March Check-In:  Which Smart Home Devices Are Working and Which Ones Aren’t

Every few months, I like to take a look at my setup and see which smart home devices are actually working out.  I’ve added a lot since January.

On top of that, I already had the following.

I have successfully managed to keep everything within my SmartThings bubble.  The Garadget was questionable, but I was able to get it hooked up thanks to the awesome community support.

Read more: Garadget: An Awesome and Open Approach to a Smart Garage Door Opener

This means that I still have a single app that can control my whole home, which is exactly what I want.

It’s important to regularly reflect on what you’ve added and make sure that the devices actually work for you.  I’ll be doing these posts every quarter as I add devices.  The other good thing about this is that when I first write an article, you’re usually seeing my first exposure to the device whereas with these retrospective articles, I can talk about the long term use.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

For voice control, Amazon’s Echo Dot is still doing a great job.  I do feel like its voice recognition seems to have gotten a little worse, but that might be due to me getting used to using it and being more natural with my voice.  We still regularly use it to play music and we actually use the removeable Bluetooth speaker out of my H2oVibe Shower Head to play music in whatever room we are in.  The timer functionality is used almost everytime we make dinner.  I’ve been really happy with it overall.

In the last 3 months, I’d say that 95% of what we do with our Echo is streaming music, timers, and control of our smart home devices.  There are a lot more features to it, but those 3 are what we’ve actually used.

Looking forward, my wife really wants a Google Home.  She likes how she can ask it questions naturally and actually get an answer back.  Alexa has a long way to go there.  I’m also looking at getting a battery pack for my Echo Dot so it can be more portable.  I want to be able to change what music I’m streaming from my backyard, which is several walls separated from where my Echo Dot is currently sitting.

GoControl Smart Light Bulbs

GoControl Smart Light Bulb

Instead of putting smart light bulbs everywhere, I decided to go with smart switches.  This is a lot cheaper overall and is more consistent with how we use our home.

The exception to that rule is our living room.  We have 6 recessed lights in the ceiling and wanted to be able to turn the front 4 off and dim the rear 2.  I call this Movie Mode.

Samsung SmartThings App

To do that, I needed smart bulbs.  GoControl’s Smart Bulbs came in at a good price and didn’t require an additional hub.

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with their performance.  The only thing I don’t like about them is that sometimes, when I turn the light switch on, they turn on and then turn off.  I have to flick the light switch again to get them to turn on.

I’m not entirely sure why this happens, but I’m hoping that the problem goes away when I move them onto a smart switch.

Everything Else

Everything else in my smart home device arsenal has been working great.  The switches and outlets just work.  The thermostat just works.  The biggest indicator of them working is that I don’t even notice them.  They’re just a part of our normal routine.

Next 3 Months

So what’s on the list for the next 3 months?  I’d like to start with a few more smart switches.  I want to get my front entrance, the rest of my hallway, my exterior lights and my living room fitted out.  That’s 4x GE Smart Switches and 2x Belkin WeMo Smart Switches.  Remember that I use the WeMos for lights that I can’t directly see.  They have a handy led indicator on them that illuminates when they’re on.


I want to get another Garadget for my 2nd garage door.  The one I currently have is working really well.  I’ll also be grabbing one for my parents house.  After seeing how I’m able to check on whether or not my garage door is open, my dad has asked me to install one at his house.

Smart Smoke Detector

I’ve been researching smart smoke detectors.  There aren’t many options, so I’ll probably grab one and test it for a bit.  Right now, the Nest Smoke Detector is looking like my favorite.  My main concern with it is it’s lack of integration with SmartThings.

Smart Display Switches

I’m not sure what to call these things.  I’m talking about devices like the Wink Relay, NuBryte Touchpoint, and Brilliant Control.

I’d like one in my living room so I don’t need to have my phone on me all the time.  It’d also be nice to allow other people in my home to interact with everything without having to install an app onto their phone.

The Wink Relay would require me to sideload the SmartThings app, but it’s also significantly cheaper than the others.  I feel like I could just use a spare cell phone for that.

Google Home

Finally, I’ll probably get a Google Home.  It also integrates really well with SmartThings, so it’ll be interesting to see which one is easier to use.

With all the different smart home devices out there, it’s really easy to just add things (assuming you have an unlimited budget).  By moving slowly, I can make sure that what I’m adding actually makes sense for my home.  The fact that I don’t even notice my switches and outlets tells me that they were a great addition.  The fact that it’s natural for my wife to ask Alexa for a timer tells me that it’s also a great addition to the home.

While some smart home devices take a little longer to get used to, all of them, so far, have been excellent additions.

Hopefully my luck continues.

Read next: Ecobee vs Nest – Which One Is Right For You?

Update: I purchased a Google Home about 30 minutes after writing this.


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