My personal review mega thread

XPosted to Reddit HomeAutomation.

[Updated Dec 18, 2019 (but nothing really new, just a few touch-ups)]

Quick reviews of things I've tried, with a few tips and tricks throw in. If it's not listed, I've probably not used it. Will edit over time with everything I've forgotten to mention, or with new things.


Controllers


SmartThings

Pro: Easy to set up.

Pro: Relatively easy to use.

Pro: Decent app (with presence tracking).

Pro: Google Home and Alexa integration.

Pro: (Unofficially) supports a crazy number of devices.

Pro. Allows custom drivers and apps.

Pro: Large library of community built apps and drivers.

Pro: WEBCORE! Awesomely powerful rules engine.

Pro: 3rd party ActionTiles dashboard (for a fee).

Pro. Quiet affordable (and no fees or subscriptions).

Con: Mostly cloud processing. (That means 2+ second delays for everything.)

Con: Installing apps and drivers require web portal; overly difficult.

Con: Questionable company direction (with Classic vs Connect).

Con: Dishonest company marketing (with Classic vs Connect). Poor integration at best for Samsung's own smart products.

Con: Uses obscure Groovy programming language.

Con: Presence not reliable on SO's phone.

Note: Uses obscure Groovy programming language, but allows Java.


Hubitat Elevation

Note: This is for the reddit post. You should be familiar with it already.

Pro: Easy to setup.

Pro: Alexa integration.

Pro: Supports a crazy number of devices.

Pro. Allows custom drivers and apps.

Pro: Great integration with Philips Hue.

Pro: Large library of community built apps and drivers.

Pro: WEBCORE! Awesomely powerful rules engine. (But see con.)

Pro: Built-in presence support (using free 3rd party app)

Pro: No fees or subscriptions

Pro: Under active development (with pretty good communication and great interaction with community).

Pro: Great support staff!

Pro: Free built-in okayish dashboard.

Con: NO APP! Minimalist app.

Con: No Google Home integration.

Con: Uses obscure Groovy programming language.

Con: Lacks clear technical documentation (but mostly matches SmartThings). [They have created a dedicated area for documentation, and actively adding to it. I haven't looked at it, so unsure whether original statement holds true.]

Con: WebCore doesn't work (for me).

Con: Startup company; potentially unreliable over long term (but, Pro, with local processing, what it would still work even if they go out of business or get bought out).

Note: Uses obscure Groovy programming language, but allows Java.


Lighting


Smart bulbs (in general)

Pro: Allows color

Pro: Allows controlling "temperature" color (technically same as above, but deserves a second bullet)

Pro: Allows controlling individual bulbs

Pro: Allows mixing and matching bulbs (eg having a remote linked to bulbs in different rooms)

Pro: Easy to install (How many reddit threads does it take to install smart lights? A lot.)

Con: Won't work if light fixture is turned off

Con: Not available in many socket types [Some less common socket types may not be available, but the basic ones are]

Con: Not available in specialty styles (eg filament bulbs)


Smart switches (in general)

Pro: Can control multiple bulbs at once

Pro: Can control non-lighting devices (eg vent fans)

Pro: Allows using any type of bulb/socket

Con: Hard to install

Con: Expensive

Con: Most require a neutral wire

Con: May break building Code, which in U.S. requires a manual switch in utility room, attic and crawlspace; requires ability to cut power in all rooms except hallways and stairwells.


Hue

Pro: Easy to setup.

Pro: Easy to add devices.

Pro: Nice app.

Pro: Supports grouping lights.

Pro: Allows adding some other bulb brands (Cree, Sylvania, IKEA, Gledopto, and others), and LED strips (more below).

Pro: Good quality bulbs (perfect consistency for color and brightness).

Pro: Great stability.

Pro: Scene support.

Pro: Direct Google Home and Alexa integration.

Pro: Wide variety of bulbs including color, white, and "Ambiance" ("temperature" control).

Pro: Dimmers are affordable and have great features.

Pro: Bulbs can be directly connected to HA controller without the hub (but I don't recommend it).

Con: Uses Zigbee Light Link (rather than typical Zigbee Home Automation).

Con: Bulbs don't act as repeaters for "Zigbee" devices.

Con: Pricey (but prices have been dropping).

Con: Dimmers can only be connected via rooms, and don't allow mixing.

Con: No built-in automation abilities.

Con: Changing network routers may require factory reset.

