How are you using HomeKit? I'll go first!

A topic that doesn’t seem to get discussed much here (at least lately) is how people are using HomeKit. We’re a few years in now and it seems progress is being made with recent developments like Thread and Matter support. So, who’s using it and how? Anyone want to describe their set-up?

A few questions I’m personally interested in…

  1. How do you tend to interact with devices: Touch or Siri?
  2. Are you using a thread hub/devices and if so do you notice an improvement?
  3. Any favorite devices that seem more reliable?
  4. Any particularly good deals you’ve found on devices/brands?
  5. Any particularly unreliable devices/brands?
  6. Any favorite automations/automation scenarios?
  7. Tips/methods for managing device codes?
  8. Any particular problems or troubleshooting tips that might be helpful for others?

I live in a “tiny house” which means my needs are generally simpler. I’ve got an AppleTV HD (4th generation, the 1st to support HomeKit) and two HomePods, all set-up as hubs. So, no Thread support yet and also no Thread devices.

Two of my goals in setting up was keeping cost as low as possible and also avoiding adding any hubs. I ruled out the Phillips system right off for both of those reasons.

I’ve got 5 light bulbs. 4 of those are VOCOlinc multi-color bulbs and one a Bluetooth only Sylvania bulb, dimmable but not multi-color. All of these were the most affordable I could find, all from Amazon for around $20 each.

I’ve got 2 Wemo plugs, 3 iHome plugs and 2 from Koogeek powering:

  • String lights on my porch
  • String lights in my cabin
  • Dumb electric oil radiator style heater in my cabin
  • Dumb electric oil radiator style heater in my detached well house
  • 2 fans
  • Dumb coffee maker

My network consists of an AirPort Extreme (in my cabin) and an AirPort Express (in the well house, 150 feet away). Both of these are located near windows as the signal barely reaches.

Last, 2 iHome 5-in-1 Smart Monitors. One of these is in my cabin, the other in my well house.

Troubleshooting has usually involved the Smart Monitors which are the first devices to act up. Also, the HomePods frequently ask me to re-enter my account information.

The well house distance sometimes proves to be a problem as the Wi-Fi signal is weak. The Airport Express is set to extend network and generally works pretty well to keep the iHome plug/heater and the iHome monitor connected. I sometimes have to restart these to reconnect them. I’ve got an automation set-up which turns the heater on when the monitor dips to 30° F then turn back off when it reaches 38° F. I do the same with my heater in the cabin but at a higher temperature. Also, in the cabin the two fans turn on to circulate the air while the heater is on.

Other automations include turning the porch string light on and off at sunset/sunrise. I have a winter time scene that sets all of the interior lights to mostly white color at 100% brightness during daylight hours for my plants. I could automate this but just activate it with Siri once I’m up and ready. After dinner I use Siri to switch scenes to turn on my colorful string lights and dims the various bulbs and adds color to them.

I work from home and live in rural area so I’ve not bothered with cameras, security devices or locks as I’m home most of the time.

I use a combination of Siri and tapping the screen of whatever device I have in hand. Mostly Siri and it’s worked very well. While it’s all been pretty useful and fun, the most convenience has come with the temperature monitoring and automated heating in the well house. Not only does it make it easier to keep track of the temperature but it’s probably saved a lot of energy/money due to the more efficient heating.

Something I figured out after setting up my Home was that sometimes I need to go back and reset devices and rescan code. A pain to do from the plug or bulb. I’ve since set up an Apple Note that has name of each device and a scan/photo of the HomeKit code. Now if something get’s wonky I can re-add to my home by scanning the photo in Notes. Much easier.

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I have us all in on HomeKit. Generally speaking, we have had a great experience. I just replaced the Insignia garage door opener with the Meross version and it is slap damn awesome.

For getting more out of HomeKit, worthwhile to get these indie apps:

HomePass, HomeRun, Homescan, Homelog, HomeCam, from Pearce Media Limited. Single developer with a lot of very useful tools.

Controller for HomeKit from Jan Andre. Another small developer, this app is essential if you want to dig deeper into automation and access much of the functionality that Apple provides, but doesn’t expose in their “Home App”.

It’s a subscription, but they have Black Friday deal for the “lifetime” option that is worth it.

Signals For HomeKit from Matthew Corey opens up a lot of possibilities if you want to do more with Shortcuts and HomeKit.

I know all of these devs and fully endorse their products because they work well.

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