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Living Room

On this page, I present the actual solutions installed in the living room of our smart home, with links to specific products used and how these have been set up

This room contains solutions for the following systems (notice that on phones, the table might only be displayed in landscape mode):

System Type Components
  • 3 IKEA Trådfri E14 smart bulbs

  • IKEA Trådfri E27 smart bulb

  • 2 IKEA Trådfri driver

  • 2 IKEA Trådfri smart plug

  • IKEA Urshult cabinet lamp

  • IKEA Format cabinet lamp

  • Namron smart power strip

  • Nanoleaf Essenstials E27 smart bulb

  • Philips Hue E14 candle smart bulb

  • 2 Philips Hue E27 smart bulbs

  • Philips Hue (indoor) lightstrip

  • Twinkly 250 LED light chain (during Christmas)

Climate Control
  • Aduro smart response sensor for stove

  • Aqara wireless switch

  • Hunter Douglas sun screen

  • Fibaro Roller Shutter 2 relay

  • Heatmiser neoHub Gen 2 base station

  • IKEA Fyrtur blinds

  • Netatmo weather station

  • Mitsubishi Black Diamond heat pump/inverter

  • Sensibo Pure air purifier

  • taco AC v. 3 climate control

  • VocoLINC Flowerbud diffuser

Home Entertainment
  • Apple TV 4K

  • Apple HomePod x 2

  • Altibox PVR (no Enlish page)

  • Logitech Harmony Hub

  • Logitech Harmony Elite remote control

  • Samsung Q60T 65 TV

  • Sony PlayStation 3

  • Yamaha RX-V781 receiver

Security and Alarm
  • Aqara door sensor

  • Arlo base station for camera

  • The main control center of the Verisure alarm system

  • Verisure motion sensor with camera

  • Verisure smoke detector

Pet Care
  • Shelly 1 with Temperature Sensor AddOn

  • Sonoff DS18B20 waterproof temperature sensor

Control and Automation
  • Amazon Echo Dot 2. gen.

  • Broadlink RM4 Pro universal remote control

  • 2 Eero 6 satellites

  • Google Nest Hub

  • Netgear Orbi satellite

  • Verisure smart plug

  • Philips Hue bridge

Plant and Garden Care
  • Xiaomi 4 in 1 Plant Flower Care Smart Monitor

Description of the solutions in this room

The lighting in the living room was one of the first areas I tackled at the outset of my smart journey and I did encounter quite a few challenges. This was partly due to the fact that several of the products now available in the market did not exist when I started this effort and partly due to my skills being limited. The lighting solutions have therefore gradually evolved. Where we had existing lamps with traditional bulbs using E14 or E27 sockets, i.e., the most commonly used sockets, and where the lamp shades allowed this, the old bulbs were replaced by smart ones, se pictures below. However, this was the case for only three of all the light sources in this room; one could fit a Philips Hue E14 candle bulb, whereas in two identical wall lamps, IKEA Trådfri E14 bulbs could be installed, even though the mounts for the shades had to be stretched a little.

Lamp behind the TV where the old bulb could be replaced by a smart candle lamp

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Wall lamps where the old bulbs could be replaced by smart versions

Next, I’d like to mention aquarium lights separately. We have an aquarium lit by two E27 light bulbs that we for years had to buy in various dedicated aquarium equipment online stores since they must emit especially white light (high Kelvin). For a long time, we also used a simple timer to avoid having the light stay on for too long periods. Here we could achieve two solutions in one go; the Philips Hue E27 White Ambience can be adjusted all the way up to 6,500K and can of course be programmed to turn on/off when we want. However, since we have had problems with algae growth in the aquarium, we got an advice to use red light. In the beginning we tried adjusting the Hue bulbs to as warm a light as possible, but this didn’t really help, so the bulbs were replaced by colored bulbs, see picture below (showing only white light), one from Philips Hue and one Nanoleaf colored E27 bulb (for a while, we used the Yeelight bulb now located in the basement living room here, but it was so unstable, perhaps since the fish tank lid forms a metal chamber, that it was moved).

Aquarium with two smart bulbs in the lid

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A challenge related to the aquarium is that on warm summer days, the water temperature can get higher than what is ideal (something we can see by the aid of a thermometer attached to the aquarium wall), and it does not help if the lights are turned on and contributing to the warming of the water. We have solved this partly by only having the lights on early in the morning and late at night during the summer and partly by manually turning them off as needed, which works fairly well. It had obviously been more elegant if this was automated, but I saw no practical way to achieve this. Eventually I noticed that Shelly, which offers a number of smart relays, like the Shelly 1 that I use here, also makes a small component to attach to such relays, called a Temperature Sensor AddOn. To this, it is possible to connect a Sonoff DS18B20 waterproof temperature sensor, see picture below, thus obtaining temperature measurements into the Shelly app. The idea was to use these measurements to turn on/off the lights using the smart relay (this can easily be set up in the Shelly app), but it would entail removing the power plug from the cord and connecting it directly to the relay, something I was hesitant to do since this could not be done in a “non-destructive” way.

