What other 'smart' tech are you using in your homes?

My work here at Sense has elevated my cursory interest in smart home tech to a newfound hobby. I can’t seem to get enough of tinkering with my Hue bulbs and various sensors (my bank account, however, is quite fed up with it all). I currently have a handful of various Hue bulbs, a couple Hue motion sensors, a Hue dimmer, some Elgato energy-monitoring smart plugs, a couple Elgato door sensors, and an Echo that I’m mainly using for music and alarms. I also have an August Home Lock on the way and hopefully getting a cheap Honeywell Lyric from the power company. All of this is running into Homekit, but I’m curious about other options like Wink and HomeAssistant. I live in an apartment so unfortunately some devices just aren’t feasible, like Lutron stuff.

What are you using? And, since I’m planning on trying IFTTT out this weekend, have you been integrating your Sense with IFTTT and/or Alexa for some cool automations?

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HomeSeer and Z-Wave are my central nervous system.


  • Sense
  • Rachio irrigation controller
  • Alexa devices
  • Ecobee thermostats
  • A few dozen z-wave switches and dimmers
  • Z-Wave garage door opener
  • Philips Hue bulbs
  • Alarm system feeds into HomeSeer so all door/window/motion sensors can be used as triggers
  • Z-wave door lock
  • Ring floodlight cam
  • A few PTZ indoor cams
  • Logitech Harmony Hub

I really need to look more into HomeSeer and Z-Wave hubs. Which HomeSeer controller are you using? HomeKit is working for me fine for now but I imagine it will start to bring in frustrations as I expand. I also had an ecobee but messed something up during install and then I learned that I can get a free Lyric from my utility company with free install, so I just went that direction. The ecobee does seem cooler though.

I also grabbed a Blink camera yesterday, but pretty much just using that too watch my cat sit on the couch…

Oh right, cameras… added those. :slight_smile:

I run HomeSeer 3 Pro on a headless Intel NUC6i3SYH with 16GB of memory and a 256GB M.2 solid state drive. It is admittedly overkill but I figure it will let me re-purpose it later if I need to. A growing number of people are installing it on RPi, but some plug-ins don’t work in the Linux port. I find their HW controllers a bit pricey for what you get. Their annual “Black May” sale is going on right now, all their software is 50% off. I bought mine during a November 50% sale. The “Pro” version gets you HomeSeer 1st party plugins, and other stuff like their (normally $60) firmware update tool that lets you update multiple devices at once, Z-Seer to see the routes devices are using, and a couple other things I think.

Home Assistant (aka HASS) is another nice option for the open source community and it was recently acquired by Ubiquiti which could be interesting. It is supposed to remain “independent” after acquisition. HASS wasn’t as built-up when I bought HomeSeer so I’d probably compare them a bit more if I were to start over.

Even though HomeSeer requires purchasing (or writing your own) plug-ins for a bunch of integration I decided that was ok for my needs. I’ve spent a few hundred bucks on plug-ins and generally speaking all of the authors are extremely responsive and do their best to provide updates with new features and bug fixes. I also wanted something that wasn’t reliant on remote services and HomeSeer is entirely local unless you’re activating a plug-in license or if a plug-in has a hard requirement on a cloud service like ecobee as they do not allow direct control of their devices other than via HomeLink as far as I know so you must go through their service API. I think SmartThings still needs Samsung’s services online to work, but maybe that’s changed by now.

When I started I was looking for something that offered (even through plug-in purchase) a wide array of integration and a large degree of customization. A couple coworkers had HomeSeer so I got to see how theirs worked ahead of time. HomeKit, SmartThings, and Wink just weren’t (and still aren’t AFAIK) offering the level of sophistication I wanted. That’s perfectly fine, I see them built more for the consumer just getting into the area of home control/automation rather than the prosumer geek looking to take things to another level for fun.

I do my best to stick with Z-Wave or hard-wired devices when possible to keep “noise” off the Wi-Fi spectrum, but there are some Wi-Fi exceptions (ecobee, Ring, Rachio, Sense). I also like knowing if Wi-Fi is down the home’s extra functions remain functional. ZigBee channels overlapping with the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi channels is another big issue for Hue. I moved my Hue hub to the ZigBee channel which had the least overlap here and the bulbs became much more reliable/responsive.

I’ve tried to approach home control/automation with an opinion that it should enhance the home, but not force people to re-learn habits. My friends and family should be able to come into a room, hit a switch in the way they expect, and then get the kind of reaction they expect. Hue bulbs can make this a bit challenging. For example if you turn off a bulb in their app but the wall switch is still “on” it can really confuse people and I don’t like it. :slight_smile: I’ve coded events in HomeSeer that essentially are “If family room switch is on AND Hue Bulb is 0%, AND family room switch upper-paddle is pressed, THEN set family room hue bulbs to 100% and default color.”

