Author Topic: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.  (Read 2445 times)

NorCal

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"Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« on: September 10, 2020, 12:01:33 PM »
I've been thinking about adding some tech that would improve my house.  However, I'm running into my simplicity bias, and I'm trying to figure out what's worth it, and what's just an unnecessary expense/complication.  Here's some of the things I'm thinking about:

-Smart sprinkler controller:  Water is scarce in CO.  I expect one of these would reduce our water bill a bit during the summer.  I'd probably also get some more efficient sprinkler heads next spring.  Combined with utility rebates, this should pay for itself in a year or two.
-Security Camera's: While my neighborhood is "safe", property crime is a real issue.  I'd like to get some very visible security cameras as a deterrent.  I would buy the DVR and avoid anything with a monthly subscription.
-Home energy monitor:  I'm on the fence about this one.  While I'm sure it would be somewhat valuable to know where my electricity is going, I already have a pretty good idea of what's using energy.  HVAC, dryer and the water heater make up most of it.  I'm not sure more knowledge would lead to optimization that is greater than the cost/hassle of the monitor.
-Water leak detector with auto-shutoff:  After a very expensive water leak, I can pretty easily justify this as long as I can count on it to work.
-Home weather station:  This one is mostly for the kids to get to get familiar with temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure etc.  I admit this is a frivolous one.

Does anyone here have experience with the items above?  Any that are clearly worth it or not worth it?  Any that create added hassles that I'm not thinking of?  While I like the idea of all of these things, they are also pricey and not truly necessary.

jamesbond007

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2020, 01:56:22 PM »
I have been doing a DIY approach to home security via SmartThings for 4+ years now and it works flawlessly. I have door open sensors, motion sensors, Smart door lock, 3 Blink XT camera that I hooked up to SmartThings via IFTTT. If anything, it is a peace of mind thing and cheap compared to the likes of ADT. The only issue now is IFTTT started charging a monthly fee for more than 3 recipes. So I have to find an alternative or write my own.

Sibley

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2020, 07:02:33 PM »
Do you have native, drought tolerant landscaping? That presumably doesn't need a lot of watering.

Do you lock your cars, doors, pick up crap from your yard and put it away, etc? If not, do that first. Doesn't matter how many cameras you have if you're leaving your stuff laying around. As for building your own camera system, I spent about $1500 on mine about 2 years ago. That was for 3 cameras. No idea if you can do it cheaper, I had very specific needs (my system is to address a neighbor issue).

Home energy monitor - this is great to borrow, analyze everything, then return. 

Water leak detector - how old are your supply lines? If they're old, just go buy new ones and replace them. If your faucets are ancient and you legit think they'll break, replace them. If you had a pipe break from age or corrosion, then you probably need to repipe. If you're worried about freezing pipes,  heater tape can do wonders. Can't help with sump pumps though.

Home weather station - that's cool, and doesn't fit the category. Do this.

maisymouser

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2020, 07:13:45 PM »
Do you have native, drought tolerant landscaping? That presumably doesn't need a lot of watering.

Do you lock your cars, doors, pick up crap from your yard and put it away, etc? If not, do that first. Doesn't matter how many cameras you have if you're leaving your stuff laying around. As for building your own camera system, I spent about $1500 on mine about 2 years ago. That was for 3 cameras. No idea if you can do it cheaper, I had very specific needs (my system is to address a neighbor issue).

Home energy monitor - this is great to borrow, analyze everything, then return. 

Water leak detector - how old are your supply lines? If they're old, just go buy new ones and replace them. If your faucets are ancient and you legit think they'll break, replace them. If you had a pipe break from age or corrosion, then you probably need to repipe. If you're worried about freezing pipes,  heater tape can do wonders. Can't help with sump pumps though.

Home weather station - that's cool, and doesn't fit the category. Do this.

Also wanted to tag on that sometimes water leaks are covered by home insurance, check your policy- our aunt saved $10k when she sold her house to us; our inspector found that the toilet was about to fall through the floor due to a long-term unaddressed leak. We suggested she check with her insurance policy and it actually worked out perfectly.

I'm decidedly NOT into most "smart" tech for my home. I even hate my Nest thermostats that came installed in our current house. I'm debating ripping them out of the walls and selling them to downgrade. I don't think they are actually compatible with our 1970s house and they don't really work well for us.

Home energy station sounds cool, but a $20 Kil-O-Watt does the job pretty well for us.

Our stupid dishwasher (also came with the house) has an option for Wi-fi. Wi-fi. WI-FI!  ... for the dishwasher which exists solely to WASH MY DISHES THREE TIMES A WEEK. I hate knowing that this exists and wish the extra $100 that dishwasher probably cost could have gone to just about anything else.

Water sprinkler? No thanks, I'm not a lawn lady. I'd rather have brown grass. Or put in a garden!

I challenge anyone who contributes to this thread to convince me that I need anything smarter than the old school stuff. I'm already an old lady who says 'they used to make things better back then' and I'm only 29. I hate to think of what I'll be putting up with in my later years...
« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 07:15:53 PM by maisymouser »

jeromedawg

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2020, 10:48:43 PM »
I have been doing a DIY approach to home security via SmartThings for 4+ years now and it works flawlessly. I have door open sensors, motion sensors, Smart door lock, 3 Blink XT camera that I hooked up to SmartThings via IFTTT. If anything, it is a peace of mind thing and cheap compared to the likes of ADT. The only issue now is IFTTT started charging a monthly fee for more than 3 recipes. So I have to find an alternative or write my own.

