August 06, 2020
If you already have Amazon Echo set up, you know how convenient it can be. There’s nothing like walking out the front door with full hands and telling Alexa to turn off your lights last minute. But these smart lights and plugs can be slow to react as you keep adding more smart home devices and clogging your network.
Alexa only “speaks” WiFi (and ZigBee if you have the EchoPlus). It currently doesn’t support Z-Wave, the protocol of choice for home automation thanks to its high speed and low interference with other connected devices in your home. That means you can’t have a Z-Wave switch or plug speak directly to your Echo. BUT you can use a smart home hub as a bridge between your Z-Wave devices and Amazon Alexa. Now that’s a whole other level of functionality to unlock!
And if you already have a Z-Wave hub but no smart speaker, you might be thinking how cool it would be to have voice control for your automations and smart home devices. It’s a step towards a more integrated, easy-to-use smart home with improved security, comfort, and convenience.
Luckily, many hubs out there have native integrations with Alexa, making the configuration process quick and straightforward. Below we’ve outlined the Alexa set-up for 3 popular smart home systems we consider the best match for Alexa: SmartThings, Hubitat, and Ring Alarm.
You can link SmartThings and Alexa in either the SmartThings or Alexa app. Here is how to link them using the SmartThings app:
Next, Alexa will need to “Discover” your devices, scenes, and routines - the above process was only giving Alexa permission to access your SmartThings set up. Note that Alexa will only work with routines involving lighting, switches, and thermostats for security reasons.
Here’s how to discover your SmartThings set up using the Alexa app:
Watch this video to see Alexa and SmartThings in action and learn a few smart home tips from a pro:
And finally, start automating! Depending on your particular set up, give Alexa a test command to access one of your SmartThings devices to verify connections. For troubleshooting tips and more advanced set ups, here’s SmartThings’ official Alexa resource.
Next, in your Amazon Echo app:
Once your Alexa and Hubitat are successfully linked, you’ll have voice control of the discovered devices. The cool thing about Hubitat is that it allows you to pick and choose which Z-Wave devices you want your smart speaker to have access to (and therefore to control them through the cloud) and which of them you want to keep fully local and private.
Since both Alexa and Ring are Amazon-owned, integration should be seamless. Just note that, in terms of Z-Wave compatibility, Ring will support the Z-Wave items on its official lists in addition to single Z-Wave switches from other brands, like Zooz switches. Ring may not support sensors and multi-channel devices from other brands, or it may offer limited functionality for these types of devices. Here’s how to add Ring as a skill in your Alexa app so that you can have direct control of your Ring-connected devices using voice commands:
One more advantage to connecting Alexa is that Ring has a less developed rule engine, so Alexa’s easy-to-use Routine menu can help with creating home automation rules for Z-Wave devices connected to Ring. For more information about setting up notifications and specific Alexa commands, check out this resource by Ring. And check out this great video to get inspired when combining Alexa with your Ring system:
Let us know how you’re using home automation with your smart speaker in the comments section. We’d love to hear which integrations are your favorite, what’s missing, and which smart home platforms work best for you.
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May 05, 2022 2 Comments
Insteon just became another smart home company to shut down their services. Overnight, the platform’s servers were disconnected, leaving their customers without a functional smart home. SmartLabs, Insteon’s mother company, claims to have sold over 5 million connected devices; that’s a lot of sensors, switches, and controllers that became orphaned. Does it mean that all of this hardware is now completely useless?
It turns out that there are ways to salvage your Insteon products and continue using them, at least to some extent, on other platforms who stepped up and provided integration for this protocol. However, these workarounds are less than user-friendly and will require more time and possible frustration around a system that’s no longer backed by any official support. What’s the alternative and is it even worth it to have a connected house these days?
May 10, 2020 13 Comments
Starting May 13, 2020, Wink will be charging its users a $4.99 monthly subscription fee. If you don’t pay, you’ll lose your automations, smart rules, and access to voice control. [Update 5/30/20: Wink has since backed out of the decision, at least for now. Update 7/27/20: The subscription service for Wink is finally in effect.]
So is it worth paying $5 a month for Wink’s service? The platform hasn’t been adding new features or expanding its list of supported devices for a while now. The announcement introducing the subscription model didn’t include any details on when and how the system would start updating again. They also failed to give users at least 30 days notice to consider how to move forward. If you’re thinking about switching to another platform, we can’t blame you.
Here are a few alternatives for reliable smart home solutions that are most popular among our customers and the team here at The Smartest House. They’re all one-time investments without monthly fees. You’ll find a list of benefits and limitations with each platform, but if you have any questions about specific features we didn’t cover here, get in touch or post in the comment section below.
November 05, 2018
Winterizing your home used to mean lots of physical labor - caulking windows, installing heavier drapes, maybe even changing out older windows and doors that were too efficient at releasing insulated air. Winter prep can still mean all of the above, but new Z-Wave technology has made certain aspects of winterization easier while adding another level of protection as those temperatures drop.
Here’s what we’re using to stay cozy and make sure our energy bills don’t make us freeze in our tracks:
This is one of our winter must-haves. It’s the first Z-Wave line voltage thermostat in North America (but be careful, it won’t work with forced air systems!). Use it to control electric baseboards and convector heaters all from your Z-Wave hub’s app interface. Reduce your energy consumption by 30% with custom heating schedules, or just switch to the thermostat’s built-in Economy mode to keep things efficient.