I’ve been doing DYI home automation for 5 five years with a couple of different systems.  All in all, DIY home automation is effective, fun, and relatively cheap but it can also be challenging.

There were many different devices there to connect your devices together. The problem was controlling different devices was through different applications. There were also hubs (automation brains) but they might not work with all devices and their interfaces were very unintuitive and hard to use. I used to use Vera and I had to do a lot of programming tweaks to make it work the way I wanted. For example, we have a two-level home with one thermostat on the first floor. The upstairs gets considerably colder (or hotter) than the first floor, depending on the season and time of the day. I wanted my thermostat to read the temperature from another sensor in a room upstairs and adjust the climate accordingly. I had to write a code to make this work on Vera using a nonsense programming language; after one update on the Vera system, my code stopped working!

I had to deal with my not-so perfect home automation system until I came across SmartThings. I bought the SmartThings hub, paired it with my existing devices, and voila! I was blown away!

Design

SmartThings is a build-as-you-go home automation system with a ridiculously easy user interface which stays easy even when it comes to complicated routines and processes. SmartThings supports most popular home automation devices on different protocols such as z-wave, zigbee, and WiFi. This is super important, since you can buy the best devices and not have to worry about using different systems and apps to control them. This also gives people who already have some devices a greater amount of flexibility.

For example, I already have a lot of z-wave light switches and Sonos WIFI sound systems which I never could connect on a single system before SmartThings. Simply by using the SmartThings app, you can create different scenarios to make these devices work with each other. This means you can have your Sonos system play a customized message or play a certain sound when your door is unlocked!

Sonos and Dropcam controllers on SmartThings app

 

The app design makes creating these scenarios super easy using SmartThings SmartApps. Remember my thermostat problem with Vera? I could create a scenario with SmartThings to make my thermostat read the temperature from a sensor upstairs in a few minutes with no coding! Plus I could set it to do so only at night!

Set up the Thermostat and the degreesSet the Temp sensor and mode
SmartThings SmartApp to Set the temperature  SmartApp to set the temperature based on a different sensor at night

Another cool feature of SmartThings is that it can tell whether you’re home or not by reading the location of your smart phone. You can set certain rules for when you arrive or leave home like make it turn off all the lights and lock the doors automatically when you leave. SmartThings also has different modes like Home, Away, and Night. You can set specifications to be triggered depending on the mode used, like turning on the heater at night.

SmartThings records all the activities of all devices and you can simply look at them in the app.

Light ControlDoor Lock ControlThermostat ControlThermostat Activity Log

How Does SmartThings Work?

The first step is pairing (pairing is the process of making a hub recognize a home automation device). With SmartThings, pairing is simpler than the most hubs, but it’s still a little clunky. The SmartThings app tries to walk you through the process by helping you identify the device and showing videos on how to do it. I paired most of my devices with no problems but I had to debug a few of them by unpairing and pairing. Also, 1 or 2 devices didn’t work mainly due to the device problem.

After pairing, there was some delay and slowness with the device responses, but after a couple of hours, everything worked seamlessly together.

SmartThings Add things interfaceSearching for new devices

 

Applications

Scenarios that you can setup using SmartThings and devices are truly endless, but here are a few to get you started:

Full alarm system: You can buy motion detectors, open/close sensors for windows and doors, a siren and then you can set up your own security alarm system using SmartThings at home. SmartThings sends you alerts and notifications when a door or window opens or any motion is detected. It can automatically turn on the siren if you’re away (Away mode) or even trigger your DropCam to take multiple pictures of the intruder. And this won’t cost you any monthly fee.

Climate control: Get a z-wave thermostat and a bunch of temperature sensors and you can set the climate of your home as you please. You can set the main thermostat to read temperature readings from different sensors depending on the situation like reading the temperature from upstairs at night and turn on and off the heater based on that temperature. In the morning, set it to read the temperatures from downstairs or any other room.

Danger Detection: Get moisture and water sensors and use SmartThings to alert you when a flood happens in your basement or when a pipe breaks under your sink. Add smoke/CO2 detectors and SmartThings can alert you before it’s too late. This way, you know immediately when something goes wrong.

Do things automatically when you get home: You can set the garage door to open, turn on your lights, turn the air-conditioning unit, and set Sonos to play your favorite playlist when you get home. Or have Smartthings automatically lock the doors at certain time at night.

Overall, SmartThings is a superb system. It’s cheap, it works flawlessly with multiple systems, and it has an amazing app that makes home automation a breeze. Also, it lets you automate your home at your own pace and budget. Buy a SmartThings hub and buy a few smart devices depending on what you want to automate first. Light switches are always fun to start with.

Dropcam ProKwikset DeadboltGE Light Dimmer SwitchHomesetting Light DimmerHomesetting z-wave power plug

My Set up:

Hub: SmartThings
Light Switches and Dimmers: GE and Homesetting
Thermostats: Trane
Locks: Schlage and Kwikset
Moisture detector: Fortezzz Moisture Sensor
Temp Sensor: SmartSense Multi Sensor
Cameras: Dropcam Pro