Which home-automation system?

Hi all. I’m finally taking the plunge on some home automation stuff. What system(s) do you like and why?

Context: I want to set up some wireless buttons (ie, not in-wall switches), and eventually an IR transmitter (to operate a ceiling fan with a remote but without the wiring for a multifunction in-wall switch), plus maybe a motion sensor and some other sensors as well.

My dilemma: What system to go with? I’d prefer something using Thread, since I already have a Thread-capable router and it seems to be the direction Apple and HomeKit are going.

But there doesn’t seem to be much out there yet. I haven’t found a Thread wireless button, much less an IR device. Going with almost anything else, seems to require a hub.

I’m fine with that, but then what system makes the most sense, assuming I eventually expand out to other kinds of devices? Having a half dozen hubs is fine for people like MacSparky and Rosemary who test stuff all the time. But I want to try to keep it simpler.

If possible, I’d like everything to be HomeKit compatible. I have a Raspberry Pi and may set up HomeBridge at some point. I’d prefer to avoid systems that phone home a lot – though it looks like my router will block outgoing signals from HomeKit devices if I want it to.

Anyway, suggestions welcome. I’m really just getting my feet wet here.


I am using HomeKit, I have a couple of AppleTVs and a HomePod mini about the house and use the Automation feature to turn on and off lights at different times of the day. I have a hub for the lighting, I’m using Hue lights throughout the house.

For buttons I am using Flic with their Long Range hub which is HomeKit compatible, the buttons are made available to configure in HomeKit. I have one button set up this way but the others are controlled in the hub directly for simplicity, I use their Hue actions to flash lights in a couple of rooms when a button that is outside the house is pressed, it acts like a secret silent doorbell. The HomeKit enabled button uses scenes to turn off the Sonos alarms In the morning if I can hear that they have been left running. I also use the Flic functions to call IFTTT to change what one of the Sonos plays when I’m in the shower.

I have a very underused Harmony hub with remote control, it’s used for one IR task and that’s to turn off the TV, I had grand plans for that when I first bought it but it’s no longer supported and was far too fiddly to configure. You can ask Siri to turn off the Apple TV which will turn off the attached TV but the Apple TV needs to be in for that to work.

I have an older Flic hub as well which isn’t HomeKit compatible but it works for what I need, mostly light control. I solved the problem of people turning off the lights by buying tiny plastic switch covers and using sensors for the hall and landing lights as well as the bathroom.

Both Flic hubs are connected via Wifi, one is in a cupboard under the stairs and the other in the study, they work really well with Wifi which saves having to run Ethernet to them.

The Long Range Flic hub now has the ability to run JavaScript, so you can do quite a lot with it locally if you have the time to set it up, it’s a nice additional feature, and I’m sure that you will be able to make more use of this when they release their new twist button.

The shortcut I have to turn off the TV relies on my iPhone to do that, the HomePod calls the shortcut on my phone which uses the Harmony hub to do the task, I should really revisit this as so many things have changed since I set this up.

I also have a Raspberry Pi and run HomeBridge to provide a connection to the Sonos speakers, I have the older versions that don’t have AirPlay, but supposedly adding one newer model will provide that functionality for all of them. The Homebridge also connects with two Kasa switches.

I have tried to limit the number of systems I have running, but Flic buttons need a hub currently and Homebridge is needed for anything else that you want to appear in HomeKit. The lighting also needs a hub and although Shortcuts is very capable I still find a need for IFTTT to manage things that I can’t do easily with Shortcuts.

This is great — thanks!

I’m intrigued by what you said about the Flic hubs connecting by WiFi, and not needing Ethernet. Does that mean I could put a Flic hub in a different room than my main router?

If so, that would solve a lot of problems — I could put it in the room with the ceiling fan, and use their IR dongle (which does appear to be wired to the Flic hub) to relay the signals to the fan.

Yes, both of my hubs are connected wirelessly, one is near the router. I did purchase an IR dongle with plans to use it but the old hub that works with the silent doorbell couldn’t see the button outside the house through the brick walls when I moved it. The newer LR hub seems to work all over the house without issue.

I might retire the old hub or move it so that it can see the TV when the IR is connected to it. The IR is a separate purchase and plugs into the hub, it’s backward compatible so I can use it with either hub. They have a newer smaller disc shaped hub coming soon but I think that it has less features, so the one to go for is the LR model which works with the newer buttons.