• You've been granted Beta access to this site, allowing you to explore some of the new features while they're still under construction. More information can be found in the Beta forum.

Struggling with controller choices

I am new to HA and all the fun and adventure that it brings. Been lurking here off and on for awhile but want to start diving in and playing. Not adverse to DIY at all but have very limited experience in this area.
 
With all the choices out there on controllers my mind starts to wander and become confused. With it being the "core" of the system I really want to start out there and work outward. I would like a unit that offers some versatility over a couple platforms to achieve what most will view as basic tasks. It seams to me that there are pros/cons to most of the controllers making choices even harder.
 
What I would like to do in the short term is monitor motion and entry ways (doors, windows garage door), lighting control, HVAC, home and away scenes and notify me of events (entry when "secured") 
In the future look at voice commands, house audio, cameras... etc
 
My home has no hardwired connections for a security system or sensors currently in place. 
 
A couple of years ago I bought 6 Insteon dimmer switches for my home theater with the though of getting an ISY controller. What I like about the Insteon is the dual mesh with communication over 120 lines and air. This really plays in as I have a work shop that is to far away (I believe) to use zwave etc and really want control and monitoring in there. Looks Like the ISY are also capable of zwave but I dont read a lot about them in the general "web" reviews and recommendations. 
 
So when basically starting from scratch on a DIY/ role your own system what is out there that may have long term life?
 
I hope what I have said makes sense.... 
Thanks
 

pete_c

Guru
Here still utilizing X10 (longest life) with my OmniPro 2 panel.  Then also using UPB (long life too), ZWave and Zigbee.
 
The OmniPro 2 is starting to get long in the tooth and functions today as it did when first installed ~ 15 or so years ago.
 
Always have used software addendums to my OP2 automation; specifically Homeseer here.
 
You can go wireless or wired for sensors.  Alarm panel wireless has long battery life.  Wired is a PITA to do but you never have to change batteries.
 
Security and Automation did not mix too well years ago and Leviton and Elk did it first many many years ago.  Today you can do the combo for much less monies.
 
That said I would suggest that you utilize an alarm company to monitor your stuff.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
My approach would be to start with a simple platform like Smartthings and spend a year or more playing with that to see what all you can do. By the time you outgrow it you will have a clearer idea of what you are really looking to step up to, and if you find it does everything you want to do and don't need to upgrade then that's OK too.
 

ComponY

Active Member
The Omni Pro II is a pretty good way to go in my opinion. I've used wired or wireless functions, and usually never have any issues. I also use these for my clients. It works, it's somewhat simple and gets the job done. With this, you can use UPB or even RadioRa2 if you wanted (and integrate with Omni).
 

pete_c

Guru
Yeah here mentioned X10 cuz I had been using it since the late 1970's and it was all that was there in the late 1990's / early 2000's.  Tried Insteon after X10 then went back to powerline UPB; never looked back from that even though I have ZWave / Zigbee tinker toys.
 
Here today consider the Omni Pro 2 panel a very good security panel and a basic controller on steroids with more than enough meat to it. 
 
Really what basic controller today talks to as many devices as the OmniPro or the Elk panel?
 
devices.jpg
 
I don't know of any controller that talks to as many devices. 

You can even design a room and include control or views of switches, sensors, touchscreens, cameras, et al today.

The software addendum adds some more up to date granularity and features not present in the panel.

Software like CQC or Homeseer or free software like Home Assistant or OpenHAB provides you with integration to the Amazon Echo, Google Voice, et al.

Some folks state today that the serial bus is kind of slow but really here do not sit with a stop watch looking at response times rather I prefer to know that everything works 100% of the time.
 

TrojanHorse

Active Member
I must say I’ve been very pleased with my ISY, Elk and Insteon together as a system. The team with ISY (UDI) has continued to improve their controller. I started on this path as a newbie to it all about 5 years ago and am amazed at the things my system can do. ISY supports z-wave as well if you later migrate to that.

Edit: there are also at least a few apps you can use on your phone / tablet to “talk with” the ISY and the Elk if you purchase the Elk module from UDI.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
I use some x10 modules with my ISY994 as well as mostly Insteon, Hue bulbs, ledenet strips and bulbs, MagicLight, milight bulbs, Venstar and ecobee stats and sensors, CAO wireless tags, CAI WC8 for wind speed/gusts,humidity and 1wire temperature probes, as well as interrogating my Outback PV system via Modbus/TCP/IP.

My ISY even functions as a combination lock decoder from an Insteon KPL keypad.

