Updating my home, looking at Smart options and don't know where to go next

Hello all,
I’m in the process of planning the update of the bungalow the family and I moved into and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to bring it fully up to date from a smart home/automation point of view. I’m having some difficulties finding answers to questions and getting an understanding of the possibilities.

I’ve been doing some research and reading and also testing a few things out, although I’ve done no IFTTT at all so far.

To sort an issue with how the heating was configured I bought Evohome, which solved the issue but it doesn’t seem to be very integrated.

I bought some Hue bulbs, a light strip, a bridge, motion sensor and switches for the kitchen and hall to test them, but the Mrs doesn’t like the switches.

I’ve got a Smarththings V3 hub. I’ve got an Awair air quality sensor becuase I was paranoid about the air quality, this proved to be unfounded!

I’ve also created my own wifi network - and firewalled the internet connection off from my provider - which may or may not be important but I wanted to mention it.

I’m relatively technically proficient but I’ve got three young kids and don’t have time for a lot of tinkering once I get stuff installed, so I want it to work fairly reliably without needing resets and the wife will need to use it - can it be set up on multiple phones or tablets?

My questions are -
I’m struggling to understand why there aren’t many/any smart power sockets and I need to plug a smart adaptor into them to make them work - is this the case? I saw a thread on here about BG electrical launching one but it wasn’t quite working.

I need smoke and heat alarms - is Fibaro the best to go for here?

Same with security/a burgler alarm etc?

My key consideration is that once the work is done I don’t want to have to run more cables or ruin any finishes to install something I hadn’t considered properly.

Also - I’ve currently got various hubs and wires currently sitting on my desk- is there any advice on enclosures where I can organise and tidy things up? Should they be fitted to the ceiling like a Wifi access point for best connectivity?

Sorry for all the questions, and thanks for any assistance.

One of the biggest considerations people need to know when offering advice is what country you are in. Standards for both power and communication protocols differ per country.

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Welcome! Sounds like an exciting project. :sunglasses:

A few thoughts:

  1. Switches

Which switches did you look at? The “friends of hue” group has some quite nice ones which look like regular U.K. switches:

  1. Reliability

You’ll need to define what “fairly reliable” means to you. The SmartThings platform generally needs quite a bit of tinkering; there are a lot of undocumented changes which impact customers. There has historically been a minor outage every month except one or two for the last two years. You can neither deny nor defer changes. We usually get a few days’ notice of maintenance outages, but not always. :disappointed_relieved: every month there are new threads from people saying there setup had been working fine for months, they themselves haven’t changed anything, but now it’s stopped working. :scream: Most glitches don’t affect everyone, but some do, and it’s definitely not a “set and forget” system.

My own personal requirement is for an MFOP (maintenance free operating period) of at least 6 months and preferably a year. The Hue bridge does that easily, as does Amazon Echo and Apple’s HomeKit. SmartThings has yet to come close.

How to: Planning for Outages

The following is a typical example of a glitch from this week. This person’s system worked just fine for years. Now it doesn’t. :disappointed_relieved:

And another:

Fibaro Single Switch 2 no longer responds to status (January 2020)

  1. Security Systems

Because of this unreliability as well as the cloud based nature of SmartThings it’s simply not fit for purpose as a security system. (For one thing there is no way, none, to arm/disarm the system if the internet is out.) That’s not just my opinion: the company says so themselves in their product usage guidelines:

Data accuracy and consistency from SmartThings sensors, including those provided by SmartThings directly, resold by SmartThings, or supported by SmartThings, is not guaranteed. Therefore, you should not rely on that data for any use that impacts health, safety, security, property or financial interests.

So if you are looking for a security system, keep looking. Yale Home is quite popular in the U.K.

And the Ring Security System has recently become available for the
UK. It gets excellent reviews in the US, I haven’t yet had a chance to look at many reviews for the U.K., but most seem similar to the US.

