Q&A: Home Automation - Winter 2017

Q&A: Home Automation - Winter 2017

This edition of our home automation Q&A show covers everything from Honeywell thermostat compatibility wtih SmartThings, how HomeKit is helping a viewer who’s visually-impaired, which sensors can trigger actions in Apple’s Home app, and more!

Starts at 2:35
From Mike:

I am looking for a smart thermostat to reduce energy usage.

I currently have a dumb Honeywell thermostat that I’m pretty sure the “Honeywell RTH9580WF1005/W1 thermostat” will plug right in and it is advertised to work with the Amazon Echo (which I have).  I also have a Smart Things Hub and would like to be able to setup routines based on outside temperature and presence to control things.

Some of my research indicates that the smart thermostat works with the ST Hub, but others say that Smart Things is still working on the software.

Honeywell is supposed to be at the show, but SmartThings is not listed.  However, Samsung has two booths and they might have some info about their subsidiary companies products.

If the current model does not interface with both I might wait to get another option.

I may not be thinking about control correctly.  If the thermostat is under ST control and I ask Alexa to turn up the heat, will I create a 404 error (showing my age).


Starts at 7:01
From Dustin:

First, let me begin by saying how much I appreciate what you are doing with the blog and the YouTube channel.  I eagerly await the notification that you’ve posted a new video and sincerely appreciate your candor, presentation, and honesty.   Thank you.

Here’s a bit of background on my situation and I’ll try to keep this email as concise as possible.  I am a U.S. ex-pat living in Monterrey, Mexico.  Within the last year, my fascination with home automation has grown to a fever pitch and seemingly all of my free time is consumed with researching products, systems, and, well, solutions to ‘problems’ that I didn’t know I had.  My love affair with home automation is due in large part to my disability.  I am significantly visually impaired and home automation seems like a great solution to many things that are a slight hinderance in my daily life, besides just being cool.  I am grossly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem as its accessibility features built-in to every single product are simply unmatched in the market.

I currently have a ridiculous amount of Hue bulbs and motion sensors and a few smart outlets, but am almost impatiently wanting to enrich my smarter home experience, but am running into a few limitations that you might be able to help me out with.

First, and probably the most crucial, is a solution for the ‘magic’ of home automation as you call it.  While I am absolutely enthralled with the idea of voice control, let’s hope Apple lights a fire with a connected speaker this year, I would like more flexibility with triggers and scenes based on motion.  My Hue motion sensors are amazing and I can’t say enough about them, but they are limited to just Hue lighting.  I would love to, for example, walk into my ‘theatre’ and have my presence turn on the lights, the projector, my Apple TV, and, let’s say for grins, the popcorn machine.  For this specific situation, I was thinking about the Elgato Eve Motion Sensor combined with a Logitech Harmony hub.  Thoughts?  Does the the Eve Motion Sensor allow any device to be controlled by it?

My second hurdle is deciding which of the more ‘big ticket’ items to splurge on.  I am currently renting an apartment, but am looking to buy in the near future and would like to be able to move the connected devices with relative ease.  I’m extremely interested in things like the Lutron shades and some sort of ceiling fan solution.  I guess my question would be regarding whether to invest in Hunter’s HomeKit fans or to try out Insteon’s converter.

Lastly, looking forward to a future home full of devices and connectivity, what would you suggest as a proper solution for managing these things.  I currently use an Apple TV 4th gen as a ‘controller hub’, but as I would like to start looking into other systems outside of the HomeKit world like SmartThings or Insteon, I’m wondering if a beefed up solution like a Mac mini running Indigo would be advisable.  I am not completely unwilling to go the Raspberry Pi or Arduino route, but I feel there are less involved solutions.  This also brings us to the issue of networking and routing, I suppose, but then again, this is why I’m seeking your advice.

By the way, you mentioned in a video that you would be producing some videos on Indigo and I am seriously looking forward to these :)

Obviously, I am a complete newcomer to home automation and I have very limited knowledge of the fundamentals behind these technologies, but am learning everyday thanks to wonderful people like yourself.  I understand the complexity of my requests here and, therefore, do not expect a lengthy reply, but any advice will be greatly appreciated.

My sincerest appreciation for all of the hard work you do and I wish you great success and prosperity in the coming year.  I look forward to hearing from you and new videos in 2017.  It will definitely be an exciting year for the smarter home!


Starts at 17:27
From Johan:

I am looking at light switches that will work with siri and homekit but with only two electrivak cables no neutral. Which ones should I look for and what works with a hub and without a hub?


Starts at 20:39
From Andre:

Thank you for good videos and info on the smarter home. I have been searching through the web but cant find answers on the trigger possibilities with the Elgato Eve sensors. Can you give me a quick update on them? Are they able to trigger scenes with like motion or temperature in the Home app?

Smarter Home Life makes appearance on Tech News Today

Smarter Home Life makes appearance on Tech News Today

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