That sucks regarding IFTTT!!! Blink has also started charging for new subscriptions moving forward.

I was doing Smartthings as well though - IFTTT was a bit unreliable for me. I was upset when they removed the rboy integration and wish they would have built integration back in especially after Amazon bought Blink out, and considering there's Ring integration.

In terms of Smarthome automation, I think it depends. In a larger house maybe it's worth it. I was in a 1400 sq foot condo and it was meh. Automating lights and the alarm system (when I had it working) was pretty cool; the biggest thing was being able to turn the living room light on/off at random times in the early evening through the late evening. However, I could have lived without it too. I'd say the most useful smart devices were the Ring Doorbell, Blink cameras, and Ecobee. With Ecobee I was on Ohmconnect and was able to rack up points to earn some money back. But Ecobee started also participating in more 'integrated' power saving programs offered by my local utility company... we just sold our place with all that stuff included so not using any of it now lol.

Oh the other thing that I got later but found immensely useful (though this is probably scary for some) is wifi connected garage door controllers (Meross). My wife and I got well-used to opening and closing the garage doors from our smartphones. It was super convenient and definitely something we used so much that we barely touched our garage door openers after that.

RE: water leak detectors - I'd say they are handy as long as you are good about replacing the batteries lol. Smartthings has water leak detectors/sensors that, fortunately, we ended up not triggering. But ever since the leak from our washing machine (by user error) that flooded half our condo, I felt an immense sense of peace of mind after placing one by the washing machine. I also put one out in the garage near the water heater, which we were also fortunate to not have a major leak - we actually just replaced it recently because the pilot light went out due to signs of a slow leak, which if we hadn't caught or noticed, could have been much worse.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 10:52:30 PM by jeromedawg »

Laura33

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2020, 08:59:30 AM »
I can't tell you the best decisions for you.  But the way to evaluate it is to figure out what the underlying need/goal is, figure out if there is some simpler/cheaper/lower-tech method that will meet 80% of the need at 20% of the cost, and then get that if it exists.  If that is not appealing, then recognize that you're paying for the cool/tech factor, and re-evaluate whether the extra money is worth it on that basis.

For ex:  you're in CO, and saving water is both financially and ethically a good thing to do.  But do you need a full high-tech monitoring system to do that?  Per @Sibley, start with native, drought-tolerant plants that don't need a lot of water in the first place -- that is the best long-term solution on both fronts.  Once you do that, then can you meet your now-minimal water needs with a low-tech sprinkler timer?  We have one of those things that you screw the hose into that runs the water at certain times every day.  Can you get something like that, set it at a minimum level, and then adjust if your plantings need more water?  Do you really need it to be fine-tuned like you'd get with automatic monitoring, or can you just take a guess at it and be ok with being largely in the right ballpark? 

Now, there are a bunch of reasons you could decide that wouldn't work.  Maybe your garden is your hobby and you have lots of lovely plants that need very precise amounts of moisture at certain times.  Maybe you want a lush lawn despite the climate you live in.  Maybe you just love to geek out and optimize your tech stuff.  Maybe you absolutely hate anything to do with garden/lawn stuff and want the convenience of a system that decide for you so you never have to deal with it at all.  You get to decide if any of those things apply to you.  The key is recognizing that at that point, it's not really about the "thing" itself (automatic watering so your landscape doesn't die).  It's about meeting that goal in a way that also provides the extra little bump of happiness/convenience you get from doing it with the automatic sensors.  And the real question is that extra little bump worth the extra cost?

StashingAway

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2020, 09:01:52 AM »
Home energy monitor - this is great to borrow, analyze everything, then return. 

+1. For residential, the home isn't elaborate enough to really make use of this. Maybe if you're in areas with really complicated power billing periods you could make use of one, but even then most devices are pretty predictable. A commercial building with a lot of automation and services, then you're talking about real feedback.

Home weather station - that's cool, and doesn't fit the category. Do this.

Or get a analogue one! My grandpa always had one at his house and I always wanted to know what the dials were. If someone were to explain it to me as a kid I'm sure I'd have been interested. But I'm sure the digital weather stations have a lot more features.

For what it's worth, I'm actually pretty disappointed in what our EcoBee does. A lot of the automation stuff seems to just be band-aids for bad habits (like is being mentioned about the drought-tolerant plants, or not running AC with windows open, or turning water heater down when going on vacation, etc)
« Last Edit: September 11, 2020, 09:05:24 AM by StashingAway »

robartsd

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2020, 05:38:15 PM »
Lots of good mustachian comments against unneeded automation technology.

I'd love automation that could open/close windows and turn on/off my whole house fan based on current outdoor temperature, current indoor temperature, and hourly weather forecast - would be especially helpful when out for the entire evening during the summer. Alas, a solution for actuating the windows does not seem reasonable yet. I could possibly see a system for just automating turning the fan on/off with sensors to ensure the appropriate windows are open being almost as helpful.

Morning Glory

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2020, 07:55:49 PM »
Nobody called him out for the clothes dryer? Is this bogleheads??? If it's dry enough to contemplate watering the lawn, you can put your clothes out there to dry. And plant something that doesn't need that much water!!!!!

For security you could get a cheap trail camera with an sd card. You get fun pictures of the wildlife and kids too!!!

