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Lizard1977

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#293019 21-Dec-2021 19:46
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I move into my new house after Christmas and I'm thinking about what I might want to do with regards to smart devices and home automation.  Available funds will limit what I will be able to do initially, but over time I'd like to expand things as funds become more available.  I've tinkered with some simple smart devices in my current place (Hue lights, a couple of Alexa smart speakers), but now that I'm moving into my own place I'm trying to work out where to start.

 

 

 

For instance - brands.  Currently things are a bit of a mish mash, with Phillips Hue, Alexa smart speakers, and living mostly in the iPhone world for mobile and PC for desktop.  How beneficial is it to stick with one brand?  I was looking at smart speakers, and possibly building a multi-room audio system over time.  A smart speaker, possibly with a display, could be good in the kitchen, but if I wanted to extend things to multi-room audio down the road, I'd kind of be locked in to one brand or have a mish mash of different speaker setups in different rooms.  I don't know how useful/cool the multi-room sound set up would be, but I wanted to keep my options open as much as possible.

 

 

 

Lighting - Hue lights are great in that they are simple to setup, easy to find (Mitre 10, Bunnings, NL, etc), though they aren't always the cheapest.  Is there a better option for smart lighting, and how beneficial would it be to tie it to other decisions (e.g. smart speakers)?  In my new place the light fittings are mostly recessed, but there are a few downlights, so is there a good smart lighting option for those fixed downlights?  Also, there is some existing garden lighting (not quite sure what the wiring situation is there - I only took possession on Friday) but it would be good to integrate the lighting both internally and externally.

 

 

 

Smart plugs - how useful are these, and what brand should I go for (in terms of integrating well with other smart devices)?  I had a brief experiment with one many years ago, but couldn't find a good use case for it.  In my new place I could see a use for it with the current external garden lighting (to turn it on/off remotely without having to go into the garden shed to manually switch them on/off), but not much beyond that.  I have a heat pump, which is about 10 years old so it has no smart functionality, but I was aware a few years back that you could get a device that provided smart functionality of a sorts by connecting to wifi and relaying commands via infrared.  Do any of these work well with existing automation ecosystems?  Then there are things like security cameras, smart locks, automatic garage door openers, motorised blinds, and probably other things that I haven't thought of.

 

 

 

I guess my question, if I really have one, is what are the best steps to take right now to ensure that I have a reasonably cohesive ecosystem in a few years? For example, I've been pretty happy with Hue for the past few years and was going to go out and buy a selection of bulbs for my new place to get started, but then I wondered if there was a better alternative to Hue, and if there was, what is the best way to ensure that things all line up in a year to two?  What is worth investing in now that will still be useful in 2 years time? 

 

 

 

I'm aware that I've meandered a lot, and don't really know what I'm asking.  Maybe the way to get to what I'm trying to find out is to hear from others who have embraced home automation what they would do differently if they had the chance to start out again.  Which piece of the home automation puzzle would you start with, and build out from there?


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mattenz
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  #2836501 21-Dec-2021 20:00
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How handy are you? The advice will be to get Home Assistant sorted, and get things compatible with that. Vendors with their own cloud systems do all sorts of shitty things that you have no control over.


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chevrolux
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  #2836506 21-Dec-2021 20:18
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My view of the whole thing is that to get longevity in the IoT space, you need devices that don't rely on cloud services to operate and configure. Everything should be able to be triggered locally, and if the company disappears (or more likely gets bought by another) your device won't be affected.

Home Assistant is VERY good these days. Since spinning it up again about a year ago, I haven't needed to modify a config file yet. It's all done in the UI and with add ons like Node-RED.

Shelly is SO GOOD. Priced extremely well, integrates perfectly with HA, and is certified in NZ. That covers off all your lighting and switching needs. I've just redone my bathroom and there are 6 shelly devices in it - lights, fan, mirror demister, LED feature lighting, heated towel rail and underfloor heating. And then also have Shelly 2.5 for roller blinds around the place.
I don't consider Hue a good option for lighting due to my first point. Although, you can do the hacky hue bridge imitation thing with software.

