Lessons learned - what would you do differently if you were to start from scratch?

Wife and I are about to close on our first house, and it's an opportunity to do many things without the compromise that comes with smart home projects in a rental. I've spent hours reading threads about certain devices, and developed a plan for many "things" that will in some way tie in to Hubitat.

Even for someone with a few years of experience (and nearly one year with Hubitat), the research can be overwhelming. It would be great to hear the lessons learned by all of you and hopefully help myself and others avoid headaches. I am prioritizing reliability, usability (speed, and blending into the background), and keeping things reasonably local. WAF isn't an issue at this point :joy:

Security
HSM has served us fairly well using a mix of zigbee and zwave motion and contact sensors. But for various reasons, I'm quite interested in a standalone security system + Envisalink. Debating between the DSC and Honeywell systems, I'm pretty set on the idea of a DSC Powerseries 1864 with a mix of wired and wireless sensors and keypads. I would use the security system's sensors in Hubitat for automations.

Leak sensors
A few options for zwave/zigbee leak sensors, though the standalone security systems also have compatible leak sensors (wired and wireless). Any thoughts on the reliability of either? I'm leaning towards sensors that would work with standalone security. I do already have a Zwave WaterCop to install on the water main.

Smoke and CO detectors
Pretty much settled on Nest Protect. Three smoke detector locations in the house are hard wired, and Nest would allow us to add wireless versions in other areas.

Door locks
This is one of the more convoluted areas. I haven't found much agreement on preference of Zigbee or Zwave, or for brands/models of locks. I have the impression that people prefer Zigbee in this application. Because Schlage deadbolts are Grade 1 (something that really probably doesn't matter), I'm tentatively planning on going with Zigbee version of the Schlage Connect deadbolt.

Wall switches and dimmers
I'm reasonably certain that this 1964 built house does not have a neutral wire to wall switches. Given the many threads on Lutron, I'm leaning towards Lutron Caseta. However, new Zwave dimmers and switches are coming out that do not require neutral wires -- but it sounds like the reliability and immediacy of Lutron switches and hub is worth it over Zwave. I don't expect to come close to the device limit for Caseta.

Themostat
I debated a Zwave or Zigbee thermostat vs. learning, and think I'm leaning towards an Ecobee4 from Costco. I'm really not sure how much I plan to integrate the thermostat with Hubitat, but it sounds like Nest is no longer worth considering.

Window coverings
Getting a little off topic here, but after recovering from sticker shock on smart shades/blinds, we're leaning towards motorized Bali roller shades with Zwave. I'm not against a DIY solution, but haven't read much that leads me to believe it's worth doing over simply buying the shades.

Other things
I can't think of much else that I plan to do in the near-term. I'm leaning towards ditching my single Arlo Plus and installing Ubiquiti cameras with a Cloud Key Gen2, realizing there is currently no integration with Hubitat.

My own notable good or bad experiences:
-I've yet to find a zwave/zigbee siren that I'm happy with. I've tried many, both with Smartthings and Hubitat -- all have been buggy or unreliable at best.
-Keypad for HSM is great to have, even if you're arming/disarming in other ways.
-GE Link zigbee bulbs have all been unreliable and need to be repaired every few months.
-Hue hub + bulbs have been flawless, though I'm hoping to step away from smart bulbs.

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Inovelli has some new dimmers coming out (should still be in pre order) that they say can work without a neutral and are Zwave. I have some of their older switches (require a neutral) and am happy with the features and quality. Something to keep in mind if you want.

Also keep in mind when you go with these smart switches you may run into incompatibility issues with your led lights or pot lights. Neutral less switches will leak a little energy so they can grab power for themselves, in this case if your lights require very little power they may not turn fully off. Even saw this with a switch that needed a neutral. Just something to watch out for.

Ecobee 3 was my first home automation purchase. If you don't plan to integrate it into your HE ecosystem then it would probably be a good choice. If you want to integrate it there are a few things.

