Smart home: lighting, locks, sound, cameras, and more

Senator Donut

post-Domer
SoSH Member
Apr 21, 2010
4,368
02148
Last month my wife and I purchased our first home together. I’m hoping to install a ton of smart home features around the house. I’m not completely unfamiliar with the concept, as I had several IKEA Trafri lights and outlet switches in our last apartment together. However, we only used them on stand-alone fixtures and didn’t bother installing any smart bulbs in wired outlets.

We were also fortunate to inherit two smart thermostats (Google Nest, bridged to Apple HomeKit) from the last owners. I’ve supplemented that with a single camera from Eufy. Apple provides no additional cost cloud storage for one camera on my existing iCloud subscription.

As of now, I’m stuck on how to build out my smart home lighting items. It seems like it might be a smarter idea to wire everything for smart switches and keep using dumb bulbs in every wired fixture (and keep using the IKEA bulbs on lamps). I did pick up a Philips Hue starter kit on clearance from Costco, so I can start there if I want to keep my dumb switches and use smart bulbs, but that seems more complex. I’m not sure what path to go down.

A limiting factor is that I use Apple HomeKit, which cuts down on the number of comparable devices.

Some other items to consider: replacing my locks, garage door opener, sprinkler system, or anything else you can think of.
 

cgori

Member
SoSH Member
Oct 2, 2004
3,069
SF, CA
Mostly I would ask - what do you want it to "do" for you on an automated basis? Think about it in terms of use cases and convenience features.

My setup is ~100% Lutron Caseta switches (plus a couple light/plug adapters), Samsung SmartThings hub, Nest thermostat, Nest smoke/CO detectors, Kwikset smart lock, and motorized sunshades. I have 2 motion sensors so far (master bedroom and kitchen), and a Konnected.io hooked into the old alarm wiring for all the doors to detect open/closed. I've got 3 Sonos zones for the house. I have a wall-mounted tablet (Amazon Fire) running ActionTiles that basically lets you monitor everything at a glance - doors, lights, Sonos, and HVAC.

I put the outside lights on timers based on sunrise/sunset, use the presence detect to turn things on/off when I come/go, and have the motion detector in the kitchen set up to trigger the under-cabinet lights. The shades go up/down based on sunrise/sunset as well. I put most of the lights on energy save, so if they are left on for more than an hour they shut themselves off - you can configure the time per light.

I'm looking into cameras (one for inside, one for outside), and would think about a couple more motion sensors to enable more room/presence detection and corresponding actions (could use this to over-ride the energy save, for example). I'm already sick of swapping batteries on the 2 sensors I have so I would suggest thinking about how to wire the sensors, especially if you want to put them some place hard to reach. Eventually I'll actually hook up the siren I have to make a pseudo-alarm system. The system has a concept of armed/disarmed already, I just need to test everything out so I don't get false alarms - my neighbors would kill me.

The way the entry to my (3-unit) building is set up, we can't really have a smart doorbell thing, but if you are a single-family house, it could be nice to have - my brother has one and it serves like a street facing camera, as well as a way to interact with the UPS guy if you aren't home.

As FYI: Nest stuff does not integrate well with almost anything anymore - Google would like you to move everything into their ecosystem so they have made a lot of things harder to do over time. The thermostat works well for my ultra-simple case (central forced-air heating only, one zone). If you want to do anything fancy with the integration you'll probably want to look into Ecobee or similar, but so far I have held off. I'm also sort of annoyed that the Nest smokes don't expose their presence detect sensors via any API, which would probably be my #1 wishlist item.

I have no idea how the Homekit angle modifies all of this as that's not the ecosystem I play in.
 

The Napkin

wise ass al kaprielian
Dope
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2002
25,283
right here
We went the Hues route a few years ago and it works great if you want to go that route.

I have 2 bulbs in the living room, 1 in the hallway, 1 in the kitchen, and 2 in the bedroom.
All are on lamps.
Living room has a "smart switch" that is just stuck on the wall as you enter the door.
Hallway is on a timer and comes on around 5 and goes off at midnight.
Kitchen is on a lamp on the table and is connected to a motion detector so . From 6ish to midnight it comes on at one level that is mostly enough light to do dinner and clean up and things but can be supplemtned by the (dumb) overhead if needed. From midnight to 8am it'll come on dimmer for those "I need some water but I don't want to wake up" times.
Bedroom is on 2 different controls. One is at bedside one is on dresser. Both have "smart" switches connected to them.

