How does everyone deal with the WAF?

Okay, so it seems as though everyone in the house but me has issues with the automation. The WAF has plummeted (not that it was ever very high). I have set it all up so that it is what I think is the easiest to use whether by voice, straight automated, or physical switch. They all seem to not be able to use it (each of the family has issues using anything). I have Inovelli, Zooz, some GE devices, so yes there are some slight differences but for practical use they are all set up the same. I guess what I am hoping for by this post is some insight as to how everyone has this working so family can understand and use the system. I have all three hubs connected through hub connect with all three setup to communicate with my Echo devices so the TV can be turned on by voice etc. Well I think the TV is the biggest issue each room has a Harmony hub running all setup identically so that there is ease of use/commonality from room to room. I have had the stuff running for well over five years and have not changed the names of any device’s. I got heavy push back when voice was first integrated and now when voice control can’t hear because its too noisy each of them gets mad instead of walking to a switch and pushing the button to turn it on or off. Any suggestions to ease their irritation/frustration and get them and the automation to work together would be greatly appreciated! PLEASE I AM AT MY WITS END!

What are the main complaint(s) regarding the automation?

The initial complaints I got when starting centered around controlling things. Voice control seemed like the best solution, however got similar complaints regarding noise levels. There wasn't much love for "yelling" at the house to do things.

Based on the feedback, I made notes of the required "yelling". It typically centered around turning on the lights in a room. So the question then became, how can I solve the problem of turning on/off lights without requiring manual interaction.

The solution for me ended up being Hubitat (replacing Wink), smart switches, and motion sensors. After a few rounds of refinement, the introduction of motion lighting has proven to be a huge boost.

TLDR - Find out why people are complaining, and try to eliminate the complaints by automating away the problem (if possible).


Also keep in mind that some people simply DO NOT WANT automation.

My parents for example... There is no amount of improving the automation that would make them like it. They want to be in full control 100% of the time. They don't always want light on at X% at Y time - THEY want to decide on a case by case basis. And they sure as hell don't want to use a voice assistant. And that is OK.

My point in that is that sometimes you can't fix it / force the issue. But as others have said, start with what is the actual problem, and see if you can fix/work around it.


If voice command is not reliable, ditch it! WAF is highest with the SIMPLEST system. Let the family use a remote control for the TV, and let the system take care of things (like turning OFF the TV!) when the family wanders away from the TV for an hour.

The problem with voice command (in my humble view) is the insistence that vendors have on forcing us to say their brand names. So, on my Pixel phone, I taught the assistant to wake up on the phrase "OK, Cool", rather than "OK Google", as this is a more natural way to start a command. Eventually, one will be able to set this "wake up phrase", just as one was able to do with Garmin GPS devices for the past decade.

So, for TV/stereo let the remote be the primary interface, and keep it as simple as possible. We use a Roku remote as our only TV control, as it has the least buttons. The stereo rarely plays "radio", "phonograph", or "CD", so it is set up by default to play whatever is being bluetoothed from a phone, and I have found that my wife will use the TuneIn app to play WFAN (local sports talk station) over the stereo, so she is using a McIntosh MC240 amp and Ohm Walsh 2 speakers to listen to... a radio call-in show. She'd rather not listen through the static of AM radio, and this is a static-free stream.

So, I take a few extra steps, and leave the defaults set to please the Wife.

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The resolution to every problem is agreement on "what problem are we trying to solve". If you can't answer that question, you can't make progress in a mutually agreed upon way.

That is true of pretty much everything in life in my experience.

And as an engineering director, I tell that to people all the time, coupled with "if you can't explain why you are doing it, and what problem you are solving - STOP WORKING ON IT".

Engineers have a really bad habit of "improving" things that aren't broken (and often making it worse). Too many engineers have no concept of "good enough" and tweak into oblivion.


I know that many will not agree with me, but I have found a strategy that works SOME of the time.

In many areas of my home, I have banks of two switches. For example, in my living room, I have a double gang that controls all of the lights in that room. A while ago, I decided to do an experiment. I replaced 2 Leviton Zwave switches that were there, with a Enerwave RMS2 dual relay. (An Aeotec dual nano would do the same, and there are others...). So, instead of seeing these strange switches, they see standard, decora switches.
"Wow! " My wife said. "You're listening to me when I said I wanted simple switches!"
Of course, behind the standard decora switches, the automation goes on!
Just my take....


What is this of which you speak? I am not sure what you are talking about.

I have a Mechanical Engineering degree but have never used it but that describes me to a T. By the way, shouldn't you be busy tweaking your Node Red Flows to get them "just right" visually???? :smile:


Nah, I don't really care about that. I just like to give you crap about yours. Lol.

Actually I find that node-red likes to move my nodes around a block or two every once in awhile all on its own. So I have given up on keeping them perfectly aligned.

