Welcome to the part where I share my experiences, what I use and no longer use, what worked for me and what did not. Again, no endorsements or badmouthing, just what I went through in my home automation learnings.
Home Automation Hubs:
- SmartThings: the one I use at home, for me it’s the right balance of simplicity, breath of features, supported equipment and standards.
- Home Assistant: dabbled with it out of curiosity a while ago and now back into it for certain things. Lots of fun there but again, you need to “build your own hub” really and I wanted a “baked product” at first. Bear in mind you can get it to talk to other hubs if you want to go down that route. I’m running mine in a Proxmox VE server and used the stock image from Home Assistant for this hypervisor. It’s talking to my SmartThings hub, and my Lutron Caseta Hub as well. Plugged in a Sonoff USB ZigBee adapter and works really well so far, impressive this HA hub. Reminder that this is not for the first-time user and you may need to dabble in setting files directly. Welcome to the rabbit hole, Alice!
- Amazon Echo/Alexa: what I used at first for my mom’s house as it’s more price-sensitive and needs at her house are simpler. But Amazon’s products do not give secondary stats/information like battery levels so I moved to SmartThings as I’m 3 hours away by car.
- Hubitat Elevation: really powerful and supports tons of things but for the geek at heart for its complexity and user interface. Did not want to deal with that level of complexity so I switched to SmartThings but it is an impressive product.
- Wink: this is what I originally used as it has built-in Lutron Caseta support but they went to a subscription-based model after the company was acquired and honestly am not sure where they are going, they used to be at Home Depot and are no longer sold there. I purposely left it out of the list of hubs in the home automation basics page for that reason, if I should add it do drop me a line.
- Lutron Caseta: although proprietary, it interfaces with any major hub and works fantastically well. That’s it so far, except for a HomeSeer Z-Wave but did not know up from down back then so it’s my own fault. Now I know better and understand the limitations of 2-wire systems, hence this one! Very happy, and the hub (which is needed) can also control blind systems as well. Also love the Pico remotes.
Note on Lutron Caseta: there are two versions of the hub, the consumer and the pro. The consumer one will work with most hubs but not Hubitat, Homeseer and possibly others. Here is the math on Amazon Canada: the consumer one is $110a and the pro one is on Aartech is $190, if you plan to do basic stuff the consumer one (the one found everywhere) is fine, if you want to do some more higher-end stuff, go for the pro. Here is the info on the pro line, meant for professional installers.
- GE Cync: when I saw their new “no neutral needed” products I got one for the indoor garage lights to try and it works well. I use the model with the motion sensor and so far so good except that.. it’s very hard to do things outside of Alexa and Google Home as GE has yet to integrate with SmartThings, Home Assistant and others, so routine capabilities can be limited. Recommended to get only one and see if it fits your needs and cosmetics too.
- Zoos 4:1 Z-Wave sensor, pretty cool device although a bit pricey but it’s a quality product
- Third Reality Motion Sensor: simple yet effective (so far!) ZigBee motion sensor on a budget and good battery life, too
- SmartThings Multi Sensor: love it for the temperature sensor. Our house is kinda weird and has 6 “half floors” in a split level configuration so the front door convector ends up heating the main floor and that sensor I hid in the dining room is tied to rules to dynamically adjust the entrance heater.
- SmartThings Water Leak Sensor: got two placed is strategic places at home, need to add one to the laundry room so going to try Thirdreality because I like to try new things.
- Third Reality ZigBee Leak Sensor: tried one as I needed one, good stuff so far!
- YeoLink Water Detection Starter Kit: pretty happy with this, the hub talks to Alexa and should there be a problem at my mom’s house, one of the four sensors will let me know.
Thermostats & Heating
- Stelpro Ki Z-Wave Thermostats: these are great and work specifically for baseboard heaters as we don’t have central heating we can’t use a Nest or Ecobee. Uses Z-Wave.
- Stelpro Orléans Convector: has built-in thermostat and works on Z-Wave, talks to one of my SmartThings multi sensors for automatic temperature control
- Sinopé heated floor thermostats: I went with their ZigBee model, very slick devices. Works with SmartThings which is key for me. The previous “non-smart” units were from NuHeat, wanted to try something new.
- NuHeat: Wi-Fi based to replace an old “not smart” one, nice unit.
- Schlage Connect ZigBee: works really well, no complaints, but I miss August’s “open door detection”
- August Smart Lock (3rd Gen, Pro): frustrating device as most visitors could not figure out how to open the door by unlocking it. Sounds silly but true, it’s a user experience issue, most humans expect some other design. Also started slipping internally so we could lock ourselves inside. Replaced with Schlage. The other August models are ok, maybe I got unlucky.
Security & Doorbell
- Ring Pro Doorbell: smaller, wired, works well and is on sale during Prime days
- Ring Floodlight Wired: works well but for backyard was too bright and not compatible with smart dimmers so moving it to the front of the house to replace an old floodlight. These smart floodlights need 100% of available power on the outlet and the Caseta keeps a small % to operate which made the project frustrating, so added the next item as as replacement. The current Plus model replaces what I have. By the way I need an electrician for this one as the front of house unit is too high for me and heights are not my thing, plus my ladder is too short (gotta plan!).
- Ring Spotlight Cam: the successor to the Ring Floodlight in the backyard, separate from the “old school” floodlights I put in with a Lutron Caseta dimmer. Works well. A neighbor had the side of their house graffitied lately so will add another “in plain view” as a deterrent for hooligans.
- Nest Smoke & CO2 Detector: good product, has motion sensor, poor integration into 3rd party hubs if any these days. Does not talk to my SmartThings hub as far as I can tell but maybe Matter will fix that. Will also revisit with IFTTT and see what I can do but right now SmartThings and IFTTT don’t seem to walk to talk. In the meantime, it’s in the garage doing it’s thing in solo mode.
- Kidde Wink Smoke Detector: good product but locked to Wink hubs only, so now it’s just a smoke detector of the dumb kind as I stopped using Wink, so it’s gathering dust as I have all the key areas already protected.
- Kasa Smart Mini: I have a few of them which I use for occasions and seasonal items like the Christmas lights, works quite well. This also turns off/on the LED strip I put behind a frame in the master bedroom. With Home Assistant I reprogrammed the Pico remotes to turn off this strip with the main lights.
- Kasa Smart Outdoor Plug: for summer lighting in the backyard and the Christmas lights, too.
- Sonoff ZigBee: works with anything (or almost) and is a ZigBee repeater too.
As you play along with new things your household may start to resemble to mine:
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