This entailed quite some investigations to find a solution to program routines for turning on/off the lights based on readings from the temperature sensor, where several solutions were considered, but in the end it worked out this way: There is community-developed firmware for Shelly relays that gives these Apple Home support. This is continuously developed and there is now also support for the temperature sensor connected to Shelly 1. This allowed me to connect the relay to Apple Home and obtain data from the temperature sensor. This made it easy to create two routines, one to turn off the lights at temperature above 26 degrees and the other to turn the light on below 26 degrees. It should also be mentioned that the aquarium pump is connected to an IKEA Trådfri smart plug, to allow turning on/off the pump when cleaning the aquarium.

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Left, Sonoff temperature sensor inserted into the water in the aquarium

Right, screenshot from Apple Home, where the temperature is shown (which is also a benefit of this, meaning we can monitor the temperature even away from home)

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The next light to “attack” was a table lamp. This one had an E27 traditional lamp with small bulb and a shade fixed to the lamp with a clip-on fitter. This fitter was simply too small to force onto a smart E27 bulb, but we solved this by installing a Philips Hue E27 White bulb and replaced the shade with one that has a slip UNO fitter, i.e., where the fitter rests on the socket and is held in place by the bulb, see picture below. This turned out to be a good solution where a smart bulb is too large for the current shade.

Lamp where the old shade with clip-on fitter was replaced by a shade with a slip UNO fitter

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Another lamp, which we had two of in the living room, had an E14 socket bulb, but there was so little room underneath the shade that it was simply not possible to fit a smart bulb. For a long time, these lamps were controlled by smart plugs, but both have been replaced by new lamps. This was triggered by my wife founding a “cat lamp”, see picture a little further down. This has a Philips Hue E27 White Ambience and is placed on a sideboard, together with various other electronics. The other lamp was replaced by a more modern one from IKEA, with an IKEA Trådfri E14 bulb, see picture further down.

Our experiences with the smart bulbs from both Philips Hue and IKEA Trådfri are that these are very stable. We have had cases where a bulb, from both manufacturers, have displayed as “unavailable” or “unreachable”, but this is normally easily fixed by restarting the app or turning off and on again the bulb. We do, however, see some cases where IKEA app must be restarted or is unable to connect to the gateway, while this is almost never the case with the Philips Hue app.

Then it got a bit more complicated, all the remaining light sources in the living room either had light bulbs that had no smart versions (small halogen bulbs, tailored LED lights) or shades that were too small for smart bulbs and which could not be replaced, see pictures below. For these, I resorted to smart plugs, but since these lights are scattered around the room and with some distance between them, I either had to use many (rather expensive) smart plugs or use extension cords. In the end, I ended up with a combination; an IKEA Trådfri smart plug was installed and some extension cords used to reach all the lights (it should be noted that my wife was not entirely satisfied with the aesthetics, or lack thereof, of the extension cords). The only downside with this solution was that all lights connected to the same smart plug had to be turned on/off simultaneously.

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To the left, a table lamp with smart bulb and lamp on top of a cabinet with a bulb type for which no smart version exists, the latter solved using IKEA Trådfri smart plug placed behind the aquarium

To the right, new window lamp with a smart bulb

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In addition to making existing light sources smart, we have also installed a couple of new light sources on top of a china cabinet in an otherwise somewhat dark corner, see pictures below. First, a Philips Hue white and color ambiance LightStrip Plus provides a nice light and since the color can be changed, it gives the opportunity to change the light depending on the season. Next, there is an IKEA Urshult lamp for cabinets/shelves, which is controlled by an IKEA Trådfri Driver, more about this product below.

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China cabinet with a Hue lightstrip around the edge and a cabinet lamp that projects light down into the cabinet

As new products have been launched I have both managed to eliminate some of the most “striking” extension cords and control lights independently instead of jointly with others. The means to achieving this was partly the so-called IKEA Trådfri driver (which comes in editions for three and ten light sources), which made it possible to replace a smart plug-controlled light on top of a china cabinet with an IKEA Format lamp, see picture below.

IKEA Format lamp installed on top of a cabinet, with the IKEA Trådfri driver in the background (and the Apple HomePod in front)

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Three other lights where it was impossible to install smart bulbs are controlled using a smart power strip, see picture below. This is a most useful type of product, which has four power outlets and two USB A ports, which can all be controlled independently. This, it can replace four individual smart plugs; we have connected to this one a floor lamp, a painting light, a set of two window lights, see pictures below, and during Christmas also holiday lights are connected. Furthermore, we have two charging cables for iPhones connected to the USB ports that make it easy to charge by the sofa. Previously, we had a Koogeek smart power strip here, but this used WiFi for communication and it was somewhat unstable and sometimes being offline. We therefore migrated to this one from Namron, which uses Zigbee. A disadvantage is that it is not natively compatible with Apple Home, but connected to a Philips Hue bridge and using a Hue plugin for Homebridge, it worked perfectly also in Apple Home. After the Matter update of the Hue bridge, there is no need to go via Homebridge, it is exposed directly to Apple Home.