Could not be happier with the lights though. Especially the ability to kill the lights in the bedroom without having to get out of bed. We're in the process of replacing kithen overhead and bathroom lights but probably won't make them smart since there doesn't seem to be a need.

We have 3 nest smoke/CO detectors that cover bedroom, kitchen, and living room. Love that they will very gently tell us that kitchen smoke is about to go off and we can tell it it's okay, we know, I'm just burning dinner again and it'll say okay and roll its eyes but won't shriek at us.

We don't have thermostat or camera so I can't speak to how well those work.
 

canderson

Mr. Brightside
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
31,989
Harrisburg, Pa.
Prepare to be disappointed, honestly. This stuff is hit-or miss and stuff doesn’t talk to one another well. I’d wait for Matter to become more a market leader.

Hue is great.
Nest is great.
Lutron is great.

They imo are not great or easy to work unified.
 

B H Kim

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Oct 24, 2003
5,322
Washington, DC
We have several Hue bulbs, a bunch of Wemo plugs and switches and a Sensi thermostat. The one thing I would note is that I’ve found it much easier and more convenient to use the Amazon Alexa app, instead of HomeKit, to manage these items. We have a several Echos and everything is voice controlled through the Alexa app.
 

johnmd20

mad dog
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 30, 2003
53,200
New York City
I have like 45 hue bulbs/light strips, set up through the Hue smart button and controlled via the app on the iPads or my Pixel. They control a number of rooms.(gym, game room, tv room, dining room, etc.) The recent upgrade to the Hue app has made it worse but it's awesome to turn off 36 lights in 6 rooms with 5 clicks. It is not cheap, tho.

But it works great, it's not hard to set up and customize, and the colors are fun.
 

jtn46

Member
SoSH Member
Oct 10, 2004
9,024
Norwalk, CT
Prepare to be disappointed, honestly. This stuff is hit-or miss and stuff doesn’t talk to one another well. I’d wait for Matter to become more a market leader.

Hue is great.
Nest is great.
Lutron is great.

They imo are not great or easy to work unified.
I bought the Starling Home Hub to overcome Nest/Homekit compatibility and it works great.
 

88 MVP

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 25, 2007
385
WNY
This is maybe a specific use case, but it came up today with my in-laws’ vacation home — does anyone have experience using one of these smart home hubs to remotely control powered hurricane shutters? Is this a viable idea? With recent hurricane seasons they have been paying through the nose to have a home watch service come manually put them up and remove them.
 

Senator Donut

post-Domer
SoSH Member
Apr 21, 2010
4,368
02148
I bought the Starling Home Hub to overcome Nest/Homekit compatibility and it works great.
This was my solution and it’s worked out great for the last week I’ve had it installed. I didn’t want to spend any money and effort installing new thermostats to replace perfectly good ones and honestly Nest has by far the best looking product in that field. (I love the wheel too.) Theoretically, this would open myself up to other products in the Nest ecosystem.
 

Senator Donut

post-Domer
SoSH Member
Apr 21, 2010
4,368
02148
I have like 45 hue bulbs/light strips, set up through the Hue smart button and controlled via the app on the iPads or my Pixel. They control a number of rooms.(gym, game room, tv room, dining room, etc.) The recent upgrade to the Hue app has made it worse but it's awesome to turn off 36 lights in 6 rooms with 5 clicks. It is not cheap, tho.

But it works great, it's not hard to set up and customize, and the colors are fun.
Are you still wired to dumb physical light switches? If so, has that been a aggravation, having to tape over switches and rely upon digital apps, smart speakers, and automation to turn them on and off?
 

johnmd20

mad dog
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 30, 2003
53,200
New York City
Are you still wired to dumb physical light switches? If so, has that been a aggravation, having to tape over switches and rely upon digital apps, smart speakers, and automation to turn them on and off?
I do have light switches. But I don't use them, no tape required.