Lizard1977

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  #2836548 21-Dec-2021 23:01
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Thanks for those replies.

 

I've heard of Home Assistant but never ventured near it.  I like the idea of unifying things, but I wonder if it's overkill unless you're really into monitoring usage and other stats.  While I'm probably a data nerd compared to most in my social circle, TBH I don't really have the time anymore to pore over data trends and analyse my house energy usage.

 

To date my smart home expectations have been pretty modest.  One of the benefits of the Hue system is that the wireless switches they make can be stuck anywhere, which means my kids have been able to easily reach light switches that ordinarily would be too high for them.  But there is some attraction in being able to wire in the Shelly relays to the existing light switches and be able to use "ordinary" LED bulbs rather than pricey proprietary bulbs.  How does it work with RGB though?

 

From what little I've read tonight, it seems like if you use Home Assistant you can use whatever voice assistant you like for voice control, or you can use the HA app on the phone platform of your choice, or you can just automate stuff as appropriate.  Does that mean that brands are largely irrelevant, or are there some that work better than others (or play nicer with HA perhaps)?

 

My smart home plan is still pretty rough, but in general terms it's:

 

1. Smart lighting - being able to turn on/off lights remotely/centrally and/or by voice command, and extending the range and type of lighting used around the house (e.g. RGB strip lighting for accenting particular locations).

 

2. Integrating smart speakers in rooms around the house, so that key functions can be performed anywhere.

 

3. Improving functionality/security - automate/remote access for garage door, smart locks, cameras/sensors maybe.

 

Following this plan, I was thinking I could possibly begin with an Amazon Echo Show 10 (have seen some good reviews about this, including Mauricio's GZ review) which would work well in the Kitchen (simple video display, speaker, voice assistant) and maybe a few Shelly relays to control lighting in one room (do the Shelly relays show up in the Alexa app so they can be controlled by voice?)  I could then expand with more relays and more Amazon speakers in other rooms (e.g. Echo 4th gens) to extend the voice control throughout the house.  It then sounds like I can implement Home Assistant at a later date to bring all these devices together in a single source for management and control, but still rely on Alexa to natively control specific devices.

 

Am I aiming too low, or possibly setting up obstacles to future expansion?  Or have I missed the whole point with HA?




chevrolux
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  #2836596 22-Dec-2021 08:58
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The thing you don't want to do is have to have 5 different apps just to control stuff in your house. The HA app will bring all your devices in to a single dashboard that you can just stick on your home screen and not have to go hunting for. Yes you can do graphing and data collection, but that's really just a minor part of what HA does. For example, coming up to the holidays, I won't be at my place for a couple weeks. But HA will know I'm not at home (because the HA app feeds my phone device data back to HA), and turn on the lights and close the blinds in the evening to make the house look occupied. It will also stop other tasks happening like turning on air con, or heated towel rail.

 

Shelly RGBW2 is a great device for LED strip control. You can either run them as full RGBW devices, or control 4 separate single colour lighting strips. I.e. I have white LED strip feature lighting behind a planter box and on the pergola controlled off a single RGBW2 device, but then in the bedroom, full RGBW control of the bed head feature lighting.

 

Smart speakers are really easy these days. I personally like the Amazon range only because I've always used Alexa. Plus the little Echo's are so cheap. Those are the only devices I have that go "offnet" I guess you could say.

 

And then your last point of improving security, that's where HA will shine. You simply don't get the level of control you get from HA in consumer level security devices. My next little project is going to be adding a Google Coral accelerator to my server and doing face and object recognition with my cameras. i.e. my car (identified by number plate) pulls in the driveway after 5pm Mon-Fri, turn the lights on, unlock the door (once i figure out how to control my schlage lock with HA), etc etc. There's just soooooo many different things you could do, it's really just limited by your imagination.

