Would Hubitat be a good choice?

I'm a 61-year-old former programmer with no home automation experience.

My partner is disabled and mostly confined to bed. I'm home most of the time, but we've been thinking about what would happen if she needed to let someone in the front door when I'm not home.

The obvious answer seems to be a smart lock. At present, my top choices are the Schlage Encode and the Schlage Connect (Zigbee version) plus a Hubitat Elevation.

We do have a Kuna porch lamp with a camera. As far as I can tell, it can't work in any useful way with anything else, and it's cloud-dependent (which sometimes manifests as very slow response or complete failure, even when our Internet connection is working). That's a type of mistake I'd like to avoid making again: buying something that's easy at startup, but is limited by what the company that controls it has bothered (or chosen) to make possible. (In the case of Kuna, for example, it's clear that one reason local recording is impossible is that the company that makes it wants to sell monthly cloud service subscriptions.)

I know the Encode would be simpler to set up, but I suspect it's cloud-dependent (though I haven't found a definite statement as to whether it connects locally to apps running on devices connected to the same LAN), and I fear I would be boxing myself in as far as future expansion... or at least missing out on a good start.

Things we might want to add include:

  • A remote button to operate the lock (preferably with a status light showing whether it is locked or unlocked).

  • A remote button (either separate or combined with the other buttons) that could trigger an alarm or a siren to alert me that my partner needs help, even if she can't call out loudly enough that I can hear her wherever I am in the house.

  • A remote button (either separate or combined with the other buttons) that could turn on the overhead lights in the kitchen.

My partner uses an iPad Mini 4 (WiFi only) and a laptop which is wired (using a pair of MoCA transceivers) to our main LAN hub. I have a Pixel 2 along with a desktop computer (and a couple other machines running 24/7).

We might want to integrate voice control at some point -- Alexa might be the most obvious, since we do use a Fire TV. (I know almost all voice-command options are cloud-based, so I'd want to make sure there was another way to do everything.)

I mentioned the Zigbee version of the Schlage Connect because my impression from reading here is that people have less trouble with Zigbee locks than with Z-Wave locks, at least with Hubitat. Our modem/router is in a front room adjacent to the front door; the most convenient place for the Hubitat would be about fifteen feet from the lock, but with a long Ethernet cable I could get it about three feet from the lock if necessary. However, any place I could put a repeater (apparently required for Z-Wave locks?) near the lock would be farther from the hub than the lock is.

So my question is whether I'm likely to find that Hubitat will be an efficient entry point into the sort of things we might want to do, or whether we'd be better to accept a more self-contained solution (like the Encode) and not expect these other things to be a natural progression from what we need first, which is a remotely-controllable front door lock.

Thanks for any advice you can give.

There's a lot of questions there :slight_smile:

First, having any hub can solve or assist with the ideas you're throwing around. I would think, for someone confined to bed, reliability is far up the desired's list. :slight_smile: Local is going to be (obviously) more reliable than cloud.

Use the compatibility list to pick the devices you can use. Don't begin by straying away from that list. Once you have some experience, you can try devices that have Community developed drivers. $$ spent == improved quality = Happy Partner. :slight_smile:

Everyone's home is just enough different that your experience with a specific product differs from others. Lots of people here say their Schlage are working great... others say they gave up and returned them. That's quite a variance :slight_smile: Be willing to return them, in other words. Plan for that in some way. If you're the instant gratification type, get one Schlage and one Yale and keep the one that works perfectly. :slight_smile:

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The Schlage Zigbee lock runs wonderfully with full functionality on Hubitat. It's Zigbee certified, which means it will work on any system that's half decent. I recently added it to another system which doesn't even list it as a supported device, but it works great.

Super easy to pair too. Just press a button and you're done. None of that press 3 times, twirl it around 4 times, then drop down to your knees and pray nonsense.

What's that? Your door strike plate is a little misaligned? Worry not, the schlage lock is going to brute force that silly plate for you, since it's got an actually good motor + gearbox inside. My old August lock would squeal if the stars weren't perfectly aligned.

I haven't had to think about the lock for almost 3 months now, which is a great sign. Locks and unlocks instantly. Great mechanical design and battery life too. I wouldn't worry too much about distance from the lock as long as you have a few repeaters strategically placed in your mesh. It's never dropped below 255 LQI for me. I strongly recommend it over the Z-Wave version, or any Z-Wave lock for that matter.