Gledopto bulb

Pro: Connects to Hue hub

Pro: Cheap

Pro: Vibrant colors

Pro: Both 6W and 12W versions (Hue are 8.5W; 12W version is over-sized)

Pro: Candelabra, GU10 and "downlight" versions available, as well as stand-alone flood lights and garden lights

Con: 12W version is larger than typical bulb

Con: Dim colors [newer version is better]

Con: Flickers and flashes [have not noticed newer version having this issue]

Con: Doesn't fade between changes

Con: Not compatible with Hue Sync (color matching with tv)

Con: No way to update firmware (that I know of)


LEDs strips and controls


Quick rundown on LED strips, because they've been a learning curve... First, there's addressable and non-addressable. Addressable LEDs can be controlled at the individual LED level, so can do all sorts of fancy β– β– β– β– . They make good Christmas lights, if you're into spending all your time planning out your Christmas lights. Non-addressable LEDs will all be the same color at the same time; they can change colors, but they all change. I have not messed with addressable with the exception of a noob kit. Everything below is for non-addressable. Do NOT get addressable for use with any of the controllers, etc., below!

There are various sizes of LEDs. Most commonly 5050, 2538, and 3825. Those are tenths of millimeters for width and height, so 5050 is significantly larger than 3528. Which size is best depends on the application. For most home lighting, IMO bigger is better. See here for more info.

LED strips come in lengths of five meters (16.4 feet). Unless it's a premium brand (like Philips Hue LightStrip), I'd avoid anything in an odd size. Normal density of LEDs is 30 per meter (150 per strip). High density with 60 per meter (300 total) is very common, and what I use for normal applications. Very high density is 120 per meter (600 total), and fairly uncommon except as "double row" (especially at 5050 size - but I provide a link below).

It depends on the size and number of LEDs, but the rule of thumb I use for power with 12 volt strips is 3 amps per strip. However, unless you use my recommendations below, you should find the power consumption either for the whole strip, or per LED segment (which will be three LEDs), then do the math - in fact, do the math anyways. If watts are provided, then divide by volts for the amps.

Finally, there are waterproof and non-waterproof. Pretty obvious, but remember that in damp conditions, the wire connectors and controller aren't water proof. Personally, I usually get waterproof because they look slightly better and they're easier to work with. And use common sense - don't try to install a $12 Chinese LED strip inside a swimming pool because they say it's IP67.

For brands/vendors, I haven't yet settled on one. Cheap no-name strips from Amazon/Ali-Express will supposedly dim within 6 months, but I've never had a set that lasted that long. Although I have not purchased high quality LEDs, the trick to finding them is to search for "CRI" values, like "CRI 90 led strip". Also, look for strips that list output (either total lumens, lumens per foot or meter, or lumens per segment).


Fibaro LED controller

Pro: Small profile.

Pro: Good screw-down connectors.

Pro: Built-in effects.

Pro: Good quality.

Con: No Hue integration.

Con: Over priced.


FLS-pp lp

Pro: Connects to Hue.

Pro: Decent price.

Con: Pin type connectors; requires separate purchases and more effort.


Chinese controller

Pro: Easy to use push connectors.

Pro/Con: Low cost, but cheap quality.

Con: Connectors made of plastic.

Con: Connectors don't hold tight. At all. As in, the wires can sometimes just fall out.

Note: The connectors look like screws, but don't turn them. Yes, I personally learned that the hard way; let's not talk about it again.


MagicNight LED strips

Pro: Cheap.

Pro: Reliable quality (in comparison to other budget strips)

Pro: Offer signal amplifiers.

Pro: Offer noob kits (LEDs + PSU + remote) (actually good option for instant gratification, since they're like $10 more)

Con: Wires for red and green reversed from the norm.

Con: Color matching distorts at low dimming level. (Also true for all other LED strips I've tried).

Con: Cheap tape backing; requires separate purchase.

Con: Doesn't offer RGBWW (color + warm white).


No name high density LEDs

Pro: Put out a lot of light

Pro: 3M tape

Con: Doesn't offer RGBW/WW

Con: Requires twice the power; if powered by a controller, only allows one strip


Accessories that come in handy for LED strips:

Note: I'm still trying to find the magic sauce for using multiple strips on a FLS-pp lp; going to try adding pins to low-gauge wire rather than buying high-gauge "jumper wires" which melt a little bit if powering more than one strip.


Voice assistants


Google Home

Pro: Awesome AI; can answer amazing range of questions.

Pro: Lot of flexibility in language for voice controls.

Pro: Great language comprehension (eg with background voices or speaking with an accent).

