Smart lighting and home automation, where to start reading?

MMaatttt

Active Member
Hi,

I’ve just moved home and would like to update to smart lighting and will eventually want to include wider automation including heating, CCTV, basic security, environmental monitoring and more. I’ve done some general reading but see that this is a huge space and I don’t really know where to start my learning.

I would appreciate any advice on what I should read up on so I know what to look for when I’m plan my install.

My priorities are:
Reliability
Responsiveness
No connection to cloud devices that I don’t control
Colour rendition quality for white light

I’m happy with some complexity during setup, for example running a PI or similar as a controller and doing some scripting. Generally I favour active open source projects, but I’m not religious about it and will pay for software if it’s really worth it.

I don’t use Alexa, Siri or the Google assistant and if I do implement voice control, I would want it to run locally.

So, where should I start reading? Any web sites, guides, etc? Thanks.
 

Seb Briggs

Distinguished Member
No sure there is any one place to read.

Maybe read a few manufactures website but dont get hung up on a technology/make more decide what you want the system to do

As an installer i've installed the following and know them pretty well but there is plenty more

Fibaro
Shelly
Loxone

A few other things to consider

Usage by none experts, The Granny Factor i call it, someone should still be able to turn a light on or off without having to pick up their phone, or read a manual.

Sellability in the future, a poor system can detract from the sellability of a house as not everyone wants to have the same system as you or may not want any at all.

3rd party integration

Seb
 

AndreNewman

Active Member
I had pretty much the same requirements and find most of the common smart home stuff horrible, badly designed or out of control.

I'm currently using Openhab for local automation, logging and control.
I only chose Openhab because someone had reverse Engineered the Drayton Wiser heating control system that I wanted to buy (also because it's not completely cloud controlled) and written a binding (like a driver) for Openhab.

Openhab seems ok, it doesn't phone home unless you configure it to, it's open and reasonably ok to use I guess. It's mostly configured from a web gui which wouldn't be my first choice but it seems to work and a lot of smart home gear is supported.

I have a mixture of Shelly dimmers and relays controlling various things, lights and fans and a few things in my Home Cinema. Some Sonoff relays flashed to Tasmota as the default Sonoff firmware is only cloud controlled.

I bought some Scolmore click minigrid retractive (like a push button instead of a switch) light switches and I've started replacing the switches around the house. It doesn't matter if it's an ordinary light switch or a Shelly or Sonoff the switch is the same.

the nice thing with the Shellies is you can configure them to control each other fairly simply. For example I have two standard lamps in my dining room, if you press the button to turn on the wall lamps (shelly dimmer2) it sends a message to the two standard lamps (dimmer2 in a button box) and they fade up as well as the wall lights.

In our hallway there is an extra light on a different circuit to the main hall lights, very confusing. I used more dimmer2's to make all the hall lights work together, including from the 2 way switch upstairs, much less confusing.

All this stuff is done directly with the Shellies talking to each other or the sonoff's, Openhab is just there to provide an app to control it all, it's not involved in the switching.

Our lights are now much simpler and more obvious to operate for use and for visitors. If we want automation on top or remote access Openhab does that.

We also control the Shellies from the Cinema remote control for lights in the cinema room, gently fade up when the projector is turned off so no-one's in the dark. The heating is adjusted automatically when you start the projector, that sort of thing.

One thing I didn't do right and would change, create a new wifi network just for the smart stuff, on a separate access point even. Then when you sell the house you can leave that part in place and working.
 

Seb Briggs

Distinguished Member
I use Shelly and Zwave (mainly Fibaro) devices in my own house with a Hubitat Elevation acting as a controller

I’m I am very impressed with Hubitat box as low cost , multi platform , powerful and configurable with a very good community writing extra drivers all the time
 

AndreNewman

Active Member
Oh and the colour rendition thing.

I work in TV and so am hyper sensitive to nasty light quality. So I buy only light fittings that can have changeable lamps, that way when LED technology improves (as it badly needs to) I can swap out the nasty stuff for something nicer.

The only nice LED lamps I've found are the Phillips Expert Colour range, limited to GU10 spots and the 12v equivalent but really nice light, no flicker, dim nicely and good light quality.
 

MMaatttt

Active Member
That's strange, I can't see the message from Rob or my reply any more about Loxone. Rob, I did value your message and I've not ruled Loxone out, I would just prefer to find a system where the devices can be controlled by third party controllers in case Loxone gets bought out or closes.
 

rslewis

Standard Member
A bunch of my posts have just been removed as apparantly (and unintentionally) they contravene the rules!

I'm only trying to help others, but people can always message me direct.
 

Seb Briggs

Distinguished Member
The beauty of both Fibaro and Shelly modules are that you can use standard light switches, as @AndreNewman hinted at, this means you dont have to compromise on aesthetics of a room.
 

AndreNewman

Active Member
The beauty of both Fibaro and Shelly modules are that you can use standard light switches, as @AndreNewman hinted at, this means you dont have to compromise on aesthetics of a room.
Yes and when the fancy smart switch you decided on is discontinued or changed you don't suddenly end up with a mixture of different looking switches that probably work differently too.

