Reflections on a Year with HomeKit – TidBITS

Reflections on a Year with HomeKit – TidBITS

Last year, I added more devices to our HomeKit setup with the Meross Smart WiFi Plug Mini outlets (as cheap as $10 each at Amazon, with a $5-off coupon if you click a checkbox), a Velux gateway for controlling some shades, and some Flic 2 buttons (see “HomeKit for the Holidays (And Home Troubleshooting Tips),” 15 January 2021). Since then, I’ve spent quite a few weekend hours replacing 16 light switches for our in-ceiling and track lighting with either Meross’s Smart WiFi Single Pole Switches (about $21 at Amazon, with a $3-off coupon) or Smart WiFi 3 Way Switches (about $25 at Amazon, with a $5-off coupon). When buying anything from Meross, be sure to get the HomeKit versions since the company also has versions that aren’t HomeKit-compatible.

I won’t pretend that this was easy or for the faint of heart. Having grown up on a farm and watched my parents build their house, I’m pretty comfortable with tools and wiring and whatnot, but I’ve only dabbled with electrical work. Figuring out exactly how the switches were wired required experimentation in our somewhat interpretive circuit breaker box, a lot of staring at the cables in the switch boxes, reading Josh Centers’s Take Control of Apple Home Automation, and consulting Internet explanations that never looked like my wires. And while it’s easy to remove a switch, my old switches were smaller and had fewer wires than the Meross switches, so I always had to figure out how to integrate the extra ground and neutral wires into the thick bundles of copper in the switch box. I got good at cutting out crimp sleeves, stripping insulation, and putting it all back together with electrical wire nuts. The hardest part was getting everything to fit back into the box at the end.

But oh, was it worth it! We now have five HomeKit “rooms” of lights that we can control individually, together, and via scenes and automations. Because I put the effort into the switches rather than the smart light bulbs, it’s still easy to control all the lights from physical switches, ensuring that anyone who visits won’t be confused or find themselves incapable of controlling the lights. We direct most of our commands to a HomePod—we have original HomePods in the bedroom and dining room, and Tonya has a HomePod mini in her office—but of course, an Apple Watch or iPhone is also always ready to help.

For us, controlling lights via Siri has become the standard. It’s not always successful—at times, talking to Siri is like giving directions to a toddler. Siri sometimes interprets “Turn on the wall lights” as “Turn on all lights,” which is a bit shocking, as every light in the house goes on. It took us a few tries to come up with unique names that made sense to us and didn’t confuse Siri. Plus, we have to be careful about how we speak: “It’s time to eat dinner” generates restaurant recommendations from the HomePod, whereas “It’s time for dinner” adjusts the lighting so we can eat.

Let me explain what we’ve done. If you’ve been on the fence about home automation—I was for many years …….


Home Automation