Control & Automation

‘Hello Julie, This is John. I Have Some Questions about Home Automation’

Email from a do-it-yourselfer illustrates everything wrong with home automation today: ‘Will Lutron Caseta work with Z-Wave, ADT, Honeywell, Vera? Do I need a bridge?’

‘Hello Julie, This is John. I Have Some Questions about Home Automation’
Home Automation Confusion: Reader wants to know how to integrate Honeywell Thermostat with Lutron Caseta and Jasco Z-Wave lighting controls with ADT Pulse security.

Julie Jacobson · January 29, 2016

When a do-it-yourselfer emailed me with a few little questions about home automation, I could barely contain my guffaws. The innocent query illustrated everything wrong with the smart-home movement today, including technology, marketing, service and support.

I figured I would write the blog to end all DIY home automation blogs, but really John’s letter speaks more eloquently than I ever could.

With John’s permission, here is the letter, only slightly edited to correct a few misspellings.

Hello Julie,

My name is John and I hope you don't mind me writing you.

I got your email at the bottom of an article you wrote about the Lutron Connect Bridge and App.

I'm beginning to automate my home and want to ask a couple of questions if you don't mind as I am a newbie with all this stuff.

I started by buying the Lutron Caseta wireless switch for some lighting I have.

Then I wanted to integrate some other lighting into my ADT system and found out it will only recognize Z-Wave so I have some of those as well. They are made by Jasco or GE.

I was going to purchase something called the Vera Edge Plus due out shortly but found out it won't talk to Lutron.

I was told it would with a plug-in they have. Which I think would have to go with the Lutron equipment which I currently don't own. So I'd have to buy the Vera plus Lutron equipment.

Having said all that I want the bulk of my system to be Lutron so I'm leaning toward purchasing the Lutron Bridge.

Can you tell me if I would need any other equipment from Lutron to make it work with my Lutron Caseta lighting or is the bridge all I need?

I'm not going to do anything fancy with scenes and all that other stuff.

Also is there any way to get it to talk to my Z-Wave switches? I only have one set I would need to integrate. I just spent a few bucks on the Z-Wave and don't want to scrap it if I can help it.

I also have Honeywell thermostats that have a wireless control module and I can get that online now with Honeywell software but wanted to integrate it into whatever I use so I don't have to use different programs and connections to do different things.

Finally if I go with the bridge and it's plugged into my home network do they have desktop software?

I don't mind the phone when I'm out but when I'm home I like using the computer to set things up instead of doing it by phone.

John ended the note with many words of gratitude and humility.

First, my response to John was to have him call two online shops that specialize in home control: Home Controls Inc. and Smart Home. Their specialists, I said, could probably steer him in the right direction.

The answer to his specific question goes something like this: You don’t want the Lutron Connect Bridge. That is for Lutron’s professional lighting products, such as RadioRa and HomeWorks. The Bridge you want is the Lutron Smart Bridge if you’re going DIY, or the Smart Bridge Pro if you want some extra bells and whistles that a professional installer can provide. Both of those products work with Caseta.

Alternatively, you can use a series of IP/Wi-Fi bridges from the individual manufacturers and sometimes those bridges can talk to each other, usually via the cloud. ...

By the way, all of the Lutron wireless lighting controls feature Clear Connect technology, but the Caseta Clear Connect doesn’t work with the RadioRa and HomeWorks Clear Connect. So be careful there.

Clear Connect is a proprietary RF technology, unlike Z-Wave. So if you want to bridge Clear Connect with Z-Wave, you need a hub that has both technologies built in, such as Wink or Staples Connect, both of which are struggling these days.

Alternatively, you can use a series of IP/Wi-Fi bridges from the individual manufacturers and sometimes those bridges can talk to each other, usually via the cloud.

Indeed, Z-Wave-enabled Vera hubs from MiOS do communicate with Lutron Smart Bridges (not Lutron Connect Bridges) over IP, so you would get your Z-Wave and Caseta control in one package.

You could likewise bridge the two technologies via the cloud with “Works with Caseta” partners including Logitech, Xfinity Home, AT&T Digital Life and IFTTT. Not SmartThings. And not Apple HomeKit yet because, while Lutron Caseta supports HomeKit, Z-Wave hubs do not (it’s coming …).

With Smart Bridge Pro, you can also bridge via Alarm.com, but that’s another story.

Still with me?

As for ADT, I don’t believe Lutron Caseta currently is supported by ADT Pulse, but if ADT creates an IFTTT channel like it has said it would, then you could communicate across the two protocols. Currently, ADT has no channel on IFTTT, although there are some IFTTT recipes that incorporate ADT Pulse.

Are you following?

I don’t know which Honeywell thermostat you’re referencing – there are several types from the new Lyric family and legacy Honeywell line -- but that gets a little more complicated when you’re talking about Lutron integration.

As for who has desktop software for any of this, I have no clue.