First, it still requires cloud connectivity for control and they have been having a lot of issues with cloud lately but are working on it. The sensors are exposed to HE as motion/temp sensors but can't really be used for anything useful in HE as they update every 15 minutes or something like that. So using them to turn on/off lights is useless. And the integration into HE allows you to adjust the ecobee temp, but if you are using sensors once you adjust the temp you lose the sensor functionality. I get around this by using the comfort profiles and triggering them via IFTTT. Hopefully they will integrate this feature one day.

As a stand alone system it works nicely though. I just integrate it so I can have it do things like, go into away mode when I leave (so my dog doesn't stop it) and also go into a "disabled" mode if my door or window is open for a long period of time and turning back on when closed.

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For leak sensors, I use the SmartThings V4 leak sensors for my aquariums and other water applications around the house they have worked really well. I have 4 tanks going right now and each one has a leak sensor under it and one of them saved my critters from a tank break a few months ago. I also have a leak sensor on my outside RO/DI system and I use it as an alert when my float valve fails (which is more often than I want to admit).

Door locks, yeah, Zigbee has been ultra reliable for me. I've replaced both my door locks over the past couple months from Kwikset Z-Wave models to Yale YRD Zigbee models and neither one has dropped or lost a message once.

Lutron for the wall switches is probably the BEST you can go. I'm actually planning on swapping out all my HS/GE switches over to them in the next month or too.

Window blinds: I'm waiting for the Ikea smart blinds to drop in April before I make a decision on any smart blinds/shades. I've seen all the DIY videos and even took a few attempts at my own, but so far, none have really made me jump up and want to throw my money at them.

Finally, I swear by my Ecobee 3. I've had it since release day (Oct 2016) and I've never thought about upgrading it or changing away from it. I have it integrated into HE, but honestly, I've not even changed the routines I built into the Ecobee from 2 years ago. LOL

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I'm a stickler for defining functional requirements before getting too far into a project. I don't hear a lot of functional requirements in your initial statement. What are you trying to accomplish? Is this a hobby? Do you travel a lot and need all these systems to work for someone who may not be intimately familiar with the house? Or, would you prefer to lock it, alarm it, and be able to monitor any issues from the beach (or where ever)? Will you maintain it? If not, who? What are your long term plans? Live in this house for 20 - 30 years? Move again in 4 - 6 years?

Those are just a few of the functional "requirements" that might help guide some of your decisions.

I started with it as a technical hobby. Now I realize, while I enjoy the technology and experimenting, the basic stuff just needs to work. I could have a house without a light switch. I could use voice, motion, and rules to do it all. When we travel we have a house/dog sitter that lives in our house. All this stuff has to work for that person and their habits and schedules - not just for us. Our house is rarely empty. I am getting older and I need to think about how this stuff would be maintained if I were not around or not capable of maintaining it. Thus I am looking more at mainstream, commercially supported products.

The things that bug me? Having to replace batteries. Devices that can't easily have firmware updated. In ability to make the entire house fairly consistent (this seems to be a problem in that the life cycle of some of the products is shorter than the time it takes to install or replace all the units in a house).

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LOL, I created Alexa help skills for that very reason. When we have guests over that have never dealt with a "smart home", there are notes posted around the house that basically say "Need help? Say "Alexa, help me". She has a full dictionary of how everything in the house works.

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Yea blinds are tough without breaking the bank.
I have faux wood blind, which I prefer over the look of cellular shades.
Tilting them seems so easy to automate but I've struggled for years with DIYing it.

This spring I'm planning on mastering it and doing it throughout my entire house.
I have to research new boards though as my preferred architecture has moved from cloud to local.

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No right answer to any of this... These are my OPINIONS, and you are getting what you are paying for in them. :smile:

I would do it in Hubitat. If you want monitored, you can still do that with Konnected and/or Noonlight. Security systems are pretty useless, really. They only tell you that your stuff was already stolen - they prevent almost zero robberies now that most home robberies are fast smash and grabs (and there are statistics on that).

Now, if you view this as a 'critical system' then get a standalone security system, integrate with Konnected or Envisalink.

I do this in Hubitat, alerted from HSM. I use SmartThings leak sensors. I have ~20 of them.

