New Home Networking System

We are both retired and building a new home with a floorplan designed to accommodate us as we age. I am intrigued and generally comfortable with technology but my wife is not (she just wants things to work easily). I have been doing a lot of research and developed the following gameplan.

We want as much of our home automation and security system to be wired and not reliant on WiFi to operate. I plan to wire Hubitate compatible devices wherever I can, e.g. switches, motion sensors, water sensors, temperature control, curtains/window treatments, smoke/CO detectors, garage door openers, video cameras, glass break sensors, doorlocks, irrigation system, and outdoor lighting. Initially, I will focus on the rules for security and settings for when we are away from home. Over time, I would start integrating the other devices and add settings for when we are home. My reasoning is that I want to see how we "live" in the new home given that the floor plan is very different from our current home. Also, I will be minimizing the number of brands so as to keep the integration simpler AND ensure operability as I add new rules/devices to the Hubitat network. To round out the networking plan, we will have WiFi throughout the house, CAT6/7 cable outlets in selected locations throughout the house, and the appropriate amount of router/switch equipment in an IT closet in the basement.

Here are my questions:

  1. We like to travel and will be away from the home for weeks at a time. What is the best way to access the Hubitat network remotely to receive alerts and/or execute actions (e.g. turn on lights when motion is detected)?

  2. I have not finalized my count but it looks like the number of devices will be approaching 200 altogether. What is the best way to ensure connectivity? Do I add additional Hubitat hubs? Can they be networked together as if there was only one hub?

  3. We will likely use a security monitoring service. Can those devices also be connected to the Hubitat network, e.g. motion or door sensors? OR can alerts/signals from the security "board" be simultaneously forwarded to the Hubitat network? If I were to drop the monitoring service, how easy would it be to redirect those devices into the Hubitat network for self monitoring?

  4. What brands for switches, doorlocks, motion detectors, window treatments, etc. do y'all recommend OR that work very well within the Hubitat network? While I am relatively comfortable with technology, I do not want to spend time trouble shooting device failures, etc. or spend time "experimenting".

  5. If I understand it correctly, all switches can still operate in the manual mode for when we have visitors OR just want to turn on the lights regardless of the rule settings. In those instances, how do the rule settings operate? When does the system reset itself to the rules?

  6. I was planning to setup two iPads (one for the first floor and the other for the finished basement) to access the Hubitat dashboard. I was also planning to use my desktop PC for setting up the rules and layout of the dashboard. Is that a reasonable approach for enabling other users, e.g. my wife, to access the network?

  7. We currently have some Nest cameras and Amazon Alexa. I was not planning to integrate them into the Hubitat network initially. Eventually, I might want to integrate Alexa to give us some voice control, e.g. dimming lights OR check doors and windows. Is the integration of Alexa for these types of activities complicated? What devices are the easiest to integrate/control?

I'll probably have other questions as the responses come in but this should cover me for now. Thanks in advance for any advice/comments/suggestions.

That is a lot to answer and reviewing the forums and compatibility lists for the Hubitat will be your friend.

For your remote access I use the Hubitat app on my phone and the dashboards features. I have created a special dashboard for my phone that has the top level items I would want to manage and review when I am on the road.

Taking on all these tasks being new you may want to "start small" the big bang only leads to pain and suffering and the Wife Acceptance Factor bring taken down a lot of notches. You have a very detailed plan focusing say on lighting one room first to develop your model for how you will do other rooms. As you become more comfortable with the platform you can move on to the more complex integrations.

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With the fact that you are like me and want the most of it to be wired sensors (don't want to have someone go change batteries when you are away for "some time". I would look at Konnected.io for all the wired stuff.

For getting warnings, Twilio is probably the most reliable since it is "text messages" and you could add a layer by also using sendgrid to get emails also for the most critical stuff in case your phone is in an out of service area, at least you will get it later when you are back in service or connected to WIFI,

As for remote access, VPN is probably the only way to go or use something like Anydesk (I use that) so you will also get access to the computer at all times if necessary, but this last option does require to have a computer on 24/7 as the VPN can usually be available via the router,

For the rest of the questions, like ronv42 said, search will be your friend for sure.