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Namron smart power strip, ours is placed out of sight underneath the sofa, and it has also allowed us to have two charging cables for iPhones peeking out from underneath the sofa

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Floor lamp, window lights, and painting light that could be solved using a smart powerstrip

In terms of programming/automation, the lighting in the living room (and much of the rest of the house) is set up as follows:

  • The scene “Good Morning”, which is activated at 06:30 every morning or by using the command “Hey Siri, Good Morning”, turns on a couple of lights in the living room (as well as a few others in the kitchen and library)

  • In the afternoon, some additional lights are turned on, but I have experimented throughout the years to find a good solution for:

    • Originally I had set up two programs with some different lights for summer and winter time, and these were activated partly based on the sunset and partly on a fixed time, but the result was that lights would often turn on too early or late compared with the actual light levels inside the house

    • Therefore, a Philips Hue motion sensor was installed, in the conservatory, and the light level measurements it provided were used to time this scene, but it was challenging to determine the suitable lux level to trigger the scene

    • In the end, I have ended up with a somewhat more complicated solution, but which works well:

      • There is a Homebridge plugin, homebridge-automation-calendar, which provides a large number of opportunities for defining “sensors” that give different values for factors like seasons, months, time of day, etc.

      • My need was to control the lights in a more fine-grained fashion based on sunset throughout the year, so that in the lighter months of the year the lights turn on perhaps 2-3 hours before sunset, while in the darker months at sunset

      • This is achieved by obtaining values from 1-12 (for each month) and set up routines where the activation time related to sunset is tailored, and which turns on a virtual switch called “Afternoon Lights Condition” (see screenshot below)

⁃ Then another routine for this visual switch is set up so that when it turns on, the scene “Afternoon Lights” is turned on (see screenshot below) ⁃ The virtual switch is, by the way, turned off at midnight so it is ready for the next day

  • Equally for the evening lights, this is done the same way:

    • Here the scene “Evening Lights” is activated, which turns on furthermore lights in the rooms we use the most

    • This is done using another virtual switch, “Evening Lights Condition”

    • Otherwise, it works exactly the same way as for Afternoon Lights, just later in relation to sunset

    • bare senere i forhold til solnedgang

  • The lights in the aquarium are programmed to turn on/off as fixed times, but with longer periods turned on during winter than summer

  • The scene “Good Night”, which is activated by by using the command “Hey Siri, Good Night”, turns off all the lights in the living room and the rest out of the house (except for outdoor lights) as well as the home entertainment system (it could also have been programmed to turn down the temperature a couple of degrees, but since the cats hate being cold, we have not implemented this...).

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The "Good Morning" scene, which is activated at 06:30 or by saying Good Morning to Siri

The scene "Afternoon Lights", which is activated at suitable times in the afternoon, this varies around the year

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(Parts of) the scene "Evening Lights" (it includes more lights which are not shown in the screenshot), which is activated one hour before sunset, no matter which time of year it is

(Parts of) the scene "Good Night", which is activated by saying Good Night to Siri or by using the Hue switch outside the door to the bathroom upstairs

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The routine that activates the virtual switch Afternoon Lights Condition 2 hours before sunset if the month is between September to March (such a routine must be defined in an too like ControllerForHomeKit)

The routine where the scene “Afternoon Lights” is activated when the virtual switch turns on

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I have also considered creating a “vacation program” that turns on/off random lights (and preferably also audio) throughout the day, but have so far not seen the need for this.

Outdoor we have for many years had "tailored" smart lighting during advent and Christmas. Here in the living room we naturally also have dedicated holiday lights, but the only "smart" feature of these has been powering them through the smart power strip mentioned above to turn on/off advent candelabra and star at specified times or using voice commands. In addition, I have made an attempt at automating a set of battery-powered "candles" that are controlled using an IR-based remote control. The idea was to use the Broadlink universal remote control for this, but it is located such that it does not have a free line of sight to the lights so this is very unreliable.

For Christmas of 2021, however, we made a big upgrade of the Christmas tree lighting, after Twinkly announced a firmware update that gave Apple Home support to many of their fancy lighting products. We purchased a so-called Strings chain of 250 LED lights, see picture below, that can be set up in the Twinkly app to create many nice light effects. Certainly not all the functionality offered by the Twinkly app is ported to Apple Home, but the integration as least makes it easy to control, by time and voice, these lights together with the other holiday lights. Sadly, a couple of the cats got so obsessed with the wires to these lights that the string had to be moved outdoor and the tree equipped with battery-powered lights.

Twinkly Christmas lights, that can be set up to run amazing effects

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Here in Norway. climate control typically means heating rather than cooling and the main device for heating in our living room (and house, really) is a Mitsubishi Black Diamond heat pump/inverter. This heat pump is WiFi connected and can be controlled using an app on a phone/computer, but only as a stand-alone device. For better integration into the smart home, we use a solution that emulates the signal from the remote. There are different alternatives in the market; we ended up with a Sensibo Sky, where the decisive factor probably was that this product is sold through a company called Tibber. This is essentially a Norwegian company that sells electric power, but also offering innovative ways for customers to keep track of their power consumption as well as save power. Our experiences with the Sensibo Sky were fairly good, but it did not have Apple Home support and I there had to resort to a Homebridge plugin. Even this worked fairly well, but as explained a little further down, we wanted a setup where the inverter would turn off if a door/window was opened and on again when closed. This saw quite frequent errors, with the heat pump turning to cool mode when restarting, and I suspect that this had to do with the Apple Home integration.

