Monday, July 25, 2016

Smart Home Adventures: Setting Up the August Smart Lock, Doorbell Cam & Keypad

Jessi & I recently moved and I'm on a quest to make our house the smartest on the block. And since I'm living the Apple dream, I'm trying to make as many things HomeKit enabled as possible.

The process, it turns out, hasn't been as seamless as I'd like and so I thought I'd share some of my adventures for the benefit of others.

I'd like to start with the August Smart Lock.

August Smart Lock

After installing the August lock I took my house key off my key ring and it's awesome. I can lock and unlock the door with their app. And since my phone is with me, when I approach the front door, it unlocks automatically. Sweet!

I also got their doorbell cam and keypad. The doorbell cam, besides having a camera and 2-way audio (them through the doorbell, me through my phone... anywhere in the world), it allowed me to set up HomeKit. So I can ask Siri to lock the door for me (see the video below).

When I'm walking out, the easiest thing to do is to push the bottom button on my keypad and it'll lock the door. Keys are a relic of the past.

Smart Lock Installation

The instruction manual that comes with the product is fun. It essentially tells you to visit a link which then has the instructions. That's a super nice touch (an assumption they can make since the lock requires a smart phone).

Installation was super easy. All you do is remove the inside part of your deadbolt and put the August unit in it's place. A screw driver is all you really need.

I did find their single piece of blue tape comical. I started with that, and as the deadbolt started to fall, I grabbed my 2" roll of blue tape and made sure it didn't move. Though, to be fair, you probably don't even need the tape if your good at juggling multiple items.

Connecting it to my phone was a snap. You can tell the team worked hard to make it as user friendly as possible.

Doorbell Cam Installation

The DC has multiple options. The website starts off with a questionnaire: How far is it from the door? What type of siding do you have? Where did you hear about us? Wait... one of these is not like the others... Based on the first two answers, the site tells you what parts you'll use & gives specific instructions for your particular set up. My needed the wedge because it's so close to the door.

I followed the directions pretty closely (including checking that my existing doorbell works). I did NOT mark little circles and pre-drill my holes - I just went for it. I pushed the button and it worked. I waited 30 minutes for the battery to charge. I then took the unit off so I could get it on my wireless network... but it didn't work...

This is where the adventure left "casual install" status.

I grabbed my multimeter and tested my volts. The August Doorbell requires 16V - 24V to fully work, and mine was only providing 10V... Great...

After doing some research, I learned that doorbells require a transformer (an awesome name) to take the normal 120V down to 16V (ish... apparently). All I needed to do was find and replace mine. Here's a picture of it:

It turned out that mine was located in the attic crawl space, which I found by tracing the wire from the panel and making some educated guesses (all these lights in the area also turn off, so it must be near them). Depending on the transformer you have, it might make a small humming noise... mine didn't.

After a trip to Home Depot to get a new transformer, cover plate & 3 wire nuts I was in business.

The doorbell fully charged & I connected it to wifi so it could... update it's firmware... Then connect it to HomeKit. Here's the quality of the camera (yeah, I took a screen shot on my phone while steaming from my doorbell):

It claims I have a poor internet connection, which is most likely due to my router being too low (I'll fix that eventually), but the quality is good enough to identify whoever is at the door.

Keypad Installation

This was super easy to install with two screws. If you go with the flat base there's an optional slot to put the keypad right next to it. I wish the wedge had that as well. I got it pretty well lined up, but it's not perfect (which I can't help but rub my finger over when I use it). We decided to put it behind the wedge to semi-hide it.

"Siri, lock my front door."

Here's an 11 second video of how easy it works with Siri:

Obviously, when sitting in front of the door, it's easier to turn the knob. But when I'm in bed & can't remember if I locked the door, or driving away from the house and asking Jessi if she locked the door, this is going to be really nice. It'll also be great when we start to combine it with with different scenes like "bedtime", when all lights are turned off and the door is locked.

Final Thoughts

A couple times while crawling around the house I asked myself if this was worth it. Our house was built in 1959, which doesn't seem like a crazy long time ago, but it was old enough that it required a few special tools and some research to debug the issue. Given that, set your expectations for the set up process to be a little more involved than you initially think. But once it's done, it's awesome. :)

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