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"Smart Home"....How Far Have You Taken It? Which Platform?


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Have some Google homes and 2 WEMO outlets.

Would like to get a new thermostat, but none are available for the custom wiring system that was installed in the house in the late 90's.  2 systems, 3 zones each, and 6 thermostats.  I tried to get a general programmable, but none will work on this "Perfect zone" system

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Following up my last post....

I watch a bunch of crime shows and one thing the cops always do is check cell phone data. I'm waiting for the story where the murderer says he was home all night and the wife/gf lies for him only to be outdone by his smart home showing a car entering his garage an hour after the murder.

(Even better would be if the crime was early morning and he claims he slept in but Alexa shows he did the wake up routine at 0500)

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On 3/3/2021 at 7:04 AM, Ron Swanson said:

Heavily invested in SmartThings for several years. Close to a couple hundred devices.  Thankfully all are Zigbee or Zwave so I can port them to other hubs if needed. The SmartThings platform has gone through a lot over the years but has been pretty solid the last 3-4 years under Samsung ownership.  Unfortunately, it is still the most flexible platform on the market. But there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of the platform now. Samsung has stopped manufacturing hubs and devices and is deprecating older hubs.

Will the real ron swanson please stand up?

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2 hours ago, JaxBill said:

i guess I'm in the minority that I intentionally keep my house dumb because I don't need Big Tech knowing more about me than they already do.

I have a couple of Alexa capable devices that I have intentionally left disabled.  

I wouldn't mind exterior lights/camera as long as they weren't tied into Google/Amazon. It's bad enough they know most of what I'm buying. They don't need to know when I leave my house,  go to bed, or wake up.

Irony- I am in IT and pursuing cloud computing so I have a few AWS certifications. 

This is us. I use Google and Amazon for some things but would prefer to keep them from having access to literally every facet of my life.

I think the only company I would really trust for this type of stuff is Apple but they don't seem to have any interest in this space ☹️

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1 hour ago, JaxBill said:

Following up my last post....

I watch a bunch of crime shows and one thing the cops always do is check cell phone data. I'm waiting for the story where the murderer says he was home all night and the wife/gf lies for him only to be outdone by his smart home showing a car entering his garage an hour after the murder.

(Even better would be if the crime was early morning and he claims he slept in but Alexa shows he did the wake up routine at 0500)

That made me think of this true crime story

 

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Just an iRobot.  My BIL brags on how he can see what the temperature is in his fridge, or change the thermostat in his house to mess with his wife when he is out of town, among other things.  But, I guess I don't see the point.  :shrug:

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On 3/4/2021 at 6:14 AM, JaxBill said:

Following up my last post....

I watch a bunch of crime shows and one thing the cops always do is check cell phone data. I'm waiting for the story where the murderer says he was home all night and the wife/gf lies for him only to be outdone by his smart home showing a car entering his garage an hour after the murder.

(Even better would be if the crime was early morning and he claims he slept in but Alexa shows he did the wake up routine at 0500)

OK but I'm not planning any murders any time soon so I think I'm good.

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On 3/3/2021 at 1:34 PM, chet said:

I have Control4.  Great system.  It can control just about anything with a switch.  I use it mostly for distributed audio and video but also have thermostats and lights on there.  At my old vacation house, we had a fireplace on C4.

C4 has a remote as well as app to use with the phone...right? How do you tend to use the automation- via app and remotes, or localized at switches...or either?

On 3/3/2021 at 3:53 PM, John123 said:

Pretty heavily invested in Amazon Alexa technology.  Echo's/Dots throughout the house.

- Ecobee smart thermostat with Alexa built in.

- Several lights/outlets controlled by Alexa/smartapp.  Had a switch set up with a timer at Xmas to turn the Xmas lights on and off every night. 

- Dish Satellite TV supports Alexa.  Don't use it too much but it's configured/connected.

- All the blinds in the house are connected to the Alexa ecosystem.  It's cool when you say "Alexa, open living room" and four motorized blinds start going up in unison.