So when tado launched a new version of its air condition controller, tado° Smart AC Control V3+, which was also Apple Home compatible, the solution was to upgrade to this, see picture below. This has some functionality beyond what the Sensibo Sky could offer, like weather forecast adaptation, more extensive statistics, and even built-in open window detection (this latter did not, however, manage to detect an open door or window at some distance from the unit). It should be said that there were some initial setup issues, in that the default AC mode is cooling, so that at temperatures above the target value, the inverter goes into cool mode. There is very rarely a need for this here in Norway and it consumes much power, so I had to get this changed to heating being the default mode, which was not completely intuitive. Otherwise, my only complaint is that the enclosed double-sided tape was a bit weak when placing the device on wooden paneling.

After I set this up, people have developed both a Homebridge plugin and a Homey app for MELCloud, which brings the heat pump into Apple Home, without having to go via the tado device.

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Mitsubishi inverter with the tado AC controller to the right (normally well hidden behind a curtain here held to the side)

The heat pump mostly tends to itself; it is typically set to the temperature around the clock and around the year. It would be easy to create temperature profiles for lower the temperature during night/other times with less need for heating, but we have not done so out of fear for reprisals from the cats. What we do want to avoid is that the heat pump is in heat mode when a door or window is open, as this will have the heat pump trying to compensate for the cooling effect and just wasting energy. I have therefore implemented a solution where the heat pump is turned off if a door or window is opened, and this utilizes data from a number of sensors:

  • Either one of two Aqara door sensors for patio doors here in the living room and the adjoining library

  • Aqara window sensor in the office, but this is combined with an Aqara door sensor on the office door, so that the heat pump only turns off if the window is opened and the door is open

  • Fibaro window sensor in the kitchen

  • Velux/Netatmo skylight in the conservatory

See pictures of some of the sensors below, and a video explains the details of how this has been done.

Aqara door sensor installed under the Verisure sensor

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Having the heat pump turn off when opening a door/window was for a long time a simple “two-step” program, see screenshots below. However, we also want the heat pump to turn on again automatically when the open door or window is closed again (in the beginning, I had not set it up this way and it would often happen that we forgot to turn on again the heat pump after having aired the living room). This is a little more complicated and an example of having to resort to other apps, allowing a more extended “trigger-condition-action” logic. This allows creating more advanced programs, and I have now set this up in the ControllerForHomekit app, see screenshot below. When one of these door/window sensors is closed, the routine checks whether all the other sensors are also closed, and if so, the heat pump is turned on again.

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On the left, simple rule programmed in the Home app, where the heat pump is turned off if the living room patio door is opened (there are identical rules for the other doors/windows)

On the right, more complicated rule (which must be created in an app that allows more complex rules, even if it can afterwards be viewed and modified in the Home app) which responds to a signal from a door/window that it is closed, checks if the other doors/windows are closed, and if so, turns the heat pump on

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The automation to turn off the heat pump when the patio door was opened did not work as well as I hoped; when only exiting or entering through the door, the automation fired straight away to turn off the unit. However, the actually turning off took some time, so when the door closed again shortly after, this was still in process. This meant that the heat pump did not always react to the signal to turn on again. I therefore first created a combination solution of Apple Home and Shortcuts, such that an open door sensor signal triggered a Shortcut that ran a delay of 30 seconds before turning off the heat pump. This did work, but I later realized that this could more easily be solved using a virtual countdown switch in Homebridge. This appears as a switch in Apple Home and it is turned on whenever one of the patio doors open (an open window could also turn it on, but it practically never happens that these are open and closed again straight away), and it stays on for one minute before it turns off. The algorithm is programmed so that when the virtual switch turns off, it checks whether the patio door is still open. If so, the heat pump is turned off, but if the patio door has been closed again, the heat pump remains on, see screenshot of the programming in ControllerForHomekit below.

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Programming where the virtual switch is turned on if the patio door is opened, while on the right the routine to turn off the heat pump if the door (or a window) is still open

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The tado app is mostly clean and intutive, see screenshots below.

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Screenshot from the tado app, with status overview to the left and the interface for changing mode and temperature to the right

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In the Home app, the heat pump shows up like this, where temperature and mode must be set in two separate interfaces

Interface for changing the heat pump mode in the Home app

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On very cold days, we supplement the heat pump by burning wood, and after a very old stove was replaced with a modern Aduro 1.1 stove, also this has become smart now. As an accessory to this stove, it is possible to install something called an Aduro Smart Response, see picture below of the visible part (a battery housing), which is a sensor that reads key data about the burning process. This is connected to a smartphone using bluetooth and makes it possible to track the stove temperature (see sample screenshot below) and get notified when more wood should be added. This makes is very easy to maintain optimal conditions for best yield from the wood.

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The visible part of the Aduro sensor, the rest is inside the stove

Screenshot from the Audio app

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In the category of climate control, we also have a Netatmo Smart Home Weather Station, which measures the indoor climate in the living room (and also the outdoor conditions using an outdoor unit). I have no complaints about this weather station; it does what it is supposed to do and provides data about temperature, air quality in the form of CO2 amounts, humidity, and even audio levels, but I must admit that we don’t pay very much attention to this data. One reason for purchasing it was that also this unit integrates with the Tibber platform as a power-up and data from the weather station shows up in the Tibber app. I should also mention that the weather station, which has built-in support for Apple Home, has a tendency to lose connection to Apple Home, and must be rebooted.

