Is the “smart” home worth the time and effort?

I thought this article might be of interest to some.

“I have a different theory: They’re just not worth a big investment unless you have a limitless supply of time and patience.”


Typical FastCompany clickbait. This one written by a fellow who specializes in cranky. I have a door whose locking mechanism seizes up in humid weather. Maybe FastCompany will publish my “Doors are a loser concept – is it time to outlaw them?”

I use a lot of smart home tech. Just recently installed a Rachio irrigation controller that nicely integrates with Alexa. I didn’t buy it because of the Alexa connect, but its convenient. Sure the tech breaks down – because entropy. Everything breaks down sometimes. Can I live without Home Kit, Alexa, Siri, and the rest – sure, absolutely. But I like it, bothered to know how to set it up and troubleshoot (unlike the FC author, apparently), and it makes life a bit smoother. I don’t care if Alexa hears what I’m talking about – I know no secrets worth repeating.


I’ve been on this current wave of smart home stuff.

The issues that I see

Vendor Laziness

Your home must have a central nervous system the cloud just isn’t reliable enough at these price points. Everyone jumped on Amazon and Google back end infrastructure and shunned HomeKit (because of the extra work to enable secure and local communication)

Next the marketing was off in trying to convince consumers that Hubs or Bridges were bad things and that they should rely upon Wifi connected to the cloud. Bridges give you a lot of flexibility and frankly if a consumer cannot be expected to be comfortable setting up the most basic of networking devices then they’re probably not going to have a solid HA eco.

As a person who came up in networking you just don’t want chatter from too many devices on Wifi unless you have a fairly robust network segmented in ways that make sense.

Too much focus on voice assistants. You’re not supposed to have to utter commands to control your home the smart home is supposed to adapt to the homeowners patterns without the need to keep asking for things.

Poor Software

Goes back to Developer laziness. IF they don’t have to do much work other than connect to AWS or Google’s cloud backend then how powerful can these system really be? Relying on IFTTT when local processing and latency is orders of magnitude faster made little sense.

To much platformization with little results

The reality is Google and Samsung and Amazon are NOT Crestron, C4, Savant or RTI. They don’t have the singular focus of control in their DNA

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Sad to say, the article is correct. If you’re not willing to pay a minimum of 5 figures for a professionally installed and maintained home automation system the average person isn’t going to be happy.

At least that’s been the reaction of several angry spouses I’ve met after “He” installed too many boxes on their TV. :wink:


Well, it seems to be that “he” should go to bed without dinner. :slight_smile:

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I think some people try to automate too much without considering the complexity it may cause. I add automation as it makes sense. Just moved into a different house last fall and so far the only things I’ve added are an Ecobee thermostat, a Yale deadbolt, Ring doorbell, and a garage door controller. I don’t need light controllers or automatic window shades.

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Software quality is everything. I work as a Solar Tech commissioning PV arrays and ESS and I tell you 2 month in, every install presents different issues. So I totally agree with @SpivR spending more doesn’t necessarily buy you stability.

That being said the fun part is tinkering with the cheap stuff.

In September Nokia’s Smart Lighting ships and I think I’m gonna take a whirl. What has me pulling the trigger is the system is RF and PowerLine Communication. I like that it has a 4-Button scene controller, in-wall smart receptacle that give you control if both outlets and HomeKit is being certified.

For the more astute …if it sounds just like Insteon it’s because it “is” Insteon under a new name. I can’t even tell what’s different between Nokia’s offering and classic Insteon.

Respectfully, I can’t believe that was allowed to be a published article. Part of being a responsible consumer is to know what your purchasing. In this case, the ecosystem you are buying into. Do you buy a home without researching the area, average pricing, etc? No. Same goes for home automation.

In our home, we did the research and decided HomeKit was the best solution for our needs. Security, Privacy, Siri, yada yada yada…. I dipped our toes in the water starting with HUE lights; adding more and more to where we now have two bridges and 62 lights in various forms. Next we added two ecobee thermostats which have saved us real money on utilities. Add in a smattering of smart plugs, outdoor plugs, garage door opener, etc. All of this funnels through our AppleTV as the central Home hub.

All of this was done over time with the overarching North Star being “does this make our lives better and/or easier”. For instance, we have yet to agree on the subject of smart door locks. So we wait until there is a compelling use case in our home.

Is HomeKit perfect? Absolutely not. Pain points? Oh hell yeah! Amazing when routines, schedules, and other automations kick on or off? Mind blowing……


My advice to people is to figure out what resonates with them with the cheaper stuff and then when they’re relatively sure of the value of a certain product buy the best product they can find. I know my wife loves the better control over lighting …she’s not a fan of smart thermostats and we love distributed music.

Honestly the big area that hasn’t been fleshed out is robot helpers. We have 3 Roborocks. It’s getting to the point where lite fleet management is necessary.


I weep a bit every time I pull a Caseta dimmer out of the wall. Man they’ve been so reliable for me and easy to setup.

Just had a recent nightmare of having to unbundle 5 neutral wires to install Cync (promptly ripped it out …Cync just isn’t ready from a hardware/software perspective) and Echo dimmers.

The pain isn’t how many bridges you have. Once you start having to splice in neutrals to an already crowded back box you’ll quickly realize how amazing Lutron is.

I was planning on going Connect Sense for in-wall outlets but I kind of want to see what they have for the next generation. I read you know Adam Justice a bit.

If Lutron announces the next Ra product which I presume will be a merging of Radio Ra and Ra2 Select i’m in like Flynn

Part of the “fun” is figuring it out and playing around with it. It doesn’t bother me that it isn’t 100% perfect. I have three systems I am working from (smartlife, HomeKit, and Feit). The reason i did three systems is because of the cost of the products. Using shortcuts i am able to get things to work together most of the time. I would say that make sure you have a dimmer for lights so that others (the rest of your family who are not into home automation) can use them. This is a must in the kitchen!


I’m a Savant Select noob building my first home system. Just can’t see myself using this generation of Cync. Too bulky. Noon is nice but I just don’t see it fitting into my home.

Ok reddit scuttlebut incoming. Based on FCC filings back in February or so the artwork depicted the same round bridge that Homeworks lineup offers with PoE but with Ra2 Select written on it and info about Zigbee.

Next a guy wrote that his friend, a contact that is a Lutron dealer said that he suspected that Radio Ra and Ra2 Select would merge because they occupy too much of the same space and thus the lineup would be clearner with

Caseta - DIY Resi
Ra2 Select - Mid level dealer installed
Homeworks QSX - high end

Hey then opined that by adding Zigbee to the new bridge it would enable Ketra support and Philips Hue since Lutron is a “Friends of Hue” partner. That’s intriguing. Lutron stability with RGBW support and one Bridge to rule them all and bind them into lightness.

That Satin color would work perfect with my wall color. Gonna have to wait for Cedia and see if anything amazing comes out.

@Jimbo yup. I personally love tinkering with this stuff. Plus if you install it …you know how it works and don’t really fear stuff breaking as much.

+1 for Lutron. I have devices from all the major smart home brands (e.g. Philips, Wemo, Ring, Nest, etc.) and my Lutron switches are BY FAR the most reliable. I have approximately 36 Caseta switches, and they work without fail every time.

I’m really glad I spent a little extra money and went with the Lutron system for whole-home automated lighting.

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Interesting. Clearly the early Ketra stuff used Zigbee at least a bastardized version as some sort of light link. I know they were clear that they weren’t compatible with anything else but their own controllers. Today is seems like their protocol is mainly DMX512. Here’s a nice Teardown of their A20 bulb. Ketra has some engineering chops …guess that’s why Lutron acquired them partly.