Thanks Chris for this great review!
For a few years now I’ve been wanting to get home automation installed in my home. I’ve done a lot of research and received so many different opinions from various websites and people. I decided on the Fibaro Home Center 2. I jumped onto the Zinteldo website, placed my order for the Fibaro Home Center 2 and a few accessories, and the next morning the goods arrived!! From Cape Town to Durban in under 24 hours, I was seriously impressed. Excellent service from Zinteldo! Couldn’t wait to start playing around.
I decided to start off with lighting automation and automating my vacuum. “Your vacuum?!” you say? Well, it’s not your ordinary household vacuum, at least not for South Africa. I have one of those robo-vacuums that can be controlled via a remote control. It really does a good job at picking up dust and all the dog hairs my dogs keep leaving around.
These are the accessories I ordered with the Fibaro Home Center 2 to get started with:
Fibaro Relay Insert 2 X 1.5 kW – This will be used to control two lights switches.
Fibaro Dimmer2 250W Relay – This will be used to control and dim my LED lights in the lounge. I also ordered the Fibaro Dimmer Bypass2 as this will be needed to dim the LED lights without any flickering.
Itach Flex WiFi – This will be used to control my vacuum along with the Itach Blaster Cable. With this Itach unit you can teach Fibaro the IR commands the remote control sends off to the vacuum. For most, this will be used to control your TV, Audio etc. There’s a nice review you can look at here to find out more about this device.
Why the Fibaro and why the Home Center 2
Just have a look at their website and online videos, http://www.fibaro.com, and be inspired. Fibaro is a well known and respected home automation brand and comes recommended by many. Their software and devices are well supported and often release new features and updates.
I decided to get the Fibaro Home Center 2 over the Fibaro Home Center Light because:
Quality: Aluminium casing vs Plastic casing.
Speed: Intel Atom Dual Core 1.6Ghz vs ARM Corex 720 Mhz processor.
Features: Voice control (LiLi) and Lua scripting.
As a programmer, having the ability to control my scenes and virtual devices with custom script is definitely a lot more fun. If you’re not too worried about the integrated voice and lua scripting, then Fibaro Home Center Lite is definitely still a good alternative and is half the price. The software interface is exactly the same, just a few less features.
As soon as I received the Home Center 2, I opened the box and glanced through the manuals. This device was really a breeze to set up. I plugged in the power and network cable (one is included with the device), switched it on, and started configuring my new home automation device. My home router automatically assigned an IP address to the Home Center 2, and the easiest way to find out what IP address was assigned was to use Fibaro’s Finder app. Just open the app, and it will automatically find the Home Center 2. Double clicking on the item on the list will open the Home Center’s web interface. My only concern here is that it did not immediately prompt me to change the default username and password after logging in. I would highly recommend any user to change the default username and password under the “Configuration” panel. After settings up my rooms, I was ready to get started with the devices. This complete installation and configuring of the device and software only took about 15 to 20 minutes.
Installing devices and setting up virtual devices
I went and purchased some electrical wiring and a downlight socket to play around with. You’ll need some additional wiring to install the relay insert switches (actors). I would recommend that you use a professional / electrician to install the actors, but if you have some electrical knowledge, then this is where the DIY part comes in. I rigged up just a single light to test with and proceeded adding my new light under the “Devices” tab in the Home Center 2 panel. This was really easy and worked perfectly from the get-go. I also installed the Fibaro app on my iPhone and iPad and set the light to send me a push notification when turned on or off. This feature is great for motion detectors, leak sensors etc. There is so much more you can do with Scenes and Virtual devices.
Speaking of virtual devices, I created a virtual device for my vacuum. What the virtual device basically is, is a panel with a few buttons you can customise that acts as your remote control. For each button I inserted the IR code that I received from the Itach Flex WiFi device. For example, I have a “Switch On” button and another button with a “Mode” that tells the vacuum what it should be doing. After setting up the virtual device, I created a scene with some lua programming scripting to tell it to 1. Turn on the device, followed by 2. Tell it to start vacuuming. The scene allows me to trigger a number of events and devices. For my vacuum scene I also added a push notification to alert me when the vacuum has started. I can even start the vacuum scene with voice by using a command such as “Release the Kraken!”.
The Fibaro software is great and allows for so much flexibility. Definitely a much nicer interface over some of the other controllers on the market.
Instructions and manuals for all of Fibaro’s controllers, actors and sensors can be foundhere. They really have gone all out with instruction videos, tips and more. I’m not an electrician, but with a bit of reading up and playing around, it was easy to get set up. Keep in mind that you’re also not limited to the Fibaro brand when it comes to sensors and actors, there are a lot of other brands that also work with Fibaro.
Apple’s new Home app on IOS 10 and Fibaro
IOS 10 came out the other day and comes with a new app called “Home” which is integrated in the new OS. Having heard that Siri can now control your home automation devices, I had to give this a go and try it out. Although there is no official support yet for Fibaro and the Home app, there are some clever guys out there who made bridging software between the two platforms. The bridging software basically allows the Home app to pick up the Fibaro Home Center 2 device and it’s accessories. So having already set up my light, the Home app automatically picked it up my Home Center and my light. There was nothing special to do to get Siri to control my device as it’s all part of the new Home app. I just spoke the words “Hey Siri, turn on my office light” and voila! The magic happened! This put a huge smile on my face and love the fact that I can control my devices with Siri. Next up I want to get hold of Amazon’s Echo and give that a spin.
As far as I know the homebridge software only works with the Home Center 2 and not the Lite. You can find more information and details here:https://www.npmjs.com/package/homebridge-fibaro-hc2. Definitely a lot of fun to play around with once you get the hang of it.
The Fibaro Home Center 2 is great and a purchase I definitely don’t regret and sure that you won’t either. Although a bit on the pricey side, keep in mind that this will be the “brain” of your home automation setup. Whether you want to control your lights, irrigation, garage doors, doorbell, TV, aircons and more, Fibaro can do it all. The Home Center 2 is well built, modern look and feel, doesn’t feel cheap and their software is fantastic and very user friendly. Going with either the Fibaro Home Center 2 or the Fibaro Home Center Lite, either way going with Fibaro is a great choice.