I don't understand the water leak thingy. Fix your pipes if you are that worried.

UpScaleRetirement

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2020, 08:23:04 PM »
What made home automation worth it for me was the piece of mind it gave us.  It also had to be simple to use or it wasn't worth it.

We're in a condo with a detached garage that we can't see from any of our windows.  My wife would almost always forget to close the door.  We keep a lot of tools in it and I worry they'll come up missing.  The automation system would close the door automatically if it was left open more than 10 minutes.

Part of the simplicity of the system was that anything that could be done automatically, could easily be toggled on or off with a simple variable setting.  If I was working on the car in the garage, I wouldn't want the garage door trying to shut every 10 minutes.  Set auto close garage door to "off".  Set it back to "on" when done.

Our entry doors auto lock 2 minutes after closing, unless we set auto lock entry doors to "off".

Not everyone has a set work schedule, but since I do, the system turns on a few lights and starts making coffee so it's ready when I go down stairs on work days.  The coffee maker is a bare bones coffee maker with a mechanical switch that we always leave on.  The system turns it on/off at the outlet.  Anytime the coffee maker is turned on, it will automatically turn it off 1 hour later.  We never worry about leaving it on by mistake.  10 minutes before I leave for work the system announces today's weather.  Nice to know before hopping on the motorcycle or maybe I should take the car today.  Anything that was turned on by the system, will get turned off later.  Lights are turned off on a schedule based on sunrise since my wife is home during the day and needs them on after I go to work.  I'm at work almost the same time each day because I leave based on when I hear the weather.  It will also announce "time to go to work" at the time I prefer to leave, but I usually leave before that announcement.  If I'm on vacation or it's a holiday, I set the vacation variable to 'true" and none of these actions take place.

Our bathroom is a little distance down a short hall off our bedroom.  My wife has a small battery operated switch on her nightstand that will turn on one of the bathroom lights to 30% so she can find her way to the bathroom and turn if off when she gets back in bed.  It ramps up to the 30% over a few seconds so it isn't suddenly on and waking me.

If our sliding door and kitchen window are both open, the air conditioning or heat will automatically turn off because we're most likely airing the place out.  It will resume its previous function when one of the two are closed again.

When our alarm is on, if any entry doors (or garage door) is opened or motion sensor triggered, you'll need to enter a key code within 20 seconds or it will turn on the siren.  Interior cameras record only when alarm is on.  Exterior cameras always record based on motion.  We get txt messages if the alarm is triggered.

Some of the simplicity comes from these battery powered switches we have in many locations (no wiring needed).  Some of the switches have up to 8 buttons.  We can operate any of the devices from our phones, but we almost never do.  Having switches in convenient locations is much easier.  One button push from our bedroom can turn off all the lights, lock doors, make sure the garage door is closed (with verbal announcement) and arm the alarm system.  Another button from the bedroom can start the coffee on a Saturday morning when getting up isn't a set time like weekdays.

With the cameras, self locking doors, alarm, auto closing garage door, my wife says she's never felt safer than our condo.  She's home alone most of the day and it gives her piece of mind. 



Syonyk

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2020, 09:44:19 PM »
I'd love automation that could open/close windows and turn on/off my whole house fan based on current outdoor temperature, current indoor temperature, and hourly weather forecast - would be especially helpful when out for the entire evening during the summer. Alas, a solution for actuating the windows does not seem reasonable yet. I could possibly see a system for just automating turning the fan on/off with sensors to ensure the appropriate windows are open being almost as helpful.

I've been kicking this around for a few years as well, and the best I've come up with is a linear actuator mounted... somehow... to the window and window frame.  I'm pretty sure it would look at least a bit tacky, and (annoyingly) there's no power near the window I want to open/close, so I'd need to stick a battery over there.  Cost, complexity, and I guarantee an auto closing window will get one of my kids fingers at least once (I think they're smart enough to not do it twice).  I've just gone with opening it manually.

However, the approach someone else mentioned - sense that the window is open, turn the fans on?  That's worth thinking through, because that is easy to do.  Small sensor, wireless transmitter to go across the house on 900 or 433 or something, and a relay at the other end.  I like the concept!

I don't understand the water leak thingy. Fix your pipes if you are that worried.

There are plenty of ways to leak water without pipe failure.  Not getting a washer drain lint trap fully seated can do it, as can not having the drain tube plug shoved all the way in, as can enough crud around the door or something that gets stuck in the door seal and you fail to notice.  All ways our laundry room has gotten wet.  We've got a water sensor down in the bottom storage drawer to alert us.

Various other places I've lived have gotten wet as well, but those were either failed appliances or burst pipes we had no control over.  Sadly, the gushing torrents of water were the better clue that something had gone wrong.

In terms of home automation, though?  Eh.  I've got a Nest and am seriously considering putting something dumber in, because all the "smart" features do is drive me up the wall.  Auto-learning?  Great, my wife gave the kids a bath at 3PM on Tuesday, turned up the heat in the winter a bit, and now every Tuesday at 3PM, why, turn the heat on!  About the only thing of value it does, as far as I can tell, is crank the heat pump up early in the winter so it doesn't have to fire the backup coils (and it's not idiotic about backup coils like some thermostats, where if there's more than a few degree difference between the set point and the current temperature, it uses the backup coils).

Putting in something that could detect I'd opened the window and not fight the fans, though... hrm.  That's an idea with promise!  And it doesn't need the internet to do it.

