HomeKit Helper

About This Site

Apple's HomeKit provides an easy and secure way for people to create a "smart" home. HomeKit is a"standard" that allows manufacturers to integrate their smart home devices into your home, and allows you to mix and match products from several different companies and control them all with one application. This site is not a "HomeKit News" site, and it's not a site for "advanced" HomeKit users. You won't find advice on how to create "advanced automations" on this site (at least not now). In fact, I don't even cover creating automations or scenes. This site is designed to help people get started with HomeKit who have just begun to think about buying their first HomeKit device. It tries to answer those first questions that everybody asks: How does HomeKit work? What's a hub? Whats a bridge? What devices work well? I'm looking for a ______, what do you recommend? What should I avoid? How do I make HomeKit reliable? Also this site contains my opinions. They are based on what I have observed. They are not the only good or correct options. YMMV. I have a fairly large HomeKit install and it runs reliably, with fast responding devices.

The site is divided into sections to help you find the information you are looking for:

  • Start with Getting Started and The Basics below

  • Then move on to the Networking section to learn how to build a reliable foundation

  • Read up on how HomeKit organizes devices in Organization

  • The Devices section gives advice on what to look for in different device categories and lists products that I have found reliable

  • The Apps page lists applications that I have found useful for managing HomeKit

  • And finally the Resources page lists links to additional HomeKit related sources

Getting Started

HomeKit covers many areas of the smart home, from lighting to door locks to sprinklers, and each area can sometimes be filled with dozens of options. So where does one begin? Most people start with something simple, like lights or outlets. Being able to automate lighting and appliances is a common thing to automate and is something that is very easy to get started with.

Whatever you start with, you will need a reliable home network (often times this is the most complicated part of any HomeKit setup). Read the Networking section for recommendations on how to make a reliable foundation for HomeKit. Then look over the Lighting and Outlets sections under the Devices section to find recommendations to get you started.

The Basics - What You Should Know

  • HomeKit is a smart home or home automation"standard" that allows devices from different manufacturers to work together on Apple devices, such as iPhone, iPad, TV, watch, and Siri.

  • There are many categories of HomeKit devices, that can be automated, including: lighting, outlets, locks, security cameras, sensors, thermostats, etc

  • HomeKit devices can communicate with each other using Ethernet, Wi-Fi, HomeKit Bridges, or Bluetooth:

    • Ethernet devices connect directly to your home's network using an Ethernet cable, and provide the fastest, most reliable connection available. The problem is that most people don't have Ethernet cabling run through their houses. Also, not very many HomeKit devices provide Ethernet connections.

    • Wi-Fi devices connect directly to your home's Wi-Fi system, so no other equipment is needed. Speeds and distances will be based on your Wi-Fi system. Most HomeKit devices can only connect to your 2.4GHz band. A good Wi-Fi system can provide reliable, long distance connections to your HomeKit devices. But some Wi-Fi systems can choke on complex networks with dozens of connected devices and have problems routing all of the communications HomeKit devices generate quickly and reliably. Make sure you have a good Wi-Fi system, and consider the consequences of adding all of your HomeKit devices onto your Wi-Fi network.

    • Bridged devices connect a manufacturer's proprietary system (Zigbee, RA2, etc) to HomeKit using a Bridge connected to your router via Ethernet. Their speeds and distances and reliability will be based on the particular protocol that is being used. Read here for advantages of Bridge-based systems.

    • Bluetooth devices connect using the Bluetooth protocol, making them the slowest and least flexible overall. They generally are slow in response because they have to "wake up" and have different performance characteristics depending on the quality of hardware, software and the version of Bluetooth supported. Bluetooth signals generally only go 30ft or even less reliably and cannot penetrate walls very well, and typically need a fairly unobstructed line of sight to the device that is controlling them (an iPhone, iPad, TV, or HomePod). Bluetooth reliability also starts to degrade as you add more and more devices. You will probably begin to see this effect after adding 10 devices in a single room. You can use HomeKit Hubs to extend coverage of Bluetooth devices across your home, and some manufacturers offer proprietary Bluetooth extenders (but I don't recommend them if you can avoid them). That being said, the advantage of Bluetooth devices are that they can be battery operated, and are usually inexpensive.

    • Thread devices connect using the new Thread radios and protocol. Thread started appearing on the market in 2021 and is designed specifically to be the next generation home automation protocol (unlike both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which were originally designed for other purposes). Thread is setup to increase reliability, speed, and ease of use. It is going to reduce the burden on our Wi-Fi networks, which were never designed for home automation's high device-count, chatty behavior, and desire of low latency performance. If you are starting new with HomeKit, I would definitely put Thread compatibility high on your list. I have an article here with more information about Thread.

  • You add your devices to HomeKit using Apple's HomeKit app. Typically this is done by scanning in the device's HomeKit code using your iPhone's camera, but follow the instructions given with the device you purchase. I also recommend keeping track of your HomeKit codes. Note the device, location, and code for future use. HomePass by Sunya Limited is a great 3rd party app built for this purpose, but you can also just use the notes app or a spreadsheet.

  • You can assign your HomeKit device a name, room, and icon to organize it and identify it.

  • You can create scenes and automations in Home that combine multiple devices and conditions.

  • Once a device is in HomeKit, you can control it using the Home app, Siri, or with automations based on time of day, leaving/arriving home, or sensor data.