I hated Nest Protect with a passion. That was a ~$1000 mistake. I had the current/latest version, and had repeated issues with false alarms. Cleaned all of them multiple times for dust/bugs/debris, per Nest's recommendation. Nest replaced a few of them for free, but the problem never stopped.

That said, I'm sure others will immediately chime in and say they have had zero issues with them. So whatever.

Ripped them out, put in traditional smoke/CO detectors with an Ecolink FireFighter device to integrate with Hubitat. Cost about 1/3 of what the nest protects cost, and works perfectly 24/7. Alerts done via Hubitat HSM.

Zigbee, not zwave. I just ripped out all zwave locks in my house, replacing with zigbee, and have never been happier. I am less picky about vendor, and have used Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale. Currently using Kwikset.

If no neutral - Caseta, or the new Inovelli models. If neutral - I still like the GE Motion Switch / Motion Dimmer. They don't have as many features as some models (no LEDs, no double/triple/infinity tap), but having the hard wired / no battery motion detector in every room is SUPER useful in my automations.

I used Ecobee for years. They work great if you don't want to do any integration with your automation system. The cloud integration was just too unreliable and slow for my uses, but I do a lot of integration with automated vents (Keen). So I changed to GoControl GC-TBZ48, and schedule via Hubitat.

Since I already have reliable presence sensing/detection/states in Hubitat, scheduling it there allows me to coordinate everything that relies on presence from one place.

Selling all my Ecobee stuff now.

Nothing. If you don't have wiring pre-run, or a good source of solar, not worth the money at all. If you have power or good solar exposure (no big overhangs, tinted windows, or very efficient low-e windows) it might be fun. but it is still still expensive / a hassle.

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From what I've seen, those faux wood blinds are a pain to DIY because you have to have two motors, one for the tilt and one for lift. I have some of those on my windows as well and when I was researching it, my wife actually told me that she'd be happier with smart curtains and just a rod at the top of the window than having to have "all that stupid machinery mounted on the wall" (her words, not mine). LOL

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Yea thank goodness I'm off the hook for the lift.
Just trying to tilt.

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Konnected.io as others have suggested. Personally, I'm content with HSM, it's far superior to SHM on SmartThings. I live in a multidwelling property which I own, there's always someone on premises at all hours, so security isn't a huge concern to me. Still, HSM still could use a bit of added polish, including minor things like homepage status in the admin UI.

I think I've have virtually every leak sensor on the market in the past 5 years (j/k) including Everspring/Utilitech Z-Wave, as well as several PeQ, Iris v2, SmartThings v4, & SmartThings 2018, all Zigbee. The PeQ's seem to eat batteries the fastest. I like the 2018 SmartThings model as it has a collection "cup" on the top cover to detect water dripping onto it. It still has the contact on the bottom too. The Z-Wave sensors are my second choice as they have a remote probe on a 10' cable which allows you to hide the radio portion in a cabinet. Battery life is a couple years on the things too.

I've heard rumors that Google is limited access to the Nest developer program which may limit your ability to integrate these into Hubitat. For me anything Google & HA related are a non-starter due to privacy issues. I'm also bitter over how they handled the Revolv shutdown.

This is one area I wish I could have a do-over, but with investments in 8 Z-Wave locks, it is not financially worth it. My experience has convinced me that Z-Wave is just not the optimal protocol for locks. Zigbee locks always seem to be more responsive and less prone to disconnections. There was a Youtube video posted a few years ago comparing the same Yale lock against itself by changing just the radio modules.

I've never used Lutron, but this is another case where if I had it to do over I would go Lutron. I've recently had a rash of GE Z-Wave switch failures (3 in 6 months), all purchased at the same time 4 years ago. I've never had issues with the performance of Z-Wave switches, but do think the Caseta line is more aesthetically appealing.

The Ecobee has been a winner for me, So much so, that I put them in my rentals too. The API is persnickety so 3rd party integrations can be irritating, but I like how reliable it is at doing its core functions. The one in my place is about 1 1/2 years old and has never let me down.

I'm watching this thread for recommendations. I don't have any but will be replacing some window treatments this year.

The Utilitech/Everspring sirens have always been reliable for me. They're not very loud compared to wired sirens, but they fit the bill.

