Newbie questions

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by tills24, May 24, 2016.

  1. tills24 macrumors member

    May 10, 2010
    Good day all,

    We bought our house in April, and are slowly turning it into "ours". I want to add Smart Home features, but I can't find a buyers guide. I realize that everyone starts with a different "thing" that is important, but for those of you who've got setups, knowing what you know now, where would you begin? Bulbs, outlets, smart door locks, etc.

    First one, I don't like the bulky smart switches. I'd rather have one that is built into the outlet receptacle itself. I can't find anything even giving the idea that these exist or are in the works, which leads me to believe that they exist only in my mind.

    My second question is what ecosystem would be recommended to build around? HomeKit seems to be just there without much support from Apple. My wife and I both have iPhones, my daughter has an iPad, and we have 3 ATV's (the one in the living room is the current gen, which as I understand it can be a HomeKit hub?), so we're in the Apple ecosystem now. I like the idea of an Amazon Echo to make the house Jetson's-like, but that means moving away from HomeKit, or am I mistaken?
  2. chuyn macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2015
    What are you planning on controlling with the outlets? There are some, Insteon has controllable outlets, and I believe SmartThings do too. The Insteon ones are controllable two version of their hub, one being HomeKit compatible. Last I looked into this, the outlets with dual control... you need to use the non-Homekit hub to control both outlets independently. For some reason, the HomeKit compatible hub only allows control of the top outlet in the receptacle.

    Some products work with both HomeKit and Echo... Philips Hue, Insteon, and Ecobee3 are some that I know off the top of my head.

    If I were to start from scratch again lights and thermostat are what I'd begin with. I do prefer smart light switches over smart bulbs though. This lets you use either the physical switch or app/scheduling. Smart bulbs need the switch left on to operate. You can turn them on/off from the switch, but if the switch is off, you have no app control.
  3. friedmud macrumors 65816

    Jul 11, 2008
    I second the suggestion of lights and thermostat. That's what I started with.

    Since you want more "traditional" light switches I would go with either Lutron or Insteon.

    Here is a nice Homekit compatible kit from Lutron:

    For thermostat... I don't think you can beat the Ecobee3:

    Those will give you a good place to get started... and you can grow from there.
  4. kepardue macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2006
    I agree with the recommendations above. Starting with a thermostat is kind of a given, that's just something used go you can get practical use out of.

    Light switches is something that I've tried to do with a bunch of Z-Wave light switches. The benefit of Z-Wave is it's a widely supported standard, so if the hub you choose to use with it goes under, you can replace it with another. I've actually used mine both with a SmartThings and a Wink hub.

    However, ideally I would have a HomeKit compatible setup. To my knowledge, nobody has made a Z-wave/HomeKit bridge, and due to Apple's requirements may not be able to. So, I'm kind of looking for alternatives like you are. There's Lutron and Insteon. Both require hubs, and others have talked about the limitations above. iDevices will be releasing a wall switch, dimmer, and wall outlet this fall, but they really have yet to prove themselves from a reliability standpoint, and if the price of their current new product (the $80 screw in light socket) is any indication, it may cost significantly more than Insteon or Lutron.

    In an ideal world, Apple will show that they're still interested in HomeKit at WWDC and announce a much faster interface and perhaps a native iOS 10 home app to interact with it. But we'll see.
  5. tills24 thread starter macrumors member

    May 10, 2010
    Thanks for the replies!

    My thought were the same, start with the thermostat and lights, because it seems that those are the most advanced areas so far. I'm happy to see that the Ecobee3 is recommended. I like that it has the remote sensors, so we can see other rooms temps. My daughter is always cold, and my son, while being 9 months old, seems to take after me and is always hot. So the remote sensors can help us gauge if we should open and close the vents in their rooms depending on if it's furnace or AC season. Our house has 2 zones, we have a thermostat in the living room, and in our bedroom. With the Ecobee3, could we go to only one thermostat, or would we need to replace both of the existing with a unique Ecobee3?

    How is Lutron versus Insteon for controlling both lamps and light switches? The little remote control for the Lutron is something that seems nice, but isn't a deal breaker if I didn't have it. As long as we each can control from our phones, it's like a remote right there.
  6. chuyn macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2015
    Both Lutron and Insteon have worked great for me. We used to have Lutron but switched to Insteon for a bit more flexibility (keypads, remotes, garage door control, etc). From my experience, both were very reliable. I think there was only one time with Lutron where their service went down for a little while so app control didn't work. Physical control at the switches still worked though.

    App control is a bit different. Lutron's app, as you move the slider, the lights respond more real-time. You can see them brighten/dim as you're sliding it around. Insteon on the other hand, is more delayed. You move the slider to where you want first, then the light will react. Also, Lutron's app can be set to remind you that your lights are still on on your phone or watch when you leave. Insteon doesn't have that option.

    The remotes are different too. Lutron's remotes can only be assigned to a switch and they're also how you do 3-way setups (one switch is the actual Lutron light switch, the other switch is replaced by the remote). Insteon's remotes can be assigned to a switch, a set of switches, or a scenes. They're also available as single paddle style, 4 scene control, or 8 scene control. Both remotes can be wall-mounted and have a wall plate installed so they look like normal light switches. The design of the Insteon wall mount only allows it to be installed on a flat wall surface, while the design of the Lutron wall mount lets you install on either a flat wall, or over a box where an old light switch used to be.
  7. kepardue macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2006
    This is the best comparison I've seen yet of Lutron and Insteon. Thanks so much for adding your clarification, chuyn.
  8. LiveM macrumors 65816


    Oct 30, 2015
    Yeah, I would also say lights and thermostat first.

    I think the Philips Hue bridge also works with other brands.
  9. kilcher macrumors 65816


    Jul 3, 2011
    I have an ecobee thermostat, which I'd highly recommend...

    I also have this, which I love, because I'm always paranoid I left the house with the garage door open...

    Very easy to install. App will let you see if the garage door is open or closed, lets you open or close the garage door remotely, and even sends you alerts when the garage door is opened, closed, or open for longer than a set amount of time.

    Manything is another cool app I've toyed with. If you have an old iPhone laying around the Manything app will let you turn it into a video camera - you can view the stream remotely and it'll send you an alert when it detects motion. Kind of cool.

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8 May 24, 2016