2Cent

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2020, 10:14:28 PM »
Collecting data about energy usage is only nice if it motivates you to use less energy. But to me the extra hassle and cost are not really worth it as I already minimise turning things on and buying energy efficient equipment. A lot can be achieved with smart plugs which can be set either on a timer or controlled via phone. This way the smart part is just tagged on and can be replaced separately.
I do have a smart lighting system. I don't really use the colour changing feature much and I have to say that the light output is not as good as regular lights. I have a few smart single colour lights which are plenty useful. The nice thing for me is I can turn off all the lights from my bed instead of having to go back down to check if all the lights are off.

For you it seems water is the main issue. Would it not make more sense to install some water harvesting schemes? Like re-using some of the water from the shower for flushing the toilet.



ilsy

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2020, 12:25:25 AM »
Water leak detector - how old are your supply lines? If they're old, just go buy new ones and replace them.

I'm not sure what country we are talking about, but here in the US, replacing supply lines has to be permitted and inspected. In other words, a master plumber license is needed to pull the permits. And I'm not even talking about enormous cost of $1k/fixture that includes supply, drain and vent lines because no one would replace supply only if they are going to open up the walls anyways (so in a house with only 1 full bath that would be $5k at least, including washer and water heater, at least in my area) and I'm not even saying that no one wouldn't be able to live in the house where pipes are being replaced for several weeks at least. And I'm not including the cost of fixing the drywall and adding to the time-frame.
IMHO, much easier to add a water leak detector. Plus, define old. My house and it's pipes are 60 years old. Is that old enough for you? I won't replace the pipes for another 20 years probably.
 
If your faucets are ancient and you legit think they'll break, replace them.
Faucets are usually leaking where it's visible.



ilsy

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2020, 12:59:26 AM »

-Smart sprinkler controller:  Water is scarce in CO.  I expect one of these would reduce our water bill a bit during the summer.  I'd probably also get some more efficient sprinkler heads next spring.  Combined with utility rebates, this should pay for itself in a year or two.


I've been researching this thing too (especially "Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, 8 Zone 3rd Generation, Alexa and Apple HomeKit Compatible with Hyperlocal Weather Intelligence Plus and Rain, Freeze and Wind Skip") and we have utility rebate going around too. My only concern is that it doesn't work with iPhone 11 and it seems like it would need a C wire to ensure it has a strong connection.

Some people suggested water friendly landscape, which is very cute and might be applicable to the areas they live in. But I live in an upscale neighborhood with manicured lawns and neighbors competing who's yard is greener and weed free. The city fines you if the grass is longer than 11 inches and neighbors openly hate you because you bring their property value down. I just cannot grow anything but grass (I do have flower beds in a few places and raised beds in the back, but majority of the landscape is grass - mono-culture). Plus, re-landscaping close to 0.5 acres let say with gravel and rocks might save some water, but would cost a lot of money and effort on my part. And after a few years things are going to grow on rocks and gravel, we have enough rain here, and all that landscape would become a nightmare to take care of.

2sk22

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2020, 02:29:08 AM »
The main fear I have about home automation is the poor security of such devices. Any autonomous device that is both connected to your LAN and to a cloud service is a security risk. This is true even if the device does not need any ports to be opened in the firewall. Devices can be compromised and used to sniff traffic on the LAN. By the way, this includes such devices as Wifi printers. A Wifi printer has to be on the LAN but I have blocked any outbound connection from my printer.

I do currently have an internet connected sprinkler system and I have to admit that it is very useful as I can control the sprinklers from anywhere. But I have created a separate guest network in my WiFi system for just this device. Any device in this network cannot see the main LAN.

StashingAway

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2020, 05:09:41 AM »

Some people suggested water friendly landscape, which is very cute and might be applicable to the areas they live in. But I live in an upscale neighborhood with manicured lawns and neighbors competing who's yard is greener and weed free. The city fines you if the grass is longer than 11 inches and neighbors openly hate you because you bring their property value down. I just cannot grow anything but grass (I do have flower beds in a few places and raised beds in the back, but majority of the landscape is grass - mono-culture). Plus, re-landscaping close to 0.5 acres let say with gravel and rocks might save some water, but would cost a lot of money and effort on my part. And after a few years things are going to grow on rocks and gravel, we have enough rain here, and all that landscape would become a nightmare to take care of.

People are just giving you suggestions, mate, case the thought hadn't occurred... no one is going to think less of you if it cant be achieved in your situation. And often we don't know the details about the situation until you clarify why it won't work...

They will, however, be less likely to want to indulge if you are snippy in all of the replies. We're all in this together, and I'm not sure if it's intentional, but your replies come across as pretty abrasive.

robartsd

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2020, 02:23:10 PM »
The main fear I have about home automation is the poor security of such devices. Any autonomous device that is both connected to your LAN and to a cloud service is a security risk. This is true even if the device does not need any ports to be opened in the firewall. Devices can be compromised and used to sniff traffic on the LAN. By the way, this includes such devices as Wifi printers. A Wifi printer has to be on the LAN but I have blocked any outbound connection from my printer.
I haven't implemented the idea myself, but I've seen descriptions of setups with a VLAN for each family of IOT devices. The IOT devices can initiate connections with each other and the internet as well as receive connections initiated from the main VLAN that hosts computers/phones. Another VLAN is used to provide internet access to guests with no access to other devices on the LAN.