Link bulbs suck. Individual mileage may vary, but the consensus is usually to avoid them.

I like Hue myself. I personally don't want a bunch of WiFi light buts clogging up my WiFi mesh, I've already got over 50 wireless devices as it is. I've noticed the Hue bulbs don't play nice with Hubitat and try to connect to the hub even if the hub is not in Inclusion, requiring me to use a Hue remote to reset them,

I have a huge Arlo investment, but I'm starting to regret it. If I was to do it again, I'd use Blueiris as a back end, and some cheap PoE cameras from Amazon. I think I'd get better quality for less money.

Good luck with your new place!

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+1,000,000 for this.

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I actually have this setup now. My wife LOVES cameras and our tiny, 1200 sq ft house has 14 POE cameras running right now on an Amcrest POE DVR. I have nearly all the options turned off there and use BI for recording and motion alerts. Granted, I have a 4TB drive in the Amcrest just in case BI (or the crappy PC I'm running it on) dies. I've been working on transitioning over to an app called Shinobi (which can run on one or more RPis) to replace BI, but it's been slow going.

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This is ultimately why I'm considering standalone security. It's a combination of UI along with very small but occasional issues with using a hub and zwave and zigbee sensors, just hasn't sat well with us. This isn't exclusive to Hubitat or HSM by any means - but it's the one area where I don't want to think twice about reliability or whether sensors are communicating propertly.

As mentioned earlier in the thread, a security system certainly doesn't make a house more resistant to break-ins, but realistically, the only thing that would are steel doors and boarded up windows. This is more for our own safety in the middle of the night, and peace of mind knowing that if someone breaks into the basement two floors down, I know about it and have some time to react.

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True. To be honest, the cameras that are mounted in plain sight on the front and back of my house do much more to deter break-ins than any security system ever would or could. Basically, I use motion, contact, and water leak sensors for automation more than for security purposes. Using the BI integration to HE, I can trigger one of my exterior Dome sirens should someone trip my back yard cameras.

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On Nest, NST manager is now available on Hubitat.

I like Nest's because of the integration of the thermostat with the smoke detectors, etc, and the automations that are available. Below does not require you to have your own account.

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Good grief!

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At least my WAF is 100% (in regards to the cameras). So, there's that, right? :wink:

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Absolutely!!

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Choices are all about time vs. cost vs. performance. In the current evolving environment my rule of thumb is to try to make sure there is more than 1 point of control. For better or worse, spending more $ will get you more capability.

The best performing lighting controls are Lutron (Caseta or RadioRA 2). Go RadioRA 2 for highest capabilities. The Maestro style switches work like their non-smart cousins. A single button with dim/bright bar is aesthetically better for many people than a 4 button Caseta control. One can set default on levels and dim rates that are not possible on Caseta. RA 2 also has physical multi button keypads that work well. And the motion sensors work well too. The downside is RadioRA2 cost is 2x Caseta. If you can, add neutrals, but both RadioRA 2 and Caseta have non-neutral dimmers.

The next level are Z-Wave dimmers/switches. The Levitions perform well and have good aesthetics (up, down, dim/bright bar). Some people like the GE dimmers, but I don't understand :).

For monitored Security I'd go with a system from a security vendor especially with wired devices. Konnected has a product that can at least monitor status in HE.

Smoke and CO detectors - I've had good success with Nest. But I heed the cost advice from @JasonJoelOld. Depending on the detector count it's easy to spend a lot on the Nest.

Themostat the HVAC world is evolving quickly. The more complex systems (2 stage, variable fans) don't usually work with 3rd party thermostats including Nest or Ecobee. I have a Rheem system that does integrate with HE, but it's a programmable, not smart, thermostat. To get presence and other "smarts" you need to program rules in HE.

Door locks I don't have one now, but I have a Yale on order. You can run Z-wave, ZigBee, or August modules in the same lock. I'm going with August as its app is best and it also includes HomeKit capability. HomeKit automations can trigger a virtual switch back to HE for any automation via HomeBridge.

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If you could start a “How To” thread on this it would be amazing!