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The indoor module for the Netatmo weather station, placed on a top of a cabinet

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The Netatmo app presents a lot of information in the main screen, both from the indoor and outdoor module

Climate sensor data from both Verisure components (via Homebridge plugin) and the Netatmo weather station appear in the Home app

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The next device related to climate control is the base station for our six Heatmiser neoStat-e thermostats, called Heatmiser Neo Hub, see picture below. The hub isn’t especially interesting in and of itself, but an important reason for chossing these Heatmiser thermostats was that the version 2 of the hub supports Apple Home. The first weeks after installation, we had some problems where it would be disconnected and had to be restarted, and sometimes the Heatmiser app has been logged off. Mostly, though, this Heatmiser system has worked very well.

The Heatmiser Neo Hub is mounted on the wall using velcro tape, behind the iPad used as a digital photo frame

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With one of us being allergic and with patio doors often open, an air purifier is useful. We first acquired one from Xiaomi, but after a while this started to make so much noise we moved it to the basement living room. After this, several air purifiers with support for Apple Home have been launched, and we have purchased a Sensibo Pure, see picture below. It was easy to set up, is better looking than the one from Xiaomi, and it seems like the filter will last longer before needing a replacement.

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Sensibo air purifier with a stylish, blue LED strip

On truly hot days we have been missing a ceiling fan in the living room, and a logical project has been to replace a 1990s style brass candle chandelier above the coffee table with a fan. This has not yet been completed, but the preparations have been started to make a future fan controllable through Apple Home. There are several ways to achieve this:

  • Buy a fan with built-in support for Apple Home: As far as I can tell, these are only available for the US market

  • Use a smart plug or smart relay: This allows turning the fan on/off by controlling the power supply. We have solved the master bedroom ceiling fan this way, but with the disadvantage that to change the fan speed we must still use the manual draw string

  • Use a suitable universal remote control: This can be done to control a fan that comes with a remote control

We have gone for the latter solution, and the first idea was to solve this using our Logitech Harmony remote control. I have not tested this, and it is possible that it might work for fans that use an IR-based remote control (not RF, as most seem to do), but we have acquired a different universal remote control, a Broadlink RM4 Pro. This can send both IR and RF signals and can be integrated into Apple Home through Homebridge (there are a large number of plugins, I have decided to use this). We have placed it next to the TV cabinet, see picture below, so that it has a clear line of sight to where the ceiling fan will be installed.

To test setting up the Broadlink remote and the integration with Apple Home, I have partly played with connecting the TV and receiver (which have remotes based on IR), and this worked well. Further, I found a set of three Nexa “smart plugs” in a drawer, see picture below, which are controlled using an RF-based remote. After some trial and error in reading the RF signal and registering the HEX code that must be pasted into the config file in Homebridge, I managed to get this to work very well. The plugs can now be turned on/off in the Home app, like any other smart plug, with the only downside being that the on/off status might not always be displayed correctly (since this is based on which signal has been sent, not actual status). Thus, everything should be ready for installing a ceiling fan.

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Broadlink RM4 Pro universal remote control

Nexa “smart plug” with RF-based remote control

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A solution installed during the summer of 2019 is a VOCOlinc FlowerBud Smart Aroma Diffuser, which was partly a result of my discovering that it was actually for sale in Norway (I had registered that this device existed and that it had Apple Home support, but I assumed it had to be purchased from China) and partly that the installation of the air purifier described above showed that the air humidity in the living room was at times on the lower side. After having ordered it, I cam across a number of articles explaining that essential oils, which can be added to the water to distribute a pleasant scent in the room, can be toxic to pets, but cats and dogs. It turns out, however, that some oils, like chamomile and frankincense, are not harmful. The diffuser was therefore placed on top of a china cabinet, see picture below, where it both piques visitors’ curiosity (it looks a bit exotic and even if the main purpose is to humidify, it also has a light, which can be set in a mode where it circulated through different colors) and it is placed “correctly” in terms of increasing the air humidity and spreading the scent.

VOCOlinc humidifier placed on top of a cabinet

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The diffuser can either be operated from VOCOlink’s LinkWise-app, where all the settings are available in one screen, see below, or from the Home app, where it appears as two devices, one light source (here called Mood Light) and one humidifier. Almost all the controls can be done from the Home app, but special light effects can only be activated from the LinkWise app. And since the device appears in the Home app, both the light and the humidifier can be integrated into programming, so in our case the light comes on with other light sources in the “Evening Lights” scene. Usually, we turn on the humidifier “manually” when we want it to run, but I have also set up a rule (in the Eve app, since this is, at least not per now, possible in the Home app) to activate the humidifier if the humidity falls below 40 % (which is said to be the lower level for healthy indoor air).

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Screenshots for the humidifier from respectively the LinkWise app (to the left) and the Home app (to the right)

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After changing TV and rearranging the location of the TV in the room, sunlight on the screen became annoying. We therefore installed two IKEA Fyrtur roller blinds to cover south-facing windows, see picture below. It only took a little adjusting of the distance from the wall to the curtain rods and they fit perfectly, and they block light very well.