By the way, not all of these integration "solutions" are elegant. For example, you can't necessarily program, group, monitor and control Z-Wave and Caseta devices in a single interface.

Here’s a question to John and other DIYs: Who do you think you will call when something goes awry with one of your devices or services? By the way, how’s your home network? You better make sure it’s rock solid.

John promises to follow up on his experience navigating the journey to a smarter home. I personally would hire a professional to integrate it all, but where would I find such a person? That is smart-home challenge #294.

The Lessons

Truly, the smart-home user experience for DIYs is atrocious, from product packaging to installation to service and more. The letter and my (exaggerated) response should speak for themselves.

In a follow-up story, I'll explain what some organizations like Plum Choice and the Z-Wave Alliance are doing to try to support confused consumers like John. Meanwhile, there are some 15,000 home-technology installation professionals out there that could clear up some of this confusion, but it's hard to find a pro with the experience -- or the inclination -- to support DIY-type devices.

In the meantime, might I suggest:



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at jjacobson@ehpub.com

Follow Julie on social media:
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Julie also participates in these groups:
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View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.



  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · Security · News · Blogs · Products · Lutron · Plum Choice · Vera · Z-Wave · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by Julie Jacobson on February 2, 2016

Thanks for your great comments.

Posted by antoniohardeman on February 2, 2016

Hi Julie.  We conversed by email sometime last year about Lennar including Nexia in its new builds.

I’m responding to your question on who do I call when something awry with one of my devices.  First I must say that I do agree that the marketing and the language used in the DIY space is confusing and not very good.  I follow the Z-wave alliance on Twitter and they seem to be trying to provide a clear and concise message to consumers.  Their website is designed in such a way that it answers some of the basic questions a consumer in this space may have.

As far as who do I call when things go awry with my devices, the answer is no one.  I go to the web portal that my automation company (Nexia) provides and I ask there.  They have several reps that can provide assistance.  There is a 800 number that I could call into if I wanted to.

In regards to my home network, I feel pretty good about it.  I have Verizon FIOS 75/75 mbps.  The network is password protected with a highly configurable firewall on the router.  I can manage which devices access my network and I can look at my network to determine if there are any devices that shouldn’t be there and kick them off is needed.

If I had to give John and other DIY folks advice as they enter home automation, it would be to not mix technologies.  Study all of the protocols and technologies before you buy and look to see which protocol or technology offers the widest range of available products, connectivity, and capabilities.  I would also think about how you live your life and design a system based on that.  I designed my ideal system in my head and on paper before I bought my home. 

DIYs need to make sure that the system can be expanded in the future without any problems.  Do you want voice control via the app or integration of your system with Amazon Echo?  I find voice control to very useful in my system. 

Would you like Geofence (GPS) based automations?  Geofenced automations has made my automations and mode changes much more efficient and powerful.

As your system grows you may want to group items by device type or room, create scenes/automations or group certain automations/scenes by mode types such as Away, Home, Vacation.  I find that groupings make the app experience more fluid and less cluttered.

Determine if you can add or remove devices via an app or web portal and create automations/scenes via an app or web portal or both (the best of both worlds).  These are all questions and ideas that DIYs should be thinking about as they enter the world of home automation.

Posted by lbaltz on January 31, 2016

This sounds all too familiar.  We are frequently asked why we won’t install systems as described above.  A client with some DIY experience is generally completely fed up and willing to engage our services - or - feels that he’s “almost there” and just needs some help tying together 8-12 different technologies and apps with some unknown magic box (there isn’t one).
There are some great, very reasonably priced solutions available from reputable companies with educated, qualified integrators that can make all of John’s dreams come true. The reality is that the multitude of “simple” automation apps have made integration more difficult to achieve. 
I’m going to keep this article handy to share in the future with potential clients who are on the fence about choosing a CE Pro over DIY.  Thanks!

Posted by DanFfx on January 31, 2016

I have been doing automation for a long time.  I started as a DIY guy using X10 when I was in IT but moved into the automation/audio/video as a 2nd career.

DIY solutions are just that.  They are intended for AUTOMATION not INTEGRATION.  Various hubs try to bridge these issues but the solution always lies in software from integration products like RTI or URC or more expensive alternatives like Crestron, Control4…  Not all are equally successful, a lot of that falling on the people doing the work and lousy design of the systems themselves.

Anything cloud based like Caseta is vulnerable to internet outages.  Mixing technologies (e.g. ZWave, Clear Connect) is always problematic and whether he wants scenes or not, these things are not going to behave the same.  The switches may even just look different.

I may be repeating what you said, but DIY is a long way from any integrated capability where things behave as a single system and they are trying to solve problems we solved a long time ago. I recently replaced a system design with 16 separate apps. This is starting to sound like a sales pitch so I will cut it short but can you imagine if someone tried to address true automation issues in a DIY environment.  Leak warnings, fire, garage open, fireplace left on…  It gets ridiculously complex.

