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Smart Homes, Home Security, and Privacy questions

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Hello my fellow tech enthusiasts,

I recently moved into a new home and I am exploring smart home and home security options. I can't find any old threads or a specific sub forum that fits this topic, so I will ask my questions here.

I have shopped around a bit and read various reviews. I am still uncertain which choices to make, so any advice would be appreciated. I also am concerned about privacy.

Smart Home/Thermostat:
My power company offers a $75 rebate on most smart thermostats, which is a substantial discount for a $110-$220 product. It seems like all smart thermostats try to be the hub for a smart home setup. I looked up common ifttt configurations and none of them interest me. My home heating system is currently really simple, making the advanced smart thermostat features useless. I do like seeing the home temperature data they show. I am a bit of a data geek. I think given my current situation , buying the cheapest smart thermostat that my power company will provide a rebate for would be sufficient. I could be spending as little as $45 with tax on a smart thermostat.
QUESTIONS: What are your experiences with smart thermostats? Do you recommend a specific brand? Do you know of any cool ifttt or other smart home configurations?

Home Security:
I now live in a neighborhood where having cameras would be preferable. Two outdoor cameras, one at each entrance, should be sufficient. I was thinking a video doorbell and a camera above the backdoor would work well. Ring seems to be most popular brand, but Blue by Adt seems to be a good contender. Both of these options have the possibility of connecting with a smart thermostats to create a whole smart home ecosystem.
Questions: what do you think about video doorbells? Which brand do you prefer? Is there another home security options that I should consider?

Privacy:
I am concerned about privacy. I don't like the amount of data Google, Amazon, and others collect on me but it has become really hard to avoid these services. I feel like smart home devices would be another step deeper into the rabbit hole.
Question: What are your thoughts on privacy and smart home devices?
 

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am concerned about privacy. I don't like the amount of data Google, Amazon, and others collect on me but it has become really hard to avoid these services. I feel like smart home devices would be another step deeper into the rabbit hole.
Question: What are your thoughts on privacy and smart home devices?
Then definitely avoid Ring then
 

Regeneration

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Don't know about smart home.

But when it comes to security cameras:

If you worry about privacy, make sure to pick a DVR that doesn't phone home.

Additional security option: American Pitbull OR Dogo Argentino OR Bullmastiff if you have little kids.
 
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My home heating system is currently really simple, making the advanced smart thermostat features useless.
That is not what smart thermostats are about. I really don't see their point unless everyone in the household is on the same schedule and that schedule is consistent. If you have people coming and going at different times throughout the day, a smart thermostat will not help. If everyone wakes up about the same time, leaves about the same time, returns home about the same time, and goes to bed about the same time, then a smart thermostat might be a good idea. But then a much less expensive "programmable" thermostat can serve the same purpose and save just as much money in energy costs.

One big advantage to a smart thermostat is you can access and control it with your smart phone from anywhere around the world. But then so can a bad guy - if your security is lax. I think that is a really cool feature that would quickly become ho-hum after the newness wore off. I mean if you have already programmed it, how often are you going to need to access it remotely to turn up the heat or down the AC?

Now if you have a sophisticated, zone HVAC in your home, a smart thermostat that can make sense when you enter and leave a room/zone and then adjust the temperature in that zone accordingly can be nice. But only if you have one or two people. If you there are several moving about the house, staying in a particular zone for just a few minutes here and there, it can end up costing you more. Why heat up or cool down an entire zone if you are only in it for 10 minutes? And to that, not sure I want any "smart" devices monitoring my every movement in my own home. I note those systems work in various ways - through GPS, geofencing, RFID, motion detectors, thermo-sensing, etc. Between the "floaters" in my eyes, and other "ghostly" creaks and cracks my 60 year old house makes all the time, I really don't need a bunch of electronic devices (and potential hackers behind them) watch me too!

Yeah, for data freaks, a smart thermostat can be informative, but so can the monthly utility bill. There are also stand-alone and affordable HVAC monitoring systems for home use - such as those offered by Eyedro.

IMO, if you are concerned about privacy (and I note you mentioned that twice!), having as few smart devices as possible is the only way to go.

If you have any windows that a bad guy can climb through without a ladder or without a buddy hoisting him, you will need a camera covering that area too.

Many "smart" security systems record to "the cloud" and can be accessed through your home network or some via cell systems. These can be costly. And note you need enough storage capacity to cover at least the total number of days you might possibly be gone. So if you might take a two week vacation, you want at least two weeks of video storage space.

The higher the resolution, the more clear the image - but the more disk space you will need - times the number of camera.

Don't forget battery backup.
 

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Then definitely avoid Ring then
Home security and "Ring" well lets review that

Home Security

and "Ring"

See what i done ( they should never be in the same conversation or sentence)
 
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Having worked with this stuff for a few years, I'm not even sure what to recommend as so many of these companies have come and gone in a very short period of time.

How adept are you at scripting? As that opens up some options in terms of a gateway.
Why am I suggesting a gateway? Because you can then have a device in your home that you control and that you can connect to remotely over a VPN, assuming you want to set one up at home if you don't already have one.

