I’ve been a pretty loyal HomeSeer user for the last 17 years or so, ever since I got into Home Automation. While there are plenty of pros and cons about it, mainly because it’s paid and everyone wants free beer, that’s not what this is about. I’ll touch on that later. One of the things I like about it so much isn’t even part of the software itself. It’s the user forums. The HomeSeer forums are for user to user support (the devs are also somewhat active there as well and monitor it) and it is one of the oldest home automation forums currently online. Over the years the support from the company has been hit and miss for me but I can almost always find the answers to what I need in the forums.
Anyway, here are a few things you can do with HomeSeer.
- Voice Control – While there is a skill for Alexa (which I use extensively now and love it) Homeseer has this baked in and I’ve been using it for a long time. No need to worry if the CIA is listening in because it’s all local. I have found (at least with the hardware that I currently have) that if you have a decent microphone array the voice recognition works very well. It’s only so-so with regular PC microphones. Using plugins and scripts you can have it function as your own Jarvis with custom responses.
- IFTTT support – Even though I prefer to make sure that everything important is 100% local control I like being able to tie IFTTT in with my system. Like Alexa, it adds a lot of value to my system. I also use a few Hue lights and Wemo devices (my coffee maker has Wemo built in) and even though it’s easy to add them in to my Alexa I also like to have my home automation system keep track of an control things. TV show ready to download? Turn my desk lamp red and sends me a text (this can be done without IFTTT actually but that’s what I am using it for.) Last person leaves the house (tracked with the life360 app)…turn down the heat and make sure the doors are locked. I have started using the MQTT protocol as well and am in the process of removing IFTTT from stuff like this.
- Cameras! – I am a nut about this and have been since my oldest daughter hit her teenage years. Currently I have about ten or eleven feeds going and a couple more cameras installed. With security cameras you have several choices. Spend a ton of money on a system with compatible cameras or be like me…get whatever is on sale on eBay. Homeseer, using the HSTouch plugin has support for Foscam right out of the box but I chose a more complicated solution. I have seven hardwired cameras all connected to an old Samsung DVR. It’s a Walmart piece of crap basically, at least the software is. I also have two Foscams and a couple of webcams up and running. Everything is password protected. The thing about each of them is that they all have a feed. Rather than using a separate app on my phone to view them I use the Blue Iris software to pull all the feeds into one central place. I can view them all via web browser, the desktop software or the Android app. There is also a Blue Iris plugin for Homeseer. It allows me to have the cameras double as motion detectors to switch on lights, send me notifications, etc. I can also use my actual motion detectors and door/window sensors to tell Blue Iris to start/stop recording, send notifications to my phone and more.
- Media control – I am currently using HomeSeer and several Globalcache IR controllers to operate my televisions and dumb audio receivers. Yeah, just as easy to use a remote but I can tell HomeSeer (or, more often than not) to “turn on FireTV” and it switches on my television and change the HDMI input to FireTV, If I say “turn on movie time it does the same but dims my lights and turns on the LED strip backlighting that’s behind the TV
- Tell us if someone is at the door – I really like the idea of the Ring video doorbell and things of that ilk and while I will probably pony up the cash eventually to get one I am currently using a combination of Blue Iris and a camera and motion detectors to achieve the same results. I haven’t really been interested in adding it in but I also have a Chromecast hooked to a set of speakers on the front porch so the wife can listen to music out there and I could add in a message for visitors if I really wanted to. “Get off my fucking lawn!” I also have a Z-wave device hooked to the doorbell so that when someone rings it several lights flash and Homeseer hollers “someone is ringing the doorbell”. I think everyone in my house is deaf so this has come in handy with the pizza delivery and UPS several times.
- Control the thermostat – I looked at Ecobee and Nest when my thermostat finally crapped out last year and ended up opting for a Honeywell Z-Wave thermostat. Not only is it cheaper but being Z-Wave I am able to control it with Homeseer. It offers me the ability to control with Alexa but I also set the schedules from my HA system. Not only that but if someone has left a window open it will turn off the air (or heat) and tell everyone that a window is open, please shut all the windows and try again. I control the temp based on the time of year, time of day, occupancy in the house as well as the local temperature. Yes, you can use IFTTT and Nest (for instance) to do the same thing, but I prefer to be able to use the local temperature from the weather station on my back deck rather than the temp from a general area. It never matches the temp at my house anyway. Internet down? Some asshat hit the wrong key over at Amazon? Doesn’t matter. Thermostats are system critical and should never be trusted to the cloud.
- Tell me when the laundry is finished – This is a big win. My washing machine is plugged into a Z-Wave appliance module that monitors the energy usage so I know when it’s finished running and a couple of computers tell us when it’s complete and a couple of lights flash. I am looking forward to Amazon adding in the ability to push notifications as this will be one of the first things I add to it. I don’t currently have my dryer hooked up but it’s on the list.
- Monitoring of STUFF! – Just about anything can be monitored using plugins or scripts and events. Power usage, Internet usage, lights, doors, windows, RSS feeds, web sites, occupancy, the list is endless. I use a combination of text messages and emails to notify me of different stuff around the house.
- Actually turn stuff OFF – Most modern appliances such as televisions, receivers, computer gear never really turn off. Even when you turn them off they still continue to draw a minuscule amount of power. If you really want to be green just add an appliance module and have them completely cut off. The cents start to add up over a period of time.
- Control TV/Internet usage. Back when my son was in high school and still living with us everything on my network was hard wired (no wifi.) He tended to stay up late playing Soldier of Fortune and probably surfing porn sites. I had his network connection run through a switch and Homeseer automatically cut him off when the timer ran out. The same thing could be applied to televisions. Plug it into an appliance module and set a certain number of minutes per day usage. Overrides can also be added in so that you don’t get inadvertently cut off in the middle of binging on the Walking Dead.
There are a lot of other things NOT on this list and some pretty amazing things I’ve seen/heard people do. Control of holiday lighting (damn, I still need to get those icicles off my front porch), starting your vehicle, intercoms, weather reports and news, automatic animal feeding, etc. You also get what you pay for. I’ve seen quite a few different home automation systems and hubs come and go over the years, particularly in the last five to ten, but Homeseer is still here for me. Staples Connect? Dead and discontinued. Revolv? Nest purchased them and shut it down. If you were customers that purchased either of these in the last couple of years you are shit out of luck. Homeseer was originally designed to work on Windows but now it also runs on Linux and the Raspberry Pi.