The remote sensors are what sold me on ecobee. Our heating and cooling zones span more than one room and the sensors have helped us average out the temps much better. It’ll never be perfectly balanced without adding more zones or electronically controllable dampers, but it’s better than it was.

Hah… that’s mostly what our indoor ones do as well. Oh look… the cat is sleeping still.

  • Sense
  • Rainforest Eagle - data direct from my SmartMeter
  • Elgato Eve Energys (w HomeKit) - used to watch Always On devices and to look at time histories of specific devices.
  • TP-Link SmartPlugs - used to watch Always On devices
  • Rachio irrigation controller
  • Alexa Dot (used with Sonos, Ecobee, Sense)
  • Sonos soundsystems
  • Ecobee thermostats with 15 temp sensors (w HomeKit)
  • Keen Home SmartVents (work with Ecobee and Ecobee sensors)
  • Hue lighting system in the family room / home theater (w HomeKit)
  • MyQ garage openers (w HomeKit)
  • Basic Honeywell Wired Alarm
  • Nest Protect Fire Alarms (may switch to HomeKit based)
  • Schlage Sense locks (w HomeKit)
  • Ring door cam and floodlight cams

Quite honestly haven’t tried to do any cool automations - just make the simple ones, and gather data on home energy usage.

Those Keen SmartVents look really cool. I’ll have to look into them again when winter comes.

I’m using the Eve Energy as well. It’s a great supplement to the data from Sense. I’m barely using them for automation. They’re really just supplementary monitors for me to track my music gear w/ switching power supplies.

I’m curious if you do any comparison with your data from Rainforest and your data from Sense and your Eves/TP Links? Do you combine all of it to make sense of your monthly usage in some way? We’re working hard on data export for Sense, so hopefully we can roll that out in the near future.

Out of all the “stuff” my favorite combination is the Logitech Harmony Hub + Alexa. It’s nice telling Alexa on one side of the house to turn on the tv or xbox, then by the time you sit on the couch it’s all up and running for you. Or if your hands are full of drinks/snacks or covered in cheetos dust you can tell Alexa to do whatever.

I also like using Alexa to remote start my vehicle. :slight_smile:


I really need to check out the Harmony Hub. It’s pretty cheap and seems awesome to get my AV stuff linked in.

Alexa to remote start your car?! I didn’t even know that was possible!

It blew my mind as well when I found it. Ford vehicles with the Sync 3 and “Sync Connect” have an Alexa skill. If you say “Alexa, tell FordPass to start my vehicle with PIN <####>” it starts it. You can also lock/unlock the doors.

There’s also a Ford+Alexa app for iOS (probably Android too) that makes the vehicle act a big Echo/Dot device. If the phone is plugged in and the app is running you can hit the voice command button and use any Alexa command/skill. I could be an hour away from home in the vehicle and say “Alexa, ask Sense how much power I’m using.” or tell it to run some home automation event through HomeSeer.


The Keen vents are nice, especially since they are linked to the Ecobee and smart enough to close if no one is in the room, and otherwise adjust based on desired temp in that room. The biggest issue is that smartvents in sizes beyond the basic ones are perennially out of stock.

Yes I do comparisons. I have an RSelenium script that scrapes either daily or hourly data out of the Sense web app, then nets the data (Usage - Solar) and compares with the Rainforest Eagle results from my net meter. I’ve done it enough to convince me that my Sense is within 1% of my revenue net meter and that power reported by solar inverter runs about 4% too high, regardless of season, etc.

As for the Eves/TPLinks, I have used them to look at components of my Always On to better break that down. I have about 4 clusters of devices in my house that I purposefully keep always on - each runs about 30W. But my real hope is that Sense in the future can use these types of devices for two things:

  • Filling in Always On data automagically.
  • Supplying machine learning “ground truth” data on switched devices for better learning.

What I really wish is that Sense could eventually swallow data from the Rainforest Eagle, Eves/TPLinks, etc., plus associated context data, and offer much smarter consolidated for my house. Excel and R are nice but nothing like having an intelligent, purpose built power reporting app that also exports.

ps: Rselenium script is posted somewhere down this thread:

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WOW. That must give you some incredibly granular control over things.

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Android Auto, when it works, is great. When it works.

I have an Ecobee in the entryway and in my upstairs hallway (2 sensors) and sensors in pretty much all the separate rooms (13). Have Keen vents in 8 upstairs rooms (ceiling vents - sleeping quarters of the house), but none downstairs yet (floor vents - living area of the house). Perhaps a little overkill putting temp sensors in the 2 upstairs bathrooms, but I do have smart vents in both. The big issue that drove the sensors was that we close bedroom doors at night which means the bedroom temp was hugely disconnected from the thermostat temp leading to overheating in some rooms, underheating in others.

