Not new to Macs, but new to home automation. A few Q's

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by slipper, Jan 10, 2016.

  1. slipper, Jan 10, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016

    slipper macrumors 68000


    Nov 19, 2003
    I just recently bought a property and it's currently going under the knife for a light sprucing up and kitchen reno. So while i was at it, i figured i'll do some basic home automation of lights and maybe shades and anything else you folks would recommend. Home automation is so confusing with many different environments that don't necessarily communication... So i have a bunch of questions for you folks. BTW thanks in advance!!!

    My original intuition is to use Apple HomeKit since Apple products are usually very well integrated. 1) Am i correct by assuming HomeKit is really only to link a bunch of different devices (Hue, Caseta, Insteon, August) so it will act seamless and can be activated with my iPhone, inside (not practical and not interested) and outside of my home (practical) and with Siri (not practical)? As well as notifications for i.e. smoke detection with HomeKit enabled smoke detector or forced entry with enabled security camera? Would you recommend HomeKit or another system?

    2) Would it be beneficial to use another hub rather than the standard Caseta Smart Bridge?

    My original intention was to use Philips Hue lights with Hue dimmer switches throughout (only way to make Hue practical) until my contractor already outfitted all my new recessed lights with Halo LED retrofit recessed lighting. So then i decided to get Lutron Caseta switches and pico remotes. It seems to be a good alternative to Hue but with slightly less flexibility, i.e. can't switch individual bulbs. So that brings up the second question: 3) are there any other limitations or benefits with Caseta, Insteon, Hue?

    After initially posting this, I just discovered Insteon products and they seem to be much more comprehensive than Philips Hue and Caseta... Since i'm no longer replying on Hue for the bulk of my lighting (may use for accent lighting in the future), 3.1) which automation products would you recommend? Insteon or Caseta?

    My condo was originally built in 1980 and it has an odd layout for switches, that's my main motivation for Caseta. One switch location may have a single gang switch/wall plate, but i will have to install a pico remote with wall mount along with a double gang wall plate to achieve an ideal switch layout. 4) Does the Caseta In-Wall Dimmer Switch and Pico Remote with wall mount sit flush when mounted together? Likewise, do Insteon In-Wall Keypads and remote dimmer switches sit flush?

    To one-up the idea above... I like the idea of a single gang switch controlling multiple areas around the home, rather than a double or triple gang set of switches and wall plate. 5) Since i'm now using Lutron Caseta, is it possible to tie in Lutron HomeWorks QS seeTouch CL Hybrid Touchpads? Or is it a completely different system and not compatible with Caseta and HomeKit? Or is there another brand of multi room in-wall switch that will work? ***Now that i'm thinking about Insteon, 5.1) does the Insteon hub, in-wall keypad, and remote dimmer all tie in together?

    I need some window treatments too. I'll probably install cheap vertical blinds in the bedrooms and living room. But if i were to splurge, i may get automated window blinds in the living room. Living room only consists of one big glass window/sliding door opening, but it requires three sections of shades so it's super duper expensive. 6) Any other automated window blinds other than Lutron Serena shades?

    7) What would you folks recommend for a front door lock? I was thinking August.

    I'm also going to get a First Alert Smoke/CO detector. 8) Anything else that's practical you would recommend? Not interested in those silly colored lights!

  2. Tilpots macrumors 601


    Apr 19, 2006
    Carolina Beach, NC
    Those August door locks look really cool. No experience with them, but love the look and they seem to work well if the Air B&B's of the world recommend.
  3. chuyn, Jan 14, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016

    chuyn macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2015
    Hopefully I can help out a bit, as I went through the same decisions about Lutron, Insteon, and Hue. First, yes, HomeKit, as far as I can tell, is to link things to work a bit more seamlessly. Like telling Siri, "I'm leaving" and having the Hue lights turn down, Ecobee thermostat go into away temps, doors lock. Each set of devices can still be controlled on their own and with their own apps/hubs. HomeKit just lets you tie them together with some scenes or check status/control with Siri. I do not believe HomeKit itself provides notifications, it's up to each device/app to provide the notifications.

