My Smart Home 2016

A few weeks ago I was asked to describe the anatomy of my “smart home”. This is a work in progress, so what I will do is update this over time.


Lutron Caseta powers all the lighting in my home. This system consists of a Hub, and a system of switches, plug in modules, and smart remote / buttons. I have 20 lighting products, 13 remote switches and 4 sonos remotes.

I can control all my lighting using my voice with my phone, watch, Apple TV and also with any Amazon Echo product. 

Lutron supports Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo, as well as has its own standalone app.

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I use the ecobee3 thermostat. It's really amazing. So much better than Google's Nest because it supports remote thermostats, and also has great online history (with export). It's so easy to program, and has already saved me a lot of money because of features such as "free cooling". For cities like Seattle, a good chunk of my summer cooling was via this feature (where it uses my mechanical ventilator to bring in cooler outside air into my home - which is also filtered.

ecobee supports Apple HomeKit,, Amazon Echo, as well as has its own standalone app. I have 2 remote sensors (my bedroom and my daughter's bedroom).

I love that I can decide which sensor is the master for any given schedule or have ecobee just average them together.

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I have a single furnace and zone for my 3 story house. This is typical in Seattle, but far from ideal as I can tell you that there is no way to ensure that the house evenly cooled or heated without also running the furnace fan a lot. Enter Keen, a company that makes individual smart vents that can open and close automatically. I purchased 5 of them for my house, and have only installed 3 of them. They are far from perfect and I have been having some problems with them that I am troubleshooting. They are a great committed company, but I would not yet recommend their product. Once the kinks are worked out I will review them. However, the product category is very promising.

Keen does not yet support HomeKit or Amazon Echo. They are working on ecobee integration, support Nest and have their own standalone app.

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Video Monitoring

Nest & Dropcam

I have 3 Dropcam / Nest Cams and absolutely love them. For the past few years they have given me peace of mind, and kept an eye on the entire permitter of my house, covering all ingress and egress. I pay for their monitoring service, which is cloud based and lets me keep tabs on my home as well as get alerts. Since I wrote my review, Nest has shipped an incredible outdoor camera. I wish I had these instead of my own custom tailored outdoor solution.

Nest does not support HomeKit or Amazon Echo for anything interesting. They have their own Nest program that supports smart features such as away / home based on the location of your phone, the phones of people in your household, or your Nest Thermostat and Nest Smoke Detectors detecting movement.

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Ring Stickup Cam

If you don't have power to keep a Nest cam working, you can look at battery powered options. There are many out there right now. I am currently using a product called the Ring Stick Up cam, that has a battery in it and can be charged via a Solar Panel. I have mine placed at the fence / gate to my house. This helps increase coverage for package deliveries and visitors to the house.

Ring does not work with HomeKit or Amazon Echo. They do have their own standalone app with alerts.

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Garage Door

One of my favorite smart home upgrades was swapping out my garage door control panel for a Chamberlain My Q Enabled Garage Door opener. This now gives me smart home access to my garage door to check on status and open / close.

Despite many promises, it does not support HomeKit. I have managed my own HomeKit support via a software solution called HomeBridge.

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I have two August Locks, as well as two keypads and August Connects. When it works, which is 95% of the time, my door us unlocked when I arrive at home, auto locks after 5 minutes and has easy keypad access. It's a great system, now on its second generation. The software needs some tweaks to shift reliability up. But in my mind, this is the easiest and best solution.

August supports Apple HomeKit and Amazon Echo and has their own standalone app. 

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Smoke Detector

I was an early adopter and purchased 3 Nest Smoke detectors so that I would meet Seattle building code and have a carbon monoxide detector per floor. I had not yet replaced all my smoke detectors yet, but I think I will now because last night one of our hard to reach smoke detectors started chirping for no reason. I replaced the batter 3 times with no change. These products are so crappy, it's no wonder that companies like Nest have made smart replacements. 

I have the wired versions, and replacing my existing smoke detectors was simple. 

These products work well with existing Nest systems as they can also help with Nest Home/Away as they each have a location sensor for people. 

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This summer I installed a Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. I love this thing. I love data, and this does not disappoint.

Rachio supports Amazon Echo and Nest.

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The best most favorite product we have in the house are the Sonos products. I have 3 Sonos Connect Amps (Main Floor, Master Bedroom, Garden) and then a pair of Play 5s and Subwoofer in the Living Room connected to the turn table, and then a Play 5 in our master bathroom. I plan on getting each of the kids a Sonos Play 1 when Echo supports them, as well as a Soundbar for our TV.

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Smart Plugs

I use these Eve Energy Plugs which can provide a history of usage as well. 

They support HomeKit only, which is a bit of a bummer. I wish they also worked with my Harmony Remotes or that Lutron Caseta had a plug (on / off).

I have not had luck finding a smart plug that works with my Lutron system, HomeKit, and Harmony Hub or Alexa.

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Weather and Temperature

Similar to Eve Energy, the Eve weather sensors work with HomeKit and can allow you to incorporate weather and humidity triggers with your HomeKit system. I'll admit that I find them a bit slow and cumbersome to be useful for anything yet.

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I use a Ring Doorbell. Not much to say except it works, lets me see who approaches my door and also presses the ring button. Mine is hard wired to the existing wiring which is nice as that means I also have power.

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Logitech Harmony Remotes

We have two smart remotes in our house powered by Harmony. These things are great. They have a hub and work with Amazon Echo, Lutron, Nest, August and a bunch of other products. I love remotes with physical buttons, as it can program such things as all my AV equipment (both IR and bluetooth such as Fire TV) as well as lighting.

The Harmony Hubs also integrate with my Logitech POP buttons.

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Logitech POP Buttons

In addition to the Harmony Remotes, I also have 4 of these buttons. They are so cool, and you should have some to orchestrate some fun home automation such as turn the TV on / off, play a Sonos Station or Lock the doors.

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eero Wifi

Two words. Buy Eero. If you have any wifi issues, missing coverage, this is the product to get.

I have 5 eero's in my house. 4 of them are wired, and one is mesh connected for my Dropcam / Nest cameras. The system has been up and running for a few weeks in my house and I simply love them. The company has great tech support, so if you are having issues you can just call them and they can help.

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The Brains

The brains behind my whole system is Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. The great thing about all the products I mentioned is that they can work with multiple different ecosystems giving you maximal flexibility. I have decided that the best two ecosystems out there are powered by Amazon and Apple. For Apple's stuff you will have to have iOS devices (iPhones, watches, iPads, Apple TVs). Amazon's is more cross device. There are other ecosystems out there such as Wink, and Samsung's SmartThings, but they are not for me. 

Amazon Echo - aka "Alexa"

A growing family of devices starting at $50. One you get one, you will want many. These devices are so cool, basically "Siri for your house". The ecosystem is great and growing. 

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Apple HomeKit

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HomeKit is built into iOS devices, Apple TV. You will need to be running the latest iOS 10 and Apple TV 3 with the latest Apple TV to really get the full advantages. 

For products that do not yet support HomeKit, such as Sonos and Chamberlain, you can use HomeBridge, a software platform with plugins so interface with HomeKit. I have mine running on a Raspberry PI

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