Techie House – Take Two

So last week I blogged about how I installed the Wink Hub to the house and how it was a pretty easy system to set up. I must have jinxed myself because that very night, my system went offline for a few hours (even though my internet connection was working fine). Once it was working again, it just wasn’t the same—the lights I had set up on a schedule no longer came on and when I tried to fix it, it wouldn’t work.

I ended up getting the Samsung Smartthings Hub. Originally, this was my top choice but it wasn’t available when I was ordering (and I was under a time constraint). IMG_5982

This seems to be a much better product, but it isn’t necessarily a plug and play item which was how the Wink had appeared to be. Unlike the other product where I was able to pick the hub close to the switch to have it connect, this new product required a thought process (more on that below).

All my smart products I’ve bought used Z Wave technology (language? protocol?) and were both Wink and Smartthings compatible. They were all available at the two big box stores so that was how I ended up with this small network of things.

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This hub itself had to be tethered to my router so I couldn’t move it around like the other one. This led to me initially only connecting two items but my other ones weren’t working. It was also probably due to the fact that they had been connected to the Wink hub prior and needed to be reset.

I tried to connect more items by using a 25′ Cat 5 cable to get the hub closer to the switches but it was to no avail and actually packed it up with the intent to return it back to Amazon. (I also tried to get the Wink going back again but absolutely NOTHING worked this time around so it got returned today.)

I decided to do some research because I knew not everybody had Cat-5 wired throughout their homes so there had to be some solution out there. As it turned out, there was. The technology I chose (Z Wave) can be visualized as a “mesh” type of coverage. If I pictured where I had my connections (one on one side of the house and the other was across the way), there were obvious bare spots here I didn’t have coverage. The further I moved away from the hub without some sort of switch or outlet (to repeat or extend the signal), the less effective it was.

It was also recommended that I start connecting the closest items to the hub first and then the farther ones later, which made sense. It wasn’t just for this controller; it was for Z Wave items. (even with another product like a new Wink or Vera Edge–which I had also considered), it was best to do the same thing. I bought a switch for a ceiling fan and then one plug in switch for my laptop which helped to expand the coverage. I’m still down to 2 light switches but I’m hopeful that I can get them to connect.

 

The Beginning of a Techie House

The idea started back in 2014 when I attempted to install a programmable outlet switch for my front lights. I was unsuccessful with a couple different products.

Fast forward to just this past holiday season. I was in San Diego and was coming home. I sent a message to my cat sitter to leave the light on throughout the day but she had already left the house by the time I she noticed the message.

I began to look into the idea of automating the house. I figured that if I couldn’t control my outside lights, I could do the next best thing and control the indoor ones without a stand alone timer.

I did quite a bit of research and ended up installing a Wink Hub in the week between Christmas and New Years. One of the qualities I looked for was whether or not it would be compatible with my Nest thermostat and smoke detectors. This one was and the bonus was it wasn’t all that expensive.

 

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I started with a light control and an outlet before adding a light switch. On a whim, I decided to add the switch to control the front lights and figured if it didn’t work, I would use it for another part of the house, like the kitchen lights. To be honest, my expectations were pretty low that it would work but I just had to try.

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I was surprised when I flipped the circuit breaker on that I saw the blue light. Even more pleased when it actually connected to the Wink and I was able to control the lighting from my phone!

Since then, I added one more to the backyard. It wasn’t by choice. I replaced the existing light because I thought it had gone bad. Once the light was up, I still couldn’t switch it so it was back to getting a light switch that could accomodate LEDs. (I figured that was probably the reason for it not working.)

The only thing I saw that was not a dimmer type switch was a smart switch so I installed it and now it too, could be controlled remotely.

I don’t know what else I’ll end up doing… maybe adding some security features or something. For now, it is enough.

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