 

Edit: Yes you can connect your Shelly devices to their cloud, which will give Alexa voice control. The Shelly app kind of sucks though - it's just slow. HA is significantly better.


kobiak
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  #2836606 22-Dec-2021 09:13
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I'd recommend to start with Arlec from bunnings. They got everything you possible could think of now. with sensors, sockets, lights, diy power plugs, ect. 

 

as it's been tuya clone, easy controlled from one app and connects to all smart home AIs. + easy integration to home assistant. Once you had feel for it - expand as you wish.





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timbosan
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  #2836613 22-Dec-2021 09:31
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Hi, two things from my journey, which is still very much a work in progress (and that's also a warning - I don't believe you can just "do" automation in one go).

1. Security. You mention Alexa but don't for Amazon and Google are well known for sniffing, saving and on selling data, including voice commands (and theoretically everything the device hears, although I have never seen a conclusion one way or the other on this).  My personal approach on this is to go Apple (HomeKit, HomePods, HomeBridge) and wear the device compatibility issues in return for having some sense of security

2. I have never seen one company that makes all devices you will ever need or want.  Some are very specilised, such as door locks.  Something like HomeAssitant / HomeBridge would be a requirement from the start.

Also I echo the comments on Cloud - I have found that Tuya devices are good on this - there are also have lots of devices (blind motors, heaters, etc.) and they are easy to find (DSE do them under their SmarterHome brand, Bunnings under Arlec I think), and there are tons on Aliexpress and Amazon.  Lots can be flashed with firmware, and there are non-cloud ways to control them (I have this on my todo list). Controlling TUYA Devices Locally : homebridge (reddit.com) 

I have Hue lights and like them - they are an easy starting point, although not cheap compared to others, but they have the advantage of also selling external sensors, wall switches, outdoor lights, and they work with Google / Amazon / Apple.  And they come up on Trademe often


allio
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  #2836689 22-Dec-2021 09:56
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My experience: Google Home is pretty good, works with virtually everything and is super easy to set up. If your goal is voice control of your lights/devices, it's definitely the lowest barrier to entry.

 

(Alexa and Apple Homekit are probably equivalent, I haven't tried them so can't comment).

 

The problem is that you pretty quickly run into a capability limit as soon as you want to start getting remotely clever or complicated. Devices and switches generally all have to go through some distant cloud server or rely on a proprietary hub installed somewhere in your house. If you want to use a motion sensor, you're stuck within a single ecosystem (i.e. you have to use a Hue motion sensor to turn on Hue bulbs using a Hue hub and the Hue app). You pretty quickly find yourself having to spend much more money than you want - or buying non-ideal products - because you don't have the flexibility to mix and match.

 

Home Assistant solves all of this. It supports everything. Instead of adding my smart devices directly to Google, I add them to HA and then expose HA to Google. That lets me set up wild and wacky automations and scripts using the power of HA, with the convenience of voice control from Google. After adding a $10 Zigbee controller I can mix and match sensors and switches - especially the cheap and cheerful Aqara Zigbee ones from Aliexpress - without having to collect endless proprietary hubs, and have them all work seamlessly with various kinds of lights and devices. My Hue motion sensor will turn on my Wiz smart bulb, but only if my wife or I are home, the light level is low and nobody's turned off the light at the wall in the past 30 minutes. It's just great.

 

That said, it has a steep learning curve. I've been using HA for about 18 months and probably the first six months I had no idea what I was doing at all.




sultanoswing
798 posts

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  #2836897 22-Dec-2021 14:43
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allio:

 

Home Assistant solves all of this. It supports everything.

 

 

This. I'm a recent HA user / convert.

 

Yes, there is a learning curve, and no, not everything works out of the box - far from it....however it is the only way to avoid fragmentation of your smart home devices and the requirement for cloud services, subscriptions and / or multiple different apps. Take a dive down the rabbit hole, Neo. I started with garage door automation earlier this year, now I've got it controlling my driveway gate, swimming pool pump and chlorine generator, Xmas lights and home theatre equipment. 