As you can probably tell.. I really love this freaking lock!

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I'm a big proponent of Hubitat, but not exactly for the reasons that I think may serve you best. If you're new to home automation and looking for something that can really be tinkered with and very complex automations, then Hubitat Elevation is a good choice.

However, it sounds like you're already in the iOS ecosystem somewhat. So HomeKit might actually be a good place for you to start out. It's WiFi, which isn't my favorite, but done right, you actually wouldn't end up with that many devices on WiFi.

Check out the Xiaomi Aqara HomeKit Gateway. Xiaomi is a manufacturer of very nice, small and inexpensive sensors, buttons, switches and outlets. Many of us have their sensors paired directly with Hubitat, but they are challenging to keep paired because they don't comply precisely with the Zigbee radio protocol. Whereas Hubitat's radio does. But when you join the Xiaomi Zigbee devices to the Xiaom Aqara gateway, they pair very easily, never drop off and work perfectly all the time. I know this because I own a Xiaom Aqara HomeKit Gateway.

What this would give you is a very low cost entry into Home Automation, and a way to control them that your partner should be very comfortable with. If you then felt that you wanted to take the automations to a higher level, you could add a Hubitat Elevation hub and setup something on a Raspberry Pi called Homebridge, which allows you to expose many otherwise incompatible hubs, gateways and devices to Apple HomeKit. I do this in my own home. The Xiaomi Aqara Gateway gives me reliable access to their excellent little low cost sensors, and I use HomeKit automations to tie them to virtual switches in Hubitat. I then use Hubitat Rule Machine to create very simple, to very complex automations around my home.

The one caveat to HomeKit automations is you need to have either an Apple TV 4 or later, or an Apple HomePod, or an always on iPad that can run the latest iOS. If you have that, you are good to go, and HomeKit is local when you're in your home, with secure remote access automatically handled by one of the aforementioned devices (AppleTV 4, HomePod, or always on iPad).

In regard to the door lock, you could use a Yale YRD246 or YRD256 with the HomeKit module in it. I bought one of these after my August smart lock died recently. It wasn't my first choice to be honest. I already have a YRD256 with the Z-Wave Plus module in it, but I always look for Amazon Warehouse deals, and never pay full price for door locks. I couldn't find another Z-Wave Plus or Zigbee version on the sale racks, but I did find a YRD246 HomeKit version for a great price, and in the color I wanted. So I took a shot at it, and it's been great. I simply tied a HomeKit automation to a Hubitat virtual switch and I can control it just as easily from HomeKit or Hubitat as I can my Z-Wave lock. You may also like having the separate Yale app that the HomeKit version utilizes, rather than only being able to manage the lock from Hubitat, which is the case with Z-Wave and Zigbee locks. Plus, the YRD256 and YRD246 share the same radio module type, so they can be interchanged between the different module types (HomeKit, August Connect, Zigbee and Z-Wave Plus), and between each other.

For security cameras, there aren't very many inexpensive HomeKit compatible options at the moment, but you can simply handle that with a separate app. This is what I do with Wyze Cam. I have two of them at the moment. They're not the fastest in terms of notifications and connecting, but it's adequate and they offer free person detection, and 1 week of cloud video storage for free. Clips are 12 seconds in length, and the cameras are able to use a micro SD card for free local storage. You can set the card to automatically purge older video when space runs out. There are many third party outdoor cases for them too. I have my front door camera under a covered porch, but my Wyze Pan Cam in the back is exposed to the elements except for a silicon outdoor cover. So far, no issues.

Something to consider. Hope you find this helpful. Hubitat Elevation is awesome, but for someone starting out that just needs a system they can get setup easily, it's may not be the right choice to start with. All depends on the individual really.

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I see so many posts of people ripping out everything Xiaomi, I'm curious why you would recommend them when they're not compliant?

FWIW, the recommendation I got here to use Iris (used via ebay) zigbee plugs+zwave repeater was sound. My zigbee mesh has been rock solid since I put 5 in the house and pulled out the last 2 Cree bulbs. If I couldn't have found the Iris plugs, I would have used the Ikea Tradfri.

