DIY Smart Home from Scratch

Hi,

We're doing an extension and back to brick refurb on a Victorian terrace property in the UK. The exended property covers c. 170sqm over 3 floors: Ground Floor 80sqm + 30sqm garden; 1st Floor 65sqm; Loft 45sqm. It now includes a fair few steel beams.

We've decided to go all in on home automation but out of consideration for costs, a desire to retain control and future adaptability and to enable an incremental approach, we have decided on a DIY home automation approach rather than using a professionally installed system the likes of Loxone, Control4, KNX, Crestron, Lutron etc.

As an IT project delivery professional with a (long long ago) engineering degree and a background in Enterprise Java development, I am broadly technical but very rusty when it comes to programming and cannot afford to spend all my time fiddling with the home automation systems. HE seems to offer a good range on the capability-simplicity spectrum. I've been reading lots but the rubber is about to hit the road and input from those with practical, UK-specific experience - recommendations/observations on compatible products, compatibility gotchas, drivers and integrations etc. - would be much appreciated. Items marked with an asterisk* are already bought/committed.

For those interested I'll post specific questions and/or solutions on related topics as I work through the integrations and select devices for TBCs over the next few months.

Anticipated Set-up:

General Networking, Control and Integration

  • Voice Control - Google Assistant*
  • Integrated Home Automation - Hubitat Elevation C7*
  • Lighting Integration - Hue Bridge*
  • io-homecontrol Integration - Velux KLF200* - integration of io-homecontrol protocol devices via API
  • WiFi and ethernet network - Google Nest WiFi Routers* x 2 (1 primary), Google Nest WiFi Points* x 3, unmanaged Ethernet switch
  • Zigbee Network Robustness - IKEA Tradfri Repeaters
  • Preferred Protocols - Zigbee 3.0
  • Perferred Aesthics for Physical Controls Etc. - Minimal visible tech, traditional looking switches, faceplates etc.
  • Remotes/Scene Selectors - TBC - Potentially Lutron Pico Remotes with RA2 Select Main Processor but on the basis of cost, will probably try a Zigbee 3.0 option first.

Lighting
Prospective Integration/Automation: Away status, proximity and presence aware mode, scene, schedule and lux based lighting control. All lighting will be smart controllable All switch points will be installed with neutral wires available at the switch and extra-deep plastic back boxes will be used to provide space for smart relays. Smart lighting circuits will follow one of two patterns which enable a level of resilience for the lighting in the event of issues with the automation hub and relatively easy future conversion to more conventional non-smart configurations if needed for resale:

Smart Switched Circuits, comprising:

  • Smart Switch: Zigbee 3.0 smart trailing edge dimmer modules with 2-way physical retractive switches
  • Non-Smart Load: Dimmable mains voltage LED fittings (Generally E27 or GU10) in standard fixtures or dimmable low voltage LEDs in fixtures with integrated low voltage drivers

Remote Controlled Smart Lighting Circuits
Smart Remote:

  • Zigbee smart 2-way switch modules with 2-way physical retractive switches, wired in parallel on the circuit so it is powered by, but not controlling, the circuit.

Smart Load:

  • Mains powered LED Zigbee smart bulbs (Generally E27 - TBC or GU10 - Gledopto or Ajax)
  • Non-Smart mains powered LED fixtures, fitted with a smart switch at the light fitting
  • Low voltage LED cabinet lights with mains powered Zigbee smart drivers - Ikea TBC
  • Low voltage LED strip lights with Zigbee smart controller and separate low voltage (12-24V) power supply - LED Strip controllers - Gledopto or Ajax, LED Strips - TBC

Entertainment
Prospective Integration/Automation: Scene based integration of lighting, AV and shading

  • Retractable Projector Screen: TBC - Somfy motor equiped TBC projector screen
  • Projector Lift: TBC - Somfy motor equiped TBC projector lift
  • Music: Sonos with Spotify*

Shading
Prospective Integration/Automation: Away status aware mode, scene, schedule, weather, lux and temperature based opening and closing. Integration with entertainment system operation.

io-homecontrol devices

  • Velux blinds and awnings
  • Somfy motor equiped garden awning

Zigbee 3.0 devices

  • Was considering Zemismart for much of the below but they seem to be discontinuing their relevant Zigbee products. Ajax may be an option, though slightly pricier. Ruled out Lutron and Somfy products for now based on cost.
  • Curtain Rails - TBC
  • Blackout Blinds - TBC
  • Venetian Blinds - TBC

Climate Control, Heating and Cooling
Prospective Integration/Automation: Whilst fairly smart and connected via WiFi, these systems are fairly self contained and I don't think there is much chance of integrating to leverage sensor or status information for example but I hope to integrate Away/At Home status switching at least.

