Please help me choose a HA controller

patterrr

Member
I'm soliciting opinions from all you experts on which HA controller would best suit me.  I've been reading this forum for years, but haven't gotten around to implementing my HA system yet.  However, we just moved into our new house, and I don't want to buy a ~$25 timer for my Christmas lights (they are controlled by a wall switch that switches the exterior outlets), so time to spend MUCH more and finally put together my HA system.
 
I have mainly been looking at OpenRemote, OpenHAB, and HouseBot.  However, until WEDNESDAY (11/30) HomeSeer is selling their software for 50% off.  I've considered it too expensive so far, but with that sell it's in my price range.  I would do all the research and evaluation trials myself, but with the sale only lasting for two days I need to lean on you good folks to help me out ASAP.  Here's what I'm looking for:
  • I'm a huge do-it-yourselfer.  I'm also an electrical engineer and software engineer.  So I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty, and actually prefer it.  So that eliminates closed systems like Control4.  I'm also a cheap-o so want to minimize cost.
  • I am designing some custom hardware, so want a controller that I can develop my own plugins for.  This is why I was leaning towards the open source projects, but I see HomeSeer has a software development kit for .net plugins.  C#.net happens to be my development language of choice, so it's a good match there.
  • I don't want a dedicated controller that will eventually get out-dated.  Instead, I want software that I can run on my media server (Windows 7 pro) since its hardware is already kept up-to-date and it's always on, backed up by a UPS.  This also helps minimize cost.
  • I already have a bunch of "smart" devices in my house, but I don't like using different Android apps for all of them.  I want one unified way to access them, and a controller to set rules between them.  Of course, that's the whole point of the HA controller...  Here's what I already have:
  1. (2) Ring Doorbells
  2. (1) Rachio sprinkler controller
  3. (1) Lorex HD DVR for security cameras
  4. (1) Pentair Easy Touch pool automation system
  5. (11) Radio Thermostats (CT-50)
  6. (1) Radio Thermostat (CT-80)
  7. (2) Schlage Connect Dead Bolts (Z-Wave)
  8. (1) GE Brillion oven with WIFI
  9. (4) Liftmaster MyQ Remote Garage Door system
  10. (2) Onkyo A/V receivers (Ethernet)
I think HomeSeer can control about half that stuff.  I really want something that integrates with the MyQ, Ring Doorbells, and Lorex, but there aren't many products (if any) that I know of that do.  Here's a list of stuff that I would like to add:
  1. Many automated light switches throughout house (I'm thinking Z-Wave)
  2. A few automated outlets throughout house (again thinking Z-Wave)
  3. Part of our indoor system and all our outdoor lighting is RGB LED DMX.  I have a E1.31 to DMX bridge and software that talks E1.31 for controlling it all, but would want to integrate that into our HA system.  So something that talks E1.31.
  4. I have wires from every door and window in the house running to a couple utility closets, so would like to add security monitoring for them and integrate that into the HA.
  5. I would like to add about 16 more security cameras, but I'm thinking IP cameras and  an NVR.  So can be flexible on which ones so that they integrate to the HA controller.
  6. It MUST have an Android app.  Don't care about iPhone.  Windows App would be nice too, in case I ever jump ship and switch to a Windows phone.
  7. I would like to install an Intercom system.  I have 2-gang electrical boxes in each room with CAT6 going from my wiring closet to each one.  Haven't chosen a system yet, but would like it to integrate with the HA controller.
  8. I installed speakers everywhere in the house, so would like to eventually do whole house audio.  Haven't chosen a system yet, but something like Russound.  Would like that to integrate with the HA also.
  9. Don't really care to much about video distribution... We just have one TV anyways.
  10. Like I said I have a bunch of custom hardware planned so would like to be able to write my own plugins.
  11. I wired in about 60 Ethernet drops during construction, so the opportunities for HA stuff are endless.
So what do y'all think?  Is HomeSeer a good fit for me?  Or should I aim my sights elsewhere?  Thanks so much for your time and opinions!
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
ISY994. about 3 Watts, Includes hardware and firmware for $99 refurbished. MicroUSB PSU.
 
Natively supports Insteon for very reliable comms without tonnes of repeaters and access points. Natively X10 also for old cheap stuff. (Xmas lights?)
 
