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When you start to build your smart home, you eventually reach a point where you want to combine and automate the gear you’ve bought. You could get a hub Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick, but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises. Read More . There are thousands of these on the market, each with their own inherent advantages and disadvantages. Alternatively, you could get a HomeSeer Smart Controller, or “HomeTroller”.

Exploring The HomeSeer World

The basic functionality of the HomeSeer system is that it allows you to automate your various smart home devices, and set conditions upon which they do something. You can combine devices, and you can remotely control them from anywhere in the world.

But wait, I hear you say. Isn’t that basically a smart hub Should You Buy a Smart Hub Now or Wait a Few Years? Should You Buy a Smart Hub Now or Wait a Few Years? Read More ?

Not if HomeSeer can help it. On its website, HomeSeer is adamant it’s not like one of the cloud-based smart hubs that have flooded the market in recent years. HomeSeer’s HomeTrollers are “Internet independent”, and will continue to work if there’s an outage at your ISP. HomeSeer also emphasizes the security benefits from having a system not linked up to a potentially insecure service not controlled by the user.

HomeSeerSmartHubs

There’s another tangible benefit. Earlier this year, Revolv (a smart hub product acquired by Nest in 2013) was discontinued. The cloud servers that powered the hummus-tub-shaped boxes were switched off, leaving the devices utterly useless.

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HomeTrollers are immune to this. Even if HomeSeer goes broke, the controllers will continue to work for as long as the hardware still works. As a result, the case could be made that it’s got way more longevity than any other smart home hub on the market.

One problem with smart hubs in general is that they each support different types of devices. What can HomeSeer’s offering interact with?

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What Can HomeSeer Automate

HomeSeer has an interesting strategy for device and service compatibility. First, there’s the nomenclature used. It calls integrations, “drivers” and “plugins” interchangeably.

The cheapest HomeSeer model only supports five different drivers at the same time, and only those that are built for the Linux version of the HomeSeer platform. The more expensive HomeSeer devices support an unlimited number of drivers, with some built for Windows, and others for Linux.

Furthermore, while many of these drivers are free to download and use, the vast majority are not. Premium drivers are monetized with a kind-of trialware model. They’re free to try for a time-limited period, but after that the user has to cough up money. This is typically around $30 or $40, depending on the driver.

HomeSeerPlugins

This might be unpalatable to some, especially when you’ve gotten used to the broad (and free) device support offered by the likes of Samsung SmartThings and Wink. But it makes sense when you consider that HomeSeer supports a huge number of highly niche protocols and devices.

It would be prohibitively expensive to support these devices for free, but this pricing model means that it’s viable for HomeSeer to serve pretty much everyone.

Most of the mainstream stuff is free. You won’t have to pay to connect HomeSeer with your Z-Wave, Insteon, or Sonos devices. But if you want to connect it to something more exotic, like an Arduino Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More or a DD-WRT router What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router In this article, I'm going to show you some of the coolest features of DD-WRT which, if you decide to make use of, will allow you to transform your own router into the super-router of... Read More , you’ll have to cough up some cash.

In addition, HomeSeer’s HomeTrollers work with IFTTT. This allows you to connect it to other online services, such as weather alerts and other smart home devices not natively supported by the HomeTroller through a driver. It also supports Amazon Echo, allowing you to control and automate your smart home with your voice.

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Looking at the Hardware

What’s fascinating about the line of HomeTrollers available is that on paper they’re essentially fully-fledged computers.

There are five HomeTroller devices currently being sold by the company. The cheapest is the Zee S2, which goes for $199.99. It uses a non-descript 900Mhz quad-core CPU (probably ARM or Intel Atom, but I couldn’t find anything online to confirm either way), and has 1GB of RAM.

HomeSeerS2

But as your budget increases, so too does the power of the controllers, to the point where they’re virtually indistinguishable from low-end PCs.

The HomeTroller SEL and SEL Pro ($399.95 and $699.95 respectively) both come with a 1.58 GHz dual-core Celeron CPU. The cheapest model has 2GB of RAM, while the more expensive one has 4GB.

HomeSeerSEL

The crème de la crème of the HomeTroller linup is the SES 6 and SES 6 Pro. These are rather expensive, costing $899.95 and $1,195.95. These come with a 1.80 GHz Celeron CPU, and 2 GB and 4GB of RAM respectively. The extra “oomph” is probably necessary, given they run Windows 7 Embedded.

HomeSeerS6

In addition, they come with all the usual ports you might expect on a standard computer, including VGA and DVI (depending on the model), HDMI, and audio jacks.