Fyrtur blinds

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The last solution within climate control, but which also borders on home entertainment, is control of sun protection. We had an old-fashioned awning covering three large windows in the living room, but it was sensitive to wind and we had it replaced with an exterior shade, se picture below. This could be installed for control either from the existing wall switch, from an RF remote control, or with a Somfy control solution  allowing control from a smartphone. Since none of these solutions neither were compatible with Apple Home (although Somfy has been promising Apple Home support for some time) nor could be integrated using Homebridge, we chose to install only the shade itself and connect it to the manual wall switch (and to an existing Sonneboy automatic sun/wind control unit). This worked quite well; the shade went down when the sun got to a certain brightness and down again when it got less bright or the wind got too heavy. We could also control it manually, but the wall switch was located a bit hard to reach behind the TV.

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Sun shade covering three windows, with Sonneboy sun/wind sensor to the right

The purpose of smarter control of the shade was both to achieve more comfortable manual control, from a smartphone/tablet/etc., and not in the least to allow creating an automatic solution where the shade would be lowered if the TV (located just on the inside of the windows covered by the shade) is on and the brightness of light hitting the screen is above a defined limit. I spent a lot of time investigating different possible solutions, but for various reasons were unsuitable:

  • Somfy has, as mentioned, announced Apple Home support for their products, but by the end of 2018 this has not materialized and I have been waiting for such “vaporware” too long to try again. However, with Somfy being a specialist company in sun protection solutions, I would assume that their products would work well if your ecosystem is compatible. In any case, I believe one would need their TaHoma base station, which is quite pricey.

  • Velux quite recently launched a series of sun protection solutions in cooperation with Netatmo, called Velux Active with Netatmo. Being Apple Home compatible, I was hoping this could work for our shade, but it turns out these are designed specifically for Velux roof windows (which we have six of in the conservatory, so this could be a possible future project).

  • The third approach I checked was suitable control components for sun protection based on Z-Wave (there are none with native Apple Home compatibility). My thinking was that such a solution could be integrated into my ecosystem through Homebridge or some other indirect route.

In the end, I got tired of waiting for someone to launch solutions natively compatible with Apple Home and went with the latter option. In the end, I ended up with a Fibaro Roller Shutter 2 (which has now been replaced by Roller Shutter 3), connected to Homey, and Apple Home integration through HomeKitty. Fibaro Roller Shutter 2 is a generic relay switch for controlling any type of product that is opened/closed using an electric motor. Like the Fibaro Single Switches we already had installed several places in the house, it is designed to be installed in the wall box behind a manual switch. In our case, this was not possible since the existing manual control was in the form of a Sonneboy automatic sun/wind control, which did not have enough space behind it. An even bigger challenge was that Fibaro did not recommend combining the Sonneboy, which in reality also is a relay switch, with the Fibaro relay since they were unsure whether two serially connected relays would work. In the end, the solution was to remove the Sonneboy, install a new (double) wall box with a new manual wall switch in one section of the wall box and the Fibaro relay in the other, se picture below.

New manual wall swicth with the Fibaro relay behind the lower lid

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The next step was to program this so that the sun screen would go down at certain levels of light and down again at lower light or high wind. It would also be useful to differentiate the light level triggers depending on whether we watch TV or not, and I considered several different options:

  • I initially set up two IFTTT applets based on weather data from Weather Underground; one runs the shade down if the UV index exceeds 6 and runs it up at wind speeds above 15 km/h from south-east, which is the problematic wind direction for the shade. At least the UV index part of this could also be done in Stringify. However, these routines are based on weather data for a larger area and are not as precise as a sensor on the premises.

  • We therefore wanted to be able to collect our own sensor signals, for wind, light, and temperature. Initially, I went with a Z-Wave sensor, a Fibaro Motion Sensor, which is really a generic sensor that measures motion, light level, temperature (and even whether it is moved, for the purpose of detecting tampering if used in an alarm system). This was installed right inside the window, next to the TV set, but there was a problem in that the sun screen is so efficient in blocking the light that when turned down that the light level was so much reduced that programming of up/down light levels was difficult. This sensor was therefore moved to one of the guest rooms and a Philips Hue outdoor motion sensor was instead installed on the wall outside the windows (see outdoor). This provides measurements of both light level and temperature, but since it sits directly in the sunshine, the temperature readings are too high so I obtain temperature signals from the outdoor module of the Netatmo weather station.

  • The most important aspect of the setup, however, was to obtain more precise wind measurements, as our house is located in a spot with locally much stronger wind than forecasts covering the larger area report. As described under outdoor, this was achieved by installing a Netatmo wind gauge.

  • The last requirement was to differentiate the behavior of the screen depending on whether we are watching something on TV or nor (run the screen down in lower light levels with the TV on than off). Since the Yamaha receiver we use to switch input signals to the TV is on no matter which signal is in use (set-top box, Apple TV, PlayStation), it can be used as condition, and it is integrated in both HomeKit (using this Homebridge plugin for Yamaha) and SmartThings (via this SmartApp). But this proved to be an unstable solution and in the end, this was solved by connecting the Harmony Hub to Homey and checking whether one of the activities is on to determine whether we are watching TV or not.

The challenge of this setup has been to find a solution for integrating all these sensor signals into one platform/programming app. Several options were investigated:

  • Apple Home, did not work, partly due to Apple Home not supporting wind data (even if both the wind gauge and outdoor weather station module can be integrated via Homebridge) and partly due to limited possibilities for defining conditions in the automation rules

  • Eve app, which has more opportunities for defining triggers and conditions, did not work either as this app can only utilize the signals already present in Apple Home, thus not wind strength

  • Home Assistant, which is its own platform, has some integration with a local weather app, which made me cautiously optimistic that more advanced weather-based programming could be possible. After much effort to integrate SmartThings in Home Assistant (which requires https connection to the Home Assistant server and thus SSL certificate) it turned out that the signal from the Netatmo wind gauge could not be used here either.

