HomeKit Starting from the ground level: first time HomeKit user looking for advice

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by AndyAkins, Aug 28, 2018.

  1. AndyAkins macrumors newbie


    Aug 28, 2018
    My family is moving into a new house in Sept, and we’re wanting to try our hands at some home automation. We’re an Apple house, and don’t own any Smart Home devices or assistant/hubs, so we thought we’d go the home kit route. We’re actually starting from ground zero for our setup, as my current WiFi router isn’t gonna work in our new house (its not powerful enough). What we have/want:
    • 2 story home with finished basement (total 3 floors), total sq footage under 3000.
    • Will have AT&T Fiber at 1GB.
    • Will eventually want smart thermostat, locks, lights, sensors
    So my question(s) is: what do I need to start? I figure:
    • Strong WiFi, perhaps mesh-style like Orbi or Google. Any brand/model known to work better with HomeKit?
    • AppleTV 4K, which will be on the ground level.
    • Apple HomePod, on ground level
    • There are three external doors - two on ground level that should be within Bluetooth range of AppleTV, but one is in the basement that almost certainly is not in range - what door lock(s) would work?
    Also looking for general advice... if you were starting a HomeKit setup with absolutely nothing, and could start with a clean slate... what would you do?


    — Andy
  2. knux11 macrumors regular

    Apr 22, 2008
    I've had bad experiences with mesh wifi, but others may feel differently.

    I just got a bunch of Lutron Caseta devices for my lights. Works well and I'd use them again.
    If you can get an Ecobee that doesn't constantly disconnect from wifi, id go with that, unless Nest somehow becomes Homekit compatible.
    Yes to AppleTV. Works perfectly for me!
    No experience with Homepod.
    I have a Schlage smartlock. Works great for me, I'd recommend it. Some of them don't have the option of using a key, I'd stay away from those.
    As for the range, as long as the ATV or the Homepod are within range of each door, you should be ok. Bluetooth range has gotten much better than it was.
  3. DNichter macrumors 604


    Apr 27, 2015
    Philadelphia, PA
    Get a HomePod for the hub, Orbi has been solid for me as a router, go with light switches instead of bulbs (Caseta), August Smart Lock has been great, and I would go with a Nest/HomeBridge combo if you can. If not, go with the Ecobee.
  4. Debauch, Aug 29, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018

    Debauch macrumors member

    Jul 6, 2013
    I recommend a mesh system. I used to get regular disconnects from ecobee, ihome, and idevice products before installing mesh. Picked up Google WiFi and have had zero (seriously none) disconnects since.
    • Schlage, Philips hue, and Caseta have been rock solid (before and after adding mesh). Highly recommended. Another plus for caseta is that a neutral wire isn’t needed.
    • Ecobee has been solid since adding mesh. Remote temp sensors are awesome.
    • ihome and idevice have been solid since adding mesh. I prefer idevice over ihome.
    • Apple TV for the hub. Works great.
    Having tried hub and hubless products, I prefer hub products (schlage, Philips, etc). Reason being is that if you ever need to reset HomeKit you won’t have to set up each individual product again (in the case of caseta, each individual light switch). Rather you reconnect the hub to HomeKit and all of the switches previously connected will come with it.
  5. bbednarz macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2017
    Another vote for the mesh system. I put in the Google wifi at my parents house and I never hear any complaints. I personally use Eero and couldn't be happier. Got it back in May at the same time I got ATT Fiber and both combined have been absolutely flawless. The only time there have been outages is when the power goes out, other than that they just plain work. Never any issues needing to be troubleshot, incredibly easy setup, I cant say enough good things.

    As far as getting into HomeKit, I know the Eero system plays well with it. The main Eero hub has 2 ethernet ports on the back. I have one running to the modem to get internet and I am using the other one to connect to a switch which has my computer, hue hub, and something else attached to it. Eero recognizes everything automatically and there were no extra steps needed to get things working. I have been using iHome plugs for a while now and they seem to be working just fine. Every now and then I will need to unplug and replug them in, but it is pretty rare.

    I like Hue for lights, but it kind of depends on what you are looking for. Do you want them to change colors? If you are just looking to be able to tell Siri to turn them on/off then just getting a lightswitch might be the more cost effective route. All depends on what you are looking for. I have multiple motion sensors throughout my house that will trigger different lights at different times of the day. I don't do a ton with the colors on them, but every now and then it is fun to play with. I dont know much about any of the other systems to be honest. I tried out hue a couple years ago and never looked back.
  6. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    First of all, you're picking a good time to start. Even as recently as 6 months ago, there would be odd issues with HomeKit - and a year ago there would be some infuriating things going on (like not being able to delete an unresponsive device). Things are generally pretty solid these days.

    I am really liking HomeKit at the moment, and it's poised to continue getting better.

    I've specifically chosen an no-hubs, 100%-HomeKit native approach. I feel it's cleaner overall and the manufacturers have had to surmount the hurdles that Apple places them under. I honestly can't say this is any sort of discernible advantage but I'm going to stick with that until/unless I can't.

