Showing posts from April, 2019


Many people getting started with home automation dive right in to choosing hubs and z-wave light switches. However, I like to advise people to start with a different part of their home: the thermostat. This recommendation stems from a philosophy I have that entering the world of smart homes should be like getting into a hot tub, do it slowly! Making many drastic changes to your house at once can cause confusion and frustration if things don’t work perfectly and can sour you (or your housemates) on home automation altogether. Many of the top rated thermostats are excellent, standalone systems and work without any hubs. That’s right, they are wifi. Remember when we mentioned that wifi devices have a place in your home ? This is one of those places. They are typically controlled by well-designed mobile apps and web sites and are very easy to get started with and program. This means that once you set up your thermostat, you’ll start to experience the convenience of controlling a vital pa

Choosing a Hub

An all-purpose hub is the backbone of any full-featured, automated home. The question that faces most new smart home owners is which one to get. There are many different options out there, each with different capabilities and targeting audiences of different technical abilities. Let’s look at some of the top contenders and what makes them right or wrong for you. Before looking at the various solutions, let's talk about which criteria matter when choosing your hub. Here is a list of things that I considered before making my choice: Devices: Does it work a wide range of switches, sensors and other components like cameras and thermostats? When a new device hits the market, how quickly will the hub support it? Do devices have to be added by the manufacturer or can anyone contribute code to make them work? Programmability: Does the hub support complex rules and timers to handle any automation scenario that you can dream up? Usability: How difficult is the hub to set up? How d

Deal: August Pro Smart Lock + Connect + Free Installation via Amazon for $166

UPDATE : Now  $209 Amazon is having an amazing sale on a great smart lock, the August Pro . It comes with a module to enable remote access from your phone and best of all, this deal seems to include free installation (See the screenshot below). Check it out quickly because it probably won't last long.  We haven't discussed smart locks yet but stay tuned for a detailed discussion in another post. Spoiler alert, this is one of the good ones :)

Z-Wave and Zigbee: A to Zzz

As we discuss popular hubs, switches and sensors in more detail, Z-Wave and Zigbee are going to come up more and more often. You might be wondering: What’s so great about these protocols, why do they seem to be everywhere in home automation? As the title of this posts implies, the answer might be a bit technical and boring for some people but I think it’s useful information, especially if you ever have to troubleshoot your smart home. When we previously discussed wifi  and its place in the smart home, I gave the analogy of a bartender at a crowded party with dozens of people shouting their order. The loud voices interfered with each other and the overworked bartender. Z-Wave and Zigbee are specifically designed to address these issues.

All About All Purpose Hubs

We’ve discussed wifi-based systems and talked about a few proprietary hubs. Now it’s time to look at the hubs that make up the backbone of most full-featured home automation setups: the all-purpose hubs. These hubs typically contain multiple radios so they can communicate with many different types of devices using different protocols. Most will be able to control Z-wave, Zigbee and wifi devices at a minimum, with some actually throwing in some extras like Lutron Clear Connect. Most importantly, these hubs provide the “brains” for the rules that govern your home