Pro: Allows chaining commands (eg "Turn the light on" - "Set it to 100%").

Pro: Allows setup custom commands (without a separate trigger like "Play").

Pro: Under active development.

Pro: "Broadcast" feature great for household alerts.

Pro: With Google Assistant, can type commands.

Pro: Very affordable.

Con: Poor hearing.

Con: Clunky app. [It's improved, and have not nor will compare newer version to Alexa]

Con: Lacks home automation features.

Con: "Hey Google" is difficult to enunciate.

Con: Only a few models; no accessories.

Con: Tightly controlled API (including for "broadcast" feature).

Con: Probably listens to everything everyone says - high potential for future enslavement.


Alexa

Pro: Good hearing.

Pro: Spot, View, Plus, Show, Portal, Input, Flex, Studio, Sub, etc. (etc., etc.)

Pro: Very affordable.

Con: Poor AI.

Con: Probably listens to but misunderstands everything everyone says - high potential for badly targeted ads.

Con: Sold by company with terrible employment practices.

Note: I have not used Alexa much, so may they may have added features I addressed with Google Home.


Bixby

Pro: Does everything Google Home and Alexa combined, but better.

Pro: Complete automation control.

Pro: Guaranteed future-proof.

Pro: Gives blow jobs (with optional attachment).

Con: Stupid name.

Con: Doesn't listen to anyone at any time - great companion for depressed paranoid schizophrenics.

Con: More difficult to set up than Pet Rock.


Switches/controls


Lutron Caseta/Pico

Pro: Easy to install.

Pro: Very easy to add devices (but not so easy to add the devices to Hubitat).

Pro: Fast

Pro: Reliable

Pro: Good range

Pro: Many options - 2-button, 4-button, and 5-buttons in both Caseta switches and Pico remotes. Also have many colors and supposedly custom labels for a premium price.

Pro: Pico remotes and in-wall switches and dimmers match each other.

Pro: Fit standard wall plates (and offer a mounting bracket).

Pro: Pico remotes are very affordable.

Pro: Offers customization options for premium price (supposedly custom printing, and wide range of colors).

Pro: Have in-wall switches (and dimmers) that do not require neutral wire

Con: Proprietary protocol; won't act as repeaters

Con: Requires a hub

Con: Requires cloud processing on SmartThings

Con: Requires Pro Bridge on Hubitat (or other local controller with local processing)

Con: Few built-in options/features (eg long press or multi-click).

Note: [Removed for spamming my phone] has great prices. I keep saying this, but they've yet to send me any referral payments or even free swag... hint hint


Hue Dimmer

Pro: Fast and reliable

Pro: Has built-in progressive push-and-hold dimming

Pro: Has built-in support for multi-press

Pro: Comes with wall mount, with magnets

Con: Can only be mapped to a "room"

Con: Multi-press can't control different lights (when Dimmer is connected through the Hue hub)

Con: Doesn't fit in standard wall-plate

Con: Pricey


GE 3-speed fan controller

Pro: Works well

Con: Requires neutral wire


Sensors


Xiaomi (aka Aqara and/or Mi Aqara) humidity, water, temperature, door/window, vibration/acceleration

Pro: Cheap

Pro: Look good and small; surprisingly well designed

Con: Hard to get connected

Con: Often don't stay connected

Note: Those branded as "Aqara" are the newest, at time of last edit.


Xiaomi magic cube

Note: This is a cube with an accelerometer and orientation sensor, allowing "knock", slide, shake, left rotate, right rotate, flip 90Β°, and flip 180Β°, as well as what side is up. They work great for nightstands, and are just divine for kids.

Note to Xiaomi: Glow in the dark! Seriously, how haven't you done that already!!

Pro: Awesome

Pro: Cheap (~$13 direct from China; AliExpress or GearBest)

Pro: Fun

Pro: Tactile

Pro: Easy to find in the dark

Con: Only 3 colors for old Mi version; new Aqara version only comes in white

Con + Pro: The dog keeps taking mine and chewing on it, but she hasn't touched any of the other ones.


SmartThings Multipurpose sensor

Pro: It works

Pro: Has sensors for multipurposes


Smart plugs


Iris (have NOT really tested it)

Pro: Acts as repeater for both Zigbee and Z-wave

Note: Iris is now defunct. Be sure to get the right kind. They can be hard to find, even on eBay.


