Home Control Assistant Newsletter for May 8 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
Batteries. Coinvent when they work, not so much when they don’t

With many of you moving towards more integrated automation solutions – using more than one protocol – you may be installing more battery powered sensors and devices.

Some, but not all, of the newer device types that have a battery also report that battery level as part of their status. Unfortunately, there is not a uniform method for this. Some report the level on each status request. Some report it also or only in asynchronous messages sent when there is a state change. Of course, when the battery level gets too low, they can’t report at all.

My suggestion is a two-pronged approach. Firstly, if you are using Hubitat or SmartThings included in the package that adds support to HCA a program that you can periodically schedule to check the status of all your device types that have batteries. If the level is lower than desired – you can modify the program to choose that percentage – then the program sends you a message.

As I said above, not all devices report battery level when they are queried for their status. Depending upon the device and the controller (Hubitat or SmartThings), a query for status can communicate with the device and return that result. Alternatively, a request for status can return data from the controller’s internal status based upon when the device was last heard from. That can be a problem because the device could have last reported a battery level of 30% for example, then when it dropped below that it didn’t communicate anymore. When HCA requests its status, unless the device is directly queried, you get back 30% from the interface even though it is no longer correct.

Because of this, I also suggest that you use the facilities in HCA to configure the Alert system for devices that should be heard from every ‘n’ hours but go silent. In this case if the device stops reporting for the selected time interval, HCA creates an alert and, depending upon how you handle that, can start a program that sends you a message.  If a battery powered device should send some message at least every day and doesn’t for two days, it’s a good bet that its battery is dead.

The Alert system is in the User Guide chapter 20

Sensors are great and battery powered ones are better still because you need not worry about wires to power adapters. But it makes life better for you to configure the tools in HCA to warn you when those batteries are running out.

Last tip: Buy batteries online. The cost of them in ones or twos at the local stores are so much more expensive then picking them up in bulk online.

If you are using HCA with UPB devices and also use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice control of them, please drop me a note as there are some developments you may be interested in.
If you are using a version of HCA prior to version 17, you may have questions about the wisdom of upgrading to version 17 given the future of HCA. Here is something to consider:

The support policy for older HCA versions has been changed
 as I can no longer devote time to past version users. Support will only be available for HCA 17 users.

If you are on version 16 or earlier and want to continue using the cloud features and want to be assured that if you have a question that it gets answered, it is indeed time to upgrade.

HCA is fully operational for several more years so the update cost, spread out over that time, is very little. Knowing support is available when you need it is worth it.
Upgrade to HCA 17
Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.
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