    As for the lights, I use Hues in the living room (the room has no ceiling lights, just lamps) with a Hue dimmer switch on the wall. I used to use Lutron Caseta for all my other light switches (didn't need individual bulb control or change colours). I've since replaced the Lutron switches with Insteon switches for the reason you've noticed, more flexibility. So to answer:

    3) Hue, colour control obviously, but you will need to install a dimmer remote or hue tap somewhere. Trust me, your system will quickly be called "dumb" when a guest or relative cannot figure out how to easily turn on/off the lights.
    Caseta, the switches seem more solidly built than Insteon but are flat and hard to quickly press buttons blindly. The app connection to the lights seem more direct, sliding the slider up and down sees an almost instant reaction to the lights going up and down. Can only really control light switches. Each remote can only pair with one light switch.
    Insteon, more flexibility. Each keypad/dimmer switch can control anything else. Keypad can control scenes. Even dimmer switches can control scenes. Remotes can be paired to mulitple switches and/or scenes. Can include controlled outlets and garage door openers. App's connection is slow. You slide it to 50%, see that it sends the signal to the hub, then finally see the lights dim to 50%. In the Lutron app, the lights very closely dim at the same rate as you're sliding to the desired level.

    3.1) This depends on what you want to do. If your main concern is only to control the lights and be able to tell Siri to turn them on/off. If you never plan to use a keypad to control scenes or see your garage door status or control outdoor lights/plugs... go with the Lutron. It is just slightly better quality in my experience. I picked Insteon for the greater flexibility. But the catch here is I have not gone with the Insteon HomeKit hub. I have heard it's quite buggy and has a lot of limits currently (no garage door control, only one outlet instead of both outlets can be controlled, etc). I'll revisit the Insteon HomeKit hub when they release a new model or add more functionality match the regular Insteon hubs. We still have Hues, but they're just for the living room and accent lighting/lamps in the bedrooms.

    4) Yes
    , the pico remotes do sit flush next to a Lutron dimmer switch on the same wall plate (you will need the wall mount for the pico remotes. These wall mounts will work on drywall, or over an empty gang box. I have done both, installing a Lutron switch beside a pico remote in a 2-gang box as well as installing a Lutron switch in a single gang box and the pico remote beside it on the drywall and covering them with a 2-gang wall plate.
    For the Insteon keypad/dimmer switch and remote dimmer switches, they sit flush BUT... there is no mounting solution to mount the remote over an empty gang box. The only mounting option I've seen is to mount it over drywall (and then have a wall plate installed so it looks like a regular switch. I've used both systems to create a 3-way switch where it didn't exist before, and it's very easy to do this.

    In my case, I liked the option of controlled outlets, garage door control, and the keypads. I have a keypad in a central location that controls my kitchen lights, dining room lights, outdoor lights, and a couple of scenes (movie night, etc). for 5) I don't know. 5.1) Yes, the Insteon hub, in-wall keypad, and remote dimmer tie together. The Insteon remotes have more flexibility than the Lutron pico remotes. The pico remotes can be linked to one Lutron dimmer and one dimmer only. You can link multiple pico remotes to a dimmer, but not multiple dimmers to a pico remote. For Insteon, you can have one remote control multiple dimmers. I've got a simple dimmer remote in my kids' rooms mounted on the wall like a regular switch beside their beds that control the dimmer switches (to make a 3-way switch setup). In my room, I've go a multi-scene remote that controls the dimmer for my room, the light under my bed, and an "all off" scene command to turn all the lights off on the main floor. In the future, we plan on installing keypads at each entry and our bedroom to control more lights/scenes as we leave/go to bed.

    6) Since I no longer use Lutron, I've been looking into this as well and saw Somfy shades. I believe it's a motor that you install into any big box store blinds to turn them into motorized blinds. You can control them with their own remote or connect them to an Insteon setup.

    7) Tried Kevo, and now trying August. I liked touching the kevo but it often didn't respond right away and I didn't like the lights on the outside or the way the turnkey looked/felt on the inside. I like the August auto-unlocking as I walk up to the house. Also personal preference but I like my Shlage locks better than Kwikset/Weiser so the August lock let me keep everything the same (same keys and hardware) with just the interior turnkey.

    8) We just went with Nest Protects. Didn't see any benefit in having the smoke detector be HomeKit compatible and we got them before any HomeKit products were on the market. No plans on replacing them though, they've been working great and look good.