MilesTeg

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2020, 04:31:23 PM »
I've been thinking about adding some tech that would improve my house.  However, I'm running into my simplicity bias, and I'm trying to figure out what's worth it, and what's just an unnecessary expense/complication.  Here's some of the things I'm thinking about:

-Smart sprinkler controller:  Water is scarce in CO.  I expect one of these would reduce our water bill a bit during the summer.  I'd probably also get some more efficient sprinkler heads next spring.  Combined with utility rebates, this should pay for itself in a year or two.
-Security Camera's: While my neighborhood is "safe", property crime is a real issue.  I'd like to get some very visible security cameras as a deterrent.  I would buy the DVR and avoid anything with a monthly subscription.
-Home energy monitor:  I'm on the fence about this one.  While I'm sure it would be somewhat valuable to know where my electricity is going, I already have a pretty good idea of what's using energy.  HVAC, dryer and the water heater make up most of it.  I'm not sure more knowledge would lead to optimization that is greater than the cost/hassle of the monitor.
-Water leak detector with auto-shutoff:  After a very expensive water leak, I can pretty easily justify this as long as I can count on it to work.
-Home weather station:  This one is mostly for the kids to get to get familiar with temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure etc.  I admit this is a frivolous one.

Does anyone here have experience with the items above?  Any that are clearly worth it or not worth it?  Any that create added hassles that I'm not thinking of?  While I like the idea of all of these things, they are also pricey and not truly necessary.

I see no point in a smart sprinkler in CO, at least not of the type currently sold. All you need is a model with a rain sensor (and to verify that it works occasionally). Especially in arid Colorado where lawns need water on a very, very regular schedule barring an occasional big rain/thunderstorm. Better yet, get rid of the lawn ;)

Having had issues with expensive water problems myself, I wish I could count on a water leak detector, but I have no faith in a gadget like that. Feels like a placebo more than a real solution.

MilesTeg

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2020, 04:34:59 PM »
Do you have native, drought tolerant landscaping? That presumably doesn't need a lot of watering.

Do you lock your cars, doors, pick up crap from your yard and put it away, etc? If not, do that first. Doesn't matter how many cameras you have if you're leaving your stuff laying around. As for building your own camera system, I spent about $1500 on mine about 2 years ago. That was for 3 cameras. No idea if you can do it cheaper, I had very specific needs (my system is to address a neighbor issue).

Home energy monitor - this is great to borrow, analyze everything, then return. 

Water leak detector - how old are your supply lines? If they're old, just go buy new ones and replace them. If your faucets are ancient and you legit think they'll break, replace them. If you had a pipe break from age or corrosion, then you probably need to repipe. If you're worried about freezing pipes,  heater tape can do wonders. Can't help with sump pumps though.

Home weather station - that's cool, and doesn't fit the category. Do this.

Also wanted to tag on that sometimes water leaks are covered by home insurance, check your policy- our aunt saved $10k when she sold her house to us; our inspector found that the toilet was about to fall through the floor due to a long-term unaddressed leak. We suggested she check with her insurance policy and it actually worked out perfectly.

What insurance is that? I had a stealth dishwasher leak that was only fast enough to keep the floor behind the cabinets (and under the vinyl) nice and moist allowing a huge growth of mold. Called my insurance about it and they said "we only cover acute water issues, such as a flood. We don't cover "slow leaks".

I'm decidedly NOT into most "smart" tech for my home. I even hate my Nest thermostats that came installed in our current house. I'm debating ripping them out of the walls and selling them to downgrade. I don't think they are actually compatible with our 1970s house and they don't really work well for us.

Home energy station sounds cool, but a $20 Kil-O-Watt does the job pretty well for us.

Our stupid dishwasher (also came with the house) has an option for Wi-fi. Wi-fi. WI-FI!  ... for the dishwasher which exists solely to WASH MY DISHES THREE TIMES A WEEK. I hate knowing that this exists and wish the extra $100 that dishwasher probably cost could have gone to just about anything else.

Water sprinkler? No thanks, I'm not a lawn lady. I'd rather have brown grass. Or put in a garden!

I challenge anyone who contributes to this thread to convince me that I need anything smarter than the old school stuff. I'm already an old lady who says 'they used to make things better back then' and I'm only 29. I hate to think of what I'll be putting up with in my later years...
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StashingAway

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2020, 05:14:42 PM »
I challenge anyone who contributes to this thread to convince me that I need anything smarter than the old school stuff. I'm already an old lady who says 'they used to make things better back then' and I'm only 29. I hate to think of what I'll be putting up with in my later years...

Define "old school", lol! I'm right there with ya...

I have a light on a timer out front that turns on at night. You program in your latitude and it will follow sunrise/sunset from a preset internal table. I think it's pretty sweet! Not connected to the internet, though.

I also disassembled my ceiling fans to bypass the stupid battery powered remotes and hard-wired them to have adjustable speeds and dimmer lights. Also pretty sweet! But decidedly not "smart". I absolutely despise smart switches of any kind. Pressing buttons is way more fun. And the act of needing to get up to adjust a fan or light or window gives me pause to think of how lucky I am to have fans and how nice it is to be inside adjusting the climate. Adjusting settings on a smart phone kills some of the interaction with the environment that makes me appreciate daily living.

Some modern tech is awesome. Ultra efficient dishwashers and LED lights and such. And smartphones have their place for me. I no longer have a point-and-shoot camera, or alarm clock or watch or check book or phone book or road atlas or any other number of gadgets that are all replaced by the IOT.

