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Thread: DIY Home Automation with Apple Homekit

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    Default DIY Home Automation with Apple Homekit

    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
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    Default Re: DIY Home Automation with Apple Homekit

    Originally posted by rage2
    So yea, tons of leftover junk...

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    I'm interested in one man's crap. Seriously.

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    Default

    Interesting. Please keep us posted on how well it's working.

    I'm using Insteon with a Universal Devices ISY controller. Very flexible system.

    BTW, Memory Express carries some Insteon stuff, and anything they don't have I get from Aartech in Ontario. Aartech have a fair selection of automation stuff, and pretty decent prices for a Canadian dealer.

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    Eecol will sell direct and they are cheaper then Gescan. 403-243-5594 ask for the order desk and get a quote. PM me the p/n's if you dont have any luck.

    Brews is a good place for knowledge. Speak with Myles or Avneet. Nice guys and they are always willing to help.
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    Join me.

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    Rage does this work with your harmony remotes?

    I personally hate using my iphone for anything like this. A bit touch screen phobic personally.

    I have been looking to do this exact thing for a long time actually. Just been too cheap to do it right.

    Thanks for the writeup.
    Originally posted by Thales of Miletus

    If you think I have been trying to present myself as intellectually superior, then you truly are a dimwit.
    Originally posted by Toma
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    Originally posted by The_Penguin
    Interesting. Please keep us posted on how well it's working.
    A couple days into it, it's working well. Shared out homekit to the gf's account and she can trigger everything using Siri. The most used scenes are "kids are awake" which sets hallway and bathroom lights to a dim level so they don't whine about being too bright for the morning ritual, "breakfast" which sets the downstairs lights properly so they can go downstairs on their own, and "bedtime" which kills/dims the lights in areas they need to leave and full lights on stairs/hallways to get them upstairs. It's like herding cattle haha.

    As for automation stuff, haven't used much yet, just outside lights when coming home after sunset, and shutting down outside lights after 11pm. The manual scenes which groups all the lights together are what's most effective for us right now. When I get the blinds installed, I'll probably have more automation triggers set up, such as if it's sunny at 1 hour after sunrise, then lower blinds.

    Originally posted by killramos
    Rage does this work with your harmony remotes?

    I personally hate using my iphone for anything like this. A bit touch screen phobic personally.

    I have been looking to do this exact thing for a long time actually. Just been too cheap to do it right.

    Thanks for the writeup.
    It works with the newer remotes that uses the hub. I have my watch movie activity on harmony set up to automatically trigger my movie lighting scene. And ya, you can use the remote to trigger scenes throughout the house.

    On the smartphone side of things, you can either use Siri, or you can set up the widget for the Home App to your favorite scenes and accessories.

    click for larger version
    » Click image for larger version

    Of course if you're really old school, you can install a 4 button scene controller on your wall to easily change scenes.

    Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    OCD and all of the screws in your plate aren't lined up properly? WTF????


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    Originally posted by never
    OCD and all of the screws in your plate aren't lined up properly? WTF????

    Don't worry, the Lutron Clara plate systems has no visible screws haha.
    Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    BTW, the setup sounds pretty sweet...have been thinking about automation too. Maybe it's time to go for it.

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    One additional note about Harmony Remotes, it's not Homekit compatible (thought it was). But it does support a small # of home control stuff. Not listed on website, but I pulled this out of my add device page:

    SmartThings
    Honeywell WiFi Thermostat
    Philips hue
    Nest
    Lutron Smart Bridge
    LIFX
    Rheem Water Heater
    Insteon Hub
    Ecobee Thermostat
    Hunter Douglas
    Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    Can you tie in a garage door opener too? And maybe driveway gates?

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    Originally posted by never
    Can you tie in a garage door opener too? And maybe driveway gates?
    With homekit, not (natively) yet. Insteon has a garage opener:

    http://www.smarthome.com/insteon-745...tatus-kit.html

    But it doesn't support their Homekit compatible hub yet.

    http://www.insteon.com/support-knowl...s-with-insteon

    Chamberlain myQ has one too but no Homekit support yet so it can't link to other devices for automation tasks. Support is promised for 2016.

    Now, if you're a bit of a techy, you can get all this stuff setup using Homebridge, which publishes non supported devices to homekit so they can all link to one another. See here:

    https://github.com/nfarina/homebridge
    Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    Originally posted by never
    OCD and all of the screws in your plate aren't lined up properly? WTF????

    He has Hublot watches. He is used to screws not lining up.

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    Originally posted by benyl
    He has Hublot watches. He is used to screws not lining up.
    Well played.
    Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    How does the Lutron system work as far as switch programming is concerned? Is it iOS app? PC? Proprietary cable connection ( a lot of older systems use these which is a huge pain in the ass )

    This is the caseta bridge you are using? I think they have different hubs depending on if you are a professional or not.