 

As Travis from digiblurDIY says "get your shit out of the cloud" (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5ZdPKE2ckcBhljTc2R_qNA) - or more to the point "their" cloud.

 

 

 

kobiak:

 

I'd recommend to start with Arlec from bunnings.

 

 

They are no longer flashable OTA to tasmota using tuya-convert, if that's important to you (the ones I bought earlier this year were, two I tried a month ago were no weren't).

 

The "Brilliant Smart Plug" they have for $19 *are* still OTA flashable using tuya-convert. I bought several to keep me going (https://www.bunnings.co.nz/brilliant-smart-wifi-plug-and-usb-charger_p0091644).


Lizard1977

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  #2837063 22-Dec-2021 20:50
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Thanks for the replies.

 

I'll admit to being a bit lost with the options here.  I've read through stuff on GZ, watched some YT videos, and there's still so much I'm unsure on.  I see a lot of references to Tuya (which appears to be rebranded severally by Arlec, BrilliantSmart and many others) and Zigbee, Z-Wave, and so on.  For someone who has only just dipped a couple of toes in with some Hue lights, it's hard to separate what is important form what is just brand preference.

 

What I think I have deduced is that HA is pretty much essential for meaningful smart home/automation plans.  But it seems to be a "broad church" so should work with most brands of smart devices.  It also seems like I can "upgrade" to HA down the track for bringing together the range of devices, and for more complex automations.  If that's the case, then I can defer the learning curve for HA for a little while at least, and focus on the hardware.

 

I watched a video about the Arlec Grid Connect devices (which are Tuya-compatible, I believe) and there was talk of achieving HA integration by flashing the firmware.  How "universal" is Tuya?  Are Tuya-compatible devices all pretty much the same, or are there brands to stay away from?  For instance, the Arlec Grid Connect devices look like a reasonably cost-effective way to invest in lighting (much cheaper than Hue for instance), but are they a good brand to use for lighting?  Or should I just go with Shelly relays?  Are they user-installable or do I need an electrician?  I'm still unclear on how they work, especially for things more complex than on/off switching.  For instance, presumably you need an RGB Shelly relay, which you (somehow) wire in to the wall switch.  If I plug in an RGB light into that socket, what wires are being connected to the Shelly relay to control the colour of the light?  I can't quite visualise how the relays work, but I do like that the basic functionality of the wall switch is retained (no retraining for guests) and the lights themselves aren't dependent on a single eco-system.  I think I will need to look for some YT videos on Shelly relays to understand it more.

 

One of the limitations of smart lighting (as I discovered with Hue) is that if the wall switch is off, the light is off (and so are the smarts).  I got around that by investing in the Hue switches, so the lights stay on and I use the Hue switch (or the app) to control the lights.  But I've seen some videos (I think it was the Arlec smart downlight) suggest that they suffer the same problem - turn it off at the wall, it goes dumb until you turn it back on.  Is that the case for all such smart lights?  Does the Shelly relay have the same problem?  I noticed they had a Wall Switch which seems to work similar to the Hue switch.  Is that the best solution - replace the switches with Shelly wall switches?


Obraik
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  #2840438 30-Dec-2021 13:05
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kobiak:

 

I'd recommend to start with Arlec from bunnings. They got everything you possible could think of now. with sensors, sockets, lights, diy power plugs, ect. 

 

as it's been tuya clone, easy controlled from one app and connects to all smart home AIs. + easy integration to home assistant. Once you had feel for it - expand as you wish.

 

 

I'm also a fan of Arlec as they're rather easy to reflash with Tasmota.


sultanoswing
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  #2840443 30-Dec-2021 13:24
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Obraik Kobiak and Lizard1977:

 

I'd recommend to start with Arlec from bunnings. I'm also a fan of Arlec as they're rather easy to reflash with Tasmota.

there was talk of achieving HA integration by flashing the firmware. How "universal" is Tuya? Are Tuya-compatible devices all pretty much the same, or are there brands to stay away from? 

