As a keen home-automater, much to the chargrin of my family, one of my dreams is to have one place to do everything. Now the market is maturing, it has been interesting seeing the developments and share some of my experiences or a tale of the good, the bad, and the plain ugly.
Thermostats and radiators.
I started our journey with Heatmiser’s wifi programmable thermostats which could speak directly to our wifi and didn’t need a separate “hub” back in 2014. They worked wonders for our heating use and comfort. Basic but remote control was the fundamental for us, albeit from a manual point of view. The joy was putting these on a guest wifi network which meant we had complete control over the security and it had a HTML interface so any phone, tablet, or network connected phone gave you control if you had the password.
As you’re aware, I traded them in once I started using the Tado smart radiator valves and this journey is now complete. As ever, the first radiator valve and thermostat took the longest to install because you’re working out everything from first principles, but the devices and the control functionality are brilliant. Tado is pricey, especially if using the automated geofencing. What is a little disappointing is that it doesn’t work with Samsung’s Smart Things, but that’s my only whinge. It also needs a powered hub, which I’m not keen about but I have this on a segregated network.
Like Heatmiser, Tado provides a web interface so heat settings can be monitored and controlled from any password enabled device. I love this in all respects although the phone app is the only one that gives out the reporting functionality.
I bought my first TP-Link “wireless controlled plug” back in 2017 and was delighted with the Kasa application. I have no idea why the brand differentiation, but the fact I could plug in devices and have them working immediately from my phone was amazing. I bought it to have the a light come on for when we came home because sunset is never the same time two days in a row in the UK.
Since then, I have 26 “devices” in our Kasa application, mostly plugs and bayonet bulbs as I live in the UK, though I do have a couple of Eddison screw bulbs too.
The lights are amazing, giving timed and dimming choices galore. But the plugs do have a “timer” function which is brilliant when teamed with a lamp – have a light on for 10 minutes and then switch off. Brilliant!
I’ve recently set up rooms which are brilliant for managing that number of devices in different locations. Our bedroom has 6 devices and that’s excluding the two radiator values and the Chromecast on the older smart TV.
I have played with scenes, but these are quite hard to do and quite rigid so it’s been a mixed offering. My favourite is the one that powers down the lounge and switches on the hall lights and some in our bedroom though it won’t turn off the spare lights – that has to be done manually.
We have a phone controlled oven from Neff. It is used through the “HomeConnect” app which I loathe. Finicky and unpredictable, a bit like Office 365, never the same actions twice. Why?
Lovely if everyone goes on holiday at the same time – no wait, I keep medicine in mine, so not that useful! Again, we’re using HomeConnect: why, just why?
This is our first wifi device from Samsung and we’re now using SmartThings. All I really want is a delay start so that when I use the washing machine, it is when the sun is at its peak solar generation. But no, the delay doesn’t count down to when the device starts the wash but when it spins. Pointless.
Putting that aside, like the German manufacturers, Korean ones do feel that one should not have mixed functions and therefore it shuts down at a moment’s notice. We tend to double spin in the washing machine to cut drying time. To achieve that, you have to press the “remote start” and then after you’ve set the programme and before it ends, you need to tell it to “Smart control on” and retain the function. Blah. Foul.
That’s ignorning the promise of Smart Things. Able to combine with Bixby (Samsung’s assistant) and Kasa, there is the promise of using one application to control them all. Except Home Connect doesn’t play well with the Samsung devices and neither will talk to Tado.
Bosch, like Neff, do not really approach this kind of automation with anything like enthusiasm providing a useful tool to busy professionals. Getting it to handshake with the network is a nightmare, yesterday it took nearly 45 minutes to get it to work and today it point blankly refuses to provide remote control. Bad, just really bad.
Chromecast and Google Home.
This is a little bit of an outlier but bear with me because you need Google Home to use Chromecast.
Google Home offers that one home and something to control everything. Albeit from your phone or watch. A truly automated home.
Beware though, do not link Kasa with smart things if you are destined for Google Home – you will have Smart Things entries as well as Kasa’s only with a much more basic interface.
Sky Q on its own isn’t terrible but doesn’t work well with networks that haven’t been provided by Sky, so we switch off the Sky box everytime we want to do anything cast by others – the TV does that for us.
It uses “mini boxes” to provide multiroom functionality which have their own mesh network, to say it doesn’t work well with others is putting it mildly. Like our TV, it wants to offer to run everything else too, but I wouldn’t if you want something that definitely works!
Sounds deeply involved, not something for me.
I want these to live up to the promise of adding benefit after setting up, looking after me and the house, freeing me up to be creative.
I’ll keep you informed on how I get on with Google Home. Alexa didn’t last long because that wasn’t geared towards a multi-person home and Bixby didn’t do everything, despite both being quite sophisticated.
And in today’s economic climate, that’s what you really need.