What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Nature of The Beast in DIY Home Automation

By now the 'awesome' home automation hubs and devices under the Christmas tree have given way to frustration and perhaps even anger.  The DIY home automation hubs are advertised as easy to set up when in fact they aren't.  The devices simply need connect to the hub which should take seconds but in fact can easily eat through a whole day if not more.  That is the nature of the beast in DIY home automation!  The truth is DIY home automation is not easy to set up or add to and it is far from being dependable.

I've been using SmartThings since May 2015, switching to their Hub 2 in September 2015.  Hub 2 has several features that aren't found in their first hub.  That meant manually migrating all of my devices from Hub 1 to Hub 2, no easy feat considering how time consuming it was.  Once up and running though, everything worked smoothly until December when we were at our vacation home in Florida and the hub needed rebooting.  Hub 2 has battery backup so a reboot means removing the batteries as well as unplugging, something that wasn't possible to do from a distance.  I wasn't pleased but resigned myself to not being able to control our house until we got home and that every single light in the house would be on.  They are all LED lights so while a tick off, they wouldn't drive the cost of hydro up much if left on.  Then three days later, everything started working properly with hub showing back online.  A few days later, the kids confirmed all was working.  Then a hub update came on January 21 so things were wonky again but stabilized quickly only to start acting up again.  This morning scheduled events and motion activated events weren't working and still aren't.  Again, this is an annoyance and very much the nature of the beast in DIY home automation.

My mantra with our DIY home automation system is "nothing critical gets connected".  That means our Nest (furnace) and home security system is not connected to our DIY home automation system.  I haven't added any connected locks so there is no concern over breaching our home security.  I don't have any heaters on the home automation system.  I have a Bunn My Cafe connected via an Aeon Labs smart plug that has an auto-off feature but that's it. 

In short:
A DIY home automation system will go down anytime there is an interruption in its power supply unless there is battery backup or if there is an interruption in internet connection.   What many don't realize is each time an firmware update is pushed to the hub, the hub goes down and it may even need a manual reset if the update does not go as planned.  Every time there an update for the app, there may be a disruption in the function of your home automation system.  If there are any changes to the servers, the your system may also be affected.  Then there are the gremlins like schedules and routines suddenly not working or even a particular brand of device not working.  In all, it is a challenge.

I haven't let this discourage me.  I'm currently waiting for the system to stabilize then will be adding two new devices: D-Link DCS-942L Day/Night Camera, Enerwave Ceiling Mounted PIR motion sensor.  I was caught a bit by the update while still trying to get my Aeon Labs Multisensor 6 set up properly.  It's hard to troubleshoot when the system itself is still having problems.  Both the camera and multisensor require adding custom device types and smart apps in the IDE.  I'll share my experiences with these devices once they are up and running.