TopGreener USB wall outlet (also 3-port model)

Pro: 2.4 amps per outlet; highest currently available on the market (that I've seen)

Con: Not smart


Locks


Note: I'm a fan of truly keyless locks (I went with Yale B1L). Just FYI, specifically the front door is the most common point of entry for burglars (~34%). (About as many use any window.) Most of those get in by turning the door knob. 6% gain entry by manipulation of the lock.

Schlage

Pro: Quality locks

Pro: Has a connector to manually connect an external 9v battery

Pro: Work well


Yale

Pro: Quality locks

Pro: Has a connector to manually connect an external 9v battery

Pro: Work well

Note: My Z-Wave locks now refuse to connect after excluding it from prior network. Unknown whether it's a Yale or Z-Wave issue.


Kwikset

Have not used one, but....

Pro: Cheaper than Schlage and Yale

Pro: Nice looking designs

Con: Cheaper than Yale and Schlage


August

Have not tried it, so just a couple basics....

Pro: Can retrofit most any lock; good for renters

Con: No combination pad

Con: Makes using the deadbolt manually more difficult


Samsung Smart Lock

Hove not tried it, but based on research....

Pro: Fairly sexy

Pro: Has a lot of neat security features

Pro: Supports RFID

Con: It's NOT "SMART". WTF Samsung, you make SMARTThings, so stop calling random β– β– β– β–  "smart"! Or, better yet, Make your β– β– β– β–  compatible with your own β– β– β– β– ! (Sorry, I had to get it out.)

Con: Read a lot of complaints that it just doesn't work all that well

Note: I pretty sure it has a battery connector like the Yale and Schlage, but not positive.


Robot vacuum


Samsung PowerBot

Pro: Works pretty well

Con: Expensive

Con: Misses some rooms

Con: No sensor for canister full; will keep vacuuming when full and jam up

Con: No map

Con: Requires app to connect to SmartThings. Actually, requires one app to say the instructions are wrong about which app, then another app to connect it.

Con: I got the Darth Vader model, and it's just β– β– β– β– β– β– β–  annoying - lot of breathing sounds, and Imperial Marching. And oddly "NO!" when it docks.

Con: Poorly designed controls. Seriously, black on black buttons (with Darth Vader model)! WTF?! Odd pictograms on the remote

Note: It died after running over some dogshit.


Xiaomi RoboRock

Pro: Cheap

Con: Small dust-bin

Con: Named for obscure Chinese cultural reference

Note to robot vacuum cleaner manufacturers... I want a vacuum that will give me an exportable proper house plan, with measurements.


Thermostats


Nest (the thermostat, not the hijacked brand name)

Pro: Sexy

Pro: Has a lot of features built in (I think the filter change reminder is particularly thoughtful)

Pro: Easy to use

Pro: Well designed

Pro: Looks great

Pro: Small profile

Con: Over-priced

Con: Tightly controlled API (since purchased by Google)

Note: A generic Z-Wave thermostat can be had for $50, and automate every feature the Nest (or EcoBee) has.


Misc


Fingbox

Pro: Allows monitoring network (WiFi) devices

Pro: Allows monitoring peoples' use of the network

Pro: Allows blacklisting and pausing network devices

Pro: Allows adding connecting to the network as a presence sensor

Pro: Can notify when known devices come within range of WiFi

Con: Can't restrict device access with IPv6.

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As a Pro for Hubitat - The ability to integrate Lutron to a level not possible with any other system.

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Not complaining, just being thorough. And it's to let people know which one to buy. Even after being told by two different people, I still got confused and came very close to ordering the non-Pro.

Nice write up! I agree with many of your points and I appreciate that you have taken the time and effort to write up your findings. I am curious if you have achieved all of your original goals and requirements? Have you had to change your design in any way? Did you end up with as many smart color bulbs as you originally planned? Or did you end up with more smart switches and dumb bulbs? How is the family liking/adjusting to a smart home?

Curious what you mean by this? Many of us are using Google's Assistant SDK via the Assistant-Relay NodeJS server to be able to Broadcast messages from Hubitat (or ST) to our Google Home devices. It works pretty well as a TTS device.

Or, are you wanting something easier/more direct to control a Google Home device? I completely agree that it would be very nice to not need to run the NodeJS server in order to interact programatically with these devices.

Lol! I'll tell you when I'm finished or dead, whichever comes first :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Thus far, believe it or not, but things have worked out well for me so far. The closest thing I have to regret is screwing around with cheap Chinese WiFi crap. I have a box full of just LED controllers and $2 remotes.

edit: If you're referring to my Quest with Pico remotes and recessing switches, yes to that as well. So far, so good. I've done three gang boxes so far, so I have a long way to go. /edit

Did you end up with as many smart color bulbs as you originally planned?