Zwave plug-in PCB will cost more, as will the Network Resource module that will most Ethernet protocols know to man.
 
Polyglot is in early development that you can patch in your own code to drive anything your code can get to.
 
NodeLink (free) runs on Win or Rpi to access Venstart and Honeywell stats and many LED RGBW strips/bulbs.
 
Best support I have ever heard of.24 x 7.
 
Portal option allows you to login from anywhere and supports Echo/Dot very well with very few hassles.
 
Pro option supports up to 1024 programs. Basic up to 250?
 

Sparkman1

Active Member
I think HS would be a good fit, but I typically recommend the regular version, not the Pro version unless you know you want the Designer software for customization of the HS Touch interface.  I personally don't use HS Touch, but do have the Pro license as I've been upgrading since the HS 1.x days.  I use ImperiHome and it works for both ios and Android.  There is a plugin for MyQ already.  For cameras, I would look at IP and Blue Iris NVR software.  There is a Blue Iris plugin for HS and there are also a number of ways to integrate ip cameras direct.  Since Ring doorbells hasn't made an API available yet, there is no plugin.  There is one for Doorbird however.  Russound integrates with a couple of plugin options.  A number of different security systems can be integrated with HS.
 
Cheers
Al
 

pete_c

Guru
Here have utilized Homeseer since the late 1990s.
 
Today have HS3 Pro and HS3 Lite running on Ubuntu 16.04 64 bit.
 
Using embedded Wintel today for my 16 HSTouch/SAPI tabletop clients.  Works fine for me.  Android clients have worked fine here too.
 
HS3 is integrated with my Leviton Omni Pro 2 combo security panel / CCTV / Russound.
 
Primary lighting here is UPB.  That said HS3 today is talking UPB, Z-Wave and X10.  Leviton panel is talking UPB, X10, Z-Wave and Zigbee.
 
Check out the Homeseer forum relating to what you want to integrate to your HS software.  IE: ask the same questions about integration.
 

patterrr

Member
LarrylLix said:
ISY994. about 3 Watts, Includes hardware and firmware for $99 refurbished. MicroUSB PSU.
Looks like the version that supports ZWave is about $230.  It's a neat product, I'll have to look more at it.  I'm just trying to avoid a standalone hardware product, for some reason it doesn't sit right with me to have another product that's doing what a computer can easily do.  I feel like it'll be harder to upgrade it over time and scale as I grow my automation system.  Having a software-based HA controller just makes more sense IMO.
 
Sparkman1 said:
I think HS would be a good fit, but I typically recommend the regular version, not the Pro version unless you know you want the Designer software for customization of the HS Touch interface.  I personally don't use HS Touch, but do have the Pro license as I've been upgrading since the HS 1.x days.  I use ImperiHome and it works for both ios and Android.  There is a plugin for MyQ already.  For cameras, I would look at IP and Blue Iris NVR software.  There is a Blue Iris plugin for HS and there are also a number of ways to integrate ip cameras direct.  Since Ring doorbells hasn't made an API available yet, there is no plugin.  There is one for Doorbird however.  Russound integrates with a couple of plugin options.  A number of different security systems can be integrated with HS.
 
Cheers
Al
I was actually planning to ask whether I should get the regular version or the pro version if I go with HomeSeer.  It's like double the cost to get that customizable HS Touch interface designer, so wondering whether or not one would actually use it.  I'm curious why you use ImperiHome instead of HS3Touch Home Automation for Android?  Have you found HomeSeer's app to not be very good?  The MyQ integration is GREAT news, I didn't realize it was supported.  I'll check out those cameras.  What light switches do you use?  I see that HomeSeer sells their own light switches, but wondering if they are any better than GE's.
 
pete_c said:
Here have utilized Homeseer since the late 1990s.
 
Today have HS3 Pro and HS3 Lite running on Ubuntu 16.04 64 bit.
 
Using embedded Wintel today for my 16 HSTouch/SAPI tabletop clients.  Works fine for me.  Android clients have worked fine here too.
 
HS3 is integrated with my Leviton Omni Pro 2 combo security panel / CCTV / Russound.
 
Primary lighting here is UPB.  That said HS3 today is talking UPB, Z-Wave and X10.  Leviton panel is talking UPB, X10, Z-Wave and Zigbee.
 
