Smart Home Nerdery

Anyone else into Home Automation? It’s my hobby.

My best investment has been Hue Bulbs and security cameras.

The worst is the fiddly Chamerlain garage door automation. It loses signal constantly and requires the tall ladder to reset. I just bought a new system to replace it, but I haven’t installed it yet. image

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I have hue bulbs and a digital lock on the front door. It’s nice walking up the driveway with an armload of stuff and telling my watch to unlock the door.

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I too is very interested in automation.

My best investment was a Smarthings hub and a bunch of sensors. I do various things with them:

  1. 3 water leak sensors which send me push/SMS notifications and sound an alarm (we had very bad water leak issues in the building)
  2. Get a push notification when one of our cats gets stuck in the walk-in closet…
  3. Alarm when somebody opens the balcony door… We live on the 8th floor and I dont want my cats to get into base jumping…
  4. Swage lock on the door which gives me alerts when the door is unlock when I’m not there.
  5. Some lighting controls to turn on and off various lights at sunset and/or at certain times. I never got into Hue lights though…

I use SmartRules app to put together automation that the native app doesn’t let me do.

I have a Nest thermostat. I stopped fiddling with the programming and just added a morning and night temp. Then I let the presence sensor put it in and out of ECO mode. I also have 2 nest cameras.

I use Harmony Hub and a Google Home mini to turn TV on/off and various components depending on what I want to watch.

I just received yesterday a Lutron Caseta dimmer which will go on the entrance light and will be activated with a Smarthing motion sensor.

I believe that automation has a few solutions:

  • children
  • paid help
  • move house

I can’t guarantee full automation with any of the above though!

Personally I’m using Philips Hue lights and a Sonos One (Airplay 2 support!) right now, and that’s pretty much it, But it’s very nice :slight_smile:


baseboard electic heat :slightly_smiling_face: + digital thermostat

When I used wood to heat I also had electic backup. no frozen pipes… or pets.

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Tell me about the sensor that alerts you if the cat is in the closet. That’s happened here too! :frowning: Kitty was not amused he had to spend 15 minutes in there.

I live in the Great North Woods but I have a newish cabin that’s very tight and well insulated. I put in a minisplit three years ago. Before that the entire house was heated by a propane insert with a fan that blew the hot air around. One vent went into the crawl space to keep the pipes warm.

[Additional background that might verge on a TL;DR situation; skip to below for solution involving automation if that is your reaction…]The minisplit is far more efficient. But I have to manually bump up the propane insert to keep the crawlspace above freezing. When I installed the minisplit I was assuming it would shut itself down or fail to pump heat when the outdoor temp dropped below its minimum rating (5˚F). But it still cranks out heat when the mercury is in the minus teens. The low heat setting for the minisplit is 50˚F so I was setting the thermostat for the propane insert to 45˚F. If the split had not been able to keep up the temp inside would have dropped and the propane would have come on and all would be well.


Two winters ago an unexpected cold snap hit when I was away for a few days and pipes froze down there. So I had to rely on the propane more than I’d like to. I also installed an electric space heater with an antifreeze setting (I think 43˚F) in the crawl space. This winter was fine. But I still want to go back to having the minisplit maintain the heat when I’m away rather than rely on the propane.

[Automation solution to above problem]This year I’m going to try to automate the whole thing using wireless sensor tags. I’ll place one in the crawl space, one in the living space, and one outside. Maybe a few others here and there, such as the refrigerator and the freezer. They can talk to IFTTT so I hope to create an algorithm that will allow me to control everything but the minisplit, (I can’t figure out a way to control that.) I’m installing a Wemo switch on the space heater and a compatible smart thermostat (probably nest). When the house is vacant, the minisplit will be set to the 50˚F low heat setting. When the temperature outside drops below 5˚F (or thereabouts) I’ll have it turn on the propane heater (to pump heat to the crawl space and to turn off the minisplit by raising the inside temp. above 50˚F). If the temperature in the crawl space drops below 45˚F (or some other temperature to be determined), same thing. If it still drops I’l have it switch on the space heater in the crawl space AND/OR raise the set temperature on the propane. Lots of possibilities here for tweaking and refining. In all cases the tags and IFTT will send me alerts. I can drive to the house and manually save the pipes if need be.

Any thoughts/suggestions/warnings?

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Sounds like a great solution! The only thing that gave me pause was the Wemo switch. I have one controlling a small fan. The darn thing seems to lose connection to the internet all the time, rendering it useless about half the time.

The Wemo switch would affect only the space heater and if all else works well it won’t be needed. Frankly, having the space heater down there worries me. I seal up the crawl space and there are propane pipes in there. A propane pressure test last fall failed and the gas techs then found a pipe down there that was corroded and leaking.