ISY supports my multiple Alexa and Google Home boxes and controls my Onkyo A/V receiver natively via Ethernet. I haven't figured out the Sansing TV protocol yet for my ISY.

I have avoided any Zwave support for my ISY so far, but I may add that board into it for few dollars some day.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 
Thank you for all the responses. As a new guy it appears that I only get a post a day to start so I have to play catch up on responding to the great feedback. As a result this may get long.....
 
@pete_c
Thank you for the posts from a very active member of the forum. Looks like you have tried and are using many different types of sensors in your system, hands on advice is always valuable.
You and @ComponY recommend/use the Omni Pro II, this unit wasn't even on my radar so I have been reading up on it. The initial cost of the controller surprised me a little. I know HA is not an inexpensive game but at ~2k for the controller I got a little sticker shock. If the value of the unit is there I will not dismiss it.
I will have to go wireless for the majority of sensors as trying to add wired at this stage will be a major PITA.
What made you go away from insteon?
 
@upstatemike
I do like the thought of starting simple and playing... good advise. I do have some money invested in the Insteon switches that do not appear to be compatible (without other hardware) with smartthings. Funny/sad part is the switches cost more than the smartthings hub...
 
@TrojanHorse @LarryILix
A couple votes in the ISY department. Good to have options.
How do you find the programming interface? I have heard it isn't the easiest to get use to.
Another thing that caused me to look at the ISY was the zwave option and it does add some flexibility if I want non Insteon products. How well are they doing this option?
I do struggle with needing ISP portal to be able to add voice control and IFTT functionality..... Correct?
 
@LarryILix WOW that's a long list of different devices and products..... I am super intrigued
 
 
 
Software.... another area I need to read a lot more about...OpenHAB, Home Assistant...
 
Security...... Please correct me if I miss speak but... I struggle (due to lack of my understanding) with the general recommendations of many that HA and security don't mix. If a controller ie ISY can monitor a door switch and report if the switch is open then is that not (in its most basic form) security. Yes self monitored.
 
Sorry for the long post.... lost of thoughts in my head.
 
 

pete_c

Guru
What made you go away from insteon?
 
I was a first generation user of Insteon when first introduced.  Call these days Insteon "salad" days.
 
All of the switches started to fail one by one.  Then one electrical hiccup in the house and they went and I replaced them all with UPB at the time.  I was using UPB on one floor of the two story home.  Those did not fail during the electrical debacle but I replaced them anyways.
 
I used the Omini Pro panel to talk to the X10 side of Insteon which worked fine at the time.  HAI also stated they would never support Insteon when it was first introduced.
 
Here was never much of a wireless anything person relating to automation even though I have played with and using ZWave and Zigbee.
 
I am today at 100% efficiency with X10 and UPB, ZWave and Zigbee.  All of my in wall light switches are UPB today and I am a happy camper.
 
Most promising now is using MQTT as an automation transport and now tinkering with WiFi automation devices with custom firmware which I like.

If your interests are more related to security than automation I would start with a security panel with some mechanism of connectivity to automation software. Then use the automation software to manage the automation and security sensor features. This can be done with inexpensively purchasing an a la cart security panel with wireless and wired features and a network management port then connect it to what ever automation software that will allow access to your new security panel.

Or you can do similiar to Comcast purchasing an alarm contract for your Ooma box or Almond box et al and utilize Zigbee wireless widget (or ZWave).

I am a bit biased about automation software. I tinker a lot here with different automation software and widgets.

I would give CQC, Homeseer, OpenHAB, Home Assitant a spin to see how you like automation software.

I have though used Homeseer since the late 1990's and using it today (X2) and it does well for me.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Waterboy77 said:
Thank you for all the responses. As a new guy it appears that I only get a post a day to start so I have to play catch up on responding to the great feedback. As a result this may get long.....
 
<snippage>
@TrojanHorse @LarryILix
A couple votes in the ISY department. Good to have options.
How do you find the programming interface? I have heard it isn't the easiest to get use to.
Another thing that caused me to look at the ISY was the zwave option and it does add some flexibility if I want non Insteon products. How well are they doing this option?
I do struggle with needing ISP portal to be able to add voice control and IFTT functionality..... Correct?
 
@LarryILix WOW that's a long list of different devices and products..... I am super intrigued
 
<snippage>
ISY is the easiest thing I have ever programmed but I have worked with event triggered software before professionally.
Programming is done by  all pull down menu selections so no syntax errors are ever created. Trigger based software sometimes gives linear code monkeys a real PITA when they first start sometimes as they tend to create cyclic loops changing parameters that affect the running of the same programs.
 