 

as it's been tuya clone, easy controlled from one app and connects to all smart home AIs. + easy integration to home assistant. Once you had feel for it - expand as you wish.

 

I'm also a fan of Arlec as they're rather easy to reflash with Tasmota.

 

 

Tuya-convert2 is used to reflash tuya-based devices such as smart plugs, switches etc *to* open source, cloud-free firmware, such as Tasmota.

FYI, Arlec are no longer flashable to Tasmota over WiFi using tuya-convert2 - at least the batch I tried from Bunnings last month weren't. The firmware has been patched to remove the exploit used by tuya-convert2. The Brilliant smart plugs *are* still flashable using tuya-convert2 at the time of this posting, but YMMV.

You can still flash the Arlecs and other tuya devices, but it involves disassembly and soldering or otherwise connecting a USB-serial converter (or there's a raspberry pi method) to perform the flash.

 

HA does have a tuya integration, but it's a bit of a work in progress, as opposed to Tasmota integration through MQTT, which Just Works™. The Shelly integration is very nice with HA, but you can also flash them with Tasmota if you wish. 

 




bendud
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  #2840445 30-Dec-2021 13:32
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Re the price of Philips Hue, jbhifi have them in the sale today - so a quick pricematch at mitre10 means the impress lights are sub $200 rather than $300. Also the outdoor sensors can be $70 this way. Am just back with a lighter wallet and a boot full of Hue goodness….


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Obraik
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  #2840453 30-Dec-2021 13:57
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sultanoswing:

 

Tuya-convert2 is used to reflash tuya-based devices such as smart plugs, switches etc *to* open source, cloud-free firmware, such as Tasmota.

FYI, Arlec are no longer flashable to Tasmota over WiFi using tuya-convert2 - at least the batch I tried from Bunnings last month weren't. The firmware has been patched to remove the exploit used by tuya-convert2. The Brilliant smart plugs *are* still flashable using tuya-convert2 at the time of this posting, but YMMV.

You can still flash the Arlecs and other tuya devices, but it involves disassembly and soldering or otherwise connecting a USB-serial converter (or there's a raspberry pi method) to perform the flash.

 

HA does have a tuya integration, but it's a bit of a work in progress, as opposed to Tasmota integration through MQTT, which Just Works™. The Shelly integration is very nice with HA, but you can also flash them with Tasmota if you wish. 

 



 

 

Yeah, the Arlec devices I've picked up have had the OTA flashing capability removed. I've been doing the serial flashing method to get Tasmota on them. Assuming you're ok with a soldering iron, it's still what I'd consider somewhat easy and a cheap way to get a certified smart metering plug


chevrolux
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  #2840484 30-Dec-2021 15:16
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You shouldn't need to flash third party firmware to a device to make it work properly. Not too mention a bunch of them just won't flash OTA and need a header soldered on which then technicslly breaks its certification for use on NZ mains.

Support companies that are actually interested in supporting the open source community with products that support open protocols instead of all these bullocks ecosystems that are just white label Tuya platforms.

sultanoswing
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  #2840575 30-Dec-2021 18:29
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chevrolux: You shouldn't need to flash third party firmware to a device to make it work properly. Not too mention a bunch of them just won't flash OTA and need a header soldered on which then technicslly breaks its certification for use on NZ mains.

Support companies that are actually interested in supporting the open source community with products that support open protocols instead of all these bullocks ecosystems that are just white label Tuya platforms.

 

Yes, you shouldn't have to. But closed source, eco-system-tying proprietary firmware being what it is, flashing is a necessity. You don't need to permanently or even partially solder headers, if you can affix the pins elsewise. And thankfully we're not (yet) like Australia where it's illegal to run your own cabling. Let's not go down that nanny state bollocks with certifications up the wazoo.

 

I do agree re: supporting open-source standards wherever possible and companies which encourage that ethos. However, since most want to data mine their customers for all their worth, that's a challenging proposition.


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