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My goal is to make automation as invisible as possible. With the larger houses that I have been working with the goal it to make the rooms inviting with the right lighting that works on it's own without physically taking actions. Then detecting activities such a wake, sleep, shorter days, dark skies, rain, and external activities and providing the niceties such as notification of garage doors open or opening, mail arrival etc.

There is nothing worse that having a kitchen light turn off while someone is actually cooking dinner, or the TV turning off due to lack of triggerable motion in the room. Or worse having the house light up like a beacon due to a false intrusion, water leak, or weather event.

Now with that said there are still manual ways of interacting and triggering events such as scene based switches and dashboards on tablets. With that comes some education of the client, for example 1 tap up on a switch puts into the right scene for the room based on conditions. Two taps up turns the room up bright. 1 tap down resets to room to current conditions, two taps down turns everything off in the room.

I have found most folks don't like yelling out command where a strategically placed simple button does the trick. Many hate pulling out a mobile phone to bring up a app and then press some buttons. WAF is a fickle thing you have to find the right balance.

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I tend towards @ronv42's position, with a healthy dose of @JasonJoel's comment thrown in for good measure.

However, I also have an intense dislike of voice control anyway, I personally think its gimmicky and generally useless, so that makes me lean towards invisible and simple automations over complex things.

I've noticed WAF is highest on motion lighting, and automation of things the Mrs doesn't care about. For example I have alerts on a few sensors sent to myself so I can check or fix things, and automated outdoor lighting for security purposes. I also use a fair amount of conveniently located Samsung buttons to "override" some automations.

Beyond that I spend a lot of time planning new automations to be as invisible as possible!



WAF or HAF in the case of @april.brandt is complicated and the variables are different in every household.. For me it was maintaining just enough “manual” control over her environment.

Unique to my situation however, WAF in my house went to 100% the moment the primary source of household income switched to home automation.


I can imagine! My WAF would climb dramatically if that were the case for sure!


I feel you on this one. 7 people in this house aged 11 to 70. Is very difficult creating automation that work for everyone. To keep the wife on board I focus on the things she thinks are "cool" .

In regards to voice assistants and loud noise I just setup multiple assistants in these rooms. With coverage in every direction response improves but is still not perfect.

I generally keep things simple and provide a lot of options. The family in general doesn’t have to ever touch wall switches or worry about lighting period. All lighting is automated based on time of day, presence, motion, etc. Google home in every room can be used for issuing simple commands like “good night”, or “turn on the fan” etc. the GH commands are customized for every room and person. And HomeKit can be used for controlling stuff when outside the home.

I don’t automate things just for the sake of automation. So for instance, TVs are still controlled using TV remotes just because it’s the simplest option for my family members.

My wife was Initially resistant to automation, but now she loves it. Things like waking up and walking through the house and lights coming on as she walks through the hallway and as she arrives in the kitchen etc is a convenience, not a nuisance. Or the fact that the kids can simply say “ good night” and their lights turn off instead having to get up from bed and turn off lights. Or the fact that the house locks up for the night, arms the alarm, and turns off lights in the whole house, again that’s just convenient

For the family members that don’t like voice control or automation, why not just encourage them to continue using the light switches, harmony remote, etc?

Having automations and/or voice control setup, but still maintaining a manual option for most devices, should help.

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I have never before heard this express so well. Thanks.

My family, like most I assume, doesn't care very much about the automations from a "oh that's neat/fun" perspective. They just want the house to work and they don't want to be required to think about it at all.

Everything needs to be as simple as a toaster: Drop in the bread, push down the lever, and it pops up when done. Any "Smart" automation/feature that takes more thinking than that just isn't smart enough.

Below is what works for my family's WAF, YMMV of course.