/soap box

ilsy

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2020, 03:24:57 PM »

Some people suggested water friendly landscape, which is very cute and might be applicable to the areas they live in. But I live in an upscale neighborhood with manicured lawns and neighbors competing who's yard is greener and weed free. The city fines you if the grass is longer than 11 inches and neighbors openly hate you because you bring their property value down. I just cannot grow anything but grass (I do have flower beds in a few places and raised beds in the back, but majority of the landscape is grass - mono-culture). Plus, re-landscaping close to 0.5 acres let say with gravel and rocks might save some water, but would cost a lot of money and effort on my part. And after a few years things are going to grow on rocks and gravel, we have enough rain here, and all that landscape would become a nightmare to take care of.

People are just giving you suggestions, mate, case the thought hadn't occurred... no one is going to think less of you if it cant be achieved in your situation. And often we don't know the details about the situation until you clarify why it won't work...

They will, however, be less likely to want to indulge if you are snippy in all of the replies. We're all in this together, and I'm not sure if it's intentional, but your replies come across as pretty abrasive.
you are cute too....

StashingAway

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2020, 07:35:06 PM »

Some people suggested water friendly landscape, which is very cute and might be applicable to the areas they live in. But I live in an upscale neighborhood with manicured lawns and neighbors competing who's yard is greener and weed free. The city fines you if the grass is longer than 11 inches and neighbors openly hate you because you bring their property value down. I just cannot grow anything but grass (I do have flower beds in a few places and raised beds in the back, but majority of the landscape is grass - mono-culture). Plus, re-landscaping close to 0.5 acres let say with gravel and rocks might save some water, but would cost a lot of money and effort on my part. And after a few years things are going to grow on rocks and gravel, we have enough rain here, and all that landscape would become a nightmare to take care of.

People are just giving you suggestions, mate, case the thought hadn't occurred... no one is going to think less of you if it cant be achieved in your situation. And often we don't know the details about the situation until you clarify why it won't work...

They will, however, be less likely to want to indulge if you are snippy in all of the replies. We're all in this together, and I'm not sure if it's intentional, but your replies come across as pretty abrasive.
you are cute too....

Fair enough!

the_fixer

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2020, 05:20:54 AM »
Lots of good mustachian comments against unneeded automation technology.

I'd love automation that could open/close windows and turn on/off my whole house fan based on current outdoor temperature, current indoor temperature, and hourly weather forecast - would be especially helpful when out for the entire evening during the summer. Alas, a solution for actuating the windows does not seem reasonable yet. I could possibly see a system for just automating turning the fan on/off with sensors to ensure the appropriate windows are open being almost as helpful.
I have been saying this for years!!!! I would so love a system that would open / close the windows and work with a whole home fan to control the temperature of the house.

Maybe some day


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robartsd

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2020, 09:47:34 AM »
Lots of good mustachian comments against unneeded automation technology.

I'd love automation that could open/close windows and turn on/off my whole house fan based on current outdoor temperature, current indoor temperature, and hourly weather forecast - would be especially helpful when out for the entire evening during the summer. Alas, a solution for actuating the windows does not seem reasonable yet. I could possibly see a system for just automating turning the fan on/off with sensors to ensure the appropriate windows are open being almost as helpful.
I have been saying this for years!!!! I would so love a system that would open / close the windows and work with a whole home fan to control the temperature of the house.

Maybe some day
Depending on window treatment, I could tolerate an actuator mounted at the top of a horizontal sliding window. I think such a system would cost a few hundred dollars per window (which I'd probably be willing to pay, but most of the windows I wish to automate are single hung). Ideally the actuator would be concealed in the window frame and operate nearly silently; but I don't think demand for such products would ever be sufficent to bring the price down to something I think is reasonable.

Sibley

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #24 on: September 17, 2020, 07:04:14 PM »
Water leak detector - how old are your supply lines? If they're old, just go buy new ones and replace them.

I'm not sure what country we are talking about, but here in the US, replacing supply lines has to be permitted and inspected. In other words, a master plumber license is needed to pull the permits. And I'm not even talking about enormous cost of $1k/fixture that includes supply, drain and vent lines because no one would replace supply only if they are going to open up the walls anyways (so in a house with only 1 full bath that would be $5k at least, including washer and water heater, at least in my area) and I'm not even saying that no one wouldn't be able to live in the house where pipes are being replaced for several weeks at least. And I'm not including the cost of fixing the drywall and adding to the time-frame.
IMHO, much easier to add a water leak detector. Plus, define old. My house and it's pipes are 60 years old. Is that old enough for you? I won't replace the pipes for another 20 years probably.
 
If your faucets are ancient and you legit think they'll break, replace them.
Faucets are usually leaking where it's visible.

Ugh. I don't speak plumbing!!!

This damn thing, that connects from the pipe in the wall to the faucet. That most certainly does NOT require permits and a licensed plumber to swap out, or if it does you just do it anyway because that's BS:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/BrassCraft-3-8-in-Compression-x-1-2-in-FIP-x-20-in-Braided-Polymer-Faucet-Connector-B1-20A-F/100459572

And you should replace those every 10 years or so from what I've been told. I did have one break, luckily I was home, heard it pop, and caught it before it did more than wash the floor.