One option would be Samsung Smartthings, but imho it's pretty crap, although the latest version should be better.
Another option would be Vera https://getvera.com/
Their hardware is a bit antiquated compared to the competition, but they have a lot of 3rd party support.
It looks like they've gotten around to updating their app to something that looks usable, unlike their past efforts, but still far from great.

If you're more into taking the DIY route, this might be an option.
Alternatively https://www.openhab.org/
or https://www.home-assistant.io/
might be worth a look.

Outside of network based IP devices, for home, Z-Wave is the easiest to use, but you might want to consider ZigBee for lighting as there are far more products using ZigBee for lighting, that's assuming you go with smart bulbs instead of smart switches if this is something you want.

You can get a combined ZigBee and Z-Wave USB stick if you go down the DIY route

As for thermostats, not something I've really used, but I have played with a few, since we added support for them. Make sure you get one that's compatible with your HVAC system, as there are some differences here and not all systems work the same.

For cameras, don't buy the cheap Chinese crap, too many security holes, but I would also avoid D-Link, as they have a bunch of OEM/ODM partners that make their hardware for them and they have little control over the whole production. On top of that, D-Link's software is outright terrible.
Wyze are supposed to be ok for the price, but I don't have any experience with them.
 
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Install some dummy cameras up high as a deterrent, and get a good DVR with small hidden cameras mounted low at entry points, as scum will wear a hoodie or cap and look down to avoid obvious cameras.
 
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I use Reolink Indoor/Outdoor Day/Night Wireless battery powered self contained storage 1080p camera's with 2-way communication.
You can even buy them with a solar panel and literally never have to do anything other than have a camera..
They even have a 3g/4g/LTE version(s)..
Network camera's of any kind are sweeeeet
But most suck with Roku...So Android, IOS or FireTV
 

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I have a Nest Thermostat-E and keep it off the network except a few days a year for it to get updates. Sadly, that means I can't interact nor track with it much because it's exclusively cloud-based. It is not running a local web server so you can't interact with it at all directly over the LAN.

I basically set it and forget it. It's sensing so if no one walks by it, it automatically eco-modes itself to save power.

Thermostats (all kinds) require taking the old one off the wall and checking what wires you have to work with to find out what will and won't work.

FYI, I thought I qualified for a rebate from my power company on the Thermostat-E but I did not because the rebate is only available to customers with gas heating. I'm all electric. Read that fine print!

Question: What are your thoughts on privacy and smart home devices?
The Thermostat-E, offline 99.9% of the time, is all I'm willing to tolerate because the power savings are real. It's not even associated with a Google/Nest account so there's no way to remote in to it in the few hours it's online.
 
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Smart thermostats are fantastic, I own an Ecobee 3 light. As far as privacy goes, I'm not sure why anyone cares what temperature I keep my house at. I don't care if they know what my thermostat schedule is. If you know I have regular job, you can easily assume I will have a fairly regular schedule with regards to my thermostat settings. As far as security goes, I've been considering putting devices like that on their own Wi-Fi network separated from the PCs and such. Then the worst case if some hacks in, they could crank my heat or turn it off without my approval. I'll take my chances for the convenience of turning the heat down from my smart phone or glancing at the today's weather as I walk by my thermostat in the morning.
 
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A little more information to go with the OP. I live alone with a semi predictable schedule. I have gas heating and no AC.

I have a Nest Thermostat-E and keep it off the network except a few days a year for it to get updates. Sadly, that means I can't interact nor track with it much because it's exclusively cloud-based. It is not running a local web server so you can't interact with it at all directly over the LAN.

I basically set it and forget it. It's sensing so if no one walks by it, it automatically eco-modes itself to save power.

Thermostats (all kinds) require taking the old one off the wall and checking what wires you have to work with to find out what will and won't work.

FYI, I thought I qualified for a rebate from my power company on the Thermostat-E but I did not because the rebate is only available to customers with gas heating. I'm all electric. Read that fine print!


The Thermostat-E, offline 99.9% of the time, is all I'm willing to tolerate because the power savings are real. It's not even associated with a Google/Nest account so there's no way to remote in to it in the few hours it's online.
I am on gas heating, but another company provides the gas, so I may not even qualify for the rebate. I am not sure if it worthwhile without the rebate. What kind of power savings are you seeing? The EPA says that you can save $180 a year.

I use Reolink Indoor/Outdoor Day/Night Wireless battery powered self contained storage 1080p camera's with 2-way communication.
You can even buy them with a solar panel and literally never have to do anything other than have a camera..
They even have a 3g/4g/LTE version(s)..
Network camera's of any kind are sweeeeet
But most suck with Roku...So Android, IOS or FireTV
How much did this setup cost? Where do your camera's record to?

Then definitely avoid Ring then
I definitely won't touch ring then.
 
