Home Automation – Fun With The House Part 1

**Please note – this is not a ‘how to’ guide, just a bunch of notes and tales of the fun i have had getting stuff working 🙂

Home automation: other names include Smart Homes, Smart Devices etc, sounds like fun so I dived in about a year ago.

There are a few different connectivity options for smart things – stuff like “ZigBee”, “Z-Wave”, “WiFi” to name the most popular ones. Generally speaking, WiFi devices will connect to your home WiFi network and be controlled via an app on a phone or pc etc, a remote server usually in China, and possibly a device like ‘Alexa’ or ‘Google Home’ which again will use a remote server, either Amazon or Google.

ZigBee and the less common Z-Wave devices usually connect to a hub (small plug-in device) and form their own private ‘mesh’ networks, the hub will then be connected to your internet and thereon to things like Alexa and other apps for control. In the beginning I bought on price – the cheapest smart stuff was generally WiFi but was not found much on things like bulbs – these were ZigBee. So we had a mix of ZigBee and WiFi devices, several apps and of course an Alexa device.

It worked pretty well for the first year, did most of what I wanted although it was hard to configure with simple things like the porch lights needing work doing in the Philips Hue hub, Smart-Things app AND the Alexa routines just to get the functionality i wanted. Its a real pain and very fragmented/messy way of doing stuff. Most users would be happy with just the Alexa routines and/or maybe the Hue app scenes etc. but not me – i wanted it tidy and very configurable.

When starting out, we replaced a lot of bulbs with smart bulbs (ZigBee ones from Innr), socket controllers were WiFi ones (cheaper) – these were used to turn stuff like decorative/comfort lamps on/off where the bulbs could not be replaced with smart ones. Also at Christmas, all the lights etc were controlled by 4 smart sockets and various routines on Alexa. Most of the bulbs i fitted were ‘ambience’ types – these are white but you can adjust the shade of whiteness from very warm to very cold – somewhere in between is a setting that mimics old tungsten bulbs perfectly – we wanted these as many plain white LED bulbs are a nasty shade of white.  We had no interest in the rainbow colour (RGB) bulbs so do not have any.

Switches were replaced with multi-function smart devices, these look like this when fitted…

The original switch is still fitted behind the smart switch, it is left  turned on as smart bulbs only work when left on. Smart switches have a few benefits – they can be fitted anywhere (no wiring), they can have multiple uses – you can control many things with them, they are also removable(cordless) so you can use them where you sit for example. The ones i used were connected via ZigBee.

Thats pretty much how it stayed for a year – we had 19 bulbs, 5 smart sockets, Hive heating control and the Alexa device to shout at 😉


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