Where do i start?

Ok , complete noob to all this .
Wife has bought me the echo for Xmas and I got my self a ST hub ,with the intention of doing the lighting and other things as time and money allow( is it all expensive? ).
I have been reading quite a few posts and have been mind boggled .

Feels like I need a degree in Quantum Physics just to get started.
Where should I start first? , I would like lights to come on in winter as I pull up on the drive maybe , or the kitchen lights to come on when my alarm goes of in the morning, are these complicated/ expensive to do?.
We are having a large single storey extension built in the next 12 months and would like to make it as automated as possible , any ideas greatly appreciated .
Ta in advance.

1 Like

Will share a couple of things that I’ve learned over the months.

  1. I have found it to be better for me to buy Smart Switches vs Smart Bulbs. Smart Lights pose problems when using existing physical switches as when you turn off the existing physical switch, your lights do not have power to function “smartly”.

  2. You can use your smart phones as presence devices via geofencing. The bigger the fence the quicker your Hub will know that you are home. My circle is very small as my Hub works pretty good.

  3. You will need contact and motion sensors. These are key to automation. A door opens, a light turns on. There is motion then a light turns on. There is no motion a light goes off. You can find both for $20 a device. The more you have, the more control you have over automation.

  4. Learn SmartThings IDE (Graph). This is the place where you can customize your devices and apps. It’s a learning curve but without leaning it, you will be stuck with what ST has to offer natively…(Yuk!)

  5. Learn CoRE! Learn CoRE! Learn CoRE! There a wiki that explains it pretty good and plenty of help in this forum. CoRE is a Community birthed Rule Engine. It give you the freedom of making your own automation scenarios and does a darn good job at it!

I use Schlage Z-Wave Door Locks and these have been super cool working in tandem with our iPhones. Got them for $80 each.

Cost? Depends on how willing you are to wait for and find the best deals. I picked up about 15 GE Smart Dimmers for $30/each. Paid as much as $45 previously. I’ve gotten Iris Smart Plugs for $13 each and Iris Contact Sensors for $15.

By learning the IDE and visiting these forums, I was able to add 28 devices from my DCS Alarm System buy installing some code and buying a $100 device that interfaced with ST! That’s $3.60 per device! (Motion, Smoke, Carbon, Contacts, Glass Breaks, Siren, etc…)

I have over 140 devices and I am no where near done. I just buy a couple hear and there and don’t try to do it all at once. Plenty of help on this forum.


Cheers for that , I will delve deeper into the forum before I start anything .
I am UK based so some things you mention might not be available.

Thanks Again for the reply.


Different households have different needs and priorities, and SmartThings is a very flexible system, so people do different projects to start. Some people like to work one room at a time, some just choose a particular practical task they need to accomplish. Some buy a fun gadget and then figure out what to do with it!

A good place to begin is with the “get started” quick browse list in the community – created wiki. This is a list of different topic threads from the forums, including things like “top 10 uses for SmartThings” and “what device should I buy next?” Lots of ideas and inspiration there. :sunglasses:


If you’re the kind of person who likes to read a lot of documentation, there’s a welcome FAQ with many different resources. But that one can feel rather overwhelming unless you are somebody who likes to read a lot.


1 Like

Rather than just searching the forums, which can be overwhelming, it can be helpful to use the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki. These were created for exactly this purpose.

The quick browse lists are divided into three sections: smartapps, device type handlers, and project reports.

It’s almost always faster as well as simpler to start with those lists. They’ll bring you back into the forum, but with a specific selection of threads for a specific category.



BTW, The switches versus bulbs argument is one of the most longstanding in the forums, and you will find passionate opinions on both sides.

The short answer is that bulbs are better for some use cases, switches are better for others, and some people use just one, some people use both.

If you have a neutral wire at the switchbox, you will have a wider selection of devices, but even if not there are some choices if you want to go with switches. So even among U.K. members there is a neverending discussion whenever anybody brings up one or the other. :sunglasses::level_slider::bulb:

The UK lighting FAQ discusses both options:

is it expensive

One last post, specifically on budgeting

Like most DIY areas, project cost can vary widely. Most electrical devices, including home automation, fall into good/better/best categories with a very wide difference in cost. That’s true for everything from a lightbulb to the sound system.

Some people like to plan a budget in advance, some just consider each individual device at the time that they want to purchase it.

I myself am quadriparetic, use a wheelchair and have limited hand function. So I only automate things that have an immediate practical purpose. And because my budget is limited, I won’t necessarily do all the switches in one room. I might do just one in order to give myself voice control over those lights and leave regular switches for my able-bodied housemates to use.

Other people want to do the full Jetson House, even if it’s just one room at a time, and automate just about everything that they can. :rocket:

One option: a per room budget

My budget is based on spending about £200 to £400 pounds per room. My minimum spend from a practical standpoint is based on the following:

two repeating devices per room. (Z wave can only repeat for Z wave and zigbee can only repeat for zigbee and I like to use both. Almost all mains powered devices using these two protocols can act as a repeater, typically light switches, in wall outlets, Micro devices that go inside the walls, plug-in sensors, and plug-in pocket sockets.)

One sensor per room

One voice control device per room (the Echo Dot is £45)

One a/v Control device per room that has a television (I use Logitech Harmony, £99)

And then based on the typical occupancy of the room, one additional convenience device per person, which might be a handheld button controller or another sensor or a tablet dashboard. Not necessarily the same device for each person.

