HomeSeer Review: High-Tech System for a High Price

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    Although not a household name, HomeSeer is one of the top home automation systems on the market, and it holds the number-two spot on our best home automation systems list. HomeSeer’s wide range of compatible products and technologies is unparalleled, and its high-tech controllers and software are extremely reliable. The sophisticated technology means the equipment is more technical and more expensive than most other home automation hubs.

    However, if you want to create your own DIY home automation system that’s more than just a plug-and-play system, HomeSeer is an excellent place to start—read on to find out why.

    • Pro BulletIntegrates with a wide range of home automation products, including lighting, door locks, thermostats, environmental sensors, security systems, cameras, audio/visual, and outdoor systems
    • Pro BulletSupports multiple protocols, including Z-Wave, Zigbee, Insteon, X10, UPB
    • Pro BulletFeatures free Android or iOS app to let you control and monitor your system
    • Pro BulletIs fully customizable through HSTouch Designer software
    • Pro BulletHas an IFTTT channel
    • Pro BulletHas Amazon Echo voice integration
    • Con BulletCosts more than competitors for controllers, software, and plug-ins
    • Con BulletRequires you to purchase home automation products separately
    • Con BulletHas only a one-year warranty for all hardware
    • Con BulletCan be difficult to set up—not a plug-and-play system

    Tech specs

    • Warranty: 1 year for all hardware
    • Trial period: 30 days for all software
    • HSTouch app: Android and iOS

    HomeSeer overview: High-tech and highly compatible

    Like other home automation systems, the HomeSeer system revolves around a central controller (or hub) containing HomeSeer software. Unlike other systems, however, HomeSeer systems do not include any individual products like lights, sensors, or locks. However, the HomeSeer software or controller lets you add virtually any home automation product you want—that’s not something other home automation companies offer, and it sets HomeSeer apart from the competition.

    Unlike other home automation hubs, each HomeSeer controller is internet-independent, meaning it will keep working if the Wi-Fi goes down. All the information about your products and the automated programs you create are stored on the controller itself rather than in the cloud, making your home automation system faster, more reliable, and more secure. Plus, you can access your home remotely—the free HSTouch app (for Android and iOS) works with your HomeSeer system to let you manage your home automation products and programs from your phone. You can purchase the HomeSeer software separately and install it on a home computer to save on the cost of a controller. There are two versions of the software: HS3 and HS3PRO (discussed in detail below). Both versions come with a 30-day trial, so we highly recommend giving them a try before committing to such a significant purchase. However, if you don’t have an always-on computer that your home automation system can run on continuously, a controller will make more sense for you. While impressively compatible and reliable, the HomeSeer software is more technical than most other systems, making it the best fit for tech-savvy individuals. If you are looking for a system you can just plug in and run or if you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with terms like plug-ins, drivers, and firmware, this may not be the best system for you.

    More technological compatibility than any other company

    HomeSeer supports a wide range of frequencies and protocols, which is how it can integrate with such a huge number of home automation products. The supported technologies include the following:

    • Z-Wave
    • Zigbee
    • Insteon
    • X10
    • UPB
    • A10

    Several of these plug-ins are included with the software, but there are many more that have to be added individually depending on the products you have. Some additional drivers are free, but the rest range in price from $18.95 to $59.95. Other products, including Nest products, require third-party plug-ins that HomeSeer does not control or price. While HomeSeer’s included drivers will cover the majority of home automation products, your up-front cost will go up if you need specialized plug-ins.

    Unlimited product integration

    Unlike most home automation companies, HomeSeer produces very few of its own home automation products. That means you’ll have to purchase them separately, adding to the cost of the controller and additional software. The downside to this is, of course, that the entire system will get pricey very quickly as you add home automation products piece by piece rather than in a bundle or with a hub, like other home automation companies offer.

    However, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t add to your home—HomeSeer is compatible with more brands and products than any other system we’ve seen. The types of products that HomeSeer manages is extensive:

    • Lighting (including Lutron, Philips Hue, Belkin Wemo, and LIFX)
    • Thermostats (including Nest, ecobee, and Honeywell)
    • Door locks (including Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale)
    • Garage door sensors
    • Cameras
    • Environmental sensors
    • Power outlets
    • Water monitoring
    • Energy management
    • Audio/visual/media/gaming systems (including Wiimote, Kinect, iTunes, DIRECTV, and Sonos)
    • Security systems
    • Voice control (including Amazon Alexa and Google Home)
    • Occupancy
    • Automobile
    • Fitness (including Fitbit)
    • Outdoor systems (including sprinklers and pool)

    Programming made easy: HomeSeer IFTTT channel

    Quite a few of HomeSeer’s compatible products require the dedicated HomeSeer If This, Then That (IFTTT) channel, which we definitely recommend using to make your home automation programming easier. IFTTT allows you to create automated events, or “recipes,” that combine multiple products throughout your home. For example, you could create a recipe that locks the doors, turns off all the lights, and adjusts the thermostat when you leave the house, and another one that does the opposite when you come home. Once these recipes are set up, they run automatically so you don’t have to remember to turn them on or off.