The decision to use off-the-shelf PC hardware rather than a custom single-board, ARM-powered setup will perplex many. Smart home hubs are typically designed to use the least electricity possible, and use the most austere hardware possible while still running smoothly. The HomeTrollers tear up these conventions.

But to me, it makes lots of sense. HomeSeer isn’t a hub. It doesn’t rely on a cloud server to do the hard work. It does all its own calculations, scheduling, and processing locally. This requires more capable hardware.

Support and Customization

HomeSeer is unabashedly aimed at the higher-end of the market, both in terms of price, and in technical ability. Rather than one of the consumer-oriented, off-the-shelf app-based smartphone hubs, setting up a HomeSeer system requires a little more thought.

Thankfully, HomeSeer has a thriving online community. It also regularly holds webinars, which are published to its official YouTube channel.

Unlike many of the off-the-shelf smart home hubs, HomeSeer lets users create their own custom app experiences through the HSTouch Designer.

This will undoubtedly be attractive for any company using HomeSeer to create custom smart homes, as it will allow them to introduce their own branding into the app experience. However, HSTouch Designer costs $199.99, and thus is completely unaffordable for most regular users.

The Not-Quite-A-Smart-Hub You’ll Crave

If you’re looking for a versatile and robust system to automate your various smart home devices, the HomeSeer is for you. Sure, it’s a little bit more complicated than some of the off-the-shelf offerings on the market right now. It’s also a little bit more expensive.

But you get what you pay for. HomeSeer is powerful. It allows you to make it how you want. Since it’s not contingent upon the cloud, it will work when your Internet goes down, and you don’t have to worry about someone discontinuing the cloud servers, as Nest did with Revolv.

To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Have you used HomeSeer before? What do you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

  1. James
    November 5, 2016 at 4:42 am

    I've been using HomeSeer for about 15 years. I think HomeSeer is just awful. But it's also still the best out there. I guess that just speaks to the immaturity of the home automation market. HS was written by engineers for engineers. It's for serious tinkerers - not the mainstream.

    Someday the big boys (Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon), with their teams of UX specialists and complementary services, will have a more complete, meaningful, and easier solution. But that's still a couple years off. So if you're a nerdy tinkerer who likes to get their hands dirty, by all means, buy HS (I have zero regrets!). But if you're not the patient, tinkering type, wait. There's simply not a lot of practical benefit from home automation yet. It's still a whole lot of "that's awesome" rather than "that's useful". Oh, and also a whole lot of "that's not working like I expected... hmmmm..."

  2. pert
    September 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    It is one of the best smart home automation system. I am using HomeSeer Home Troller Zee S2 Home controller which has power hardware and supports complex automations

  3. Steve Hill
    July 20, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I've been using HomeSeer for 17 years, so in addition to all the other differences you covered between HS and their competitors, they also have a long history doing this that most new "smart hubs" can't come close to claiming!

    • Matthew Hughes
      July 27, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      You are right. It is one of the most established smart home products around.

  4. fcd76218
    July 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    "This is typically around $30 or $40, depending on the driver."
    Is this a one time payment or does the user have to pay every time a new version of the driver(s) are released?

    I assume HomeSeer should be connected to a UPS to ensure 24/7365 operation?

    "The extra “oomph” is probably necessary, given they run Windows 7 Embedded."
    Because they run Win 7, are HoneSeers liable to all the foibles of Windows O/S?
    Does Microsoft issue Win 7 Embedded updates?
    Is Microsoft going to force the HomeSeer users to "upgrade" to Win 10, either by nagging them to death or by a stealth, middle-of-the-night upgrade?

    • Matthew Hughes
      July 27, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      I don't know. I would assume not, but I could be wrong.

      As for the UPS question, the answer is "if you want".

      As for the Windows 7 Embedded question, there isn't really a logical successor to it, so I doubt Microsoft will force an upgrade.

    • RS
      August 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      I've been using HomeSeer for the past year, after losing my mind with SmartThings and Wink. I'm running HomeSeer on Windows 10 on an old box I had lying around, using the free upgrade from Windows 8 that came with it to Windows 10. I've had to restart that box maybe twice in the past year, neither time due to HomeSeer.

      Plugins have a once-off cost, I've not yet had to pay again for a plugin update, but I believe in the move from HomeSeer 2 to HomeSeer 3 there were some plugins that provided free updates, and some that charged an upgrade fee. Still, I'd consider that unusual, and worthwhile for a major upgrade. Consider that they launched HS1 in 1999, HS2 in 2005, and HS3 in 2013, so any software upgrade cost is like several years away.

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