  1. Fibaro makes excellent UK smoke sensors. Although if you go with Yale or Ring you may want something else.

It’s also important to note that SmartThings does not have cellular backup, so all notifications, whether to you or a monitoring company, require the internet. That’s not true of Ring or Yale. So most people add fire monitoring to their separate non-SmartThings security system. And again there’s the whole reliability issue.

4. In wall Sockets for the UK

It’s just a very small market because of the different plug styles and some differences in wiring and safety codes even among EU countries. So most manufacturers have opted for the plug in “pocketsocket” style devices which only require a simple case change. There are a few exceptions, most popularly LightwaveRF:

https://lightwaverf.com/pages/smart-power

image

These do have a cloud to cloud integration with SmartThings as long as you get the 2nd generation or newer. (They also work locally with Apple HomeKit)

Energie MiHome is a French company with a U.K. range that includes inwall sockets. Like LightwaveRF, they use their own proprietary protocol so the integration is cloud to cloud. I don’t know if they’ve released one for SmartThings yet or not. Most people in the U.K. seem to prefer LightwaveRF.

https://energenie4u.co.uk/mihome/the_range

(Note that there is also a Chinese company with a range called MiHome that is entirely different.)

But other than those two, I don’t know of any well-engineered devices intended for DIY installation. There are some cheap Chinese WiFi models without safety certifications, but I’d be concerned about fire safety.

Another option for the EU which is not available for the US is an inwall micro that goes behind the existing dumb socket. In the US, the power draw for outlets is a minimum 15A, too high for most micros. But in most EU countries it’s 10A, and the micros are a possibility. Both Fibaro and Aeotec have suitable models that work with SmartThings. Only the on/off binary switches should be used for this purpose, not the dimmers.

  1. Hub deployment

You can certainly wall or ceiling mount most of these. Check with the manufacturer to be sure.

Every wall or barrier reduces signal strength, so ideally you want them in open air central to the home. Not in a closet or cabinet. And again ideally the hubs should be at least 3m apart to reduce interference. That doesn’t mean they won’t work if they’re close together, but your networks will run most efficiently (with fewer lost messages) if they aren’t.

Start with post 11 in the following FAQ, then go up to the top and read the whole thread:

A Guide to Wireless Range & Repeaters

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@Bluedog
I am guessing your based in the UK but it would be good for you to confirm this.

The UK apparently requires real wired wall light switches even if your using say Philips Hue smart bulbs. You can use wireless smart switches with Philips Hue which look like normal switches but these are all currently wireless switches meaning you will also have to have the original dumb wired switches. If the lights are turned off at the wired switches then the only way to turn them back on is at the dumb wired switch.

Because of this a lot of people reach a stage where they need to stop using smart bulbs and instead use smart wired switches. Unfortunately the UK is still poorly served in the area. You cannot in general use a smart wired switch with a smart bulb. (There is a complex scenario where you could do this with a dual relay Fibaro module.)

You could however look at the AOne Aurora range. They have a wired smart dimmer which looks like a normal (dumb) dimmer common in many UK homes. This dimmer can therefore be used physically by turning the knob or pressing it to turn off and on but still allows you to use an app on a phone, or a smart assistant like Alexa or to define rules via Smartthings. AOne also make a twin socket wall power socket which is smart and again can either be physically turned off and on but still be controllable by app, smart assistant, or rules.

See


and

For smoke/heat alarms I would have (for the UK) historically suggested Nest Protect but Google who own Nest have decided to phase out their ‘Works with Nest’ scheme meaning it is hard to impossible to integrate them currently. (Things might improve but right now it is not a good choice.)

Fibaro do a Z-Wave smoke detector which would work with Smartthings.

There is also the following company called FireAngel.
https://www.fireangel.co.uk/products-consumer
They do a variety of products including both smoke and heat sensors and both battery and mains versions and both Z-Wave and Zigbee. The permutations are therefore complex and I think you would need to speak to them. My own suggestion would be to get a Zigbee model.

Most UK security alarms will not allow linking to a smart home system. Most also only work with their own proprietary sensors so would in most cases not work with a smart smoke alarm.