If you have to replace the pipes in the wall, then that's a repipe and is a HUGE job and good luck. That's the one thing I haven't done in my house, at least holistically. I've done the utility room as a repipe.

ilsy

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #25 on: September 17, 2020, 09:51:30 PM »
Water leak detector - how old are your supply lines? If they're old, just go buy new ones and replace them.

I'm not sure what country we are talking about, but here in the US, replacing supply lines has to be permitted and inspected. In other words, a master plumber license is needed to pull the permits. And I'm not even talking about enormous cost of $1k/fixture that includes supply, drain and vent lines because no one would replace supply only if they are going to open up the walls anyways (so in a house with only 1 full bath that would be $5k at least, including washer and water heater, at least in my area) and I'm not even saying that no one wouldn't be able to live in the house where pipes are being replaced for several weeks at least. And I'm not including the cost of fixing the drywall and adding to the time-frame.
IMHO, much easier to add a water leak detector. Plus, define old. My house and it's pipes are 60 years old. Is that old enough for you? I won't replace the pipes for another 20 years probably.
 
If your faucets are ancient and you legit think they'll break, replace them.
Faucets are usually leaking where it's visible.

Ugh. I don't speak plumbing!!!

This damn thing, that connects from the pipe in the wall to the faucet. That most certainly does NOT require permits and a licensed plumber to swap out, or if it does you just do it anyway because that's BS:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/BrassCraft-3-8-in-Compression-x-1-2-in-FIP-x-20-in-Braided-Polymer-Faucet-Connector-B1-20A-F/100459572

And you should replace those every 10 years or so from what I've been told. I did have one break, luckily I was home, heard it pop, and caught it before it did more than wash the floor.

If you have to replace the pipes in the wall, then that's a repipe and is a HUGE job and good luck. That's the one thing I haven't done in my house, at least holistically. I've done the utility room as a repipe.
Those are connector from the shut off to the fixture as the site calls them. If you replace them with the quality ones, not the builders grade they will last more than 10 years. Those are not the target areas for the water leak detection systems because they are accessible and easily detectable before a water leak becomes a catastrophic event. The mentioned above water leak detection systems are more geared towards the supply pipes that are behind the walls and got a leak due to being frozen or due to corrosion and such. The water leak detection system is installed inline (inside the supply line close to the main shut off, I think, and detects changes in usage pattern and upon detection such a change shuts off the water at the main shut off).

2sk22

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #26 on: September 19, 2020, 09:45:35 AM »
Here's an example of a security vulnerability in IoT equipment that I was talking about earlier in this thread.

Quote
Some resource-constrained IoT equipment that has been sold over the past decade and already deployed in the field today doesn't come with a built-in update mechanism, meaning these devices will remain permanently unpatched.

My real fear is that many of these "automation thingys" will never be patched for such vulnerabilities.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #27 on: September 20, 2020, 12:22:30 AM »
Each of my three air-conditioning units has Wi-Fi capability, and I have a single smart light globe (considering a second).

The idea of turning the aircon or the heat on (they do both) when getting on the train home from work only to arrive at a nice comfortable home is appealing. Beats showing up home to a cold house in the dead of winter or a hot house in summer. I can control each individual unit to cool/warm particular parts of the house.

WSUCoug1994

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #28 on: September 21, 2020, 04:52:23 PM »
I have tried most of them -  because I really do enjoy playing around with the technology.  I recognize the risk from a data perspective but all of my devices are on a "guest" network with some pretty specialized protections so I feel ok about it.

Nest - love - I don't use the automation I just love the control of the house when I am not home.
MyQ - garage door openers - I love them but clearly are not necessary and they are not all that reliable.
August lock - ehh - only really helpful for letting people into the house - a lot of work - wouldn't do it again.  just use a key.
iAqualink - pool - best thing ever - i love it
Smartscape Lighting - controls the lighting in my yard - never really use it except to set the schedule.
Wemo Outlets - good for some things but they seem to have trouble staying connected to the network
Rachio - jury is out - very difficult to get dialed in - a lot of work with a lot of settings - I am using a TON less water so that is good but you need to be a rocket scientist to figure this thing out- I am just getting it dialed in at 18 months.
Ring Doorbell - love it
Arlo Camera/Flood lights - love it but charging the batteries is pretty lame
Synology private cloud - one of the best things I have ever done
Although it is not home automation the Eero Mesh router is maybe the second best thing I have ever done.

We have a weather station, not a fancy one, and we must use that thing 100 times a day.  Wind, weather, humidity, etc. - and for some reason it has been the primary clock in our family room.  lol.  We also realized that the weather apps are not very accurate compared to where we live and this thing is really cool overall.  Money well spent.

I know I have a problem.....no need to tell me.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2020, 04:55:28 PM by WSUCoug1994 »

ToTheMoon

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2020, 07:40:52 PM »
We have a weather station, not a fancy one, and we must use that thing 100 times a day.  Wind, weather, humidity, etc. - and for some reason it has been the primary clock in our family room.  lol.  We also realized that the weather apps are not very accurate compared to where we live and this thing is really cool overall.  Money well spent.

What weather station do you have?

centwise

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2020, 09:03:22 PM »
ptf

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #31 on: September 22, 2020, 08:21:32 AM »
Our house came with a Nest. We found the learning feature useless, but it is a wonderful programmable thermostat, and I love the internet connectivity when we are away from home (or coming home from a lengthy road trip).