  • MVHR, Radiant Panels, Heating and Cooling Distribution and Controls - Radiana* heating and cooling distribution system with zone sensors and control
  • Air Source Heat Pump - Samsung
  • Domestic Hot Water - Mixergy

Tile and Towel Warming
Prospective Integration/Automation: Away status aware schedule (e.g. wake-up time, bed-time), event (movement) and manually triggered anticipation of bathroom usage. Timer and/or humidity based shut-off.

  • Electric UFH Thermostat - For warming the tiles in bathrooms and drying the floor only, to be controlled with a dedicated smart thermostat with floor temperature sensor. - Moes White ZigBee Smart Thermostat Programmable Temperature Controller For Electric Floor Heating (BHT-002-GBLZBW)
  • Electric towel radiators - for towel warming only rather than space heating, controlled by a wireless smart switch which can also be operated using a local physical switch - Zigbee 3.0 1-Way Relay Module - TBC

Self Closing Fire Door Hold Open & Release
Prospective Integration/Automation: Away status, schedule (bedtime), event (alarm state) and manually triggered closure of fire doors. A Grade D, Category LD2 fire safety system will be installed with all alarms interlinked on a physical 9V interconnect circuit. There will be a relay on the 9V interconnect circuit controlling power to a separate mains powered circuit for hold open devices on the self-closing fire doors. The power to this circuit will be cut in the event of the interconnect circuit activating. The hold open devices will also be individually controlled by Zigbee 3.0 1-way smart relays which can also be operated using a local physical switch which will toggle the circuit latched open or closed.

  • Zigbee 3.0 1-Way Relay - TBC

Water Control
Prospective Integration/Automation: Away status based and leak based shut-off, remote control of mains water and potentially in the future, plant watering
Motorised Mains Shut-Off - Standard motorised normally open ball valve controlled by a 2-way Zigbee 3.0 smart relay TBC with a local 2-way physical retractive switch.
Leak Sensors - Zigbee 3.0 TBC

Sauna
Prospective Integration/Automation: Away status aware schedule and manual remote control heating of sauna. Overheat and open door protection. Shut-off when no movement in sauna for defined period. Whilst fairly smart and connected via WiFi, this system is fairly self contained and I don't think there is much chance of integrating.

  • Controller - Huum WiFi Controller.

Cleaning
Prospective Integration/Automation: Room presence and Away-At Home status aware scheduled and event based triggering of cleaning. Integration will probably need to be via smart assistant.

  • Vacuum - iRobot S9 Plus*, iRobot i3 Plus
  • Mop - iRobot Brava M6*

Access Control
Prospective Integration/Automation: Room presence, proximity, Away-At Home status and schedule based lock/unlock; remote unlock; guest access control including schedule, notification and 'switching on' the house etc.

  • Door Bell - Google Nest Hello* smart door bell.
  • Door Lock Night Latch - Keyless Connected Smart Lock-Polished Brass Yale YD-01-CON-NOMOD-PB + Module TBC. They don't seem to have a Zigbee module in the UK. May have to go with the Z-Wave module.
  • Door Lock Deadbolt - TBC

Sensors
Prospective Integration/Automation: Presence, event and environmental status triggering of automations

  • Motion Sensors - TBC - probably Hue Motion Sensor
  • Lux Sensors - TBC - probably Hue Motion Sensor
  • Door/Window Sensors - TBC Zigbee 3.0
  • Temperature Sensors - TBC Zigbee 3.0
  • Humidity Sensors - TBC Zigbee 3.0

Welcome and sounds like a big job, and I think you made the right choice with HE.

Only thing I would suggest considering is going ahead and getting a second Hub. My house is a Farmhouse style all one floor, we are a bit more spread out here in the states. I found putting a hub on each end of the house made my devices much more stable. Since you have multiple floors you might want to consider that.

I am even thinking about adding a third in the house to use for rules only. Right now I have rules split between the two, but I think a rule only hub would be better. Hub mesh has worked well for me and it makes splitting and controlling the devices between hubs easy.

