Home Automation – Part 1, Lights

I’ve been playing around slowly with some home automation. I didn’t dive straight into this when things started coming out because there wasn’t a good eco-system for connecting the different systems together. Now that there seems to be 3 clear choices, Amazon, Google and Apple, I’ve made the dive in.

I started the journey into this back on Amazon Prime Day where there was a deal on an Echo Dot and the Philips Hue starter kit. I started with the Philip Hues lights because it looked to the the easiest place to start and Philips works with the Alexa (Amazon) and Siri (Apple).

What drove me towards choosing Philips Hues over some of its competitors because of it closed wireless ecosystem. I didn’t want to deal with the headache of everytime I needed to add a new lightbulb into the house that I’d have to join it to my home wireless network.

The setup the Philips Hue was very easy. I unboxed the wireless bridge, connected it to my wired network and powered it on. Downloaded the app to my phone and went through the easy setup. I then went down a rabit hole of creating every room in the house within the app before adding light bulbs. Adding the light bulbs was easy, take out the old light bulb, put in the philips hue bulb and power the light back on. The bulb connects back to the bridge and then shows up in the app on the phone. Place the bulb into a room and you can now turn on or off the bulb from your phone.

Setting up the bulbs to be controlled is cool, but to make it even better I integrated it with the Apple Homekit and Amazon Echo. I created routines in the homekit to turn on and off lights at certain times of the day and utilize Alexa to turn on/off or dim/bright lights with my voice.

As I expanded the lights within the house, staying only on the first floor I’ve found a few issues.

  1. If a room does not have Alexa and my Apple Watch isn’t fast enough it’s slow to turn on the lights. My office was an example of this. My resolution to it until I purchase another Alexa device is the use the dimmer switch and place it near the light switch
  2. Need to know which light switches need to stay on. I could buy the tab to keep to protect against this, but haven’t gotten around to it yet
  3. Not all areas make sense for the lights yet. Hallways and bathrooms as example. I believe I will change these rooms into philips hue bulbs, but not sure how I want them controlled for turning on and off. Something I’ve been thinking about is using the motion sensors for this
  4. The bulbs are not supported outdoors. I’m still looking for options on how to automate my outside lights
  5. Price… I only have bought the normal white lights because the cost of the full color lights cannot be justified
  6. Bulb choices. Some of my lights need a smaller bulb

I plan on expanding the bulbs to every room slowly over time, bedrooms will be interesting. After a storm came through the area and I lost power for 3 days, when the power comes back on, every light will turn on, and stay on. The bridge does not remember the last state of the light before the power loss, which makes sense, how would the bridge know it was a power outage vs someone hitting the switch. My hesitation with the bedrooms is, if we lose power at night, I don’t need to lights turning on in the middle of the night when the power comes back on.

If anyone has suggestions around automating lights in their home I’d like to hear about it.

One Comment

  1. Hey Chris, Matt here (we met at Jay’s bachelor party in Iceland). I have a full setup and can at least give you some potential solutions that I have implemented… I also have an ecobee3 thermostat connected to Apple HomeKit. I have 2 remote temperature sensors for this that can also detect motion. I have it setup that when these detect motion in their respective room the lights in that room come on. Also, for the outdoor lights, I replaced the switch with a lutron caseta switch. This has the benefit of being integrated with HomeKit and also being a physical switch and/or dimmer. Hit me up at matthew@swflnet.com if you want to talk further about any of this. I also have an August lock and Homebridge running on a small linux server that allows control of my home entertainment system through Siri via a Logitech harmony hub.

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