We just got a smart plug that works with our Alexa's. It is amazing for our 3 year old's lamp.  We have the lamp plugged in far from her bed, to avoid cords near her head. When she wakes up to go the toilet in the middle of the night we hear "Echo, turn on my lamp" and when she is back in bed we get "Echo, turn off my lamp". It's super easy for her.

WSUCoug1994

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #32 on: September 22, 2020, 08:36:55 AM »
We have a weather station, not a fancy one, and we must use that thing 100 times a day.  Wind, weather, humidity, etc. - and for some reason it has been the primary clock in our family room.  lol.  We also realized that the weather apps are not very accurate compared to where we live and this thing is really cool overall.  Money well spent.

What weather station do you have?

An older and lamer version of this https://smile.amazon.com/AcuRite-Wireless-Weather-Station-Monitoring/dp/B06XNPKKNZ/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=weather+station&qid=1600785353&sr=8-7 - We bought it at Costco for $80.

I would bet there are better options out there now - ours is 6-7 years old.  Ours doesn't have any "wifi/app connectivity" not that we need it but it seems like there are probably better options out there now.  We just like the simple weather information.  It has a long range -  our weather station is over 100' away from the console and I have only changed the batteries once on the weather station itself (3 or 4 AA batteries).  The screen is a little weird - it is hard to find the right viewing angle so we use the mount backwards (so the screen tips forward) and you can see it pretty well from most angles but it looks funny.  There might be newer ones that are better overall but we are very happy with it.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2020, 09:04:22 AM by WSUCoug1994 »

WSUCoug1994

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #33 on: September 22, 2020, 08:49:34 AM »
From an energy consumption standpoint the Sense Energy Monitor https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B075K51T9X/?coliid=I35K0CFYX8QMJF&colid=13OZBSLDKRHWY&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it is supposed to detect each device by signature that uses energy in your home.  In theory it is pretty awesome but the reviews are pretty bad about being able to detect each device.  I am hoping that it gets better over time.

We have a 48 panel solar array and I geek out on how much we generate versus consume and I would love to know how much we consume at the device level but I don't think the technology is quite there yet.

We also use Simplisafe for our home alarm - it is not a modern alarm system by any stretch of the imagination but it works.  I do use their water sensors and although I have never had an issue (our house is only 12 years old) since we spend a lot of time away from the house, I do feel better knowing that I have those sensors in each area of the home where water is available (laundry, bathrooms, kitchen, etc.)

I helped a buddy install one of these at his cabin in Tahoe - which was subject to freezing pipes even though he did everything he could to prevent the freezing.  It was a reasonably simple install but it was very expensive.  https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B08B1FG41F/ref=sspa_dk_detail_3?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B08B1FG41F&pd_rd_w=eZN8N&pf_rd_p=48d372c1-f7e1-4b8b-9d02-4bd86f5158c5&pd_rd_wg=VZR6r&pf_rd_r=0H7P186P8PR2X7W9Z46V&pd_rd_r=b9760dac-237d-433f-be68-691db61e14a6&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyVjFMTjZPSThWUzNKJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMTI1NDc5MzgwRjZLMzc1QTBBSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwODA2ODA3MkJFTE1LSjlTRjBFQyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbCZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
« Last Edit: September 22, 2020, 09:45:26 AM by WSUCoug1994 »

thesis

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #34 on: September 22, 2020, 09:38:40 AM »
I'm kind of with maisymouser on this one. My preference for automation doesn't go far beyond my PS4 remote turning my TV on at the same time, and the heating/AC system doing it's job. I have a digital thermometer that communicates with a battery-powered stick outside to tell me the temp, but that's about it.

If you want to save money on cooling, let yourself be a little warm and adapt to the heat. If you want to save money on heating, let yourself be a little cold and wear long-sleeves or a thin jacket that works around the house. A better way is to have a smaller house, or fewer floors, so you don't have to worry about the temp imbalances between floors. Make sure windows and door are sealed properly.

As for security, motion sensor lights make it easy to tell if somebody is outside when it's dark and will scare most criminals away. Or, simply have fewer things that can be stolen. Or be able to replace those with cash. I'm sure coming home to find your place had been burglarized would be a little traumatizing psychologically, but it's funny to me when people spend lots of money to secure their expensive toys - that's just one more expense for all your other expenses!

I don't mean to be dismissive, I'm just naturally suspicious when people want to buy something to solve their problems instead of, say, searching for ways to not have the problem in the first place. Most of us do this to some extent, but there are usually better solutions than supporting the insecure, profit-hungry, and resource-intensive industry of IOT devices.

Also be aware, some of these IOT devices depend on a cloud server, and if the company goes out of business, the app immediately becomes unusable. If you do go IOT, be sure to research the company, because some of them are boom and bust in quick order, making a quick buck off of people and then, due to not being a sustainable business, filing for bankruptcy.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2020, 09:23:27 AM by thesis »

Ecky

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Re: "Smart" home automation thingy's that are actually worth it.
« Reply #35 on: September 22, 2020, 12:20:18 PM »
I used to have some home automation stuff. I eventually sold all of it. I'm not a big fan of light switches, door locks and cameras that work 98% of the time, and don't always reconnect properly after an outage.

There are a few automations I've kept, but they're not "smart" or connected. I have a light sensor + timer that opens the chicken coop door in the morning, and closes it in the evening, and I have a dumb timer that turns on my car's block heater around 30 minutes before I leave in the morning, during winter months.