UDI (manufacturer of ISY994) has tons of support and it is not uncommon to hear people thanking them for logging into their system to diagnose their learning problems some Sundays or weekends. I have never heard of an ISY box going bad although in five years some SD cards have began to crap out. Some didn't like how it worked and UDI bought the box back from them, or at least offered to. Most never follow through after  they consider what else is out there.
 
Insteon has gone through a lot of growing pains and has matured a lot. Many using the IS controller install the Zwave card and use Insteon and Zwave as Insteon products are the best of any most have experienced in the AC modules but Insteon's battery operated devices suck, mostly.
 
Currently UDI has developed the ISY Portal that runs on their cloud server allowing many, many developers to write Portal "Node" drivers to support many other foreign (to Insteon and Zwave) devices. The ISY Network resources module ($12 per year or $50 outright) allows sending any variation of Ethenet packet I have ever seen. ISY consumes about 3 watts with no fans smaller than a RPi. Some have interfaced two ISYs together, one at home and one at their cottage or business.
 
Careful! It can eat your life!
 
Been out of town a couple days.... thanks for the responses
 
pete_c said:
What made you go away from insteon?
 
I was a first generation user of Insteon when first introduced.  Call these days Insteon "salad" days.
 
All of the switches started to fail one by one.  Then one electrical hiccup in the house and they went and I replaced them all with UPB at the time.  I was using UPB on one floor of the two story home.  Those did not fail during the electrical debacle but I replaced them anyways.
 
I used the Omini Pro panel to talk to the X10 side of Insteon which worked fine at the time.  HAI also stated they would never support Insteon when it was first introduced.
 
Here was never much of a wireless anything person relating to automation even though I have played with and using ZWave and Zigbee.
 
I am today at 100% efficiency with X10 and UPB, ZWave and Zigbee.  All of my in wall light switches are UPB today and I am a happy camper.
 
Most promising now is using MQTT as an automation transport and now tinkering with WiFi automation devices with custom firmware which I like.

If your interests are more related to security than automation I would start with a security panel with some mechanism of connectivity to automation software. Then use the automation software to manage the automation and security sensor features. This can be done with inexpensively purchasing an a la cart security panel with wireless and wired features and a network management port then connect it to what ever automation software that will allow access to your new security panel.

Or you can do similiar to Comcast purchasing an alarm contract for your Ooma box or Almond box et al and utilize Zigbee wireless widget (or ZWave).

I am a bit biased about automation software. I tinker a lot here with different automation software and widgets.

I would give CQC, Homeseer, OpenHAB, Home Assitant a spin to see how you like automation software.

I have though used Homeseer since the late 1990's and using it today (X2) and it does well for me.
 
Thank you pete_c
I guess I am still unsure if my interest is more security that home automation..... I see it as a growing entity as I dive deeper into the abyss. I want to be a "fluid" as I can as I go so that I don't waste money on the wrong things. would you have a recommended a la cart security panel that you recommend?
 
LarrylLix said:
ISY is the easiest thing I have ever programmed but I have worked with event triggered software before professionally.
Programming is done by  all pull down menu selections so no syntax errors are ever created. Trigger based software sometimes gives linear code monkeys a real PITA when they first start sometimes as they tend to create cyclic loops changing parameters that affect the running of the same programs.
 
UDI (manufacturer of ISY994) has tons of support and it is not uncommon to hear people thanking them for logging into their system to diagnose their learning problems some Sundays or weekends. I have never heard of an ISY box going bad although in five years some SD cards have began to crap out. Some didn't like how it worked and UDI bought the box back from them, or at least offered to. Most never follow through after  they consider what else is out there.
 
Insteon has gone through a lot of growing pains and has matured a lot. Many using the IS controller install the Zwave card and use Insteon and Zwave as Insteon products are the best of any most have experienced in the AC modules but Insteon's battery operated devices suck, mostly.
 
Currently UDI has developed the ISY Portal that runs on their cloud server allowing many, many developers to write Portal "Node" drivers to support many other foreign (to Insteon and Zwave) devices. The ISY Network resources module ($12 per year or $50 outright) allows sending any variation of Ethenet packet I have ever seen. ISY consumes about 3 watts with no fans smaller than a RPi. Some have interfaced two ISYs together, one at home and one at their cottage or business.
 
Careful! It can eat your life!
Thanks you LarrylLix
Glad to hear on the ease of programming. I am very familiar with PLC ladder logic and enjoy getting my logic brain active. :D
Always glad to hear there is awesome support on any product. I have read about the early days and some of the issues. If I go ISY I would certainly get the zwave card also for the added options and versatility. I had not read about Insteon  battery devices being poor.... thanks you.
 
