Smart Homes are the future. That I am certain of. Not all available products work well and a lot of appliances that are now ‘dumb’ are yet to be made ‘smart’. This is a rather lengthy post naming all our current Smart Home products. No comprehensive reviews or the likes here.
New house, new toys! 🙂
Working at an Apple Premium Reseller gives you instant access to a whole lot of toys. My first Smart Home product were a couple Philips Hue bulbs. When the second generation bridge with HomeKit came out, it was a nice upgrade. Currently all our lightbulbs (29 total) are Philips Hue ones and I am looking into purchasing the new outdoor products as well for our garden and driveway. I nearly never use the Hue app (whilst it works very well). Everything is controlled via the Home app and or Siri. I added a couple Hue Taps, dim switches and sensors as well to automate certain lights and to be able to start a specific scene with the click of a button. I’m looking forward to the Niko Hue compatible light switches. As soon as those come out I plan to replace all our ‘dumb’ light switches in the house as less tech savvy people tend to still use them.
Just before the Danalock hit the Apple (online) stores I got my hands on a HomeKit Danalock v3 smart lock. Unfortunately our experience with the lock is somewhat mixed. Sometimes it works great but other times the response time is slow or the lock doesn’t communicate with our iPhones at all. It’s unfortunate that you need to replace the whole lock (including the cylinder) which also means new keys (luckily there were five in the box). To add to that various of the Danalock promoted features (nearly everything that has to do with the Danalock app) is not present in the HomeKit version. Danalock justifies this as everything is controlled via the Home app (and Apple keeps security very tight on locks) so these features should be introduced via Apple. This is not clearly mentioned on their website which resulted in a couple unsatisfied customers. I do hope the connectivity issues get fixed with firmware updates and perhaps some additional features get introduced.
Not HomeKit enabled (though possible through HomeBridge) but working very well is our newest addition to the house; the Nest Hello smart doorbell. I wanted a security camera aimed at our driveway and front yard. Being able to answer people at the door when not at home is a plus. Movement detection is somewhat slow (+- 20 seconds) but otherwise we can’t complain about this product. Installing it was somewhat more difficult. We needed a different current transformer. The wires of our ‘dumb’ doorbell also were too short giving us some challenges. Nest charges 50€/year for 5 day recording which I find a reasonable price. Nest is currently also working together with August so you can open those smart locks from within the Nest app. I hope a similar integration becomes available with the Danalock as well but I have my doubts. Maybe they’ll introduce native HomeKit support? #wishfulthinking
Apple TV 4K
Our Apple TV is the bridge of our HomeKit enabled house. We do not have many apps installed. Netflix, the Plex and YouTube clients and TV Belgium (which unfortunately no longer works as the developer stopped developing it after being threatened with legal actions. Damn you Belgian TV distributors). I hope one day I can throw out our decoder (which costs way too much money anyway) and replace it with just some Apple TV apps.
Perhaps not the smartest of devices but our living room is controlled via a Logitech Harmony hub and remote. It allows us to easily start our Telenet decoder together with the TV, put the input to HDMI etcetera. It also communicates with our Hue lights so we can get a better movie watching setting. Being able to control everything from the iPhone app is also a plus. No HomeKit support here either but simple actions (as powering on the TV) can be integrated via HomeBridge.
I wanted a Nest thermostat… but when we moved I got offered a free Engie Electrabel Boxx smart thermostat (same as the Dutch Eneco Toon) so we are currently using that. It sadly does not communicate with HomeKit (nor is it on the roadmap) and there is no plugin for HomeBridge that works either (whilst there is one for Eneco Toon). The product itself works well though. We can easily adjust the thermostat from a distance as well as have an overview of our electricity / gas usage and the yield of our solar panels. I do wish HomeKit support gets added but I don’t see a Belgian company concentrating on this (and the Nest thermostat doesn’t have HomeKit either).