The Ring system itself allows connecting some smart products to it but then those products are only useable via the Ring system and not Smartthings.

The Ring system can be linked to Smartthings and give some integration, e.g. if Smartthings detects an alarm signal it could turn on lights. Security is a complex area with as mentioned most alarm systems being ‘unfriendly’ to other systems so this is best discussed in a Security/Alarm thread.

No one product will meet every persons goals so you will have to make some choices yourself, for example none of the current smart lighting solutions for the UK meet my own goals but things are getting closer and closer. :slight_smile:

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Good post, I keep forgetting about the Aurora One socket! My bad. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

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Keep security seperate
Keep smoke / CO detectors seperate
Both of those items are critical and should be left to there own specific fields and really do not need to be integrated into smartthings, life will be simple and easy once those items are installed correctly and in the normal Uk fashion

Smartthings in a majority of use cases is about automation, as long as automations are set up in a way that suits your family activities a smart home becomes tolerable to family members that dont need extra problems

If you are building and changing at the moment my advice would be to simply add extra deep back boxs to light switches where possible, this allows for in wall smart devices to be fitted IF and when, your not going to be using ceiling lights all the time so some smart plugs for sidelights is an easy addition when needed

Keep it simple and build your system over time, Smartthings is designed for retro fit so no need to panick about missing something

Hubs … No not lost in a ceiling, you need to access them or… you WILL need to access them at some point, keep them easily accessible and as centralised as possible, for an easy life just try to hide the cables with a furniture item, keeps the shmbo happy

Just wanted to re iterate something, do NOT include smoke detectors co2 detectors or alarms into St IF you want an easy hasstle free enjoyable automated smart home…

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Hi Nathan, I’m in the United Kingdom.

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Thank you for this - I’ll need some time to get through everything you have given me!

In terms of fairly reliable - your definition of MFOP sounds perfectly acceptable.

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@Bluedog
Ok, I now had time to put together some thoughts on security/alarm systems.

I agree with @fido that you should not consider using Smartthings or any other purely smart home hub as a DIY alarm system. It would be potentially possible using a combination of movement sensors, sirens, etc. but as per @fido I agree it is not robust enough.

As I briefly covered in my previous post, most if not all UK alarm systems do not allow using smart home items as part of their alarm system, e.g. you cannot use a Nest Protect or a Smartthings movement sensor. This is probably mostly down to their not wanting to risk their security being compromised by ‘alien’ devices but also likely as an attempt to for you to buy their more expensive proprietary stuff.

Some allow adding some smart things like lights such their their alarm system could trigger lights. In general this often means the lights etc. can then only be controlled via their system and not shared with say Smartthings. Philips Hue with its Hub might be an exception but Z-Wave and Zigbee products can only be connected to a single hub i.e. in this case the alarm system.

An extremely small number of alarm systems might allow some smart locks e.g. Ring and Yale. This seems to be via Z-Wave so then the lock is purely linked to the alarm system. In the UK Yale’s Z-Wave support is very poor in terms of reliability. I can get a version 1 module to work but not a Yale version 2 module despite trying three different ones.

UK alarm systems might have a matching smart phone app but would not for example link to HomeKit or Smartthings. Ring of course links to Alexa. This is where there are some unofficial solutions. For example a user in these forums wrote a solution to link Yale alarm systems to Smartthings. A couple of companies have done solutions for the DSC PowerSeries. The DSC PowerSeries is a wired and/or wireless traditional alarm system. It is based on older technology and no longer regarded as approved by the UK alarm industry in general. I did manage to find one reseller for it though and I am still considering it.

There are some other wireless systems like Simpisafe, Verisure which have been linked to Smartthings but with the limitations I have discussed. Simplisafe do not offer a lot of their products in the UK and their support is it seems poor. Abode looks more promising but they do not yet sell to the UK. Ring can also be linked to Smartthings and is now sold in the UK but again see above for typical limitations.

To summarise, definitely get a stand alone alarm system. Decide whether you want a wired or wireless system. Decide if you want any integration to Smartthings or similar. Then come back and ask questions.

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