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Home Control Assistant Newsletter for Mar 6 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
What is to be done?
I get questions frequently about what to do post-HCA. Please remember that HCA isn’t going “dark” for almost 30 months. Having said that, I do know that many of you are using what is quickly becoming legacy hardware. That would primarily be Insteon. I hear all the time that getting Insteon products can be a challenge. What to do?

The first part of the answer really is just another question: power line signaling or wireless? And wireless has the two main branches of Wi-Fi or Zwave/Zigbee. This can be a hard choice, but answers come from price, availability, and function. Both choices have pluses and minuses.

I want to pause here a bit and briefly mention professionally installed systems like Control4, Elan, RTI, and URC. While these systems have amazing hardware control and more quality A/V type stuff than you could ever want, they are expensive. I know that enterprising end-users have taken the manufacturer courses to become “installers” just so they can purchase their own hardware and do the work themselves. If you go that route, then you are way outside of what I know about. But it is an option.

I personally have not been much of a fan of ZWave/Zigbee because my installation is a large structure and making sure that those signals propagate well is hard. In smaller structures that can be no problem at all. I do use several signal boosters / repeaters and that allows me to get all my ZWave sensors working, but I haven’t used any load controllers at this point.

Wi-Fi can be easier because there are so many devices and tools to optimize Wi-Fi coverage in your installation. There are even wireless access points that can be installed outside. There are quite a few Wi-Fi devices like the Shelly devices that HCA now supports and TP-Link. For sensors, I have not seen as many Wi-Fi products as there are for ZWave, so that could be a consideration. Now there are all the Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs that are great – except that most lighting circuits are switch powered and getting the family to not turn off the switch can be a PITA.

One possible consideration when looking at Wi-Fi is that each Wi-Fi device acquires its own IP address. Unless you have tons of devices you will not run out of addresses. I have seen routers that don’t let you reserve all IP addresses so that the devices get the same IP address when powered on and that may be important for automations you build. Some routers only let you have 16 or 32 reservations. Just be aware of that.

Going back to Zwave, I use the SmartThings system in my Seattle office just to handle a few sensors and some lights. It's such a simple system that I just didn’t need much. I knew it was reliable plus I had some spare hardware. Its programmability is too limited for anything but the simplest systems.

In my own home, while it is a bit of a “geeky” system (read: not at all user friendly), I like Hubitat more and more. It supports Alexa / Google Assistant without any (as of now) monthly subscription. And while the “rules machine” is hateful in comparison to the HCA visual programmer, it can get the job done. Hubitat doesn’t directly integrate the power line protocols but it has a very active user community so you might find some integrations.

To me the bottom line is always “if it isn’t broken don’t change it” but there are starting to be some real reasons to slowly replace older hardware with newer products. Availability may be the current reason, but increased function like power management and sensors can be compelling.

Do I plan to swap out all my legacy hardware for new soon? Nope. But as things fail, I may not replace like with like. We will just see what things look like over the next months.
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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