Good luck on getting it setup, hope all goes smoothly.

Thanks Terminal3 for the welcome, advice and well wishes! It is a big undertaking, and a little daunting, but I'm trying take it one piece at a time.

Could you expand a little on your multi-hub architecture and the why's and wherefores behind it? I've yet to get to any documentation on how to set up and use multi-hub architectures (Hub Mesh - Hubitat Documentation). Is it a range thing or capacity thing? I have planned for positioning the hub in the centre of the first floor. From a range perspective, my primary concern was the various steel beams potentially creating blind spots. I understand the hub can only handle 32 end devices directly but I hadn't really thought about capacity. In terms of repeating devices:

I also did wonder about resilience but decided I could live with backup and restore based recovery. I am still to look at development/staging and how to avoid disruption through the change process. I'd be very interested in how others approach this.

Only did a quick read but if I were in your position I'd be installing network cabling into as many spots as practical. If you are going for more hubs a wifi mesh network across all brick internals won't be as effective as running ethernet backhauls for each level /section of the house. Plus with ethernet you can pump power everywhere and have a central UPS to handle power outages.

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@rocketwiz Thank you for the feedback. I've designed things so that there is effectively riser at the core of the property for utility runs etc. I've included some minimal Cat6 structured cabling that can be enhanced in future if needed. All hubs will be ethernet connected. I've also specified a dedicated mains power UPS circuit and sockets for the HA systems. Hadn't occurred to me to use PoE for UPS. I will look into it.

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Further to the multi-hub question, a search of the forum for "second hub" and "development hub" is quite fruitful.

There seem to be a few approaches, often used in combination:

  • Split by physical location - distributes the load in line with the layout of the property
  • Split by function - distributes the load by type of workload - apps, integrations, rules, devices devices by type (e.g. lighting), protocol (ZWave vs Zigbee),
  • A sub-type of split by function seems to be isolation of problematic loads, e.g. cloud integrations, non-performant apps and/or flaky/non-compliant devices
  • Another elaboration seems to be to have two, or more, hubs running a split by location or function with a further hub integrating these with common dashboards, rules and cloud integrations that do not lend themselves to being split or replicated across multiple hubs. Hub Mesh is used to mirror devices from the local hubs to the common hub.

Moving to a multi-hub set-up seems often to be driven by a drop off in performance and/or stability as setups grow and become more complex, as well as the availability of a spare hub following upgrade to the latest version.

Based on the advice from @terminal3 and @rocketwiz (thanks again both), I'll at least plan for a second, and probably 3rd HE hub in terms of power and ethernet provision. It should become apparent fairly early on if I need to expand.

On the subject of a developer/staging set up, there are again multiple approaches. It is clear that HE is not set up or intended to be a development platform. A dev setup does not seem like a must have unless doing hardcore dev. While it can be useful for rule changes etc it can end up getting messy. Typical setups are a standalone hub backed up from production or a 'mirror' hub in production running the production+1 config in parallel with the production hub, with devices mirrored using Hub Mesh. In the latter instance, steps need to be taken to ensure that the two sets of rules do not clash. This would need to be explored further but is not a priority until the my set up is built, stable and running in production.

A couple general comments (although I'm not in the UK). Hubitat works with those zigbee 3.0 devices that follow the zigbee 3.0 spec and step down to work with ZHA 1.2 coordinators (like the Hubitat C-5/C-7). Many, but not all, certified zigbee 3.0 devices do this. Some devices, like zigbee green power devices, will not work with current Hubitat hubs.

I used to have several Ikea Tradfri USB zigbee repeaters. I've replaced them all with TuYa zigbee 3.0 USB repeaters. These are smaller and have simply not fallen off the network - unlike their Tradfri counterparts, which would sporadically do so.

Hue motion sensors are a good choice (and you can certainly use them for illumination as well). For temperature and humidity sensors, I've found the Konke zigbee 3.0 sensors to be excellent. There is a Hubitat community driver for them. The only caveat to their use is that the zigbee network can only use channels 15, 20, or 25, because those are the only channels the Konke devices support.

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@aaiyar Thank you so much for this.

Good to know re Zigbee 3.0 backward compatibility with the C7.

On repeaters, are you referring to these LoraTap ? They don't appear to ship with UK adapters. Do you use them with the supplied adapter or any old USB socket?