I got a new Wi-Fi router a month ago and it supports Alexa.  I haven't configured it because I have no idea what the benefit of being able to control a wi-fi router with voice commands would be.  Just scratching my head over that one.

Want to start replacing light switches in rooms with Alexa capable ones so that's next on the list. 

Do these systems require separate panels for the lighting/dimming?

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10 hours ago, El Floppo said:

C4 has a remote as well as app to use with the phone...right? How do you tend to use the automation- via app and remotes, or localized at switches...or either?

Do these systems require separate panels for the lighting/dimming?

Depends on the device. Many these days expose brightness controls through their API or device handler so systems like Alexa can integrate those features. So, for instance, if brightness for a particular switch or light is exposed you could tell Alexa, "Alexa, turn on Kitchen lights, 70% brightness". Panels are available, and this can be controlled by the app as well.

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9 minutes ago, Ron Swanson said:

Depends on the device. Many these days expose brightness controls through their API or device handler so systems like Alexa can integrate those features. So, for instance, if brightness for a particular switch or light is exposed you could tell Alexa, "Alexa, turn on Kitchen lights, 70% brightness". Panels are available, and this can be controlled by the app as well.

So I'm understanding right...the bulbs are smart? Or do you swap in a smart dimmer switch? And then that connects to Alexa...and Alexa is just the small tabletop box? The panels allow for what kind of extra benefits?

I'm really only used to the fully integrated systems I mentioned above (mostly Lutron, which AV consultants seem to prefer for better integration of all systems), and for those I have to find space for what are essentially extra electric (dimmer) panel boxes.

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13 minutes ago, El Floppo said:

So I'm understanding right...the bulbs are smart? Or do you swap in a smart dimmer switch? And then that connects to Alexa...and Alexa is just the small tabletop box? The panels allow for what kind of extra benefits?

I'm really only used to the fully integrated systems I mentioned above (mostly Lutron, which AV consultants seem to prefer for better integration of all systems), and for those I have to find space for what are essentially extra electric (dimmer) panel boxes.

Lots of different options and flexibility on the market. There are smart bulbs that can dim and they are great for things like table lamps, but anywhere there is wall switch control, especially for banks of lights I recommend using smart dimming switches.  This is to prevent users from disabling smart bulbs by turning off the wall switch and to avoid individual troubleshooting. The newer GE Enbrighten series are actually pretty damn good. 

Sometimes they connect directly to an Amazon Echo (Alexa is the voice engine) or Google Home or Apple whatever. Or they can connect to a smart home hub like SmartThings or Homeseer adn then that connects to the Echo.  Originally the Echos and Home devives really just provided the voice engine and API connection but the newer models can now connect directly to traditional HA devices as long as they have the correct radio.  Both Echo and Home offer direct Zigbee connections.  If you have Zwave then you need an intermediary hub like SmartThings. Wifi devices typically connect via API (server to server).

Panels really only allow control for users unwilling or unable to use voice and who don't have the app on their phones. Like houseguests, AirBNB or special needs scenarios.

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Anyone have recommendations on smart locks?  We are starting up a vacation rental 5 hours away that I want to be able to manage the lock on remotely, but every lock I read about has people with issues about having to re-install or re-sync the unreliable locks regularly, which obviously wouldn't work for us since we won't be there in person often.

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6 hours ago, El Floppo said:

So I'm understanding right...the bulbs are smart? Or do you swap in a smart dimmer switch? And then that connects to Alexa...and Alexa is just the small tabletop box? The panels allow for what kind of extra benefits?

I'm really only used to the fully integrated systems I mentioned above (mostly Lutron, which AV consultants seem to prefer for better integration of all systems), and for those I have to find space for what are essentially extra electric (dimmer) panel boxes.

I feel dumb for asking, but I'm not sure what you mean by panel boxes. Like new electrical boxes for wall switches?

In 2017 we remodeled. We had recessed lighting but we had an electrician swap out all the ceiling lights for dimmable LEDs. We probably could have done it ourselves, but we also had new recessed lighting put in where the electrician had to saw the holes in the ceiling and wire everything, plus wire those to the switch. 