Check out the Homeseer forum relating to what you want to integrate to your HS software.  IE: ask the same questions about integration.
How come you're running both the Pro and Lite versions?  I assumed one instance could scale to VERY large systems, but have you found that to not be the case? I don't know much about UPB other than the fact that it uses power lines rather than RF for communications and they see to be much more expensive than Z-Wave.   I'm guessing they are a bit more robust to noisy RF environments; any other reason I should look at them rather than Z-Wave?
 
One thing I forgot to mention in my original post is that I have about 6 places in my house where I'd like a permanent HA user's interface mounted on the wall.  I ran low voltage power and Ethernet (if needed) to each location.  Is there a good interface for HomeSeer, or am I best off just getting some Android tablets, mounting them on the wall, and running the Android app?
 
I have a handful of other random questions, I'll direct the HomeSeer specific questions to the HomeSeer forum if I don't get answers here:
  1. Which Z-Wave interface should I use if I go with HomeSeer?
  2. My house has a footprint of about 5000 sq. feet.  I'm assuming I might need multiple Z-Wave interface modules throughout the house, or would the repeater modules in switches suffice?  If not, are there Ethernet based Z-wave modules that HomeSeer supports that I could locate throughout the house?
  3. Al mentioned not to worry about getting the Pro version of HomeSeer as it only adds the Designer software for UI customization.  Has anybody leveraged that functionality, and if so was it worth it?  I know it's costly to upgrade to pro down the road, so would like to make an very informed decision up-front.
  4. Any other 'gotchas' with HomeSeer that you were surprised to encounter?
  5. Any recommended Z-Wave dimmer switches?  It seems that a lot of companies, including HomeSeer, make them.
  6. HomeSeer sells a variety of different controllers in addition to their software.  Any advantage to using one of their controllers?  I like the idea of just running their software on my always-up server.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
patterrr said:
Looks like the version that supports ZWave is about $230.  It's a neat product, I'll have to look more at it.  I'm just trying to avoid a standalone hardware product, for some reason it doesn't sit right with me to have another product that's doing what a computer can easily do.  I feel like it'll be harder to upgrade it over time and scale as I grow my automation system.  Having a software-based HA controller just makes more sense IMO.
 [/*]
[/LIST]
I started and existed that way for many years but now I have individual processors for thermostats, appliances, RGBWW LED strips and bulbs, router, each computer, cell phones, ISY and RPis.

When I have to reboot my computer I don't like all my timers, furnace, router, television, media player or any other devices to fail for 5 minutes while Windows takes a break.

Get the refurbished ISY for $99 and the Zwave board on sale for $50 and plug it in.
When your programs exceed 250 in a year or more, pay for the Pro upgrade = just a switch from UDI, sent online.
 

Sparkman1

Active Member
patterrr said:
I was actually planning to ask whether I should get the regular version or the pro version if I go with HomeSeer.  It's like double the cost to get that customizable HS Touch interface designer, so wondering whether or not one would actually use it.  I'm curious why you use ImperiHome instead of HS3Touch Home Automation for Android?  Have you found HomeSeer's app to not be very good?  The MyQ integration is GREAT news, I didn't realize it was supported.  I'll check out those cameras.  What light switches do you use?  I see that HomeSeer sells their own light switches, but wondering if they are any better than GE's.
I built my system for automation, not touch screen control, and don't have the patience to build custom screens that barely get used.  ImperiHome let's me build quick and simple screens that I can modify from anywhere (i.e. waiting at the doctor's office, etc.).  I use Leviton light switches, but likely would go with the HomeSeer ones if I was starting over.  Leviton and Cooper were the only ones that supported instant status (i.e. telling the controller about local changes) when I bought.  The HS ones are zwave plus, support instant status and support double and triple tap features that can be used to control scenes, etc.  The GEs don't have any of that.
 

Sparkman1

Active Member
patterrr said:
One thing I forgot to mention in my original post is that I have about 6 places in my house where I'd like a permanent HA user's interface mounted on the wall.  I ran low voltage power and Ethernet (if needed) to each location.  Is there a good interface for HomeSeer, or am I best off just getting some Android tablets, mounting them on the wall, and running the Android app?
 