Thanks for the recommendation the Konke sensor.

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Yes.

Yes, I bought those on AliExpress for about USD 11.50 apiece without any adapter. I had a bunch of 5V, 1A USB adapters that I use.

That's the one. There are several community members who use that sensor. The only caveat to its use is the restriction in zigbee channel. But in general, channels 15, 20, and 25, have the least WiFi interference, so perhaps that drove Konke's design decision to restrict them to those channels.

Edit:

Depending on the number of repeaters you need, you can get deals like this one, which drop the cost to the price range I paid. FWIW, I bought a set of 6 for USD 68.88.

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Ouch - I just got 2 more of the Ikea ones as I had a couple of leak sensors that were out of range! I always see them in the routing table but most of my stuff seems to be routing through a Samsung Zigbee plug.

How do I know if they have fallen off the network? I have 3 Sengled bulbs that don't show on the routing table at all (but work just fine) and 2 that do show on the routing table. Baffled by that one as well.

When 2-5 end-devices all fall off at about the same time. In my experience that has been because the router they were routing through went offline. In this situation if I just unplug/plug the router, everything starts working again.

That is just a snapshot that displays devices directly connected to the hub. And those that are one hop away.

Edit: If you have a ton of zigbee devices, it is worthwhile setting up an xbee3 to map them.

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My home automation, like most I expect, started growing organically before the bug really got me and I then realised that I had made mistakes along the way. :upside_down_face:

I now go for a more architectural approach, similar to your approach above but my main recommendation is to keep it simple and have clear architectural principles. Please see my post: Smart Home Documentation & Architecture

The main complexity for me is that of Alexa. I have some devices that can't connect into Hubitat but can into Alexa (I tried GA but found it less stable and more complex - this may well have changed now but my mind works in an Alexa mode now :slight_smile: ) I try to have all of my automation within HE but due to the fact that some devices are not known to HE, I need to use virtual switches within HE to trigger Alexa routines. This obviously makes maintenance of automation more complex, hence my documentation post above, where I record the 'Managed' and 'Linked' systems. I strongly advise maintaining this documentation as you deploy your home automation as it's a lot easier than doing it retrospectively.

I also would recommend some naming standards for the use of HE: Please see my post at the end of this topic: Rule Machine Best Practices - #3 by UKMedia

Thank you for both of these links.

An architectural orientation is something that seems kind of missing in the world of DIY home automation as I've seen it so far. The focus seems to be on the devices first and then on the hubs, integrations and specific automation, with little focus on use cases. This seems a significant barrier to entry for new adopters that would be lowered if the focus began with the user experience, what you can do with automation, and then you can drill down into how this can be achieved at the application (hub etc programming) and physical (device) level. No doubt this will come as the industry matures.

While I have developed a reasonably good idea of how I would like things to work, I am struggling to work out whether or not I can achieve this with the devices (which i need to commit to fairly quickly given the stage of our build) that are available within the price bracket I'm willing to pay for the volumes I need - most immediately 40+ relay modules of various types, 10+ LED strip controllers and 10+ under cabinet lighting drivers. After ongoing review of what is available, I think some quick Proofs of Concept are in order!

The post on good practices with RM will be very useful when I actually get the time to start configuring automations in earnest.

Electric UFH Thermostat - For warming the tiles in bathrooms and drying the floor only, to be controlled with a dedicated smart thermostat with floor temperature sensor. - Moes White ZigBee Smart Thermostat Programmable Temperature Controller For Electric Floor Heating (BHT-002-GBLZBW)

Based on Tuya thermostat with floor water heating actuators It doesn't look like the Moes device works with Hubitat.

This thread HE compatible thermostat for uk offers some good, if somewhat more costly, alternatives. The best option looks to be the Heatmiser NeoStat-e. This definitely supports a floor probe and there is a community integration [Release] Heatmiser Neostat / Neoplug Integration from @cjcharles, though it does introduce yet another hub. The kit and additional thermostat from here are cheaper than most: https://www.vpsunderfloorheating.co.uk/heatmiser-bundles-kits/.

The Salus Quantum units might be cheaper all in as they don't need a hub but it is not clear from the documentation that they are suitable for electric underfloor heating with a floor probe. To be followed up.