Here was my process: I swapped out regular wall switches for Lutron Caseta smart dimmers. For those, I have a Lutron Caseta wireless hub, which allows the switches to be controlled via my phone app. On the Alexa app, you install a "skill" (in this case, Lutron Caseta) where you log in to Lutron in order to connect it to Alexa. We have Alexa devices in almost every room. Then, like Ron Swanson said, I can tell Alexa to lower the lights to a certain percentage, or whatever. We have a two-story house, and I'm always the last one to head upstairs, so I have set it up so that when I say, "Alexa, lights out," then it will turn off the kitchen, family room and dining table lights. I do like being able to turn off lights by voice, because I've reached the age where I yell at people for leaving lights on everywhere. But if you don't want Alexa (or Google Home or whatever), then you can still control everything via the Lutron app. If you have Siri (or "OK Google" if on Android), then you could probably do voice control via your phone, but I haven't explored that. (I have an iPhone but don't really use Siri at all.)_

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18 hours ago, El Floppo said:

C4 has a remote as well as app to use with the phone...right? How do you tend to use the automation- via app and remotes, or localized at switches...or either?

Do these systems require separate panels for the lighting/dimming?

For watching TV, I use the C4 remote  exclusively.  Lights--wall switches.  Music--iphone app.

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4 hours ago, FreeBaGeL said:

Anyone have recommendations on smart locks?  We are starting up a vacation rental 5 hours away that I want to be able to manage the lock on remotely, but every lock I read about has people with issues about having to re-install or re-sync the unreliable locks regularly, which obviously wouldn't work for us since we won't be there in person often.

I've had good luck with the Kwikset 910 zwave locks paired to SmartThings and the custom lock manager app. But yes. It has to be pieced together at this point. Nothing simple or elegant.

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On 3/3/2021 at 8:04 AM, Ron Swanson said:

Heavily invested in SmartThings for several years. Close to a couple hundred devices.  Thankfully all are Zigbee or Zwave so I can port them to other hubs if needed. The SmartThings platform has gone through a lot over the years but has been pretty solid the last 3-4 years under Samsung ownership.  Unfortunately, it is still the most flexible platform on the market. But there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of the platform now. Samsung has stopped manufacturing hubs and devices and is deprecating older hubs.

Like this. Been doing this for probably 10+ years. Initially on Homeseer, before SmartThings came along and make it a bunch easier. Our current house is mostly smart, and we just bought a weekend place in the mountains that I just am finishing up “smartening up.”  It’s so great when the place is several hours drive away but you can see video, open the doors to let workers in, control thermostats, etc.  

 

It’s pretty fantastic. Only issue is that recently for some reason there are ghosts in the setup in my main house. For no good reason a bunch of lights will switch on and off randomly at certain times of day. Started out of nowhere and no idea why. Been frustrating to troubleshoot and lately I’m just living with it. But it’s annoying. 

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We have a Wyse camera that I set up when we're away from our condo for any length of time as well as app based temp control. Smart TVs to stream apps and such but nothing we talk to for control. Keepin' it dumb. Google has enough access as it is.

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3 hours ago, Otis said:

Like this. Been doing this for probably 10+ years. Initially on Homeseer, before SmartThings came along and make it a bunch easier. Our current house is mostly smart, and we just bought a weekend place in the mountains that I just am finishing up “smartening up.”  It’s so great when the place is several hours drive away but you can see video, open the doors to let workers in, control thermostats, etc.  

 

It’s pretty fantastic. Only issue is that recently for some reason there are ghosts in the setup in my main house. For no good reason a bunch of lights will switch on and off randomly at certain times of day. Started out of nowhere and no idea why. Been frustrating to troubleshoot and lately I’m just living with it. But it’s annoying. 

@OtisI have the same issues recently. But only with certain lights/switches.

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SimpliSafe alarm system

Amazon Alexa

Nest

 

Im not paranoid enough to be overly concerned about overblown privacy implications, and lose out on the convenience of these types of systems. They’re pretty neat. 

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9 hours ago, Ron Swanson said:

@OtisI have the same issues recently. But only with certain lights/switches.