    Overall advice is to look to have WiFi devices whenever you can, as opposed to Bluetooth. But in many cases where power drain is the overriding concern, you will not have a choice, the devices will only be BT as they're battery-powered.

    In general, while WiFi has the range, if you're within BT range of your hub(s) then once paired, the BT devices will perform well. WiFi devices can lose DHCP IP addresses and become invisible - hopefully Apple is fully aware of the DHCP renewal issue and is working with manufacturers to make sure it's as rock-solid as possible.

    Built-ins are the way to go, they look very modern when installed into the wall boxes. Keeps clutter down as well.

    My gear:
    • Ecobee 3. Three thumbs up for this device. It includes 3 room sensors for not only temperature but motion as well (that was an unexpected bonus)
    • Leviton dimmers - HomeKit native/WiFi. They do require neutrals but that shouldn't be an issue
    • Eve door sensors - they're BT but even a floor away the sensor to the door to the garage works just fine
    • iDevices outlet switch - kind of an odd duck, really just needed to switch an outlet for an old radio, but it also has energy use collection and a nightlight built in
    Going forward, I'll add a HomeKit garage door opener, more door/window sensors and probably some ceiling fans. I may do a webcam but I'm wary of most. I will likely add a hose switch so I can water plants when I'm away (it's BT so I worry about it working reliably). A weather station as well, but Eve seems to be waffling on that.

    Other possibilities include smoke and CO detectors, but they run to the expensive side at the moment. I find the room air quality sensors a bit weird.

    Finally - there are oddities with HomeKit. If you run into something, post it here. Just as an example, the geofencing won't work if you use your "home" location, but if you specify your home address, then it will. Go figure.

    Not only is it nice to have this automation when home, but it's great peace of mind and flexibility when I travel, which is quite frequently. Forgot to adjust the thermostat? Fix it remotely. Has anyone opened a door? You get alerts when that happens, if you choose.

    Good stuff.
  7. pesos macrumors 6502a


    Mar 30, 2006
    Not a big fan of mesh here. I put in a couple of Ubiquiti waps - one upstairs one down.

    Have the Schlage Sense lock, Chamberlain garage opener w/homekit bridge, Hue lightstrips under the kitchen counters and a couple hue lights in the living room. Ecobee3 thermos upstairs and down (highly recommend) and a homepod now in the mix. Also have 4 Hunter symphony fan/lights. Pretty pleased with everything so far. Building a new house next year so looking forward to taking it all up a notch automationwise.
  8. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    My general advice is for products that there is the possibility of you vastly expanding consider version of that product with a proprietary hub (ex Phillips Hue hub).

    For example all my switches and dimmers are Leviton HomeKit smart switches/dimmers. Leviton switches/dimmers are hubless so they connect directly to my wifi. I started off with just a couple and quickly expanded now having 35 devices on my home network. This isn't a problem and does have its benefits like redundancy in the event of failure, however its difficult to manage and replacing router or modifying my wifi would be a headache.

    That said I recommend smart switches and dimmers instead of smart bulbs such as Phillips or Lifx for the majority of lighting that is built into the home (ceiling lights, recessed lighting etc). There is still a place for smart bulbs (color change, finer control of dimming, etc) but utilizing the switches feels more like a solution rather than a bandaid, plus guest and non smart device literate people can still use the lights in the house (imagine explaining to grandma she needs an app to turn on lights).

    Typically smart device that aren't connected to power are the devices that use bluetooth (BLE) to converse on battery life. Without a device specific proprietary extender a HomeKit hub will need to be within BT range. Your house can have multiple hubs which consist of an AppleTV 4 or newer, iPad 2 or newer and/or HomePod. For me setting my iPad as a HomeKit hub destroys the battery. Overall I recommend HomePods since they easily expand "Hey Siri" operation. Yes its expensive but they sound amazing and don't require anything besides a wall outlet and using Hey Siri to a HomePod to control the home is probably the most convenient way to use the Home app.

    HomeKit's main advantage over other systems is security however because of that reason you'll find products slightly more expensive (HomeKit version vs non HomeKit version) or no HomeKit version at all. To me its certainly worth it, consider you are introducing a miniature computer into your network with every smart device you add. That device needs to be free of malicious software from its own manufacturer and also be difficult/impossible to install malicious software onto after its installed in your home. IoT will be your undoing if you become complacent like everyone else.
  9. macdragonfl, Sep 9, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018

    macdragonfl macrumors 6502a


    Jan 11, 2006
    Ft. Lauderdale,Fl
    I have a Xfinity Home system that I started replacing last weekend, so going through this. I went with Hue bulbs for all lamps. iHome for plug controls. Hunter SIMPLEconnect ceiling fan controls, they retrofit existing fans. Lutron Caseta for switched light fixtures. I ordered Lutron Serena blinds but they have not yet arrived. I also went with Ecobee 3 lite with two sensors. I still have to find the security/camera solution. My place is much smaller only 1500 sq ft. and one floor. I did not replace my older wi-fi, last gen AirPort Extreme. I thought I would replace but is running great with no issues. It hubs to a 4 gen 1080 ATV.

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