No, nor was that the intention. I have gotten a lot of Ambiance bulbs to hold me over, but I knew Hue color would be a long term expense. I also haven't done much in the way of LED strips yet - mostly due to time constraints (and I have overly complicated and difficult plans for those).

Curious what you mean by this? Many of us are using Google's Assistant SDK via the Assistant-Relay NodeJS server to be able to Broadcast messages from Hubitat (or ST) to our Google Home devices. It works pretty well as a TTS device.

[Oops, I hit Enter on accident.]

Requires a man-in-the-middle. I will definitely do that, but... It's a con. Don't know if it also applies to Alexa...? What I'd like is to be able to have Hubitat send a "broadcast" command to Home, with a string for what I want it to say.

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The great thing about Groovy is if you don't like Groovy, just write all your code in Java: aka the least obscure programming language in the world.

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Did not know that. That may come in handy, though this point was also a "thorough" type thing. Haven't used Java much either, and didn't find it easy the few times I have.

edit: So that bullet is wrong?

Ha! I hear you! Java is definitely more difficult to write than Groovy, and you are right, Groovy is considered an obscure language if you go by usage in projects. Just wanted to point out that any Java coder can easily write Groovy code or even write Java code in ST and our system and be fine.

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Not being picky but this is not accurate. The "any other system" is the part that is not accurate.

Forgot to quote:

That's not inaccurate. Yes you can integrate Lutron into other systems (and we're talking consumer level here, not Control 4 or Crestron), but Hubitat (a consumer home automation hub) can control Lutron in ways that no other consumer level hub can.

As an example:

My apologies, I should have specified. Other systems at this level don't allow for this level of integration. Lutron restricts Wink's ability with the Pico's and ST is a cloud integration (I believe). @SmartHomePrimer thanks for delving further into it.

I never had a staples connect, but didn’t they connect directly to Lutron devices?

Since it was discontinued, I guess it’s not really a viable alternative at this point anyway.

Now this is accurate that no other "consumer level hub" IS integrated like Hubitat. That is 100% accurate. Others "Can" be they just aren't.

StaplesConnect DID have a full Lutron integration, built in. Correct. They had what we consider the Bridge built in. Picos, switches, dimmers, and shades would all directly pair with StaplesConnect.

When "Release" was added, allowing for dimming, was the moment Hubitat surpased that 2014 implementation of StaplesConnect. :smiley:

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Added notes on LED strips, locks, Nest thermostat, PowerBot vacuum, Xiaomi magic cube and Fingbox. Removed bad advice on wires for LED strips. And removed repeat entry for Lutron. Many other tweaks.

Magic cube also supports rotate left and rotate right, which I use for light dimming...

Yes, it IS a lot of fun! My grandkids love making the lights change colors with the cube :blush:

Doi! Thanks for the reminder. Rotate is what I use to change light levels (for a lamp), so shouldn't have forgotten.

I've been trying to figure out some excuse to mount one on an axis to spin it one way or the other as a switch/dimmer. Just can't come up with any practical need for it.

@Roguetech and all other Yale lock users,

I am considering the Yale Assure keyless touchpad with either Zwave or Zigbee. I have neither of these technologies in my home, so thinking of going with Zigbee over Zwave. Curious to know what others are using and why.

I saw the B1L and T1L, any idea what the difference is?

Why did you go with B1L over the T1L or the Assure?

Have you integrated your lock with Hubitat? What user app and drivers did you use and why?

Thanks for your list. Helpful, but prompts more questions.

I use both ZigBee and Z-Wave products. With locks, I would use Z-Wave, because it has better security and range.

That is not correct although z-wave is said to have a further range it is also limited only 4 hops from the hub hence the extra range needed. ZigBee on the other hand doesn't haven't a hop limit so can go much further. The other thing is security ZigBee is built to be secure and is that by standard. Z-WAVE plus now uses the same security as ZigBee but at a cost because it wasn't originally designed like it so in order to get the security part of it you need to join everything "securely" these extra messages bog down the network and can cause it to slow down. So usually the only devices you join securely are doors and locks for obvious reasons. But if you look though the community you will see that thr ZigBee locks are by far the preferred option with much less issues than their Z-WAVE equivalent. Some locks have modules that allow you to change from z-wave to ZigBee and you will find lots of threads that people have done this due to issues with z-wave and it's range/ security communication.

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