Home automation at the MotoRetreat Airbnb

The MotoRetreat is my second home, located 170 miles away from my primary residence. When I purchased the property in Jan 2019, I had the opportunity to start fresh - use my knowledge of the consumer home automation offerings and purchase exactly what I wanted.

I am a home automation backend software developer. I love to "geek out", but one of the most rewarding challenges for me is to make home automation invisible. My home binder/instruction manual has no dsetails on smart home operation - because you don't need instructions. "The hardest thing about technology is making it easy."

I'm going to tell you up front... My list contains.. gasp hub(s)! Many people shy away from home automation hubs - yet another device they have to find a place for. I argue that hubs are quite beneficial, and for the following reasons:  

First, a bit about my lighting setup.

The home I purchased had no neutral wires in the junction boxes, limiting my choices for smart switches. The switches were also located in odd places due to a prior remodel. I am happy I went with Lutron. They are fantastic dimmers/switches that work with SmartThings. They offer the super thin Pico remotes (with a 10 year battery life) - when you buy the wall plate adapter & a normal single gang wall plate, you can stick these onto the wall anywhere you want (with command strips!) and have them "mirror" an existing switch. This means I can make sure all switches are in "intuitive" places as you walk into a room - and you'd never guess that they weren't real switches with wiring behind them. They also offer pico remote stands, which allows me to have on/off light switches on the bedside tables in each bedroom, allowing guests to turn the lights on/off from bed. I've gotten multiple reviews that specifically mention these!

Second, a note about thermostats

Many people ask if any of the automations below are compatible with their Nest thermostats.
In 2018/2019, Google "revisited" the Works With Nest program. It was this program that allowed "outside" automation systems to control your Nest thermostat. My presumption is that Google didn't like this because they didn't know why automations were happening - they want to be in control (or at least understand) of all the logic that controls the Nest. Their new policy is to not allow any new Works With Nest connections - if you want a device to form automations with your thermostat, that device must be integrated into the Works With Google Assistant ecosystem, and then you must create that automation in the Google Assistant/Google Home app. Unfortunately, the WWGA ecosystem does not yet support most automations that people would want to implement at their Airbnb.

Short answer: Sell Nest, buy Ecobee.

Third, this is a table of what devices I have and their approximate cost.

# Device Cost (USD)
1 SmartThings v3 Hub $70
2 Schlage Connect Lock $180
3 Lutron wall switches $50ea
4 Lutron Bridge (Combo pack- $100 for 1 wall switch, 1 bridge, & 1 pico remote)
5 Lutron Pico Remotes $15ea, 5ea  for wall plate, 10ea for bedside stand
6 SmartThings-compatible motion sensors (Multiple options available, $15-30)
7 SmartThings-compatble open/close sensors (Multiple options available, $10-25)
8 SmartThings-compable strobe/siren (Multiple options avaialble, $25-50)
9 SmartThings-compatible leak sensor (Multiple options available, $20-30)
10 SmartThings-compatible garage door controller such as GoControl/Linear $120
11 SmartThings-compatible water valve $40
12 RBoy's Rental Lock Automator software for SmartThings $100 one time fee - software license
13 Ecobee thermostat $150-250 depending on model
14 Zigbee keypad outside the garage (XHK1-UE) $25 (ebay)
15 First Alert ZCOMBO zwave Smoke+CO detector (SmartThings compatible) $40ea
16 GE Enbrighten Plus Heavy Duty 40 Amp Smart Switch $170

Finally, here is a list of the automations I have created, and what devices from the above list are required to enable these automations.

Automation Devices (from #s above) required
Smart lock coding: Automatically program smart lock based on Airbnb calendar.  Set code to last 4 digits of the guest's phone number at a specified time. Delete code on check-out day at a specified time.  Makes access control completely hands off!! 1,2,12
Energy savings/check-in&out actions: On day of check-in, at a specified time, set thermostat. Return to away mode on check-out 1,12,13
Energy savings: Turn off heat/AC if the patio door is open for 15 minutes 1,7,13
Energy savings: Turn electric hot water heater on/off based on airbnb calendar & my phone's presence. 1,12,16
Guest arrival:  If the guest unlocks the door after sunset, turn on lights 1, (3&4), 12
Garage access: Allow the guest to type in their door code to a keypad outside the garage to open & close the garage 1,10, 12, 14
Garage security: Automatically close the garage after it's been open for (X) minutes 1, 10
Home security: If motion is detected outside the home when no one is scheduled to be there, flash strobe and send push notification 1, 6, 8
Home security: If a door/window opens when no one is schedule to be there, sound siren and send push notification 1,7,8
Home safety: If a leak is detected under any water source, shut off the water to the house 1,9,11
Home safety: Send me a push notification if a guest left a door open for a specified amount of time. 1,7
Home safety: If smoke detector goes off, send me a push notification, turn on lights, and unlock doors. Optionally text neighbors. 1,(3&4),15

The home includes other automations and devices that are not relevant or may compromise my security by mentioning them :).

House infrastructure

Other Airbnb Services I use

Last updated 21 Dec 2019