If someone turns off the light with the light switch, you can switch it back on and the lights automatically reconnect to the app. I don't have kids, it's just me and my wife and dog and my wife uses the app too. So the light switches aren't an issue. They don't get used. I have a lot of lights, using the app is so much easier and faster than using the actual switches.
 

begranter

Couldn't get into a real school
SoSH Member
Jul 9, 2007
2,267
My setup is ~100% Lutron Caseta switches (plus a couple light/plug adapters),
Other than cost, is there any downside to going this route? I'm just buying a house and am planning on replacing all switches anyway. I like the idea of being able to program, turn on/off from the phone, and the flexibility it gives you in terms of where switches are located. Seems like a no-brainer.

I'm largely ambivalent on smart features beyond thermostat, switches, and voice controlled audio.
 

cgori

Member
SoSH Member
Oct 2, 2004
3,069
SF, CA
Other than cost, is there any downside to going this route? I'm just buying a house and am planning on replacing all switches anyway. I like the idea of being able to program, turn on/off from the phone, and the flexibility it gives you in terms of where switches are located. Seems like a no-brainer.

I'm largely ambivalent on smart features beyond thermostat, switches, and voice controlled audio.
I didn't see any, their dedicated hub + app works quite well (except I don't think it can do the sunrise/sunset relative timing, for that I think I needed the Samsung hub, but I did not explore the caseta hub in depth to be honest. The caseta hub also doesn't integrate the themostat, audio, or voice controls - it only handles the lights. If you are doing really simple stuff you might not even need the caseta hub, that part I am not sure about.)

Other things I can think of to note:
-If you are replacing a switch on a really heavily loaded dimmable circuit (lots of can lights in a kitchen for example), I think the Caseta dimmer might have slightly less wattage than the non-smart one (600W vs 500W comes to mind but it's been a while - you'd have to have a ton of lights for this to be a thing.)
-Some LED fixtures need the "fancy" Caseta switch (that supports ELV+/MLV/etc modes) to dim properly without flicker/hum, I think that fancy one costs 50% more than the "normal" one. I needed maybe 3 of those for my whole house - undercabinet LEDs, a wall sconce, and the over-the-dining-table light come to mind. As far as I know it's never needed for incandescent or fluorescent, but I don't have any of those anymore.
-Caseta caps out at 50 devices (I think?), RA2 select is 100 - so if you have a lot of devices think about RA2 Select. It's also self-installable, just the two are not compatible. The next line up (Radio RA2?) requires an installer, but it supports 200 devices. RA2 Select also has a few fancier scene controller switches and/or customizable faceplates, I think. I didn't need any of that, and honestly I think RA2 Select was released after I swapped out all the switches in my house.
-For my bathroom overhead vent fan+lights I went with regular Lutron timer switches (not Caseta/smart) just to keep everything easy for guests and guarantee that the fans ran no matter what. Those and some closet light switches are the only non-smart ones I have.
-The wall-mounted remotes are great for making "virtual" 3-ways (or 4-ways, whatever) so you can control lights from exactly where you want, even if the wiring doesn't go there.
-Check your wiring to make sure you have neutrals in all the places you are going to install these. The cheaper switches need neutrals, the more expensive ones (often) do not.
-It's a little bit of work to sync up all the Lutron / Samsung / Alexa zones/names/etc but once you've got it, it seems like it works well. (I can say "Alexa turn off downstairs" when I'm upstairs in bed and everything I forgot will go out, for example.)

I would say that if you think you want to do more fancy automation, you could consider using the GE/Jasco/etc native Zwave switches instead of the Caseta. However, I have seen reports that those switches fail a bit more often than I would like (last 3-4 years based on some of the forums/groups I monitor. I think the Inovelli ones are more reliable (and are nicer in general) but also a bit more expensive (? - not 100% about that though). If you go Zwave you'll be depending on the hub for everything (even basic stuff like lights-on/lights-off), to my understanding - something like a Hubitat would be a good alternative to the Samsung/Aeotec hub, since it is all local processing instead of going to the cloud. (To be fair, I think the simple commands even on the samsung hub are locally processed.)