Agree with your point about starting small. That is essentially my plan. However, I wanted to wrap my head around the final state since we are building a new home and it is easier to do all of the wiring, etc. at that point. On day 1 in the house, I do not plan to have anything on the hub.

For all your dimmers/on off switches go with Lutron Caseta. These are incredibly reliable. I agree with above to use konnected.io for your wired sensors. Avoid wireless bulbs if you can.

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A word of caution - if you are anticipating this will be a simple drop-in solution where everything just works with minimal issues then I would advise you to hire a professional and consider your options. Home Automation is a complex subject that can really take a lot of time to understand and implement well. If you just want simple light control that's one thing. A complete, integrated and expandable system requires some planning and work and yes some experimentation.

Also while the community here is very helpful it is unlikely they would be able to provide all the information you would need to make an informed decision for your use-case. There are answers here but they require some research.

Having said that here are some thoughts:

HE has cloud access you can use directly. Another more technical solution is to set up a VPN at your house. This is also a nice way to provide a secure internet connection while travelling as well. I like and recommend "Wireguard".

Technically you can get a way with using one hub as the C-7 has an upgraded radio. Practically using multiple hubs for larger homes can be beneficial. Less overhead, stronger mesh. Yes you would need a network connection to each hub.

I do not have experience with this.. There are DIY solutions like SimpliSafe and Ring that are less expensive and have monitoring options. Not sure how well you can tie them into the Hubitat.

With the Hubitat there will always be an element of discovery - it's not a drop in and walk away kind of a solution - of course neither is ANY IOT system at this point. Smart Locks like Yale are good. I would recommend going Zigbee for any lock. Switches - your choice of style and price. The most straightforward for switches/dimmers etc is Lutron either Caseta or RA2. You need a Lutron "Smart Bridge Pro" device to allow HE to control. Otherwise GE Enbrighten, Inovelli, Zooz are well known switches. NOTE: currently C-7 router is experiencing teething pains so adding devices to your network may take a little effort. Newer Hub updates are resolving these issues.

Yes that should be no problem. There are many ways to accomplish this.. this community can help when you are ready.

iPads might be overkill if you want to mount them to the wall. You might look into the much cheaper Amazon Fire Tablets and Fully Kiosk Browser. Again there are many different possibilities and community can help.

Alexa works really well with HE. You can turn devices on/off using Alexa. Depends on what you want to do.

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Thanks for the response ... very helpful. I appreciate your initial comments which is why I am not trying to do everything all at once. Also, I do not expect everything to fall into place nicely. I realize that is too high of an expectation BUT I also do not want to overly complicate the process by adding devices that are difficult to integrate. I am also comfortable doing the research and finding/developing solutions. While I am not an experienced programmer, I have used solutions others have developed in some of my endeavors (computer networking, NAS devices, etc.).

You mentioned some brands for the switches (Lutron, Inovelli, & Zoos). I am assuming that these brands' products all work reasonably well with HE and are equally good for other actions, e.g. motion, window treatments, etc. That will help me minimize the number of brands.

Thanks again for your comments ...

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll chime in here about my opinion on security systems.

Home automation systems and security systems are two completely different animals. Many people combine them but I think that's a mistake, and I think self-monitoring is an even bigger mistake.

There is no comparison between a UL-certified alarm system and a home automation system in terms of stability and reliability. A security system is largely a single-purpose device, designed to work reliably 24/7 without intervention. You need to trust it to protect your family and property, and is designed as such.