    HomeSeer controllers comparison: Reliable, compatible, powerful

    At the heart of the HomeSeer system is a HomeSeer controller. There are currently three different sizes available (with two versions of the two larger controllers), but all of the HomeSeer controllers are reliable, widely compatible, and powerful.
    • If you want a relatively small, simple home automation system, the HomeTroller Zee S2 should be perfectly sufficient. It connects to only five different Linux-based home automation technologies (e.g., Z-Wave, Zigbee, IFTTT, Nest, and Amazon Alexa) at a time. This means your system will be less robust—especially if you have several products that need third-party plug-ins.
    • If you have a moderately sized home or if you have home automation products that use a wider range of frequencies, the HomeTroller SEL will be better for you. It supports all Linux drivers, which means only a few plug-ins aren’t compatible with this controller.
    • If you have a large home or want to set up a complicated system with hundreds of products spread out across outbuildings, garages, or guest houses, the HomeTroller S6 will be a better fit. It supports all Windows drivers and plug-ins, making it the most compatible and useful of the three controller types. It’s also the most expensive, so be sure to check that you need this upgraded controller before purchasing.
    One thing to keep in mind when choosing a controller is whether you have Z-Wave products. A Z-Wave software driver is included with all HomeSeer controllers. However, only the smallest controller, the HomeTroller Zee S2, has a built-in Z-Wave chip, which is needed to pick up Z-Wave frequencies. With the larger controllers, you’ll need to purchase a Z-Wave interface that plugs directly into the USB drive in your controller or computer. You can find one online or get HomeSeer’s SmartStick+ (see on Amazon). If you have a lot of Z-Wave devices, HomeSeer offers a free mobile app (for Android, Windows, or iOS) called Z-Tool+ that simplifies the process of finding, naming, and adding Z-Wave products to your network. The biggest drawback to the HomeSeer system is the price. While the cost of the controllers is not extravagant compared to average software prices (which is mainly what you pay for), it gets expensive when you factor in the cost of plug-ins, software, and other home automation products. When it comes to choosing a controller, we recommend sticking to only what you need and not upgrading unless you really need to. Take into consideration the types of products you have and where they will be placed in your home, and check out HomeSeer’s full comparison of the three types of controllers and their plug-ins to help you make your decision.

    HomeSeer software comparison: Basic vs. all-in-one functionality

    Whether you purchase a controller or install the software on your computer, you’ll have to decide which version of the HomeSeer software you will need. The main difference is that the HS3 software is less expensive but includes fewer plug-ins, whereas the HS3PRO software includes all plug-ins but costs more than twice as much.

    • The HS3 software can do everything the PRO version can and includes the basic drivers: Z-Wave, Zigbee, Insteon, and X10, as well as the IFTTT plug-in and Amazon Alexa and Google Home compatibility. This should cover most home automation products and processes.
    • The HS3PRO software includes all HomeSeer’s plug-ins, including all future plug-ins, as well as a license for the HS3Touch Designer software (more on that below). If you have products that use a wide range of frequency types or that need third-party plug-ins, the HS3PRO software will make your home setup much easier and potentially less expensive.

    The HS3 software and controllers cost less than the PRO versions unless you need to purchase additional software (like HS3Touch Designer) or plug-ins. If that’s the case, the HS3PRO software may be more cost-effective. Ultimately, it depends on which home automation products you use in your home and how they will integrate with your HomeSeer system.

    HS3Touch Designer

    HS3Touch Designer

      HS3Touch Designer is additional software included with the PRO versions of HomeSeer software and controllers. It allows you to fully customize the look and functionality of your home automation control screens. It’s more than just a choice between colors and buttons—you can choose what you see, how things are organized, what tabs or buttons show up on your main screen, and more. HS3Touch Designer runs on a computer but creates projects that can be used on iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux devices. You can deploy the home automation processes you create with Designer via the home network or remotely via the internet.