Eventually a couple of developments could be exploited:

  • In Apple Home, one can now program routines using Shortcuts, which allows for far more powerful programming using conditions, loops, etc.

  • Support for the Netatmo wind gauge in Homey has improved

This allowed me to do the programming in Apple Home, with a “detour” via Homey. The new solution ended up as follows:

  • Light level and temperature measurements are collected directly from the Hue outdoor sensor, which now is connected to Hue and from there into Apple Home.

  • Wind measurements are still collected from the Netatmo wind gauge, but now this one is also connected to Homey, which in contrast to Apple Home has support for wind data as a variable in programming. Since these measurements cannot be used directly in HomeKit I have had to go via a “virtual device” in Homey, i.e., a virtual switch that is turned on at wind speed or gusts above defined threshold values (programmed using Flows in Homey). This switch is exposed to Apple Home and thus be used as a condition for whether the sun screen should be run up or down depending on wind conditions.

  • The status for whether we are watching TV or not is still collected from the Harmony hub via Homey and into Apple Home.

  • With these input data, I have programmed a small number of routines in Apple Home using Shortcuts. A somewhat strange challenge in setting this up is how to make a routine where changed light level is the trigger; this is not possible in the Home app, but must be done in the Eve app or some other Apple Home-based app that allows more advanced programming. This makes the routine, with the right trigger, appear in the Home app and one can continue programming there using Shortcuts, thus utilizing scripting solutions for waiting (so that the light level stays above/below the threshold value for some time) and loops of conditions (for example so that in order to run down the screen, the light level must be above the threshold value, temperature above threshold, and the wind speed below threshold).

In the end, the whole setup is programmed as follows:

  • If the light sensor measures a light level above 35,000 lux, meaning fairly bright sunlight, fore more than 10 minutes, it is above 3 degrees Celsius (to avoid potential problems with ice in the railings), and the wind is not above 40 km/h, the shade is closed (and if the light level falls below 35,000 lux for 10 minutes, it opens again)

  • If the light sensor measures a light level above 25,000 lux when the TV is on (meaning it makes watching TV more difficult), it is above 3 degrees Celsius, and the wind is not above 40 km/h, the shade is closed (and if the light level falls below 25,000 lux for 10 minutes, it opens again)

  • If wind speeds exceeding 40 km/h are measured and the screen is down, it opens

  • In any case, the shade is opened an hour before sunset, regardless of the conditions

Getting the whole setup and programming to work took some tweaking of lux levels and conditions, but in the end, I am glad to have found a solution that works very well. In addition, we have realized that it can be convenient to have an easily accessible switch available for manual operation, in case we want to run the screen down or up outside of the parameters defined in the programming. This is really quite easy to do by talking to Siri or using the Home app, but the wife likes physical buttons. Since the wall button is awkwardly located behind the TV, I have installed a small and nifty Aqara Wireless Mini Switch, which can be programmed with different actions for short/long/double press. This has been placed on the window ledge, see picture below, and runs the sun screen up/down at a click.

Aqara wireless switch for manual control of the sun screen

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Moving on to home entertainment solutions, our system consists of a few components; set top box from altibox, Samsung TV, Yamaha receiver, Sony PlayStation 3, and an  Apple TV 4K. Except for the Apple TV, the other units are not especially smart, despite there being a phone/tablet app for the receiver, but which does little more than constitute an additional remote control. The TV can also be connected using Homey and Homebridge.

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The different components of the home entertainment system

Since it is desirable to exploit data about whether we are watching TV or not in controlling the sun screen described above, and since it is generally useful being able to control the home entertainment system fra a smart phone/tablet/etc., I have found workarounds:

  • Partly, there are Homebridge plugins for respectively Samsung and Yamaha. In the beginning, I used these, but this was far from ideal. The plugins were not working as expected and sometimes Samsung or Yamaha changed some parameter/interface making this even more unstable so that at best, I could sometimes see whether a device was on or off.

  • What works fairly well is that there is an app for Harmony for Homey, and via HomeKitty, this connects the devices to Apple Home. This allows seeing the status of devices/programs and turn them on/off. Unfortunately not all the functionality present in Homey comes over to Apple Home.

  • I especially miss the possibility to control the volume of the Yamaha receiver in Apple Home, but through a different Homebridge plugin for Yamaha I have gotten this to work. A litt strangely, the volume control appears as a fan and the fan speed is set between 0 and 100%, see screenshot below, but as long as you learn which % levels are suitable for different situasjons, this works well. The best is being able to just talk into the room and ask Siri to change the volume.