Sunny Boy 1.5 solar kit
The inverter for our solar panels is a Sunny Boy 1.5 which has an integrated wireless module. It communicates with the SMA servers and it can send daily/weekly/monthly or error reports which is certainly nice. I do not login to the portal often as most of the data is shown via our thermostat.
Sonos PlayBase with AirPlay 2 and Alexa
I refuse to use Alexa but our PlayBase has it anyway. The latest update also introduced AirPlay 2 and limited Siri support. Our Sonos soundbar (paired with a subwoofer) gets us great sounding music / video / … Being able to access loads of online sources (Apple Music, Audible, Radio, …) via the app is a nice plus. If Apple could open up Siri via an API so we could have full Siri functionality from the Sonos PlayBase that would be wonderful. #wishfulthinkingagain
I admit, I have only used this feature once or twice but our Nespresso coffee machine is bluetooth enabled which allows me to start it from a (small) distance. If only Siri could put in my desired capsule and put the right cup on the tray.
Mac mini with Sonarr, Radarr, Plex, Ubiquiti controller and HomeBridge
I have an old Mac mini laying around which serves as a Plex server pulling in content via Sonarr and Radarr. This functions so well we actually decided to drop our Netflix subscription. Other than that this Mac also runs the HomeBridge tools and the Ubiquiti controller. It sits on my desk with a screen attached but if we ever need a kids room it’ll move the wall in our garage as a headless system.
Ubiquiti UniFi UAP-AC-HD access point
I wanted a single access point to supply our home with WiFi rather than a mesh network. Don’t ask my why. Since nearly all our walls are concrete this was a difficult feat. The UAP-AC-HD did it with ease. The 5Ghz band covers the living room and the bedroom, and in all other places we have 2.4GHz even outside on our terrace. Though this isn’t an ideal setup. I’ll have to look into purchasing one or two smaller additional access points to cover the garden and bedrooms with the 5Ghz band.
Ubiquiti firewall / PoE switch and additional access point(s)
From time to time I get to work from home. It would be nice to have some VPN tunnels to our stores hence why a firewall would be ideal. I’d also need a PoE switch so I can add the necessary additional access points without PoE injectors
A second Danalock
If the Danalock would get some firmware updates so there are less to no connectivity issues anymore I’d want a second Danalock for the backdoor.
We have some blinds from Copahome. Ideally I’d like to motorise them. This was a rather pricy option at the dealer but no HomeKit, HomeBridge or app updates here. I looked into smart blinds but haven’t found any somewhat girlfriend-friendly / stylish options.
Another security camera
Whilst this might be challenging as I’d need to run the necessary wires around the house I’d like a security camera aimed at our porch (a ‘blind’ spot our nest can not fully see).
We have a lot of appliances on standby the whole day and night. Whilst our average energy consumption ‘on idle’ is only 250-300 Watt we could probably integrate some connected outlets so they are only powered on when actually in use; The big question however is if the savings would compensate the cost.
A connected garage door opener
We have a Hörmann garage door. Whilst they have a pricy kit that would enable opening via an app, it doesn’t communicate with HomeKit. I’ve looked into building one myself with a raspberry PI but sadly the ‘bi-secur’ signal cannot be reproduced (or I haven’t found out how) yet.
What’s missing from the list?
HomePod is missing from the list. Not because I do not want it but because I do not have any use for it. Not in it current form anyway. I have a good speaker setup and I do not need an additional speaker in another room. The assistant features are too gimmicky (Siri isn’t all too good at the moment + on HomePod it isn’t set up for multiple users either). Maybe in the future… or… would Apple be willing to open up Siri to third parties so it can be integrated with Sonos? 🤔
This was a small list of our Smart Home products and my thoughts about them. If any other products come up or something gets added on the wishlist I’ll be sure to make another post. If you’d have any questions about any of the above products or want a more comprehensive review, feel free to ask. I like writing about these things. 👍🏻