I have a handful of other random questions, I'll direct the HomeSeer specific questions to the HomeSeer forum if I don't get answers here:
  1. Which Z-Wave interface should I use if I go with HomeSeer?
  2. My house has a footprint of about 5000 sq. feet.  I'm assuming I might need multiple Z-Wave interface modules throughout the house, or would the repeater modules in switches suffice?  If not, are there Ethernet based Z-wave modules that HomeSeer supports that I could locate throughout the house?
  3. Al mentioned not to worry about getting the Pro version of HomeSeer as it only adds the Designer software for UI customization.  Has anybody leveraged that functionality, and if so was it worth it?  I know it's costly to upgrade to pro down the road, so would like to make an very informed decision up-front.
  4. Any other 'gotchas' with HomeSeer that you were surprised to encounter?
  5. Any recommended Z-Wave dimmer switches?  It seems that a lot of companies, including HomeSeer, make them.
  6. HomeSeer sells a variety of different controllers in addition to their software.  Any advantage to using one of their controllers?  I like the idea of just running their software on my always-up server.
Android tablets would be a good way to go from my perspective.  Also, in regards to your scalability question, I have 27 plugins, 1700 or so devices and 800+ events, all on one HS box with an average CPU load of 1.5%.  Here's my take on your other questions:
 
1. I would go with the znet.  I use it with 95+ zwave devices from about 8 different manufacturers.  Good range and can be centrally located.
2. If you go with all zwave switches, you may not need multiple interfaces if the switches are spaced throughout the house.
3. Many people have built amazing interfaces with the designer.  There are some threads on the HS board with screen shots.  If you have the time and the patience, it can be worth it.
4. Minor bug fixes can take a long time.  Major issues are rare and addressed promptly.  It's being actively developed with new features being introduced regularly.  There's quite a bit of reliance on third party authors for plugins.  Many of these are free while others cost $20-$50 each.
5. I would go with HS ones right now.  Buy one to make sure you like the look and feel before investing in a whole bunch.  I would recommend that for any others that you are considering.
6. No advantage from my perspective.  If you are comfortable with your own system, run it on that.  I do the same.
 
Cheers
Al
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
I have recently gone with an Echo and two Dots for my ISY994. This has obsoleted all my touch panels and mini-remote keypads.
 
They never get used any more, with vocal commands.
 

pete_c

Guru
Here started with Microsoft SAPI for VR/TTS and in wall (small and large) touchscreens relating to Homeseer. 
 
Continue to utilize MS SAPI and today playing with MS Kinect, Amazon Echo and Echo applications.
 
I like to tinker with hardware and have DIY'd an old EFI tabletop to using seabios and booting in embedded wintel.  Most here are POE powered with a few being wireless.  You can run Ubuntu Linux, Android and Wintel on the tabletops via USB or SSD.  Many folks are running HSTouch on Android these days using these tabletops.
 
More recently here have modded the NIC bios and added an RTC.
 
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The tabletop tablet that I play with is the one on the right as pictured below.
 
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Pictured above are two Securifi Almond combo router/AP's (first touch screen combo) and one Almond + (first combo firewall, AP, automation box with a touchscreen).
 
Betty Boop is a large Pez dispenser and one Furby which has nothing to do with automation.
 
275px-Betty-boop-opening-title.jpg

 
Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer, with help from animators including Grim Natwick. She originally appeared in the Talkartoon and Betty Boop film series, which were produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures. She has also been featured in comic strips and mass merchandising.

A caricature of a Jazz Age flapper, Betty Boop was described in a 1934 court case as: "combin[ing] in appearance the childish with the sophisticated — a large round baby face with big eyes and a nose like a button, framed in a somewhat careful coiffure, with a very small body of which perhaps the leading characteristic is the most self-confident little bust imaginable." Despite having been toned down in the mid-1930s as a result of the Hays Code to appear more demure, she became one of the best-known and popular cartoon characters in the world.
 
Furby_picture.jpg

 
A Furby is an American electronic robotic toy released in 1998 by Tiger Electronics. It resembles a hamster or owl-like creature and went through a period of being a "must-have" toy following its holiday season launch, with continual sales until 2000. Over 40 million Furbies were sold during the three years of its original production, with 1.8 million sold in 1998, and 14 million in 1999. Its speaking capabilities were translated into 24 languages.