I bought enough of the minigrid switches and plates of all possible combinations so I can maintain the same look throughout the house for years to come.
 
D

Deleted member 27989

Guest
It is hard to point to a few sources to read up as there are so many roads that lead to home automation. The most important part in my opinion is what you actually want to automate, and are you ready to actually automate it?

But even when talking about automation peoples interpretation of automation differs. To me it needs to be truly smart, it needs to adapt to the environment and changing circumstances, it needs to be unobtrusive yet there. For me a well automated environment is like having a butler anticipating your needs and present them just before you were even were about to ask.

Therefore, for example, the concept of needing light switches and controls is superfluous when automated properly. And therefore the 'granny factor' that I was concerned about as well see my original thread. But years on and the only switch with any frequency is to switch everything off when the last person goes to sleep. As good as every need is anticipated by the system.

I fully agree regarding the quality of the light as well, like many homes we have some darker area and with the weather varying the lighting in our home varies as well. Again our system anticipates that and whilst the sun is up, there is presence in our home, and the lux levels drop then our Philips hue lighting comes on at an intensity required to compensate and with a colour temperature related to day light. As just one of the many examples.

Similarly with outside lighting which commences about 30 minutes before sunset, on weekdays is at increasing intensity based on ambient light level to about 10pm. After which the intensity is dropped, and ultimately goes off altogether at around 1am. But when there is presence of people, and the intensity is lower (and and and) then the intensity is increased with those lights that guide a path to our front door. Similarly the hallway area will come on with an intensity and temperature relevant for the time of day. And so on.

The systems are pretty robust, barely ever need tinkering with, nor manual overrides. I think the last time I used a manual override was at a Halloween party where I changed the entirety of our how to suite the occasion.

So coming back to where I started; what is most important is what you want from it...
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
Rather than read as such, I would hit up YouTube. Loads of smart home channels, including guides for people starting from fresh.
 

MMaatttt

Active Member
Thanks all. Looking at the answers I've been getting and doing some more digging, I think I'm going to start with controller software, then work backwards towards hardware. So far, OpenHab and Home Assistant sound the most flexible, generic and open. Home Assistant looks slightly better, but I'm really just guessing. I think I'm going to put together a controller and get a couple of smart bits and play. After that, my first real use case will be a water pump, mains powered with intergrated lead. It only requires 25W, but being a motor, I'll need a switch rated for a reactive load.

Any tips on Wifi vs Zigbee vs Z-wave?
 

AndreNewman

Active Member
Thanks all. Looking at the answers I've been getting and doing some more digging, I think I'm going to start with controller software, then work backwards towards hardware. So far, OpenHab and Home Assistant sound the most flexible, generic and open. Home Assistant looks slightly better, but I'm really just guessing.
I made my choice, Openhab, based on what hardware was supported and how quickly new things seemed to get supported. My main driver to get it all started was logging statistics from my heating system while we were working on insulating the house.

I ended up with Drayton Wiser and Openhab, mostly due to community support for a driver (binding) for the Wiser system.

I've been able to add most of the things I want or need to Openhab with minimal hassle.
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
Each to their own, especially if you have a very specific use case (I’m pretty sure that there is a Wiser plugin for HA, but I know the Openhab one works well apparently) , but generally speaking HA has by far the most device support and active development community. Openhab doesn’t have as much traction now. I’m supprised HA doesn’t have a good Wiser plugin, is there some official support going on with Drayton Wiser and OH?

I personally use Apple HomeKit (with Homebridge for non Apple certified devices), it does everything I want and more. That’s said, while HA has the steepest learning curve (so sleep I kind of defeats the point of home automation for me) if I had the time and inclination to go with a more independent platform I would go with HA.

The good thing is with these platforms it’s you don’t get locked into a system.
 

MMaatttt

Active Member
Each to their own, especially if you have a very specific use case (I’m pretty sure that there is a Wiser plugin for HA, but I know the Openhab one works well apparently) , but generally speaking HA has by far the most device support and active development community. Openhab doesn’t have as much traction now. I’m supprised HA doesn’t have a good Wiser plugin, is there some official support going on with Drayton Wiser and OH?

I personally use Apple HomeKit (with Homebridge for non Apple certified devices), it does everything I want and more. That’s said, while HA has the steepest learning curve (so sleep I kind of defeats the point of home automation for me) if I had the time and inclination to go with a more independent platform I would go with HA.

The good thing is with these platforms it’s you don’t get locked into a system.
What about the HA learning curve is difficult? Is it one of those nasty systems that's poorly documented and forces you to figure your way around a broken design, or is this one of those cases where everything is clean, consistent and working, but there's just a lot to learn?
 

MMaatttt

Active Member
To dip my toes in the water, I've ordered a Conbee II and an Osram Smart+ socket. It looks like most of the lights I like the look of are Zigbee based, so that seemed the best place to start.
 

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