UDI portal.... Im still confused on the pricing....
I see on the wiki (can't do links yet) (/wiki.universal-devices.com/index.php?title=Main_Page#ISY_Portal:_Integration_with_Amazon_Echo.2FGoogle_Home.2FIFTTT) that the network is as u describe but if I want to look at Voice control via Google do I then need to get the portal at an annual fee? 
 
I see from searching around that an ISY could be used as security but some do not recommend it and it would not be recognized by insurance. Do you have the same user name as the UDI discussions? 
 
Thanks again everyone
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Yes. Same name.

There was another method to I integrate ISY with Alexa voice inputs but the ISY portal has become so impressive most do not pursue other methods any more. It also acts as a bridge to ITTT a d a DDNS server to remotely access your ISY remotely.

The vocals are supported with a conversion of phrase or multiple phrases to any program, variable, scene, or device.

Eg. Alexa turn on the dining room table light
Alexa turn on the dining room light
Alexa turn on the dining table light
Alexa turn on the dining light

All can operate the same device or program.

Google Home works the same except it's AI can get in the way making silly assumptions that can operate multiple devices when it doesn't understand. Some prefer it and work around that.

Any protocol can be a problem if you don't locate and fix the offending noise makers. Insteon uses a dual band simultaneous repeating mesh network. The more you have the stronger the network gets.

In five years I have never had an insteon ac device become permanently defective. I don't use zwave at all. I have had two battery devices come defective on arrival and were replaced.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 
LarrylLix said:
Yes. Same name. There was another method to I integrate ISY with Alexa voice inputs but the ISY portal has become so impressive most do not pursue other methods any more. It also acts as a bridge to ITTT a d a DDNS server to remotely access your ISY remotely. The vocals are supported with a conversion of phrase or multiple phrases to any program, variable, scene, or device. Eg. Alexa turn on the dining room table light Alexa turn on the dining room light Alexa turn on the dining table light Alexa turn on the dining light All can operate the same device or program. Google Home works the same except it's AI can get in the way making silly assumptions that can operate multiple devices when it doesn't understand. Some prefer it and work around that. Any protocol can be a problem if you don't locate and fix the offending noise makers. Insteon uses a dual band simultaneous repeating mesh network. The more you have the stronger the network gets. In five years I have never had an insteon ac device become permanently defective. I don't use zwave at all. I have had two battery devices come defective on arrival and were replaced. Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 
Thanks LarryILix,
One of the key reasons that lead me to the Insteon was the powerline and dual band. I have a woodworking shop that is about 100 ft away and I don't think any other protocol will reach that far. With a couple switches I will be able to add battery sensors. Hard wiring to the shop would be a very difficult task.
 
Does the ISY portal have to be an annual payment or do they do a one time fee also?
 
Do people ever post a "build thread" that shows what they have and how they are doing/did it. I've seen lots of that in Home theater but not in HA
 
Thanks
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
ISY portal is only an every two year payment. It started at $50 per two years but IIRC it dropped to $12 per year. That includes the Network Resource module also but I purchased the NR module outright years ago and that changes the combo price.

I don't understand your question about build subject. The forum has everything regarding ISY and home automation plus remote control apps and vocal remote control. Router items. Writing software to support almost anything.

Right now there a lot of zwave stuff as people attempt to make some of it work with various brand incompatibilities.

RGBW lightbulb and strip drivers. Blind controls.

You would have to look for yourself.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 

hgupta1

Active Member
I've got both an Elk M1 security panel and a SmartThings hub.
 
I have to say that they both have their benefits.
 
The Elk has been rock solid, especially for opening and closing relays and simple logic automation. I use it for automatically closing my driveway gates, because it is extremely reliable.   It integrates with very little though.   
 
Smartthings is slightly less reliable because it is cloud based.  It's not too bad though.  I have experienced one 20 minute outage in the past year due to their servers,  and a few more outages due to internet outages.   But it integrates with pretty much everything (Zwave, Zigbee, Ecobee, Arlo, Nest, Alexa, Lutron, Rachio, IFTTT, Phillip hue bulbs, Lifx, Harmony)..  There is even an Elk M1 integration now.     It has a huge developer base, and using webcore, you can write some very complex automation. 
 
I would recommend getting a smartthings hub and then you can get the best of all the other components and link them together in smartthings.
 
If you don\'t like the cloud based model, There is a competitor now called hubitat that is not cloud based, but uses a lot of the same integrations and device handlers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top