      HomeSeer’s own home automation products

      While HomeSeer focuses on the software and controllers, it also offers a handful of home automation products. However, all the products are meant to be used in conjunction with products from other brands. For example, HomeSeer has smart lighting switches, but no lightbulbs or lamps.

      • Lighting: HomeSeer offers a handful of smart lighting products, which, while few in number, have impressive capabilities. There are two outlet styles and three wall dimmer switches. The switches can be programmed to trigger up to six home automation events. For example, you can double-tap the switch to turn on the thermostat and the lights when you come home. Then you can triple-tap to turn them off again when you leave. Prices range from $21.95 to $49.95.
      • Water valve: The HomeSeer water valve works with home automation hubs (not just the HomeSeer controller) or directly with smart water sensors to stop a water leak right away. Instead of just sending you a notification of water in your home, the valve also shuts off the water automatically to stop the leak. Prices range from $239.95 to $279.95.
      • Multi-sensor: The Z-Wave LED multi-sensor detects motion, light levels, and temperature. It can display up to seven different colors to indicate what is happening in your home, like if there’s a water leak, an open door, or someone walking into the room. It plugs into the wall (so it never needs batteries) and acts as a Z-Wave network repeater to extend the Z-Wave signal through your home. Price is $69.95.

      User reviews: People like HomeSeer, once they figure it out

      The customer reviews for HomeSeer products are largely positive and enthusiastic about how well the products work and how powerful and versatile they are. Negative reviews tend to focus on the lack of technical support and the need for a lot of technological know-how to get the system working.

      Positive reviews

      “I thought it was easy to set up and get running, but I am also a very technically literate person. This hub is extremely expandable by purchasing the different interface radios, but the ones that came built into this one were just what I personally needed. It has a lot more devices which are compatible with it than many hubs do. It is also very programmable, including being able to adjust the layout of the app yourself, and you can go as deep into the programming as you would like. The hub and service also remains up and running when your internet goes down too. If you are a technical person, that definitely likes getting into doing a little or a lot of coding or you are looking for a very expandable hub that works with a lot of different devices and protocols, I would definitely recommend this hub for you. If you are looking for a plug-n-play hub, this one may be a little more than you are looking for.” - UMWarEagle on Amazon, April 28, 2016

      “I have tried multiple IOT products including SmartThings, Staples Connect, and Vera Edge, and this one is the best of them when it comes to stability and the ability to fix a problem yourself. I hesitated to buy this because of the price and because of a few bad reviews, but after a few months of ownership I came to the conclusion that the bad reviews I saw were likely user error and not the product. The only problem for me is that the phone app has too many clicks to turn your devices on and off. The system is customizable, so you can make your own interface and less clicks, but I am not technically savvy enough to do this. The best part about this is that it is responsive and it's total local control. Overall, I would recommend, but always get the Pro version with the plugins preinstalled.” - Eric on Amazon, March 2, 2016

      Negative reviews

      “I am still learning. I think they could do a way better job on documentation, especially on the X10 stuff and Z-Wave. You need to experiment a lot. For example, have standard scripts to deal with a simple motion sensor that controls a light and turns it off. How hard does that need to be? You have to do all sorts of crazy stuff just to make that work.” - Paul L. on HomeSeer, February 5, 2017

      “While the HomeSeer HomeTroller Zee S2 does live up to everything that it says it can do, the one thing that nobody tells you is that plugins OTHER than the Z-wave plugin typically cost around $39 per plugin! So if you want the Caddx plugin and the Denon plugin and the Harmony plug in... it starts adding up! While it isn't as expensive as Crestron or Control4 it can definitely be more expensive than Vera or SmartThings. I guess you're paying for quality and experience here because the HomeSeer plugins and Interface control is flexible beyond compare. If you are looking for a quick out of the box solution though, this might not be quite what you're looking for.” - Rex L. on HomeSeer, December 14, 2016

      A powerful, reliable system for a tech-savvy smart home

      We have been continually impressed with HomeSeer’s extensive range of compatible products and technologies, especially considering that it’s a DIY home automation system. Plus, its users report again and again that the system is reliable and powerfully functional

      HomeSeer’s two biggest drawbacks are its higher price and technical complexity compared to other DIY smart home systems. The bottom line is that if you are tech-literate and excited by the prospect of building your own home automation system from the code up, HomeSeer is perfect for you. If you want to create a complex smart home yourself with a wide variety of product types, you really won’t find a better system than HomeSeer. However, if you aren’t confident in your tech skills or if you want a simple, basic home automation system that you can use out of the box, a different DIY system (like Samsung SmartThings or Nest) will be better for you.