    My original plan for home automation integration was just non smart Lutron IR dimmers controlled by harmony. But your setup sounds far better. ( not to mention avoiding IR is always a plus).

    I have got some reading to do.
    Originally posted by Thales of Miletus

    If you think I have been trying to present myself as intellectually superior, then you truly are a dimwit.
    Originally posted by Toma
    fact.

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    Originally posted by killramos
    How does the Lutron system work as far as switch programming is concerned? Is it iOS app? PC? Proprietary cable connection ( a lot of older systems use these which is a huge pain in the ass )
    1. Plug hub into power and Ethernet (to talk to iCloud).
    2. Load the Lutron App. Go through guided setup to read QR code off the hub.
    3. Enter your home name, location (for sunrise/sunset and timezone).

    That's it for setting up the initial hub. Adding a switch is just as easy.

    1. Fire up the Lutron app. Select add device and choose device type (dimmer, switch, remote).
    2. Follow the pretty graphics for the device, and hold down the button on the device.
    3. Name your device.

    Pretty simple.

    Originally posted by killramos
    This is the caseta bridge you are using? I think they have different hubs depending on if you are a professional or not.
    You can get the pro bridge, single dimmer, plus remote at Gescan for $150. Smoking deal as that pro bridge alone is worth $200.

    The difference between the standard bridge and pro bridge is that the pro supports alarm integration (which counts as 1 of 49 limit), as well as more expensive roller shade options. Now, with Homekit, things should integrate at the homekit level, so realistically you get a Homekit compatible alarm and you're good to go without wasting a device slot on the Lutron Hub. The pro bridge integration to some of these products doesn't expose it to homekit at all and only allows Lutron specific triggers and scenes, which can't be shared out through homekit. Homekit is still new, so there's not a huge amount of supported devices yet, and that's where the pro bridge has a small advantage in that it supports a few more things without relying on homekit.

    I wish I went with the pro hub but already picked up the $99 standard hub before I found out Gescan carries this stuff.

    Originally posted by killramos
    My original plan for home automation integration was just non smart Lutron IR dimmers controlled by harmony. But your setup sounds far better. ( not to mention avoiding IR is always a plus).

    I have got some reading to do.
    Yea, Caseta is fully RF. I can turn off all the lights with 1 command from my bedroom.
    Originally posted by SEANBANERJEE
    I have gone above and beyond what I should rightfully have to do to protect my good name

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    I have wanted to do home automation for years, but it is still just way too expensive for me.
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    I might just have to go pickup that pro kit just for testing purposes. Worst case just for the cost of the kit i automate my media room main lights ( only need 1 dimmer switch ). If i really like it i can expand to the rest of the house, as budget allows. Nice that it doenst all have to be done at once.

    As a note do you know if there is option to do fireplace controls with this system? Probably just a low voltage switch with dimming disabled ( on-off fireplace ).

    My brother is back in residential electric so hopefully i can buy a bunch of these fuckers in contractor price bulk if I commit.



    edit:

    Dammit looks like they have pulled the 150 dollar kit from their website ( perhaps a pricing error as you mentioned its cheap). I notice they have a Calgary branch, did you go directly there to buy or did you order online?

    The website still shows it on search but the product page is inaccessible.

    Got immediately forwarded to a supervisor when i inquired about product availability on their support chat. mentioned that i would like to buy it at advertised price
    Last edited by killramos; 02-09-2016 at 03:13 PM.
    Originally posted by Thales of Miletus

    If you think I have been trying to present myself as intellectually superior, then you truly are a dimwit.
    Originally posted by Toma
    fact.

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    Originally posted by benyl
    He has Hublot watches. He is used to screws not lining up.


    That was the FIRST thing I noticed when looking at a Hublot watch.

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    Originally posted by killramos


    Dammit looks like they have pulled the 150 dollar kit from their website ( perhaps a pricing error as you mentioned its cheap). I notice they have a Calgary branch, did you go directly there to buy or did you order online?

    The website still shows it on search but the product page is inaccessible.

    Got immediately forwarded to a supervisor when i inquired about product availability on their support chat. mentioned that i would like to buy it at advertised price
    Ok so talking to Gescan:

    Okay, so yes it is a fantastic price we had however we were told we had to take it offline. Lutron would not allow us to have it at that price available online. The product is available at the Calgary branch, and you will have to get it in store.
    Sounds like they have made a major goof on this price, if anyone is interested in one for 150 dollar I would act soon as it is likely being revised.

    I am personally interested in the pro as i would like to potentially integrate tensioned shades for my bathroom skylight
    Last edited by killramos; 02-09-2016 at 03:21 PM.
    Originally posted by Thales of Miletus

    If you think I have been trying to present myself as intellectually superior, then you truly are a dimwit.
    Originally posted by Toma
    fact.

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