I’ve just gone with smart lights across about half the house, I think there is something like 20 odd lights now smart controlled in some form… So I’m a huge advocate, … but… it’s all controlled with Google…
But onto some of my thoughts none the less.
I’ve had smart lights before, I had LiFX bulbs from the kick starter campaign and while they mostly did what they said on the box and have only gotten better (and have been copied by a million different companies). The problem with this sort of bulb setup is that you need to leave your light switch turned on in order to have them controlled by anything else… which leads to my main issue. I don’t want to have to dig out my phone, find an app, open it, then turn on/off a light. OK, Siri/Google/Alexa can bring voice control to the party, but do you really want to be asking the air to turn on your light every.single.time. you want it on or off? what about at 2am as you try to sneak back into the bedroom when your partner is asleep?
Problem 2: Can grandma walk into the room and turn the light on?
Now Philips Hue does have a special wireless switch that solves this problem completely, it’s also battery powered so can be stuck wherever is needed. But that whole range is very expensive to build and even to replace bulbs when they need it.
CBUS and Zigbee (and I’m sure a few others) do have options which can be retrofit into existing home and allow the old switch to still work as a toggle on/off, but they have been relatively expensive and may need greater amounts of rewiring to get them working.
Enter DETA and GridConnect which can be found in bunnings. They do a (probably*) drop in replacement 1/2/3/4 gang touch switch which drops into your existing hole, provides a physical switch AND smarts AND automation (whcih I will get to a little later). They are relatively cheap too.
*Probably drop in. As long as your house is semi modern and has a neutral at the switch, it’s literally unscrew the old one, screw in this one and you’re away (my house was built in '79 and was fine for all the switches I have had done).
This is one that I am using. And here is their full range. You can see there are lots of different options, but I can’t go past the physical switches since they bridge the worlds of smart and dumb.
I’ve even done and bought a sensor kit (and some extras too).
I have one door sensor on the back door set so when it’s night time and I open the back door, the carport lights turn on for 3 minutes which allows me to walk into the garage, do my thing and come back inside (the switch for these lights is in the garage so this is very handy).
I have a motion sensor in the bathroom which, when it’s night time and it senses motion, turns on a strip of LED’s under the shaving cabinet which provides enough light for a 3am wee without turning on the main lights.
I have another motion sensor in the hallway which turns on an LED strip along the skirting for 3 minutes allowing the kids to walk out of their rooms, go to their bathroom and back to their room without needing to turn lights on. This was is far far more about them NOT leaving the light on afterwards.
Which was one of the primary drivers in the first place. Now when the kids leave the lights on in the rumpus room they just finished playing in, or dining room they passed through, or the study where the iPad live to get charged I can simply yell at the air and get the lights turned off. We haven’t quite finished yet, their bedrooms and the back hallway still haven’t been upgraded, but once that is done you could walk out of the house saying “turn off all the lights” and know everything was off.
Oh, and external lights. Having the front and back lights on these switches mean I can walk up to the house in the dark from the front or back and pull out my phone to turn on the lights, especially awesome in winter or when you’ve come home late and not left the lights on.
Now, when it comes to HomeKit, there I can’t help you so much other than to point at these:
I am vaguely aware of some hacking of the DETA products and alternatives to Grid Connect, but since we have invested in the Google assistant ecosystem (and have at least seven of them across the house) it already works well enough for me. Although the one thing I would really like to get one day is 100% local server control of my switches, integrated into HomeKit and/or Google so I’m not at the mercy of the makers of Grid Connect, or Schalge or Brilliant… or any other random “smart” switch/plug/thing I have.
In short, I think HomeBridge is about to become your new best friend since the market for HomeKit enabled stuff is so much smaller.