Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wemo local control from Homeseer

Wemo Mini Smart Plug, WiFi Enabled, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant & Apple HomeKit

3Camel price chart

Got a couple of these for half price on Good Friday looking for another cheap option to reset cams and such. I also wanted something I could control locally unlike the Etekcity and Sonoff options which Wemo is supposed to do.

What did not work

First I tried the Eric Fetty Wemo Software Plug-in for HS3 This appears to integrate well from past reviews but for some reason seems to have stopped working for some like me. I could never get it to discover the plugs.  Trying to debug lead me to the github project palominolabs/belkin-wemo-switch then cybergarage/cybergarage-upnp. After some playing around with these I found it only discovered the Wemo plugs intermittently. I looked a few others. Most of them wanted to set up some sort of bridge server.

Getting a working interface

Then I came across agilemation/Belkin-WeMo-Command-Line-Tools. The only "downside" seems to be it uses linux shell scripts byt installing cygwin will get around that. When you install cygwin be sure to get the curl command. Of course you could reverse engineer this to make the HTTP calls but calling from Homeseer is simple enough to make the effort seem like a waste. So here is what I did:
Install cygwin (including curl)
Install npm via Node.js
Make a folder for the projects. I put mine in C:\npm
cd c:\npm
Run the command
npm install belkin-wemo-command-line-tools
The new commands are in C:\npm\node_modules\belkin-wemo-command-line-tools
in C:\npm I created a bat command containing

cd C:\npm\node_modules\belkin-wemo-command-line-tools
C:\cygwin\bin\sh wemo -h %1 -a %2

Now you have a simple command with the syntax of wemo ip_of_switch ON_or_OFF

Linking to Homeseer

First you need to create a virtual similar to those outlined in this post.
Then you just need to setup a couple events to trigger on the state change of that virtual similar to these.
In this case is the IP address of my first Wemo switch.

Note you could also create scripts to get state, signal strength and name info and even set the name of the plug. Though at that point reverse engineering the shell script into VB might be worth the effort.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Linking TP-Link HS100 Kasa WiFi Smart Plugs to your hub

TP-Link HS100 Kasa WiFi Smart Plug, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa Echo & Google Assistant

I got some of these last year as $5 addons and linked them via IFTTT similar to how I did the Sonoff switches. They have been working fine that way but I came across the article Reverse Engineering the TP-Link HS110 today which shows how to control them locally without a bridge or reflashing the firmware. I definitely sounds easily doable from a program if not a script. Someone already did a Domoticz plugin for tp-link HS100/HS110 smartplug in Python. So I'm putting creating a Homeseer version on my todo list. Assuming someone else does not do it first of course.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The right / best way to control a light. It depends.

Given all the flame wars over smart bulbs vs smart switches it seems time to make a post to use in replies. One guy even suggested using both to avoid:

  • People turning off the switch. It should be obvious that even if the switch is smart, if it is off it is off and you can't control the light till you turn the switch on. Covering the switch with something like the Magnetic Switch & Outlett Cover for Toggle Switches ought to make people a think before flipping the switch.
  • Smart bulbs coming on after an outage (they only do this after an outage not a flash). To avoid the power on after an outage all you need to do is put a bulb in an unneeded location and create an event to turn off all or some of your lights if it comes on. Note too the reason these lights come on if the power is cut for about a second is so you can manually override them if other control is lost. Some do have a hidden parameter to turn this off if you really think you need to. Google it. Personally even though I live in the country and have all my computers and AV and network equipment on UPS to handle the flaky electric I've only had the lights get triggered by this a couple times in over a year now so I don't see it as much of an issue.

There really is no point in chaining smart devices and in fact is can cause issues if the smart bulb is Z-Wave or Zigbee in that these are mesh devices and removing power from them means the mesh is regularly disrupted. In the best case this causes lag and in some cases might cause devices to miss commands. Depending on the WiFi bulb it may cause connection issues as well since most of them work via a cloud interface of some sort and disconnecting them will require them to establish a new connection to that cloud to receive commands. Then there is the whole bit about updates which would only be able to install while the the light ia powered. Bottom line these devices are designed to be always on so powering them off for extended times at your own risk.

As for the "right way" to control a light. First off it would depend on the best fit for the env.
Other than a bed room:

  • I would use a motion detector as the primary trigger with voice backup
  • As a secondary I would the dumb switch (with a magnetic cover to avoid accidents) and a timer that shuts off the light after X minutes of it being turned on and/or no motion detected. In many cases this also tied to turn off other devices in the room like a TV.
  • I might use a wall switch or a smart bulb generally dependent on the level of control required. As in a smart bulb if I want to control the bulbs singularly or a smart switch to control a group of bulbs in a room. Just do the math. Which is cheaper to replace the bulb(s) on this circuit or the switch(s). Factor in if dimming or color changing is required of course.
  • If a dimmer is wanted with a single bulb the Hue and Lightify dimmers work great for that and is pretty cheap too. Note the Hue dimmer with bulb bundle is generally a good bit cheaper than the two separately.