In the U.K., the sensors and repeating devices typically cost between 30 and 50 pounds per device. There are sometimes deals to be had and sometimes less expensive Chinese made versions. but I can meet my budget with this design.

Add ons that I count separately from the per room budget

Devices to be purchased separately from the per room budget are door locks, thermostats, garage door controllers, fire safety systems, and sprinkler systems. These are the individual pieces that some people will want and some people won’t, where an individual device might be £500.

Which rooms?

I also don’t automate every room in my house. I spend most of my life in one of two rooms: my bedroom and the living room, and some time in the kitchen, one bathroom, and the corridor between them.

One of my housemates has some automation in his room, but not as much as mine. My other housemate doesn’t have any automation in his room. We did automate the living room, where I watch television, but did very little in the large family room. That room isn’t wheelchair accessible, anyway, as it has a step.

Some people start by just automating their home theater room. Or their kitchen. There’s a lot of variation, but I would start by looking at the rooms where you spend the most time.

Again, this is just what works for me and what I typically suggest as a starting point for someone in a similar situation to mine. If you can’t use your hands, voice control of the television is much more important then for an able-bodied person. At the same time, I’m not as concerned about aesthetics as someone else might be, and I don’t care if all the switches in a room don’t match.

There are other people who couldn’t imagine not automating the lights in all the bedrooms. Or who begin by automating the children’s rooms.

thinking about replacements

When I very first began, I set a limit of £1200 ($1500) for my phase 1, with the idea that I would just start experimenting with home automation but I would be OK if I had to replace the entire investment into years. I wanted to see what would work for me, but I knew the industry was changing very quickly at that time (this was three years ago) and I didn’t want to have to worry too much about “future proofing.”

then my phase 2 goal was based on that per room budget, with a whole house maximum of £4,000 ($5,000).

About 18 months in I somewhat changed the way I looked at the budget. I realized that there would always be technology changes, and that my own needs might change as well. I still stuck to the idea of 300 to 400 pounds per room, but I decided that that particular investment only needed to last for three years. So it was something like a mobile phone where what I mostly look at is the per month cost with an expected replacement cycle.

Looked at that way, after my initial investment i’m putting aside about £100 A month to cover eventual replacements. So around £3 A day to get all of the automation that fits my budget with a three year replacement cycle to keep me up-to-date on new technology.

So is that expensive? Well, in my case it’s considerably less expensive than paying personal aides to do things like change the television channels for me. :sunglasses: It’s definitely not inexpensive, and it is more than just my mobile phone, but it’s not terrible.

And it certainly much less than the expensive home automation systems cost. A good system from control 4 typically runs about 10% of the cost of the home plus an ongoing annual cost. Which is many times more than my budget.

I do think you should consider the cost of replacement when you look at what you’re spending. There are many people on these forums who spend 150 pounds a month or more just on devices they haven’t quite come up with projects for yet. :wink: Which again, is fine if you have the money and it’s an interesting hobby for you. Just don’t spend that kind of money and expect these devices to last for 20 years. Or even 10. Networked devices typically have a 1 to 2 year warranty for the good and better categories, and a five year warranty for the “best” group. And again, there will be updates you want to make just because newer technology is now available.

I should also say that there are people who set themselves a goal of spending absolutely as little money as possible, and do a lot with devices they build themselves and various kinds of maker skills. Again, there’s a lot of variation.

Initial Budget

So again, different people will approach this differently. My own advice would be to pick a per room number for your initial investment and give yourself 12 to 18 months to get there. Start small and learn your own preferences for how you want automation to work in your life. Be willing to toss out everything from your phase 1 and start over if necessary.

Once you’ve completed that first phase, reevaluate, and again my suggestion would be to come up with a per month budget with a three year replacement schedule. You might spend four months of budget all in one go, but you should be aware that you’ve done so. If your per month budget is £8, that’s fine, as long as you know what it is.

So if you treat home automation like home Internet or a heating system I think you can plan for it, budget, and spend the amount you think is reasonable to spend.

If you don’t have a budget and you don’t plan for replacements and you don’t have a sense of how you’re going to scope your projects, then you can easily end up spending thousands of pounds and regretting a great deal afterwards. :disappointed_relieved:


1 Like

Oh, and to be clear, part of what I learned as I started automating the house was that I initially thought I would budget home automation the way I did home renovation projects, like when I had the carpet changed out for hard flooring in the living room because the carpet was too difficult with the wheelchair. Or when I added grab bars and a lowered sink to the bathroom.

But it didn’t work out that way at all, because of the replacement cycle. The grab bars and the flooring should last 20 years at least, and it’s not like there will be a whole new type out in a couple of years.

So one of the big shifts for me in looking at budgeting was to think about home automation as a service more than a specific product investment. How much money would I need to spend every month in order to have the home automation I wanted?

I’m sure there are people who are successful in just saying “I will spend X amount of money to automate the garage.” I just found that didn’t work for me. But one of the main truths of home automation, and it applies to budgeting as well, is that “all home automation is local.” :sunglasses:

1 Like

WOW !! Thanks , great posts .

1 Like

This just shows how great this community is and how many people want to help. Without this peer assistance, this wealth of information and the community created solutions, to be honest, smartthings is not a great system on its own as it has some big flaws.
Hope smartthings realise what a massive asset this forum is.