Same. Been driving me bonkers. Called their tech support and they were worthless. No easy solutions online. It’ll be a huge PIA to have to factory reset everything and then readd everything, but that’s sort of where I am. 

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By the way, that Ring monitored alarm system is great. When we bought the vacation house it had an old school alarm system and monitoring. I replaced with Ring and we love it. Cheaper and better and I can actually see things on my app. Likely going to convert our primary home to the same. 

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On 3/4/2021 at 7:09 AM, JaxBill said:

i guess I'm in the minority that I intentionally keep my house dumb because I don't need Big Tech knowing more about me than they already do.

I have a couple of Alexa capable devices that I have intentionally left disabled. 

While I understand your perspective, these devices have become an integral part of our family life at home.

  • "Echo*, what's the news today?"
  • "Echo, what's the weather today?"
  • "Echo, what was the score of X game?"
  • "Echo, set a remind to lay chicken out for dinner for 10am"
  • "Echo, play Frank Sinatra station"
  • "Echo, set a 10 minute timer"

I use it pretty much all day, every day.

*We had to change the name on our devices to Echo as I have a daughter named Alexis and it would constantly get confused.

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1 hour ago, Otis said:

By the way, that Ring monitored alarm system is great. When we bought the vacation house it had an old school alarm system and monitoring. I replaced with Ring and we love it. Cheaper and better and I can actually see things on my app. Likely going to convert our primary home to the same. 

I have Simplisafe and now that they've integrated cameras it's pretty good.  I've kept those, my Blink cams, and my Wyze cams off the SmartThings platform.

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1 hour ago, AAABatteries said:

While I understand your perspective, these devices have become an integral part of our family life at home.

  • "Echo*, what's the news today?"
  • "Echo, what's the weather today?"
  • "Echo, what was the score of X game?"
  • "Echo, set a remind to lay chicken out for dinner for 10am"
  • "Echo, play Frank Sinatra station"
  • "Echo, set a 10 minute timer"

I use it pretty much all day, every day.

*We had to change the name on our devices to Echo as I have a daughter named Alexis and it would constantly get confused.

"Dad, I don't know what the ####### weather is outside.  Stop asking!"

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Started out with the Insteon line per the recommendations of a couple guys I work with. While these work great for the most part, they are proprietary and have some serious issues if you don't remove them from a scene the correct way. Then the hubs started failing. Everyone I knew that had this line had their hub die within a couple months of each other. Including me. Started migrating over to the Smartthings ecosystem and have been very happy with the Z-Wave and Zigbee platforms. But with the uncertainty on the hardware and the future of the entire line, I've been trying to move to wifi only devices when installing new things. Love the Kasa line.

So now I have basically a hodgepodge of a setup.

Alex devices for voice control. Have those things everywhere. Have an Echo Studio in our main living area... sound is GREAT on that thing. Dots in the bedrooms, outside patio, office. Some newer generation Echos in the basement setup as pairs.

Insteon - still have a couple switches and leak sensors on this hub. Will ride them out until they die

Smartthings (zwave Zigbee) - Most switches, sensors, are these in our house. Front door deadbolt is a smart lock zwave. Have a zwave mousetrap in the garage that @Otis recommended in an old thread on this. Love that thing. 😆

wifi - numerous plugs, some switches, a couple outlets, an outside weather resistant plug. All Kasa line. 

Basically I use Alexa as the central place to tie these together. Have an insteon switch in the laundry room with a zwave motion sensor. Use a routine in Alexa to turn the light on from the motion sensor. Kind of cool that I can tie the completely different platforms together here.

Simplisafe alarm system.

The only things that are NOT on some type of smart technology in our house I can think of is the office ceiling fan and our blinds in the house. 

 

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1 hour ago, top dog said:

Started out with the Insteon line per the recommendations of a couple guys I work with. While these work great for the most part, they are proprietary and have some serious issues if you don't remove them from a scene the correct way. Then the hubs started failing. Everyone I knew that had this line had their hub die within a couple months of each other. Including me. Started migrating over to the Smartthings ecosystem and have been very happy with the Z-Wave and Zigbee platforms. But with the uncertainty on the hardware and the future of the entire line, I've been trying to move to wifi only devices when installing new things. Love the Kasa line.