I'm NOT a coder, though I am Enterprise IT systems and storage 38+ years, and while Hubitat was a bit of a steep learning curve, my move from Wink has been awesome and relatively smooth. With 100+ devices (including around 20 virtual/child devices), it's fast, reliable, and now seems rather easy to add devices and their automations. So much so that I've recently completed an additional 6 wall switch/dimmer conversions to smart devices, gotten MyQ Lite running, and am monitoring my Blue Iris cameras on a Dashboard.

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Well it’s true they are not on the compatible devices list, but many people are able to get them to work and are happy. You’ll find lots of examples of that here for devices such as the peanut plug. Having said that I am no longer recommending that people add the current Xiaomi contact sensors per motion sensors directly to HE.

I think what you may have missed in my post to the OP, is a recommendation to consider the Xiaomi Aqara Gateway HomeKit edition to start out in Home Automation. When paired directly to their gateway, the Xiaomi sensors work perfectly and are rock solid. The gateway is HomeKit compatible, so down the line, if you have Hubitat also exposed to HomeKit via homebridge, then you can connect the sensors to HE by way of HomeKit automations.

So while I’m not necessarily recommending that Second part that I just described, I think for the OP’s level of exposure to home automation, and current needs, just the Xiaomi Aqara HomeKit Gateway with their sensors would be a good introduction to home automation, that could later be “integrated” into an HE environment down the road if they wish.

I know it sounds bizarre to connect sensors in that way, but I had already invested in the Xiaomi sensors, so my option was to scrap them all and add much more expensive sensors, or spend $40 on a Xiaomi Aqara Gateway and see if it worked. And I can tell you that it works incredibly well. The sensors never drop, the response time is instant, and everything is stable. Yes I have to have my Apple TV 4 to do the automation, and I have to have an always on computer for homebridge, but those things existed in my house anyways for other reasons.

We have the one Apple device, my partner's iPad Mini 4, which she uses to listen to podcasts and audible books, to play games, and to take pictures of her African violets. Beyond that, she uses a Fire TV to access Amazon Prime video and our home media server (Mezzmo running on a Windows machine) and her Windows laptop for everything else computer-related. I have a Windows desktop machine and an Andriod smartphone, and I maintain our media server (which used to be her desktop, is always on, and has a fair bit of spare power if I need to run other server software).

We're really not an Apple household at all... it's just that their tablet was a better fit for her specific uses than anything else I could find. I would be loathe to get any more involved with Apple-centric solutions than absolutely necessary.

OK. Well then that's obviously not the right fit for you. Some use the regular Xiaomi hub (or that model) with their Mi Home app, but even though it's not too bad and can do automations, I'm not a fan of using an app that so readily exposes you to Chinese surveillance. The HomeKit version is very different. Once you set that up, you can block the Xiaomi Gateway's access to the internet and it still works local and remotely via HomeKit. The Mi Home app isn't like that at all and must have constant access to the internet and their Chinese cloud servers to function.

So in light of that, I'm simply going to caution you that while HE is great, it's a bit of a steep learning curve for a beginner. I would have been more ready to just recommend it, but I'm learning that even if you are exposed to Home Automation for many years already, as is the case the some of the Wink users that are on-boarding, it doesn't mean you have the patience to read manuals and learn the interface. If the former sounds like you, then it's probably not the right choice at this time. If the latter is more your style, then I think you should give it a go. HE is very powerful and a lot of fun to be able to do pretty darn well whatever you want. Not many other hubs offer that, but patience and understanding that is it still a young product with a small support staff is a must.

Thank you for the information.

I have patience with manuals. I'm fine with working out how to assemble software building blocks to accomplish what I want... in fact, I like that better that lists of ready-made options that never quite match what I had in mind.

I don't have much patience with instability. Once something works, I expect to be able to forget all about it and have it continue working the same way. Nor do I have a lot of patience with vague, incomplete or inaccurate documentation. Tell me exactly how it works, even if it's complicated, so I can work it out in principle and then have the practice match the principle. Don't tell me, "If it doesn't work, move it closer, or farther away, or try using a different repeater"; tell me, "use an xxx-certified repeater with a power of at least 43 mW at a distance of 11 to 27 feet; count each interior wall in the line of sight as 4 extra feet and exterior walls as 7 extra feet."