  1. Voice control - Does not work for my family at all. They can't/won't remember phrases, don't want to have to remember phrases, they HATE being asked to remember phrases. OK, OK. So voice control is only for me. I need other familiar options for them.
  2. Automation works extremely well for familiar use cases, e.g., turning on lights when someone goes into a room/area is VERY popular. Every location I've done that I get applause. Turning on the light in the entryway between family room and bedrooms at the other end of the house in the evening so there is some automatic lighting while moving around the house got a standing ovation. So dazzle 'em w/simple things that are familiar and constantly useful.
  3. NO SMART SPEAKERS IN THE BEDROOM! (This one I agree with, so no issues.)
  4. Buttons are good. Again, familiarity makes these easy for them to adopt. w/no thinking. BUT they must be reliable. Any smart button that fails twice will never be used again. Ever.
  5. Don't expect them to remember "The right way" to do anything. The "smart" stuff must be smart enough to recover from all the "dumb" things they will do. Any "if a then b" or "only do this after you do that" requests of the family will be willfully ignored, and the result mess blamed squarely on you and your "annoying changes." If it isn't bullet proof, don't do implement it.
  6. No smart lights are allowed unless they can be controlled in a "normal" way. E.g., putting smart lights in a table lamp, or plugging a table lamp into a smart plug is asking for trouble. Someone will turn it off via the lamp switch, light is now dead, and it's your fault the light won't work.
  7. Re #6 have a small, fighting chance IF you combine a smart bulb in a lamp with a smart button to control it that is placed in such a convenient and obvious lcation that they will be delighted by the easier access to the lamp control. We have lamps in the bedroom, I added Hue bulbs to them and provided a minimote attached to my wife's bedside table just a few inches from her. Now she can reach out a few inches to turn her lamp on/off, rather than having to reach up and across her bedside table to get to the lamp switch. I also turn on our bedside lamps automatically when we go to the bedroom at night (via an automation that I run) so the lights are already on when we get there. Win/win, great praise for me.
  8. Providing additional control to solve an existing problem that can't be solved w/out smart features can be a huge win. My wife and I have minimotes attached our bedside tables that can control our own light, and also each other's lights. In the past if I fell asleep w/my light on she would have to get up to turn it off, or wake me up, which was not fun for either of us. Now she can tap a button on her minimote and my light turns off. That was one of the biggest "Well maybe this smart stuff is pretty cool after all" wins I've had.
  9. HW variation is your enemy. I've tried to have only one type of light switch (combination of GE, Honeywell, and other Jasco variants that all are essentially the same switch and behave the same). Even small differences are amazing in how much they can throw my family off. Every light switch they ever used before smart switches behaved the same, and they can't deal w/smart switches also not at least being consistent w/each other.
  10. If there are smart and non-smart options they will find and use the non-smart options, so don't expect to win all of those no matter what you do. I tried, but gave up automating fans/fan lighting via bond and smart buttons because my family kept finding the original fan remote control and using it. They just were used to it and liked it better.
  11. Trying to physically block access to non-smart options MAY help, but in my case more likely not. I have a light in our office where I've put in a Hue bulb (want to use it in some laundry notification automations). I provided a couple minimotes velcroed in different locations in the office to turn it on/off. However, there is still the "dumb" wall switch for the light. So I tried to use packing tape to keep the wall switch in the On position, and discussed why w/family. Result: They still pull the tape off and start using the wall switch every few weeks or so when they can't find one of the minimotes quickly enough for their purposes. I've velcroed the minimotes down but they actually pull them off the vecro and lose them. So I'm giving up on that approach and will be putting in a smart switch. (Didn't before due to limited switch box space, but newer low profile switches will now fit.)

That's my (ongoing) experience w/my family. YMMV of course. :slight_smile:


A trancendental truth - I think Buddah was the first to say that.

The only change I would make to above would be:

Too many engineers and marketing product managers have no concept of "good enough" and tweak into oblivion.

I consider marketing product managers to be SW/HW/FW engineers evil enablers. :wink:

Wow, thank you all for the insight from your perspective. I guess my frustration was/is getting the best of me. As an aircraft mechanic for 30 years I should know better, step back and look at their complaints ( at the suggestion by @JasonJoel), I asked my wife, my daughter, and my mother who is in her 70’s to list their respective complaints. The firmware on my Inovelli dimmers and switches has helped some, thanks @Eric_Inovelli but, I still have some to update. The dimmers have a slight delay and I think that this may be what is catching them and causing the multiple pushes of the switches/dimmers (scene capable) so not the instant on they expect. As to the voice control they were against it early on now the want it. The TV’s are only controlled by voice for the on and off. I have started to use remotes for our bedroom (Inovelli fan/light switch) which caused a bit of grief for me as the RF side of the device was causing disconnect issues then the WDis-AF kicked in on high gear for everything. The buttons suggestion @danabw made may be my next attempt at streamlining it for everyone. @bcopeland firmware updater has help fix some but not all issues, still have firmware to update. Simple is what I am looking to do but it seems that the simpler the automation the more difficult to get setup to work with no hiccups. Some of the automations are if a light is turned on it stays on with motion and turns off with the cessation of motion plus some preset time. Not the best but so far it has been okay. The bathroom exhaust fans if turned on will stay on if the light is on and will run for 5 minutes if light is turned off which they all seem to like. Thank you for all the suggestions thus far! KEEP THEM COMING!

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I don't know if you've already considered it, but we use the Harmony Hub for control of our entertainment centers (family room and office) and the Harmony hub is, as a friend refers to it, a "Marriage Saver."

Even my wife can use the Harmony remote w/relative ease, which is saying something. She is an amazingly intelligent woman who works at the Director level in her company, but TV remotes are her kryptonite. :wink:

You can get voice control via GH or Alexa integrations, and there is an HE community integration that Ogiewon wrote.