For a bedroom or other place where you want more manual control a smart switch is used without a motion detector.

Simple right? Like most of this stuff there is not general "right answer". The best fit is on a case by case basis. Though let me repeat again always try and get devices that work with multiple hubs because it is pretty much a given at some point you will want to move to a new one. Whether is a shutdown like Resolve or Lowes' Iris or issues like SmartThings has been having or incompatibility between version of hubs like Lowes Iris' and SmartThings' V1s and V2s or you just need a feature some other hub has and your current one does not.

Want a second opinion?

Note some of these are a bit one sided and a couple get into Rube Goldberg style options. 

FAQ: Philips Hue and Other Smart Bulbs - What sort of light switches to use with them? (Long FAQ)
Proper way to use both a smart wall switch and smart bulb to control same ceiling light fixture (multi-part question)
5 things to consider before installing smart light switches
Smart Switches vs Smart Lights: Which is best solution?
Which is Smarter: Smart Switches or Smart Bulbs?
Smart Switch vs Smart Bulb: Which Is Best for Your Smart Home

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Thinking of moving to Homeseer? Things you should know

Don't get me wrong, I think Homeseer is a great solution just not for a first timer. 

The interface is really aimed more at installers than end users but when you get to the point you need for instance multiple Z-wave networks it makes sense to  move to the next level with Homeseer. Before you run out and buy there are a few things to keep in mind.

Coming from SmartThings:

I do find it odd no one has made a plugin to use a SmartThings as a ZigBee bridge for Homeseer. Seems like it should not be that hard to do. I might have to do it myself at some point. Just got about 300 things ahead of that in the queue. Especially seeing as how my SmartThings account is locked out right now due to all the recent Samsung conversion mess. The "temp" IFTTT linkages I setup way back seem to still be functioning for now. In case you didn't know many of the SmartThings sensors and devices will not work with most other hubs. Many are ZigBee based which Homeseer has only limited support for. This is why it is important to get devices with cross hub support as much as possible. Many ZigBee devices, like Hue, also have "hubs" (bridges/gateways) available that allow them to work with many brands of hubs and multiple systems at the same time. Being able to connect to multiple system not only give you multiple control paths should one fail but makes migration easier. For instance if you have Hue bulbs linked directly to a SmartThings hub you need to access them through SmartThings and moving to a new hub, even a replacement SmartThings requires pairing the bulbs all over again. Using the Hue "hub" you just link the Hue "hub" to the new one and you are done. They also tend to give you added features and might help avoid issues.

For anyone else thinking of moving to Homeseer:

  • Get it on sale. The software is 50% off a few times a year. Their hardware is discounted frequently too.
  • Try before you buy. You can download a 30 day trial and run it on any PC. Just get a Z-Stick, download the software and go. If you do not like it you can probably send the Z-Stick back and be out nothing.
  • Do not get Pro. Get the standard version. Most the plugins you will want are not included in the Pro version anyway. The only real advantages to getting Pro are the HSTouch Designer and Z-Seer+ Z-Wave Diagnostics are included which at sale prices Pro might save you around $20. But odds are you will not get to using the designer till you get most of the system setup and you can spread the cost over time. You might never use it, I still primarily use the voice or web interface a couple years in now. Note the HSTouch phone apps work without designer. It just has the default interface. If you decide you want a flashy custom GUI you can always pick it up at the next sale. See my post A quick start for HSTouch Designer for an idea of what using the designer is like. Want to see how flashy you can get check out these YouTube videos.
  • Get the software and a PC instead of their "hubs". Especially if you get a refurb or used PC you get a lot more power for the cost. Even though you might not need it for Homeseer it gives you power to run other things on there as well. Or if you have a PC that is always on and not maxed just use that. For example I'm running on a 4th gen i7 with 19 plugin instances, 4 Z-wave networks, 4 Hue networks, 3 Harmonies among other things. As I'm writing this mine shows 1928 connected Homeseer "devices" (data/control streams not physical things). I also have several external things hitting the Homeseer API updating values. The CPU rarely reaches 24% .
  • Go Windows. I hate Windows but some plugins only work on Windows so if you go Linux you limit yourself. Windows 7 if you can, just to avoid Windows 10 things like updating at the most inconvenient times. Another reason to go refurb / used PC.
  • Get a Z-Net instead of a Z-Stick. You can put the Z-Net anywhere that has WiFi or an network port letting you put it in the middle of your network to reduce mesh hops. Or in an area of high interference. Or my fav another building from the controlling server. Note Homeseer supports multiple Z-Wave networks which work as one.This is the best way to reach other buildings and problem areas. Assuming you are not just doing an eval of course. You could probably send the Z-Net back too if the eval did not live up to your expectations but the price of the Z-Stick is easier to tolerate if you end up not being able to send it back.