My 10 rules of smart homing

I've been a Hubitat user for about three years now. Thought I would share some things I've learned from the experience, in the hope it might be useful for others. These are the rules that I've found work well for me. YMMV.

Rule 0- Remember the goal.
The goal here is improve the living conditions of my home using off-the shelf smart home technology, while having fun doing it.
It's a hobby, not a requirement. Old school ways are perfectly acceptable. If it won't work, put in a dumb switch and worry about it later.

Rule 1- Remember your audience.
Another way of putting this would be, Do what people expect. Be conventional. The goal isn't to change how people have been living with electricity and electric lights for a hundred years. The goal is to add on to that with added capabilities, mostly automation. The worst sin here is to be annoying. Rule 1 addendum. Never be annoying.

Rule 2-Not every light needs a switch, but most do.
I am defining "switch" here broadly. Some sort of physical device that allows a human to control the light. My goal is actually to make it so nobody would ever need to touch a switch in my house. The idea is to anticipate what they will want and give it to them before they know they want it. But, even if I could do that completely, the switch is for the exception. If anybody ever asks you how to turn on or adjust something that you are okay with them adjusting, you need a switch. How often those switches are being used is a good measure of how well you are doing with your setup. Hallways are easy. The family room is probably impossible. I have found, that when it comes to accent lighting, it's pretty easy to get it so well automated that nobody ever wants a switch. In that case don't bother.

Rule 3-Try to make it intuitive.
Do what people expect and are used to. eg, Up is on, down is off. Switches control lights either at the light or at the entrance to a room, etc. No wheel reinventing needed. In the case of most automated lighting, the intuitive thing is the lights coming on at the right level and color temp when a human walks into the room, and staying on until they either leave or want them to turn off. Rule 3 addendum. Labels are not intuitive, they are ugly.

Rule 4-Make heavy use of scenes.
Scenes are the real secret to good smart lighting. You'll notice people don't actually care which bulbs or fixtures turn on when the lights come on. They care that the lighting is at the right level, and sometimes the right color temperature. Figure out what lights will give you that proper level at the proper time and very few switches will be touched. In addition, buttons should always activate scenes. For example. My Pico buttons give the user 5 different scene options with off on the bottom and the most commonly used one on the top.

Rule 5-Try to avoid manual dimming.
The big exception to this is dimming with a knob. These have been around for decades and are very intuitive. But dimming by holding down a paddle switch is annoying and hard to get right. There are situations where there is no way around this. But it's best not to expect people to do this on a regular basis. And god forbid, don't try to set this up manually on something like a Pico or Hue using the "released" option. You'll create an annoying monstrosity that nobody will ever use. Ask me how I know?

Rule 6-"held" is better than "double tap", but using neither is better
Both are unintuitive and annoying. They should really only be used for the next rule. But if you must, held is better because it can't vary with the switch. Hold the button 'til the thing happens and then let go, pretty simple.

Rule 7-Make secret options
Why you would want to do this is up to you, there are good reasons. Sometimes it's just for fun. Things like "hold", "double tap", or "released" can be used to set up those options.

Rule 8-Lock things out
You are the king here. You run the home, and there are reasons you don't want people messing with things they shouldn't. For example, I pay the electric and gas bills. Which means I get to set the thermostat. It doesn't change unless I allow it. There may also be lights you don't want turned off or other devices you don't want people changing. Some devices have a way to disable physical control in their settings. In other cases you can create rules to accomplish it. But lock out what needs to be locked out.

Rule 9-Color is usually unnecessary.
Most of the color bulbs I have never get put in color mode. Save your money and get a decent bulb that changes color temp, that's all you ever need in most cases. Color is useful for warning lights and sometimes accent lights. I have a color bulb in the garage that changes color based on the temp in my garage freezer and some color accents above my kitchen cupboards.

Rule 10-Ask for feedback
People will put up with slightly annoying things for a very long time, because it's too much trouble to fix them. If you want a good smart home you have to be open to feedback. If something is annoying people, or not working right, you need to know about it. Let people know you welcome the feedback. If they know that you enjoy fixing the problems, that it's a hobby not a chore, they'll be more likely to let you know when something is wrong. If you feel annoyed by the feedback, refer to rule 0.

Thanks for reading. What are your rules for a good smart home?


Not here :uk:

Otherwise I agree with most of what you've said. Definitely true about the 'Family Room' or 'Lounge' as we'd call it - it's difficult to automate how you might want the lights. Usually we'll be looking out to the garden with its lighting and with curtains closed we may just put a lamp on while watching TV or a film.

I've also been using Hubitat for nearly three years. At the start I was always looking for ideas of things to automate and control. I'm at the point now where we almost take things for granted - curtains and shades opening/closing, lights on/off, alarm on/off, notifications/reminders on dashboards - it's all very convenient. When we're away and walk into a hotel room it's a bit confusing when I have to use a switch.