    -Edit- Noticed your condo is built in 1980. Before you even consider using Insteon, you'll have to make sure every switch you plan on replacing has all three wires going into it. Code back then did not require a neutral wire. So quite often, depending on convenience for the electrician, there'll only be two wires at the switch. I was lucky and the two I needed re-wired were in the basement with an open ceiling. Lutron Caseta doesn't have this issue. It works with a 2-wire setup.
  4. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    I'm new to this, but AFAIK Intsteon's dimmer switches only need two wires.

    I think (regardless of manufacturer) dimmer switches are the only type of switch that will work with two wires. IIRC, when you turn off one of this new smart dimmer switches, it doesn't truly turn off 100% -- it lets enough power flow through to keep the switch's electronics running (but not enough to turn on the light). So this requires using dim-able bulbs. I like how Caseta has done the testing and tells you which bulbs are known to work well. I just don't like the look of their switch.
  5. chuyn macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2015
    They all need a neutral wire except the version that is for incandescent lights only, which isn't an option as OP states his lights have been replaced with LEDs ( Also, WeMo switches ( as well as SmartThings switches (!/products/ge-in-wall-smart-dimmer-switch). I ran into this issue when I first started shopping for the Insteon stuff and Lutron was one of, or the only brand that has a smart switch that can be used with two wires and be controlled by a hub/app. These new ones don't turn off completely, but it's not power going through the light bulb they're taking, but from the hot/neutral wires going directly into the switch. So in that sense, yes, the switch is always still on so that it can send/repeat signals. Every Insteon switch is also a repeater to increase/improve the range of its system, so even if that light isn't on, the switch is able to send signals to the switch further away that needs to turn on. They for sure don't work with two wires... I've tried, out of curiosity, before I ran new wire to a couple switches.
  6. slipper thread starter macrumors 68000


    Nov 19, 2003
    Wow! Your thorough response helps out tremendously.

    Getting help locally and on the web seems to be near impossible since it's in the very early adoption stage. The time's i've asked at local lighting stores and Home Depot/Lowes, i always get the blank stare with the "i think this guy might be crazy" look.
  7. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    There are folks that are successfully using dimmable LEDs with Insteon's 2-wire dimmer.

    With the loads being the same for Insteon and Caseta's 2-wire dimmers (25 watt minimum, 600 watt max), and Caseta having a list of "approved" LED and CFL bulbs that work with theirs, I'm wondering if those bulbs are the bulbs people are having success with on Insteon's 2-wire switch (and Insteon is saying "incandescent only" because they don't want to have to maintain a list like that).
  8. chuyn macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2015
    Oh I wouldn't doubt it. I've used dimmers in the past that technically weren't compatible with LED bulbs but my load was high enough to meet the minimum. I just figure I'd rather be on the safe side, to meet the specs they require to save the headache of troubleshooting different bulbs to match the load or paying for an electrician/exchanging the switches later. Unfortunately with LEDs... even that isn't a guarantee as some bulbs will work fine and others not for no apparent reason. It's pretty frustrating.

    Slipper, I'm glad it helped a bit... I've experienced the same when I first tried to buy these things. The hub/app controlled lights are very foreign to most big box retailers and I had to do a lot of digging to get more info on some of the Insteon stuff. Those guys seem to be fairly old school, as most of the experienced ones have been using it since the X10 days and mostly still program/link the remotes/switches to each other manually. I will admit though, the Lutron system is a lot more user-friendly and much easier to program scenes and timers than the Insteon app. Another useful feature I miss is the option to have the app notify you on your phone or watch that you left some lights on after you've left with a an option to ignore or turn off the lights right from the notification
  9. jeyf macrumors 65816

    Jan 20, 2009
    do what you want but
    where will all that home automation be in a year, for sure 2 years it will be dead and moved on.

    with the new LED bulbs why even bother turning them off? Most residential heat works better if you just leave it on 24/7. Home automation is great if your single.
  10. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    Since you just replied to a thread whose last post (before yours) was literally made two years ago, you just proved that home automation hasn't died and moved on. :D
  11. jeyf macrumors 65816

    Jan 20, 2009
    oops i am usually careful about. my so big bad?

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