Edit:
NeoStat-e with the NeoHub look like the way forward. Interestingly it looks like the ProWarm ProTouch IQ series is a rebrand of the HeatMiser Neo series which could help if we go with ProWarm mats.

The Salus Quantum SQ610RF is Zigbee but does not directly support electric UFH, requiring their Zigbee 16A relay (SR600) and integration through their UGE600 hub. I have asked about standards etc. but their docs are very focussed on using their own hub, app and rules engine, which I have no interest in, and they probably are using a proprietary Zigbee implementation. I'll update when I get a response.

Weather Sensors
This could be handy too instead of dedicated weather sensors for the external awning and could be used to trigger blind automations - Recommendation on HE integrated Weather Station with rain gauge. There is some availability in the UK -Ecowitt GW1003 Wi-Fi Gateway 6-in-1 Ultrasonic Sensor Package & Rain Gauge

I suggest that you determine your communications approach first. I use wi-fi for external devices due to the additional range and Zigbee internally due to low power consumption of battery devices. One of my painful lessons was to ensure that the Zigbee network was stable before adding any devices. Some pointers:

  • Most mains powered Zigbee devices also work as mesh extenders, battery devices don't. Personally I use Hue smart plugs, there are cheaper ones available but I find these work for me;
  • Hue bulbs don't act as particularly good repeaters except for other Hue bulbs;
  • As you have multiple floors I suggest that your first step is to add a Zigbee repeater on each floor that you don't have the HE hub.

Edit: I find with this approach that I only need a single HE hub for a 2100 sqft bungalow.

Do this about 72hrs before you add any other Zigbee devices - please also see: How to Build a Solid Zigbee Mesh - Hubitat Documentation

As for outside wi-fi control, I installed a Access Point externally: TP-Link EAP225-Outdoor AC1200 MU-MIMO Wireless Gigabit Indoor/Outdoor Access Point, 802.3af/Passive PoE, Easily Wall or Ceiling Mount, Free EAP Controller Software - AmazonSmile which has an amazing range on both 2.4 and 5GHz.

The other thing I did when rewiring my home was to create a number of 'Always on' circuits for my Hue lights. So in my kitchen I have 14 Hue GU10's in the ceiling which are always on and with an isolation switch near the consumer unit.

Edit: I also use the Hue Dimmer switch for manual control of the zones but this approach removes the risk of powering off the lights at a wall switch.

I've then divided my kitchen/dinner into zones: Cooking, Cleaning, and Eating. I then have voice controlled routines to set different types of white light and brightness within each zone depending upon the command: Eat, Wash, or Cook. My external lights, Hue also, are likewise connected to another 'Always On' circuit with another isolation switch.

Sounds awesome. That outdoor WiFi point is cool. Our garden is unfortunately only 6m wide by 5m deep so I was thinking I'd just put a ZigBee repeater at the rear of the house to cover the garden.

I'm going to follow @aaiyar's advice and use the Tuya repeaters he recommended above. Given all the steel beams we've put in, I'm thinking a minimum of 7 for the Hubitat mesh: one on each half floor and one at the rear of the ground floor for the garden. I'll probably go ahead and order 10 just in case.

For the moment I'm assuming the Hue mesh will have plenty of repeating from the lightbulbs unless I use alot of Sengled bulbs (I've yet to settle on which bulbs to use but probably not Hue given the price), but it'd be good to know if you use repeaters for the lighting mesh as well as the bulbs.

Thanks for the heads up on ensuring the repeater mesh is established before adding any further devices. Will be sure to do that.

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I've been really torn between going full on with always-on circuits, smart lights or centrally located dimmer modules, and remote control units ( Philips Hue Smart Wireless Dimmer Switch V2 or Lutron Pico Remotes) and a desire to ensure two things:

  • in the event the hub goes down, we have at least our main lights fully operable
  • in the event we want to sell the house, the lighting can be reverted to a fairly viable non-Smart set up

The former approach would certainly be cheaper in terms of installation and possibly also in terms of hardware.

In the end I settled on a bit of mix and match approach with all wiring going through in-room switch boxes and two types of circuit:

  1. always-on circuits with smart loads for accent lighting, to be remote controlled by physically switched smart relays at the switch box
  2. dimmed circuits with dumb loads using smart dimmer modules at the switch

How did you approach your always on circuits?

I like the approach to zoning your lighting.

I find that even at only 3M distance zigbee is defeated by damp grass! :slightly_smiling_face:

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