Posted by Chris Erca on January 29, 2016

So what integrator would want to work with this guy or anyone like him . Lutron thinks we should as it leads to bigger and better things! The first word out of this guys mouth is, you charge what an hour!!!! No thanks. A Race To The Bottom, have fun!!!!

Posted by fonder on January 29, 2016

This is a great example of why Best Buy and other retailers have moved away from total home control solutions and instead now focus on single solution products, such as MyQ, August, Nest, Arlo, etc.  There is way too much confusion in our industry, unless you are a very early adopter or a custom install professional.

Posted by fonder on January 29, 2016

This is a great example of why Best Buy and other retailers have moved away from total home control solutions and instead now focus on single solution products, such as MyQ, August, Nest, Arlo, etc.  There is way too much confusion in our industry, unless you are a very early adopter or a custom install professional.

Posted by Chris Erca on January 29, 2016

So what integrator would want to work with this guy or anyone like him . Lutron thinks we should as it leads to bigger and better things! The first word out of this guys mouth is, you charge what an hour!!!! No thanks. A Race To The Bottom, have fun!!!!

Posted by DanFfx on January 31, 2016

I have been doing automation for a long time.  I started as a DIY guy using X10 when I was in IT but moved into the automation/audio/video as a 2nd career.

DIY solutions are just that.  They are intended for AUTOMATION not INTEGRATION.  Various hubs try to bridge these issues but the solution always lies in software from integration products like RTI or URC or more expensive alternatives like Crestron, Control4…  Not all are equally successful, a lot of that falling on the people doing the work and lousy design of the systems themselves.

Anything cloud based like Caseta is vulnerable to internet outages.  Mixing technologies (e.g. ZWave, Clear Connect) is always problematic and whether he wants scenes or not, these things are not going to behave the same.  The switches may even just look different.

I may be repeating what you said, but DIY is a long way from any integrated capability where things behave as a single system and they are trying to solve problems we solved a long time ago. I recently replaced a system design with 16 separate apps. This is starting to sound like a sales pitch so I will cut it short but can you imagine if someone tried to address true automation issues in a DIY environment.  Leak warnings, fire, garage open, fireplace left on…  It gets ridiculously complex.

Posted by lbaltz on January 31, 2016

This sounds all too familiar.  We are frequently asked why we won’t install systems as described above.  A client with some DIY experience is generally completely fed up and willing to engage our services - or - feels that he’s “almost there” and just needs some help tying together 8-12 different technologies and apps with some unknown magic box (there isn’t one).
There are some great, very reasonably priced solutions available from reputable companies with educated, qualified integrators that can make all of John’s dreams come true. The reality is that the multitude of “simple” automation apps have made integration more difficult to achieve. 
I’m going to keep this article handy to share in the future with potential clients who are on the fence about choosing a CE Pro over DIY.  Thanks!

Posted by antoniohardeman on February 2, 2016

Hi Julie.  We conversed by email sometime last year about Lennar including Nexia in its new builds.

I’m responding to your question on who do I call when something awry with one of my devices.  First I must say that I do agree that the marketing and the language used in the DIY space is confusing and not very good.  I follow the Z-wave alliance on Twitter and they seem to be trying to provide a clear and concise message to consumers.  Their website is designed in such a way that it answers some of the basic questions a consumer in this space may have.

As far as who do I call when things go awry with my devices, the answer is no one.  I go to the web portal that my automation company (Nexia) provides and I ask there.  They have several reps that can provide assistance.  There is a 800 number that I could call into if I wanted to.

In regards to my home network, I feel pretty good about it.  I have Verizon FIOS 75/75 mbps.  The network is password protected with a highly configurable firewall on the router.  I can manage which devices access my network and I can look at my network to determine if there are any devices that shouldn’t be there and kick them off is needed.

If I had to give John and other DIY folks advice as they enter home automation, it would be to not mix technologies.  Study all of the protocols and technologies before you buy and look to see which protocol or technology offers the widest range of available products, connectivity, and capabilities.  I would also think about how you live your life and design a system based on that.  I designed my ideal system in my head and on paper before I bought my home. 

DIYs need to make sure that the system can be expanded in the future without any problems.  Do you want voice control via the app or integration of your system with Amazon Echo?  I find voice control to very useful in my system. 

Would you like Geofence (GPS) based automations?  Geofenced automations has made my automations and mode changes much more efficient and powerful.

As your system grows you may want to group items by device type or room, create scenes/automations or group certain automations/scenes by mode types such as Away, Home, Vacation.  I find that groupings make the app experience more fluid and less cluttered.

Determine if you can add or remove devices via an app or web portal and create automations/scenes via an app or web portal or both (the best of both worlds).  These are all questions and ideas that DIYs should be thinking about as they enter the world of home automation.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on February 2, 2016

Thanks for your great comments.