I've been wanting to do home automation for years, but being a cheap fuck, I've always looked towards the DIY systems that are out there. I've had my experience back in the day with X10, and have been waiting for a solid system to hit the market that works almost as well as a commercial grade system.
Apple's Homekit promises to be a nice standard that allows everything to talk to each other. A couple of my co-workers already have piece meal setups at home, so I started buying a couple of hubs and devices and played around. Focusing on lighting, I wanted to try all the systems to get a sense of how they work.
The 3 systems that are available locally were the Insteon Bridge + dimmer switches (through the Source), Lutron Bridge + dimmer switches (through Home Depot and Gescan wholesale), and Wink (though everywhere).
First one I tried was Wink using Lutron switches. Wink supports tons of devices, but there's no real homekit support, and you have to mess around with Homebridge to get Homekit integration. Strike 1. Next up, coupled with the Lutron dimmers, there was a lot of lag when I selected an action to when it actually does something. Strike 2. Connecting multiple dimmers was a PITA. I had to reset shit a few times to get it working properly, and once it was connected, the actions would be a little random, so the lights would turn on or off a few seconds apart when I wanted to turn on a group of lights. Really fucked with my OCD. Strike 3, so that was it for me with Wink.
Next up was Insteon, and really, this was ruled out purely due to availability. Only the Source carried it, and the city had 1 dimmer in stock.
With Lutron, there isn't a lot of supported devices. Basically, it supported their line of switches and dimmers, their motorized shades, and Nest thermostat. It's not a HUGE deal if you use Homekit (I'll get to that later) but with it's own Bridge and dimmers, it just works very well together. Shit turns on/off and dims instantly, using the app was exactly like using a physical switch in terms of responsiveness. Plus, the hub looks pretty nice sitting on the main floor entertainment stand.
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The switchgear is top notch as well. Lutron suggests that you switch to their Clara wallplate system, which forces each dimmer/remote to line up perfectly against wallplates, but for now, I just ghetto rigged it and lined it up manually as nice as possible with the standard wall plates. My OCD will line each switch up properly probably by the weekend haha.
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You'll notice that one of the dimmer switches looks different here, and that's because it's actually a remote that's not connected to anything. With 3 way switches (2 switches + 1 light) you basically disable one of the switches and replace it with a remote that mounts just like a normal switch. It controls through RF instead of mucking with the wires, making wiring very simple.
The Lutron Hub can support up to 49 devices, and the range is excellent. A single hub on the main floor had zero issues connecting to dimmers in every floor and every room of the house. Each one of the remotes for 3/4 way switch installs uses up a slot on the hub as well, and even though I swapped out the entire house, I'm only at 27 devices. This leaves me with 22 free for motorized shades (next project). So yea, tons of leftover junk...
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While replacing the switches, it turns out that for low voltage lighting (my basement 12V potlights) it needs a special dimmer that's compatible with the Magnetic transformer. Only the Pro dimmers supported it as it needs a neutral wire connection to dump off voltage spikes. Lutron Pro gear is only sold to installers, but an electrician suggested I go to Gescan, who sells them to retail customers in store or online as well. That fixed my basement dimmer issue.
So what happens when I want to add stuff that Lutron bridge doesn't support? Well this goes into how Apple Homekit works with these systems. Homekit is nothing but a database that runs through iCloud and Keychain, so the Lutron app publishes all the devices into the Homekit DB. I can add a second bridge (say Insteon), add their devices, and it too publishes it to Homekit. Then, I use the Home app (a whopping $15 on the app store) which lists every single device in the Homekit database, and I can start doing grouping and automation triggers through that. Pretty sweet.
So Homekit allows you to group devices by Room (ie living room, dining room, kitchen), then you can group Rooms into individual zones (ie main floor, basement, upstairs). Finally, there's scenes, where you can create individual personalized light preferences with as many devices as you want (ie good morning, bedtime, watch movie). Then there's triggers, where you can set it to turn on a scene at sunset. So now, when the sun starts to go down at sunset, my lights will come on at low levels, so the transition to darkness is nice and smooth. When I'm driving home, it detects my location via my phone, and turns on the driveway lights if it's past sunset. By 11pm, it automatically shuts down all my outside light so I don't piss off the neighbors. Homekit also fully integrates with Siri, so I can just Hey Siri my phone, tell her what I want and it'll trigger whatever I need through the house. "Set living room to 30%", "turn off basement lights", "bedtime for kids" for triggering room, zones, and scenes.
So, how much did this shit set me back? As I mentioned, I swapped out 27 switches throughout the house, some being "remotes". So to cover all that, I had to buy the starter kit (Bridge + Dimmer + Pico Remote) @ $150, 18 switches + pico remote kits @ $60, and 5 Pico Remote mounting kits at $6.50 for a total cost of $1262.50 + GST. Not too shabby as something like this would be in the $10k range getting done professionally.
One final thought on this project, I'm not an electrician, and have a huge fear of getting zapped. The first few switches I was taking my sweet ass time and took a solid 45 mins each, by the end, I was swapping them out in 15 mins flat. Lutron support is awesome too, never any hold time, and the techs would walk you through everything. For my low voltage lights situation, the tech had me ID the model # of the lights, and checked compatibility against their database to tell me which dimmer to use, what additional parts I needed (I didn't as my transformer was magnetic and not electronic) as well as explanation of what neutral wire is, how to ID it in the gangbox, etc. Basically, walked this noob through the whole process.
Next project are the motorized blinds. I just picked up 1 to see how it looks, and at $600 a pop for window, that'll be $$$$$. I'll update once I get that shit installed!
Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
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