Adjustment of the Yamaha receiver volume in Apple Home looks like a fan (and we have named it TV since it is easier to ask Siri to turn up the TV volume than the Yamaha receiver)

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Furthermore, both the Apple TV and the HomePods er key devices in the integrated smart home by working as Apple Home hubs. This means that commands sent from iPhone/iPad (an iPad can also work as a hub)/Watch/Mac go via these on their way to the device to be controlled. If you have not tried such a smart speaker with voice assistant, I truly recommend it. Compared with operating a smart phone/tablet, it is much more convenient just talking and have devices/scenes turn on or off. We use it quite often to trigger scenes or turn on/ff devices. While not perfect, we also experience very few cases where Siri on the HomePod fail to understand our commands. And it is very satisfying getting up in the morning and saying "Hey Siri, Good Morning" and getting an immediate response in the form of lights turning one and polite feedback from Siri.

There isn’t too much to say about the Philips Hue bridge, one of two we have; it takes up little space and has proven to be very stable in operations. As with the other base stations, it must be connected to the internet using an ethernet cable, which is why these different base stations are spread out throughout the house where there are Orbi satellites with free ethernet ports. The base station for the Arlo camera in the conservatory has also been put here, since it requires cabled connection. It integrates the camera into Apple Home.

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This sideboard has gradually become a “tech center”, shown here are the Hue bridge, an Orbi satellite, the Arlo base station, and a Google Nest Hub, which primarily works as a digital photo frame (replacing an old iPad that served the same purpose, but which stopped working)

We also have another base station here. When I finally took the plunge  and acquired an Amazon Echo Dot (see picture below), this was close to 100% motivated by the wish to be able to voice control the garage doors via Tailwind (see more under garage). Since this can now be done via Siri Shortcuts and NFC tags, we moved the Echo up to the living room. When moving it, I also made a serious attempt at setting up the Alexa ecosystem as a real alternative to Apple Home. This has been a useful exercise which has partly both confirmed that it works quite well and does what it actually can do, but also that it has its limitations compared with Apple Home when it comes to which devices are supported (at least of the devices we have, despite the marketing saying they should work with Alexa) and the possibilities for more advanced programming. What it does offer is a backup solution if Siri for some reason or other cannot complete the whole Good Night scene, then “Alexa, good night” can succeed in turning off the remaining lights. As mentioned above, we had for a long time an iPad that worked as a digital photo frame (and partly also as “control panel” for HomeKit), but it was so old that it eventually stopped working. Instead of acquiring another iPad, which even secondhand is quite expensive, a Google Nest Hub was installed, see picture below. It serves primarily as a screen for showing photos, but is also set up such that supported smart devices can be controlled from it.

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Left, Echo Det, and right, Google Nest Hub

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In the living room, we also have both Orbi and Eero satellites for wireless network, below picture of the Eero units, which are significantly smaller than the Orbi devices.

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Eero satellites placed respectively high on a china cabinet and on a speaker near the TV and components connected to it

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Furthermore, we have a Logitech Harmony Hub, with an associated Harmony Elite remote control. On one hand, the Harmony can connect directly to Philips Hue and control light sources from Hue, but more importantly, it is integrated into Apple Home. For a long time, this integration was achieved directly via Homebridge, but after Logitech updated the Harmony Hub firmware in December 2018, this can no longer be done (although it is rumored that Logitech might have reversed this). However, going the route via Homey, where the Harmony Hub can be added as a device, and then to Homebridge, it still works. Via the Homebridge plugin for Homey, all defined Harmony activities appears as “devices” in the Home app, see screenshot below. These can thus be turned on or off using Home/Siri/etc. and, more importantly, be included in programs/scenes. Our primary Harmony activities turn on all the involved home entertainment devices/sets the right inputs to watch respectively TV using the cable box, media via Apple TV, or play PlayStation. These activities are included  in for example the “Good Night” scene in HomeKit so that the whole system is turned off when we pack it in for the night. An added bonus is that the TV can be turned on at random times to make it sound like we are home when in fact we are away.

Activities set up in Logitech Harmony appear as “devices” in the Home app, where we have created generic activities to turn on/off the home entertainment system for TV/Apple TV/PlayStation as well as specific activities to turn the system on to certain TV channels

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I stuen er hovedenheten for alarmanlegget fra Verisure montert, sammen med en bevegelsessensor med kamera og en røykvarsler, som også måler temperatur og luftfuktighet, se bilder under. Via Homebridge kommer deler noen av målingene også inn i HomeKit.

In the living room, the central unit for the Verisure alarm system has been installed, together with a motion sensor with camera and a smoke detector, which also measures temperature and humidity, see pictures below. Via Homebridge, some of these data also transfer into Apple Home.

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Verisure components; main unit, motion sensor, and smoke detector

The very last component in the living room was acquired as our first test of a component for plant care. A Xiaomi 4 in 1 Plant Flower Care Smart Monitor was purchased from China, for a reasonable price, and was placed in a somewhat random flower pot, see picture below.

Xiaomi plant sensor placed in a flower pot

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The first experience was not good, I was able to connect it to the Xiaomi app, but it would disconnect as soon as the app was closed. So every time sensor data was to be read, the device had to be installed, but this was fixed through an update. Now this works well, the sensor measures soil moisture, fertility, light level, and air temperature, see screenshot below. By also being able to specify the exact plant type that is monitored, the app can also give alerts in case of unwanted measurement values. The sensor does what it is supposed to do, but my wife, the primary plant tender, does not see the big benefit.

Screen shot from the Xiaomi app, notice that each time logging on, data is synchronized for the period since the last logon

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As the most “technology-heavy” room in the house, the room view for the living room is quite crowded:

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The devices in the living room