My Home Automation Journey

If you are just starting to check out the Home Automation scene you probably have found there is not a standard. Not only that it is an ever-increasing glut of choices. Do you go with Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Wifi. Do you go with a cloud dependent solution or do you roll-your-own. Trying to get started can be a daunting task. But there are some options I think might help make the whole process a bit easier. And perhaps even help future proof your IoT. Here is how my particular journey went.

I am not sure when I was bitten by the home automation bug, but I think it was around 1999. Late 90’s early 2000’s for sure. Remember the days when those x10 banner ads were plastered on every site? I tried to ignore them, but they always caught my eye. I would inevitably click on one and start thinking about how cool it would to have those cheap boxy control pads to control my lights instead of the old switches. I would more time than I care to admit dreaming of the possibilities. But the fit and finish of the products along with the cost always turned me away.

I got married, moved across the country twice, and mostly forgot about Home Automation. Then around 2015 I started thinking serious about automating my house again. I had some of those timers you plug into outlets automating some lamps but I wanted more control. I started researching options and found Smartthings.

I originally chose Smartthings because I was scared that I was going to choose the wrong standard. After all, I choose BluRay what are the chances I’ll win that gamble again? And when compared to Wink (Sold at HD), Iris (Sold at Lower), the staples one, or the others I found, Smartthings offered the most options as far as devices and the automation options I was looking for. The only issue I found was it required a connection to the cloud to operate. At the time that was not a major issue for me because I was only looking to automate some lights and my internet connection was rarely out for long. But it didn’t take long before my dreams pushed against the box Smartthings had me in.

I initially tried Home Assistant because I wanted complex automations based on one or more trigger and conditions instead of simple automations based on a single event that Smartthings gave me. What caused me to go all in was the ability to integrate with a wide rage of services both hosted and homegrown all without requiring connection to a cloud service to work. For example I customized HTTP-to-MQTT so that I can use services like IFTTT to communicate to my HA system. I also integrated my system with Amazon’s Alexa, and could add security-based components like a garage door opener and wouldn’t have to worry about whether it would work because my internet was down.

My system continues to grow more complex and my ideas for things to add grows faster than I can find time to tinker. I hope to have a post about my current setup soon. But if you are looking for a Home Automation solution I suggest choosing a platform that can talk as many as the devices as possible. That way what ever it is you are trying to automate you should be able to find a IoT device that will help you.

You might want to start small. You may find that all you want is to be able to do some basic light switch automations and don’t mind using a cloud service. Smartthings is a good platform to tinker with. It’s easy to setup and use. But if you already have big ideas for your system, dont mind hosting the system yourself, and don’t mind playing with configs files to make things work (don’t worry there are not complicated) then Home Assistant may be what you are looking for.

Either way, once you start playing with Home Automation you might just fall down the rabbit hole. I know I did

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