Home automation systems are designed to work with arbitrary devices from numerous manufacturers in an infinite possibility of combinations. Those devices often have varying levels of conformance to a spec (e.g. z-wave, zigbee) and a rogue or poorly designed device can bring an entire system to its knees. For that matter, a poorly designed automation rule or 3rd party app or device driver could also bring down an entire system. Home automation systems are designed for convenience, not to protect life or property.

There is no need for hard-wired security system sensors. Today's sensors are highly reliable and incorporate encryption, frequency shifting, etc. Take a look at DSC's PowerG line, for example. Reasonably priced, and battery life is great. I'm in my new house a little over two years now, and I have yet to change a battery in any security device except for my door lock.

Far as self monitoring goes, what if you're on vacation sipping a pina colada in the hotel pool and you miss the alert from a smoke detector and your brand new house burns down? Security system events are like terrorist attacks: you only have to miss one for the outcome to be catastrophic.

I pay $25 a month for professional monitoring, and the credit I get on my homeowners insurance for a monitored security system is more than that.

Hubitat has a few rough edges but by and large it's a great system to base a home automation system on. There are ways to have an alarm system and a home automation system communicate with each other, depending on what system you choose. There's no need to have an all-in-one-device solution. Let each type of system do what it does best.

FWIW...

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Thanks for your response ... very interesting and insightful. My original approach was to have the "home security devices" be interoperable with the "home automation devices". I stayed with that approach until very recently. Your point that protecting the property and individuals I care about means that the expectations from a home security system are VERY DIFFERENT from those of a home automation system. I doubt I would ever move to a self monitored system but would like to receive alerts to my iPhone at the same time the monitoring service received them. While it would be a bit comforting, it would also help me to be more responsive when the monitoring service contacts me. I am now of the view that the two need to be separate and if they can inter-operate great. If not, then the two will be forever separate. Great thoughts ... thanks for sharing.

I use alarm.com as my monitoring service. The mobile app notifies me and my wife the instant an alarm goes off, and we can cancel the alarm from within the app. But unless we do that within 30 seconds, the monitoring company calls the police or fire dept, then tries to reach one of us by phone.

You have to subscribe to alarm.com via an authorized dealer, and they can set their own pricing, but the service is exactly the same no matter what dealer you use. As I mentioned, I am paying $25 a month.

Ay my old house (which we are turning into a rental), I have the same service with alarm.com but thorough a different dealer, and I'm paying $45 a month there. I'm in the process of installing a new alarm panel and then I'm going to switch to the other cheaper dealer. There's been no difference in the level of service I've received between the two.

There are other similar services. At an older job we installed a Honeywell/Ademco Vista system and they had a similar mobile app with more or less equivalent features.

What's your budget for switches, sensors, alarm?

The items and approach I described are within my budget.

I have been using Ring as my alarm and have been extremely happy with their service and their initial price and yearly cost is really, really good. My experience with Ring’s phone support has been excellent. There is also currently a really good (unofficial) integration with Hubitat which allows the use of the same locks and sensors for both platforms. That said, there is no way to know if it will one day suddenly stop working...

For your switches, I would highly recommend either Inovelli or Lutron. They will both work like regular switches. The Lutron are really great dimmers but will require that you purchase one of their Pro hub to have them connect to Hubitat. It is a bit tricky to setup the first time, but there is good help on the forum. The Inovelli will work directly as they are Z-Wave. Both have their pros and cons. Having recently transitioned from a C5 to a C7 hub, I really appreciated how easy it was to transition the Lutron switches from the older to the newer hub. Just restored the backup and they worked. Done. The Inovelli RED switches can however do much, much more - it is worth the small price difference to go with RED over Black series. The Z-Wave switches will also serve as Z-Wave repeaters which will help everything run smoother. Whichever one you chose, you may want to consider getting them in bulk for your new install - you can use them off-line and slowly integrate them in your home automation.

I have tried multiple motion sensors and my favorite are the SmartThings for speed and ease of use. They are however very hard to find these days. The Inovelli 4-in-1 sensors are now my go-to. Their ability to detect humidity and illuminance on top of motion and temperature is really, really useful.