Software doesn't daunt me much, as long as it's well-documented and behaves in accordance with its documentation; hardware I think of as a necessary evil.

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You will not enjoy home automation very much if this is the case. There are lots of devices out there that are stable, but you pay the price for them. The variances in how devices must be joined, excluded, etc. as you alluded to in your post above, are a harsh reality of home automation today. You can expect that it will be much the same for the foreseeable future. There are advancements. HomeKit is one (which also doesn't require exclusion), but you don't care about that. Z-Wave Smartstart is another. Devices like the Ring Alarm system use Smartstart and you can expect other manufacturers to follow.

Still, if you're starting out and don't want to have to go through a lot of the hardware growing pains, then stick with Zigbee. It's either joined to the hub or isn't. There's no exclude process nessecary like there is with Z-Wave. And if you set up a bunch of fancy rules and your Zigbee device falls off the network of malfunctions and needs resetting (it's going to happen), then you just join it again, and Hubitat Elevation continues on its merry way. With Z-Wave, you have to Exclude the device from the Z-Wave network before you can join it back again. This causes the device to be deleted and then your rules that included the device have to be re-paired or rebuilt from scratch. That part does sucks, big time.

Nothing you buy from any manufacturer is 100% stable. Yes not even the really expensive Control4 systems are immune. Just isn't the case. I'm sure people are going to chime in and say "well I've never had any problem". Guaranteed there is someone who has had a problem with device X, Y or Z at one time or another. You can achieve stability in the devices available today for Home Automation, but not perfection.

Home automation devices (except WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0), run on mesh networks. You need repeaters. You can get away without owning any repeaters if you:
A. Have you devices close enough to the hub
B. Don't have problems with not having them
C. Don't exceed the maximum number of end devices (devices paired directly to the Hub) which for Zigbee on Hubitat Elevation and many other Zigbee 1.2 hubs is 32. Some Zigbee 3.0 hubs support up to 90 end devices, but HE is not Zigbee 3.0 which is still fairly new.

https://docs.hubitat.com/index.php?title=How_to_Build_a_Solid_Zigbee_Mesh

https://docs.hubitat.com/index.php?title=How_to_Build_a_Solid_Z-Wave_Mesh

As for lack of documentation, I know that the Hubitat team is doing their best to build that out. Documentation is a monumental task, and it has to be updated often. That's tough to do with a small team. So for now, what's not available here, is supplemented by asking the community for help or Hubitat support. Fortunately, this is a great community with a lot of really smart people eager to help.

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I recently switched two houses from Smartthings to Hubitat. I found moving to Hubitat trivial!
After about three months I can confidently say this:

  1. It works perfectly! I’m very pleased!
  2. It’s private ! When I turn on a light or leave the house only I know about it
  3. Certain zwave devices that were problematic under Smartthings now work perfectly. I was close to throwing them away too!
    I could go on and on. But all I will say is that Hubitat is a reliable little device and I can depend on it to automate my house. I unequivocally recommend it!
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It's fascinating watching the consumer space that Home Automation is in atm. The Google / Amazon / Apple consumerization of tech has warped end-user expectations quite a bit I think. The reality of any wireless based protocol is there is going to be a lot of trial and error. Even the 2.4 wifi range itself can be painful if you're in a highly concentrated area (like an apartment building). Hard to provide precise advice with all the possible variables. Nice post though.

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Would definitely include Samsung in there too. Their approach is very different due to their decision to integrate ST into their white goods. That may have been a mistake though. Time will tell.

True. It'll be interesting to see how things go this coming year. The media is actively scaremongering over IoT security, which just results in more locked down ecosystems and consumers stuck in whatever garden they happened to plant in.

I have 10 Xiaomi original motion sensors, a leak detector, a cube, a contact sensor and 2 buttons which I've been deploying over the last 3-4 months using the community drivers. I've literally had no issues with them at all in my set-up. Thoroughly recommended. Your experience may vary and I have no idea why others have issues. But I have had multiple issues with Iris v2 motion sensors which most others swear by. So it's clear that a particular set-up can vary a lot in performance/compatibility (maybe wifi channels, battery quality, property layout, other devices/repeaters etc). I'm using Gledopto zigbee lamps as repeaters (it is not recommended to use lamps as repeaters according to many people) but its all working nicely with the Xiaomi's for me at this time.