No need BOOM!

I started experimenting last year with a few Homekit plugs and then some lights. I like that the plugs can be used for so many things. But I’ve come to appreciate dimmable lights. Started with the Sylvania Smart+. Then tried the VOCOlinc L1 which is also multicolor. I’ve got 3 of those now and they work great and none of them require a hub.

Last winter I realized that I was not as efficient as I could be in heating my well house. It’s 150 feet from my cabin and has a dumb electric/oil radiator heater to keep the pipes from freezing. The thermostat is just high/medium/low with no temperature control. I would monitor the temps and then go out to turn it on/off as needed.

My first step was to just add a smart plug which allowed for easy on off from my cabin but I was still guessing on the temps inside the well house based on outside temps. I added an iHome iSS40 Smartmonitor and that has been fantastic. I used the iHome app to set-up automations based on maximum/minimum temperatures and now I don’t have to think about it at all. I can monitor the temp to ensure all is well but it kicks the heater on at 32 then off again at 38. I was inadvertently running it about twice as much as needed because I was guessing at the inside temperature and guessing wrong!

My guess is that with the savings in running that heater I’ll easily shave off 20% of my heating bill during the cold months.

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I have a motion sensor and a closed door sensor. If I detect motion while the door is closed, then there is a kitty to be rescued :slight_smile: I use the Smart Rules app for that. All done with Smarthings hub + sensors.


I started home automation by replacing two aging thermostats with new Trane digital units with Wifi. They use the Nexia system and act as hubs, so I’m on Nexia. It works great, and there are a ton of devices that you can use it with.

Besides the HVAC, I’ve added two garage door openers, several light switches and plugs, a door sensor, and a door lock. Everything works reliably and seamlessly. It’s great being able to control many functions of your home remotely. For instance, I can let someone into the house remotely, or adjust the temp remotely.

One thing I didn’t do (and glad I didn’t) was to start using Hue bulbs. I think Sparks complained about this as well, but you have to keep the switch in the right position in order for the light bulb to work. Very rinky-dink. My advice is to not be a lazy cheapskate and get proper wifi switches. It makes things work so much better.

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Proper wifi switches such as? Do you have brand specific suggestions?

My HomeKit devices:

  • Several Hue bulbs (color, ambiance, and white)
  • Several Hue motion sensors
  • Two Hue taps
  • Hue dimmer
  • Hue bridge (square one for HomeKit in use; older round one no longer used)
  • Netatmo Healthy Home Coach
  • Eve Room
  • Eve Energy
  • Eve Weather (unfortunately broke down recently)
  • Two WeMo switches (via Homebridge)
  • Third party Home App
  • Apple Watch / Siri
  • Apple TV4 for automation and remote control

Hue is indeed very nice! Great way to start if you are new to this.

Some automations I enjoy:

  • Lights turning on at sunset
  • Lights turning on when I get home after sunset
  • Lights slowly dimming at night to get me ready to go to bed
  • Lights slowly getting brighter (like a Wake-Up light) to gently wake me in the morning (though it can’t compete with the real thing)
  • Lights turning on at darker places when I get there (motion)
  • Lights turning off when I leave home in winter mornings
  • Turning on/off multiple lights with a single tap

Sometimes I feel like being the main character of Her when I “wish Siri good night” to turn off the lights and other devices at night… :wink:


Well, I’m using the Leviton switches because they work with the Nexia system. However, they have a line that uses HomeKit as well.

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Thank you! I’ll be getting these!

I have 30+ hue bulbs. We control with Alexa and Google Home. We haven’t found the need to get switches at all. Even my 85 y o mother can work the Hues when she visits.

Aren’t the Hue motion sensors great? I have one in the kitchen and one in the garage.

Hue smart bulbs
Lyric T5 thermostat
Lyric Leak detector
Schlage Sense Deadbolts
KooGeek Outlet

Apple TV as hub for remote access

My favourite automation is Hue light in bedroom which gradually increases brightness to wake me up more gently

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You mentioned that you have problems with your wemo as well as your Chamberlin garage door opener losing connection. I use to have these issues as well, but once I switched over to a mesh WiFi network in my house they resolved.

I can’t help but think your problem may not be so much related to the devices, but having less than optimal WiFi connection to those devices. I previously used a single Airport Express in my living room and had “fine” coverage around my house. I never noticed problems using my iPhone or iPad in any area of the house. But I would have dropouts with my IOT devices from time to time. Once I put in mesh and had multiple access points, that problem went away completely and my IOT devices, especially those in my garage and along the edge of my home, became much more reliable.