Love it. I pretty much agree with and abide by the same things. I like the tip about using Held instead of DT, only issue is holding on a dimmer often adjusts the level, but that can possibly be turned off so it could be more easily used for scene control.

You are right about the hold-to-dim thing, its there yes, but we dont use it very often. I have the preferred levels preset and sometimes varying based on the time of day. I do use the built in Zooz DT to 100% sometimes (or tell alexa set lights to 100%)

I think I need to make more scenes for the family room. People are always adjusting the 3 light switches based on different tasks, watching a movie vs craft / paper projects, etc...

I thought of one more rule/tip to add.

Use Dimmers everywhere possible (if not using smart bulbs)
Check compatibility with your bulbs / fixture first obviously. You may always set the light to 100%, but having that option to dim typically does not add much cost for smart switches. I put dimmers pretty much everywhere except my outdoor lights, and use the levels in most rooms. Having dimming for the outdoor light might even have come in handy sometimes.


This is exactly what I am doing because for my wife everything other than simple button
single push does not exist. But even this is not necessary because everything is
100%+ automated.

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Great post. Thanks.

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Very good one.

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Strange. Very strange. :wink:

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We have a dimmer on the back porch floods. Definitely don't want those on full blast when relaxing there in the evening.

Consistent naming of devices within rooms. Don't force users to memorize 200 different device names.

e.g., Bedroom overhead lights, Bathroom overhead lights.

Automate rather than merely provide dashboard control - anticipate what users want, have the home do it for them. Motion detectors, etc. Remember, home automation is exactly that, not dashboard control.


So true!


I'll disagree here. I can't even begin to explain how much of an impact flipping main lighting to dark orange/red helps with circadian rhythm. Both going to bed and getting up in the morning.


Great post!!

For me, and I've posted about this a few times...

Options, Options, Options!!!
The concept of choosing platform agnostic devices or solutions with multiple options for control or interaction is a big one for me. Apart from the more general concepts like this from my IT background, it was also captured quite well by Matt Ferrell on YouTube in a few of his videos about smart home tech (below is one example and perhaps the first I watched). He talks about choosing devices that have as wider range of platform support as possible, allowing easy transition between platforms at any stage.

For me, this translated into examples such as:

  • Philips Hue - supported by each of the major voice assistants, smart home platforms, plus control of my lighting through their App and physical accessories (Like many, I'm not as worried about IFTTT support nowadays)
  • Logitech Harmony Elite - Again, control via various assistants, smart home platforms, plus the remote and Logitech Harmony mobile App
  • Somfy Motors and Bond Bridge - I can use the Bond App, Hubitat (and others) and the physical remotes that came with the motors
  • Kasa Plugs, SensorPush Temp/Humidity Sensors, etc, etc.

Each of these choices have also meant I can integrate these devices side-by-side with my Hubitat and NodeRED / Home Assistant setups. The addition of MQTT for some of my IKEA and Philips Hue Tap Dial devices, along with the great Community Apps for syncing these with HE provide a whole other range of options.

I've probably written too much already :slight_smile: You hopefully get the idea....

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when you dive into a thread where people are on a whole different level! :slight_smile: thanks

Keep it simple.


My rule is don't follow any "rules". My smart home works for my wife and I. It also works well for guests we regularly have. I don't really care if it is "best practices" or "true automation" it is how we like it and it works for us.

I have always appreciated HE as a product that doesn't push a user in any direction as to how their smart home should be set-up. If you want a tablet dashboard on the wall, great. If you think a tablet wall mounted dashboard is against the spirit of an automated home, no problem. HE seems to take the path, of do what you want, how you want.


My rule number one is "it must retain its dumb operation".

If I make something "smart" It has to still function the way it used to.

A guest should be able to navigate my home as if it was any other home. Home automation shouldn't be obvious, it should be integrated. Walking into a room and flipping the light switch will turn on the lights but what they don't know is that the switch they just flipped is actually controlling several devices (10 in my living room) all dimming to the proper level/temperature to not be strenuous on the eyes or induce glare on the television. There's a dashboard in the room to take things to another level but the basics have to remain basic.


Good rule, 359.

Being a Lutron home, I give every newbie a quick this-is-how-the-dimmers-work lesson, but other than that, I've stuck to your rule.

Another good rule: for identical situations, use identical setups. Every bathroom in my house has two switches, lights and fan, with lights closest to the door; every bedroom has three (lights, fans, shades), always in the same order.

For those that need that, it can be very important. No argument.

That said multiple studies show that very few people actually "need" assistance with their rhythms.

Fair enough, then just amend my statement to:

I can't even begin to explain how much of an impact flipping main lighting to dark orange/red helps with melatonin production when preparing for bed.

Granted, there's only so much you can do to combat the little blue light emitters glued to most of us or having the TV on when trying to go to sleep.

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No argument with any of that. Not that you were asking for a debate. Lol.

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