I am a big fan of smart homes – it might not automate everything boring and cure cancer, but it sure can make our lives quite a bit more comfortable. Creating my smart home system took some time (and money), but I still happy to invest energy and time to stop boring annoyances (like having light switches or stupid remotes)
As the background, I have a pretty usual family and a house. Wife and I live in a 4-bed semi-detached house, with 2 young kids and one extra grumpy cat.
I tried to automate everything I can and have at least 50 different routines. Not all of them essential. When friends ask me how my smart home works and what are my favourite routines, I usually come up with 16 that I described below.
Now about $2,000 – I realise that it sounds ridiculous in the title and it is a lot or money. At the same time, I do not think of myself as a rich man. I bought those devices over time and only now realised that I spent so much. Saying that – there are no regrets. Everything single sensor or light bulb was bought for a reason and they serve me everyday making my life easier.
Well, anyway – please have a look and let me know if you have any comments of thoughts. The purpose of this article was to give back something to the community. I was once a beginner and remember how daunting it sometimes was.
UPDATE JUNE 2019
Please ask me any questions you might have, check up my GitHub and leave comments below. I will make sure I will answer every single question. I have not described how to set up every single automation and will gradually complete it this month.
My 16 Must-Have Automations Ideas
They mainly fall into four categories:
- Save money
- State routines – help me to control many devices at once depending on what we do
- Good Night – I press a button when go to sleep and it switches off all lights, all media players, arm the secuity system
- Everybody left – based on the presence detection and once everybody left it switches all the lights and arms the house
- Holiday Mode – lights would switch on and off at usual time when we are away
- Focus Mode – really helps me to get in to my work mode in my study. My favourite concentration playlist and appropriate lights.
- Do not use any remote for my AC, Amplifier, Projector and Projector Screen. This is a bit of a hassle to set up but worth every second. I hate remotes
- My favourite playlists from Spotify is alwasy on when I wake up or come home – so cool.
- Control My Shutters – I do not open or close my blinds any more.
- Hallway lights are on when I am back home at night. Not happening often with young kids, but very convenient
- Turn off TV if I fell asleep in front of TV – not watching TV much these days but a cool routine to have.
- Nightlights – this is mainly for my wife. Very convenient.
- I commute in a car to work so I have push notifications and bulb color change if there is heavy traffic on my route
What Smart Devices I Use (And How Much They Cost)
Smart Hub – (free, open source)
I am using Home Assistant as my main smart home automation hub. I did a detailed review of best smart home hubs and HA is a hand down winner for me for the pace of development and ease of configuration. The only downside is that it is hard to learn at the beginning, but so awesome once you figure things out.
I run my Home Assistant using docker-compose. I would have prefered Hassio but did not like how it manages containers and also like to play with docker myself.
Server – ($540)
- NUC – I was running everything on Raspberry Pi, but decided to move to Intel NUC NUC8i3BEK, i3 (8GB Ram + 128GB SSD) (from $43.99) when things became a bit more serious. No regrets.
- Zigbee – I had Xiaomi hub, but did not like the stability and Chinese roots. I use dresden elektronik ConBee II ($37.45) with Deconz. I prefer to use Zigbee devices as the default with Z-wave only when there are not options. Home Assistant ZHA is a cool concept, but Deconz easier for me.
- Z-wave – Aeotec Z-Stick Gen5, Z-Wave Plus (from $43.99) is a Z-wave stick that we have but not deserve. Reliable, easy and practical
- RF Bridge – Sonoff RF Bridge ($23.99) is great to bring RF sensors to Home Assistant. I installed custom Tasmota firmware
- RF/IR Bridge – I also have Broadlink RM Pro+ (from $23.99). Why do you have two RF sensors you would ask. Well, that is a good question. two reasons: (1) it has an IR sensor which I use to control my projector (2) some RF signals (projector screen) were difficult to replicate in Sonoff and easy in Broadlink.
- Mobile App – For a long time I resisted using any dedicated apps because Home Assistant already has a great mobile UI. But recently I started using Ariel paid version. It has all the functions I need including the messaging and presence tracking.
Sensors – ($660)
- Interestingly, the most expensive device category for me is motion sensors. I use a combination of Dome Motion and Light Sensor ($34.97) and Aeon Multisensor 6 in 1 ($59.99). The former is a bit cheaper and has a lux sensor, while the latter is great where you need many environment measurements. I have one sensor in each room of the house.
- Leak Sensors is Samsung Leak Detector ($19.04) – practical and reliable. I have two of those – in the kitchen and bathroom.
- I have SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor ($19.28) for a Door Sensor. I have 4 of those on the entrance door and some windows on the ground floor that we open often.
Lights – ($180)
- Switch: Honeywell Z-Wave Plus On/Off Switch (from $19.99) is a great switch at knock-off price. I prefer switches to bulbs as they are cheaper, but require a neutral wire in the box.
- Color Bulbs –Kasa Smart Light Bulb, Multicolor (from $19.99) is best wifi colour LED bulb. I have two of those – one in the hallway and the other one is in the bedroom. The only reason why I decided to spend extra is that I use it for notifications.
- White bulbs I use are Kasa Smart WiFi Light Bulb (from $16.99). Cheep and cheerful – I went for wifi as they are easy to integreate and do not cost a fortune
Other – ($750)
- Shutters Somfy Sonesse ST30 ($259.99) – I have two of those. Although a closed system, Somfy is very reliable and work great.
- Water shut off valve Dome Home Automation Water Shut-Off Valve - for Pipes up to 1 1/2", White (DMWV1) ($75.99). There are other cool options like Grohe, but I decided to save some money and install it. It works really well for me.
- Smart Button – Aeotec NanoMote Quad, 8 scenes, ($44.99). This is mainly for my kids to control the music and also for some scene controls.