So now I have basically a hodgepodge of a setup.

Alex devices for voice control. Have those things everywhere. Have an Echo Studio in our main living area... sound is GREAT on that thing. Dots in the bedrooms, outside patio, office. Some newer generation Echos in the basement setup as pairs.

Insteon - still have a couple switches and leak sensors on this hub. Will ride them out until they die

Smartthings (zwave Zigbee) - Most switches, sensors, are these in our house. Front door deadbolt is a smart lock zwave. Have a zwave mousetrap in the garage that @Otis recommended in an old thread on this. Love that thing. 😆

wifi - numerous plugs, some switches, a couple outlets, an outside weather resistant plug. All Kasa line. 

Basically I use Alexa as the central place to tie these together. Have an insteon switch in the laundry room with a zwave motion sensor. Use a routine in Alexa to turn the light on from the motion sensor. Kind of cool that I can tie the completely different platforms together here.

Simplisafe alarm system.

The only things that are NOT on some type of smart technology in our house I can think of is the office ceiling fan and our blinds in the house. 

 

 

Dude, that Zwave mousetrap is amazing.  I've caught probably a dozen mice in it over the past few years, maybe more.  I have it set to text me as well when it catches something.  No more periodically wandering the basement to see if you caught anything.  Also just got one for the second house. 

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4 hours ago, AAABatteries said:

While I understand your perspective, these devices have become an integral part of our family life at home.

  • "Echo*, what's the news today?"
  • "Echo, what's the weather today?"
  • "Echo, what was the score of X game?"
  • "Echo, set a remind to lay chicken out for dinner for 10am"
  • "Echo, play Frank Sinatra station"
  • "Echo, set a 10 minute timer"

I use it pretty much all day, every day.

*We had to change the name on our devices to Echo as I have a daughter named Alexis and it would constantly get confused.

We must have 20 various Echos all over our houses.  Maybe more.  About one per room at this point.  It's to the point I don't know what to do with them.  Got a free Show from Verizon for signing up for Fios internet, and left it on the counter for a few days trying to figure out what to do with it. Eventually realized it makes the perfect bedside alarm clock and white noise machine replacement.  They're great. 

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1 hour ago, Otis said:

 

Dude, that Zwave mousetrap is amazing.  I've caught probably a dozen mice in it over the past few years, maybe more.  I have it set to text me as well when it catches something.  No more periodically wandering the basement to see if you caught anything.  Also just got one for the second house. 

I laughed my butt off when you posted how awesome it was. I was like "Dude. It's a freakin mousetrap. Seriously?" But then I decided what the hell, I'll buy one. It's awesome. I've put that thing in my garage, the crawl space, all over. I get all excited when I get the text that it zapped one. I always talk #### to the dead mouse as I'm throwing it in the garbage can. TECHNOLOGY #####! :lmao:

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I jumped on the Z-wave bandwagon with a Vera controller back in 2011 when we bought the house.  It was still green back then, but has come along way in terms of reliability and compatibility.  Slowly upgraded and added items...integration with Amazon Echo was a usability tipping point as it allowed voice control.  Now the wife and kids use it for all sorts of stuff.

Currently have the following on a Vera Edge integrated with the Echo platform:

  • All door locks (3), and garage doors (Chamberlain MyQ)
  • Thermostats - 2 zone HVAC, and 2 baseboard heat units in the basement
  • Home Alarm is an older Ademco Vista 10SE that I utilize an old Vera plug-in to make "smart."  Can arm/disarm remotely, get trigger alerts, and disarm when door keypads are unlocked with the right code.
  • Probably 25 hard wired light switches, outlets, and lamp modules around the house
  • 1 ceiling fan in the master bedroom - maybe my favorite/most used if you get hot at night...
  • Landscape lights controlled via an outdoor module.

 

I really want to get smart blinds, but just too much investment at this point.  

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