My favorite contact sensors are by far the SmartThings multi-sensors. But unfortunately again, they are now hard to find. I understand that a new company will be producing them soon... Hopefully at the same price point! They are great for all doors, including garage doors.

If you have baseboard heating, I highly recommend the Sinopé thermostats. They are nice and simple and their ability to display a second temperature is really useful. I have them setup to display the outside temperature which means I can quickly see the time, inside and outside temperature in every room.

I have had Hubitat for over a year now, and didn’t setup a “permanent” dashboard. It has really great and quick automation, so with sensors in every room, there is not much to do on a dashboard. A lot of people do have them and you will find a lot of options on the forum on what to setup.

Amazon Alexa integration is absolutely awesome! If you chose Ring as your security system, you have the added advantage that they are both Amazon companies, so it becomes easy to do everything from one device. My wife who is not a strong on technology now uses Alexa to turn on lights way more often than she uses the switches. And with motion sensors, they turn off automatically which is really great! The integration is extremely easy. You just select the switches you want to use and they appear in the Alexa app. Checking doors and windows can be more complicated. There is a limit to the numbers of sensors / switches that can be shared, so you probably won’t be sharing all of your sensors which means you may need to setup some rules to enumerate what doors or windows are open / closed.

I have been enjoying my Hubitat journey. It works quickly outside of the box, and there is so much that can be added to it. It is not always rosy - sometimes things break (when you tinker with them or upgrade), but the support from the community and staff is absolutely awesome! Having one of the founders help you debug an issue is an experience I have never had before Hubitat. They constantly show that they are there for their customers and really care about their product.

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Very helpful ... thanks.

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I use a large number of wired alarm sensors in my home automations using an Envisalink 4. It will be much easier and cheaper to bring in all the wired devices. It also supports wireless zones since it connects to the addressable terminals instead of needing to wire in every zone. I have one Envisalink board and it is bringing in around 64 zones. I have a Honeywell Vista 21IP alarm panel which had a wired ethernet port and 4g lte for dual reporting. The monitoring service for dual reporting only costs me 20 bucks a month. The wired alarm sensors are much faster than any of my zwave or Zigbee devices.

Second this - a couple Android tablets and the app below and you will have a great system you could sit on a counter or mount on a wall for checking status and controlling devices.

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Thanks ... I was not planning on installing tablets on the wall. I just wanted them to be accessible to all, e.g. setting on a coffee table or end table. The Amazon Fire Tablet is a good/better alternative since I will not be using them for anything else.

As for basic lighting control that can work stand-alone (for the unindoctrinated) or can be integrated with Hubitat, I went entirely Lutron Caseta. All the old switches and dimmers were replaced and the Lutron gear just works. I haven't had to touch it in two years now. It also has a pretty clean local interface, telnet over your LAN to the Hubitat, to allow lots of integration options. I have a mix of motion sensors, some zigbee (tend to be faster) a few Z-wave (no good reason) and my automation rules are in Hubitat. Hubitat also allows me to use voice commands through several Google devices (Home, Home mini, etc.).

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I second this wholeheartedly, for several reasons. They work flawlessly, never a problem, and are extremely reliable. Well engineered. And, as with SĂ©bastien (@Sebastien), when I migrated from my C-5 to my C-7, I just restored a C-5 backup onto the C-7, and all the lights and fans were there, effortlessly.

The only change to having all my lights on Lutron Caseta is that I replaced dimmers and switches and motion sensors for our bathrooms and a couple of rooms with the GE/Jasco 26931/26933 Smart Motion Switch/Dimmer using Jason Bottjen’s (@JasonJoel) excellent Component drivers that logically decouple the motion sensor from the switch/dimmer. Makes it easy to write automations and removes the separate motion sensor from the bathrooms - occasionally, guests would express concern that the motion sensors in the bathrooms were cameras.

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Download the Hubitat app