Services to My Leviton for Smartthings to control them. Or, with a firmware upgrade using the Leviton app, they become Matter capable to connect directly to SmartThings.

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Feb 24 Update:

Purchased three gang Tuya Zigbee Smart Wireless Switch

Couldn’t get it to be recognised as a useable switch initially. However, after installing drivers from here it worked like a treat.

One of the lights connected to that switch is a bathroom and one of the reasons to change the bathrooms to smart lighting was to have them come on at night on a very dim setting. The only way I have managed to get that to work thus far is to have two seperate routines to turn on the lights, one which works between x time and y time, and the other between y and x. However, because those rules are set to turn on, I need to create another rule to turn them off on keypress. The trigger is of course a keypress, however because the system needs to difrenetiate between a keypress to turn on or to turn off, the turn off rule has a precondition that one of the bulbs have to be on. However, that rule is hit and miss. I have three bulbs in the room (ungrouped because that was causing me issues with running the routines) and I have placed the trigger bulb lowest down in the turn off order, but it seems that the actual grouping on the user interface, may not be the actual trigger order, so at times, instead of turning off the lights, the system decides to turn two of them off and then goes on to probably trigger the turn on routine and they all go back on again… Its tempremental…

If anybody has any ideas, I’d be grateful!!

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