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:

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:

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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.