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How much did this setup cost? Where do your camera's record to?
They are $65 a camera, $120 for 2..If you buy the solar panel with the camera it's $15 more...$25 if decide to get it after.
They take up to a 64gb SD card and you get 7 days of incident uploads..recycles every 7 days..
I spent $300 for 4 cameras 2 solar panels and 4-64gb SD cards
 
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They are $65 a camera, $120 for 2..If you buy the solar panel with the camera it's $15 more...$25 if decide to get it after.
They take up to a 64gb SD card and you get 7 days of incident uploads..recycles every 7 days..
I spent $300 for 4 cameras 2 solar panels and 4-64gb SD cards
Reolink may be a Chinese product but they seem to have decent hardware. It looks like I can fully turn off external sharing, making it local only. I may even be able to save more than 64gb by leveraging my 8tb file server.
 
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Additional security option: American Pitbull OR Dogo Argentino OR Bullmastiff if you have little kids.
I recommend a giant toad that eats people, but that's just me.
 
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I am on gas heating, but another company provides the gas, so I may not even qualify for the rebate. I am not sure if it worthwhile without the rebate. What kind of power savings are you seeing? The EPA says that you can save $180 a year.
Probably accurate but only if you're willing to let the temperature go relatively high in summer and relatively low in winter. Mine is set to: 64-76F (night), 67-77F (day). When I'm the only one home (eco) it is set for 50-85F. That's when you get serious money savings. I'll heat the room I'm in with an electric heater over running the furnaces and keeping the whole house warm. 50F is mostly so things don't freeze and 85F is so butter doesn't become a puddle (deforms to a /\ kind of shape though).

It automatically ecos itself if it doesn't detect movement past it for I think 4 hours.

The drop to 76F at night is to force the AC to run enough to dehumidify so people can sleep. Dry 77F is nice but wet 74F is hot. There's a lot of wet 74F right now because it hasn't gotten hot enough to trigger the AC yet to dry it out. Of course someone could *make* it run but that's monies.
 
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@R-T-B To be fair, I thought their post was fairly low quality compared to other high quality comments I have received. Linking a generic amazon page and recommending a dog is so very helpful :ohwell:
 
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@R-T-B To be fair, I thought his post was fairly low quality compared to other high quality comments I have received. Linking a generic amazon page and recommending a dog is so very helpful :ohwell:
I don't have much to add though as I avoid smarthome stuff, so unfortunately, I'll be seeing myself out.
 
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Question: What are your thoughts on privacy and smart home devices?
As a general rule I don't trust anything "Smart Home" related. Manufacturers offer the user so very little in the way of actual fine-grained controls that you just can not trust them at all. I have a Refrigerator with "Smart" features, but the Wifi is completely disabled so it does nothing.
 
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As a general rule I don't trust anything "Smart Home" related. Manufacturers offer the user so very little in the way of actual fine-grained controls that you just can not trust them at all. I have a Refrigerator with "Smart" features, but the Wifi is completely disabled so it does nothing.
I agree. Not sure why you would need a "smart" home. Why would you connect all that stuff to the Internet, potentially inviting malware? Heating and cooling are smart enough already. You put it where you want, it meets the conditions you set.
 
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As far as privacy goes, I'm not sure why anyone cares what temperature I keep my house at. I don't care if they know what my thermostat schedule is
First, they don't care what your thermostat schedule is, but they might care what your schedule. They might be able to determine what time everyone heads off to work or school every day, leaving home ready to break into. Also, some of those bad guys are really clever and because many IoT [so called] smart devices have been known to have very poor security features (and/or lazy and/or less savvy users who fail to setup security), the worry is bad guys may be able to hack your network (and main computers, or cloud accounts) through some of these devices.
 
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As a general rule I don't trust anything "Smart Home" related. Manufacturers offer the user so very little in the way of actual fine-grained controls that you just can not trust them at all. I have a Refrigerator with "Smart" features, but the Wifi is completely disabled so it does nothing.
Ok I lied, I do have something to add:

I had a vizio family tv in the family room I was looking to use as a monitor in a pinch. Reviews online said it supported chroma 444, but it turns out after setting it up, it did not any longer do so. They had removed that in a firmware "update" some 6 months ago that auto installed. Reviews are of course completely unaware of this.

Yeah, that's my IoT experience. Patching features out to make way for next years model: it's happened.
 
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After just buying a new home myself, i am wanting to do the same thing as well. I am going to try to keep things as internal as possible with controlling of the system etc. I do know that i will use POE cameras, so they will be tied to my network via Ethernet/plenum Ethernet cat 5e/cat 6 etc. As far as a security system there is one already installed in the house that is network accessible so that shouldn’t be a issue hopefully. The the rest will be backed up with a 12 gauge with a nasty temper...:D
 
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After just buying a new home myself, i am wanting to do the same thing as well. I am going to try to keep things as internal as possible with controlling of the system etc. I do know that i will use POE cameras, so they will be tied to my network via Ethernet/plenum Ethernet cat 5e/cat 6 etc. As far as a security system there is one already installed in the house that is network accessible so that shouldn’t be a issue hopefully. The the rest will be backed up with a 12 gauge with a nasty temper...:D
If it's a new cable installation, put in Cat 6A everywhere, at least if you're planning on living there for a while, since then you're ready all the way up to 10Gbps.
For the cameras, maybe consider something made in Taiwan? At least they tend to be a step up from Chinese kit, even though neither nation is what I'd call great when it comes to software.
 
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