I’m curious…is your home old construction that needs all the help it can get with heating/cooling? We are in a pretty draft apartment in an old building so that is why I wanted to go with a smart thermostat…I’ll basically try anything to keep the electric bill down at this point. I really don’t know if a smart thermostat will make that much of a difference over a programmable, but I figure why not?

I use Insteon switches, dimmers, outlets and wireless motion sensors (to activate certain lights) as well as water leak detectors operating through an Insteon hub and Amazon echo and Spot devices.
I also use August smart lock and doorbell camera. I tried Skybell but had serious reliability issues.

  • Sense (of course)
  • Nest Thermostats
  • Nest Protect
  • Lutron Caseta Lighting
  • Alexa (wish two Alexa’s could sync with each other for timers, etc)
  • IFTTT - With Alexa. Alexa runs my AV equipment and light scenes.
  • Harmony remote for TV, etc.
  • Schlage door lock
  • Nightengale sound masking
  • Arlo remote camera (battery operated and wireless)
  • Nest Camera (not used much)
  • Smartsense (doesn’t really work)
  • MyQ from Linkmaster garage door controller (really, really nice to be able to control opener)

Oh, and I have a full stack of Cisco Meraki Network gear.

Relatively new construction and reasonable insulation in Northern California, but somewhat large house, high tiered energy costs and a couple of family members that are picky about temperature. Plus only two furnace/AC zones. Even small incremental saving in energy are quite helpful when you are in the highest tier.

Plus we had the “closed door problem” - separate the thermostat sensor in the hallway from the rooms with the people in when they are sleeping and you have a formula for both overheating/cooling and underheating/cooling. Our thermostats, like typical installs, were placed in the central hallways of the house, the theory being that air circulation throughout would keep the whole house within a couple degrees of the thermostat temp. Not true in rooms where the door is closed. Temps can vary widely depending on vent sizing and external wall exposure (windows, insulation and stucco heating and heat mass all play a role). Suffice it to say that we could never find a vent and thermostat setting that would keep bedrooms within the same envelop dialed into the thermostat (66-72 nighttime).

Ecobee/Keen solves in two ways:

  • Temp sensors in each room give better info to the Ecobee and furnace about the rooms that really matter (rooms with people in them). We originally had Nests, but swapped because of the temp sensors. Nest finallllllly introduced temp sensors 5 years too late.

  • The Keen smartvents actively adjust vent flow based on individual room temperature.

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Amazon Alexa : 2 full, 1 Tap and 3 Dots
Google Home Mini’s (For when you need an answer and Alexa doesn’t know)
Lutron Caseta Wireless Wall Dimmers (most switches )
Samsung Smart things
Skydrop Sprinker system
Arlo Security
Skybell Doorbell
Arlo Video Camera’s
Everspring Flood Sensor (x 2)
No Name flood sensors (x3)
Fortrezz Flow Meter
Leaksmart Water Valve
Schlage Z-wave locks

Not used too much
Phillips Hue (Never really figured out need for color changing bulb)
Smart things motion sensor
Various smart switches (Aeon, GE)
Harmony Hub

To be replaced eventually
Z-wave light switches (will go to Lutron)

Already taken out
Aeon home energy monitor

Connected cars:
2 teslas, one LEAF [Sense is 0/3 in 3 months with these]

Current primary residence:

  • Sense
  • Nest for HVAC and smoke detectors
  • Google home minis, chromecasts, etc
  • internet door lock
  • MyQ garage door.
  • SunPower solar

Previous primary residence (moved out 6 months ago)

  • MyEmme room by room HVAC… 13 zones, 13 thermostats, internet enabled. I do not recommend it due to expense, poor reliability, poor UX, although it does have many features.
  • internet front door lock
  • Ring doorbell
  • some wireless outdoor and indoor cameras
  • Nest smoke detectors
  • z-wave power extension leads that switch and measure power (would love to use these to teach Sense about some individual items in my home)
  • Hue (didn’t use it, uninstalled)

In our vacation rental properties in Tahoe:

  • Nest thermostats
  • MyQ garage door (e.g. when we are getting a delivery we can open the door for them)
  • internet connected front door locks
  • Sense soon to be installed. Last year in summer the AC was running flat out for a month and being ineffective due to a huge ice block developing inside… I’d like to be able to detect these issues remotely.
  • SunPower soon to be installed.
  • Sonos
  • a universal remote for the audio/video system that also works with myq and nest

I have just connected sense with my ifttt account, but I can’t think of anything useful to do with it as yet, primarily because Sense in 3 months is only detecting a few percent of my energy usage.

The Nightengale stuff is new to me. That looks awesome. What are your thoughts on it?