Furbies were the first successful attempt to produce and sell a domestically-aimed robot. A newly purchased Furby starts out speaking entirely Furbish, the unique language that all Furbies use, but is programmed to start using English words and phrases in place of Furbish over time. This process is intended to resemble the process of learning English. The updated Emoto-Tronic Furby, with voice-recognition and more complex facial movements, was sold by Hasbro between 2005-2007. They released another updated Furby with LCD eyes and a mobile app for the holiday season in 2012.
 

patterrr

Member
Sparkman1 said:
I use Leviton light switches, but likely would go with the HomeSeer ones if I was starting over. ...The HS ones are zwave plus, support instant status and support double and triple tap features that can be used to control scenes, etc.  The GEs don't have any of that.
Thanks, I'll plan on the HS switches as the double and triple tap sound useful for scene changes.
 
Sparkman1 said:
Android tablets would be a good way to go from my perspective.  Also, in regards to your scalability question, I have 27 plugins, 1700 or so devices and 800+ events, all on one HS box with an average CPU load of 1.5%.  Here's my take on your other questions:
 
1. I would go with the znet.  I use it with 95+ zwave devices from about 8 different manufacturers.  Good range and can be centrally located.
2. If you go with all zwave switches, you may not need multiple interfaces if the switches are spaced throughout the house.
3. Many people have built amazing interfaces with the designer.  There are some threads on the HS board with screen shots.  If you have the time and the patience, it can be worth it.
4. Minor bug fixes can take a long time.  Major issues are rare and addressed promptly.  It's being actively developed with new features being introduced regularly.  There's quite a bit of reliance on third party authors for plugins.  Many of these are free while others cost $20-$50 each.
5. I would go with HS ones right now.  Buy one to make sure you like the look and feel before investing in a whole bunch.  I would recommend that for any others that you are considering.
6. No advantage from my perspective.  If you are comfortable with your own system, run it on that.  I do the same.
 
Cheers
Al
WOW, how do you have 1700 or so devices?!?  Are you running an entire apartment complex with this thing?  I might start with the SmartStick+ Z-Wave interface since it's $34, figure out where the edge of my range is, and then add the Z-NET on the other side of the house if necessary since it's ~$130.  Thanks for all the other info!
 
LarrylLix said:
I have recently gone with an Echo and two Dots for my ISY994. This has obsoleted all my touch panels and mini-remote keypads.
 
They never get used any more, with vocal commands.
That's a good point, an Echo would be a great command interface.  I'd like a panel where I could quickly see the status of things, but should plan to have Echos / Dots around the house.
 
pete_c - Thanks for the Betty Boop history ;)
 
Thanks, Ryan


 
 

Sparkman1

Active Member
1700 devices doesn't translate to physical devices. Multi sensors will have a number of "child" devices, so each physical device will translate from one to many HomeSeer devices. My Pioneer receivers each have about 80 HomeSeer devices.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 

pete_c

Guru
How come you're running both the Pro and Lite versions?
 
The very first Homeseer Lite (Homeseer Zee) ran on the original RPi.  Personally I purchased it because it ran on Linux.  It worked for me on all of the Linux devices I had on line.  The original HS3 Pro ran initially on Wintel.  I switched OS's on HS3 Pro to Linux. Today the HS3 lite machine is more for testing as I am always trying to break it.   I have moved it over to an Xi3/Xi5A and made the RPi (x) a slave Z-Wave device (much like ZNet - POE powered in the attic). 
 
Many years ago here switched from Microsoft Media center to KodiBuntu STBs, MythTV, HDHomerun and dedicated NAS boxes. 
 
Old Homeseer 2 boxes ran on dedicated Wintel servers. 
 
Many HS folks today combine functions (HA and what not) on one computer and many are doing virtual instances of HS on multi CPU / much RAM style servers.  Here today utilize virtual boxes and stand alone boxes.  IE: the Homeseer Ubuntu server is running a VB of Wintel server just for Microsoft SAPI.
 
One of the upgrade things for HS3 is that you can run a plugin remotely on a separate device and have it connect to the HS mothership.  IE: doing that today with the RPi running Z-Wave.
 
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