Is home automation complicated?

First I was looking at home automation as something really cool that had maybe some minor challenges but not sure now. From all my reading:

  1. Z-Wave can only bounce a request across 4 z-wave devices, so if you have a light switch on the other side of the building, it may never get the request.

  2. Because Z-Wave devices are chained, there could be a delay of 1 - 3 seconds for anything you do to happen. So say you walk in a closet and expect the lights to turn on, may be in the dark for a few seconds.

  3. Z-Wave devices have a limited range, so the z-wave transmitter in the hub may not be able to reach the first device you have in the chain.

  4. Bluetooth type devices have a very minimal direct line of site type requirement and in a lot of cases won’t work.

  5. Most of these devices like door locks require batteries that you have to change and keep up with.

  6. Lutron devices have some kind of propriatary communication method that requires some kind of additional hub that has to be connected somewhere and I would imagine any hub I setup for the base smart house itself, will be in the basement. If this has to plug into that hub, then chances are it will not communicate.

There are other challenges, but don’t want to keep rambling. Is there truth to what I’m saying? A lot of this came around the Wink unit and how it supposedly support a LOT of differrent home automation technologies out of the box, but would still be concerned about communication, location, line of site, etc.



First question:

Is home automation complicated?


All true (I think) but Zwave old timer can probably give more details

True. The Beta bluetooth binding is in development and is showing promise. There are many other way to communicate with bluetooth devices and they are in general very reliable when in range.

True. But you can write alarm rules that will notify you when a battery is running low

Where you set up the hub is up to you. If in the basement keep in mind ventilation and humidity levels.

No, if it is wired it should communicate

True - if you’re building is very large, you would want to have more than one controller. ZWave range is generally a lot more than most technologies though. Assuming a short distance of 10m (to allow for walls and slant range) 4 hops is 50m, so if you put your controller near the middle of your house, that’s 100m across - that’s quite a large house. If you have outbuildings, you might need to have a separate network. (I should add that ZWave would normally have better range than 10m, but it may depend on house construction and a number of other factors).

This should not be the case. It should be well under half a second and generally a lot less than that.

All RF systems have limited range. ZWave, being relatively low frequency compared to WiFi, Bluetooth and Zigbee (as examples) is typically significantly better range than most technologies.

That’s life these days - everything has a battery. My ZWave door lock lasts a long time (I don’t remember when I changed the batteries last - well over a year ago though, and maybe close to 2 years.

Well, you have made some points that are fundimentally correct, but wireless systems, with batteries are the way of the world these days.

Thanks for the replies. I was considering using a Wink 2 because my family constantly complains about my setup for multimedia. Actually they love the fact that all they are staring at is a giant TV, and the surround sound stereo is, uhhh, where did he put it? Well it’s in another room in a cabinet and remote uses RF to communicate, and why don’t we have a cable box? What is this cable card think you have running on a server in the basement? I digress. Their concern is what if he gets run over by a bus, then what. My response is, turn everything off, close the cabinets, and pretend the equipment isn’t there. Call comcast and have them wire up a cable box under the TV and be done with it. Though I did listen to them so as I embark on this venture that is a little more impactful to the overall house, want to be cognizant of the rest of my family.
One thing I noticed with the Wink 2 is it covers a good amount of the IoT devices out there. With OpenHAB out of the box, I’m thinking it will just manage Wi-Fi devices? I know I can plug in a Z-Wave device, but what about Zigbee or Lutron’s individual offering? Any way to emulate what Wink did on a custom OpenHAB hub and if so what would that entail?



This is super incorrect. Wink supports 6 IoT technologies /protocols I think. Let’s say less than a dozen. openHab supports 360+. SHowever, if you mean without additional hardware then yes, oh well only support wireless technologies built into the computer is installed on. Some technologies will require additional hardware, usually USB dongles.

Generally, OH is going to work better if you use the technologies directly rather than indirectly. For example, the Zwave binding is going to work better than controlling Zwave through the Wink from OH.

There is a Zigbee binding as well. I believe Lutron’s procol is proprietary and I don’t think anyone has reversed engineered it yet.

But to answer the question in the subject, yes, none automation is very complicated. If you are not a developer or system integrator, home automation may be the most complicated thing you ever do. But lest you get scared away, with a willingness to put in the work and effort and learning, home automation is achievable.

Hi JR,

In regard to home automation being complicated, it really depends what you want to do with home automation. For example, on the simple end, I have a bathroom fans with a motion and humidity sensors. The fans don’t communicate to devices outside of themselves. However, they gets the job done in terms of coming on when the the bathroom is occupied or humidity levels are high, and turning off in a reasonable amount of time. On the other hand, I’m also using openHAB to control my Z-wave and Insteon networks. There was a learning curve and some frustration, but for me home automation is a hobby. The complications are fun to work through. If you are dipping your toe into home automation, I’d recommend:

  1. Start small. You don’t have to automate everything now. Though if you are building renovating, you may want to give your future automation plans some consideration as . you may need to pull wires, have space in junction boxes, etc.

  2. Have a manageable project in mind with reasonable expectations. This is may determine what home automation technology (ies) to use, and it’s going to inform your research…

  3. Do your research. Read up on the technology and manufacture of the product. Then look at the reviews and forums of the product/technology. (Manufacture’s forums are likely to be positive so do due diligence and look at information from third-parties.

  4. Implement and experiment. Remember with openHAB, you can mix and match technologies. (You can do this with some commercial offerings too, but openHAB supports more technologies than any commercial solution.)

Now all this presumes home automation is a hobby for you. If you want your automation to just work and you aren’t interested in any “fiddling”, you may want to consider going the professional route and hire someone to do the automation.