My home is officially HomeKit crazy. I have almost 50 HomeKit lights, door lock, door sensors, cameras, a baby monitor, temperature sensors, thermostats, motion sensors, and various buttons and even a coffee maker. Siri rules my life, and she makes things more simple for me and my family. For my family, the more HomeKit products we have in our life, the better.
My home cools itself down during the extreme heat in Vegas, and my wife can have her coffee ready automatically when she wakes up everyday. My lights turn on at sunset, and turn off on schedule throughout the evening. My energy bill, which is traditionally a major killer in Las Vegas, has dropped dramatically from the switch to all-LED bulbs and smart thermostats. HomeKit and Siri make my life better. Could the combo be better? Of course. But its pretty damn great right now.
Hunter Signal SimpleConnect HomeKit Ceiling Fan
Hunter has been the definitive ceiling fan leader for generations. Hunter was also one of the very first to market with smart home-compatible ceiling fans. I was anxious to try one of these, even though I had looked at the Big Ass Ceiling Fan solution first. I chose Hunter because they are a quarter of the price, and I am pleasantly surprised with the results overall.
Hunter makes multiple models that are HomeKit and Alexa compatible. I chose the stylish Signal line, because the pricing is right at around $349, and the brushed nickel finish matches my home’s decor. Being that I have no mechanical skills whatsoever, my go to friend with the most skill, Joe, had these two signal fans installed in a few hours. Nothing complicated, at least for me, while I watched TV while he did the legwork.
The connected setup was a bit more tricky, with one of them being smooth and the second unit having far more difficulty. Once the first unit was installed, the fan rebooted several times before I even completed adding it to HomeKit. As the fan rebooted, the firmware was updated, and it functions almost flawlessly inside the Home app. The fan is completely controllable via the Home app and Siri, including on/off and speed controls. The one area where it lacks support, unfortunately, is the dimmer on the included LED light. The light can be turned on and off via HomeKit, but it only dims using the included Hunter app. The app, though, is a clunky shell for HomeKit, and not much more. It does also offer on/off, speed and the aforementioned dimmer, but not much more. Firmware upgrading is mentioned, but not useful since you need a URL to upgrade, and that’s where things get dramatically interesting.
The second fan, unfortunately, was not so simple, and it all stemmed around the firmware, and the clunky Hunter app. Unlike the first unit which upgraded itself automatically to the latest, non-beta software, the second unit did nothing. It didn’t upgrade itself, and didn’t function properly inside the Home app. It did appear in Home, but the controls didn’t report back correctly to the Home app, and it would be on physically, yet reflected the power being off in the Home app.
Enter the Hunter corporation’s customer support, or lack thereof. I had to have nine calls with their support, and while yes it is true I am usually far more technically savvy than most customer support reps at any companies, this company’s support literally has zero knowledge of HomeKit, or any way of supporting this product at all short of mechanical issues or ordering replacement parts. After several calls and me instructing the CSR’s that the firmware was not upgrading, a supervisor finally asked for the mac address of the fan in question, and told me I would receive an email with the URL of the firmware to fix this issue. Four days later, no fix and no email. I called back one last time, and he told me the email would go out the following day. It didn’t, but I woke up to the firmware being fixed automatically or remotely, and now it functions perfectly.
So short of the horrific customer support, the fan functions perfectly, and works brilliantly with my HomeKit thermostats and room temperature sensors. It is now integral part of my smart home, and all-withstanding, I love them. I will add these in each room when I move to my next home. Hunter’s SimpleConnect fan is a must-have for the smart-home enthusiast.
Chamberlain MyQ HomeKit Garage Door Opener
I have fantasize for quite sometime that my CarPlay-connected car would pull up to my garage door, and it would sense my approach and automatically open, and then close automatically when I leave for the day. When Chamberlain announced last year they would be adding HomeKit compatibility to their popular MyQ line, and would offer a hub to add MyQ capability to any Chamberlain or Liftmaster garage door, I instantly got a massive technology erection, and only having a Siri-controlled garage door with satiate my thirst.
The reality is, the product is top-notch, easy to install and quite brilliant. However, HomeKit has major limitations for garage doors and door locks, and this product is now not used nearly as it should or could be. The install was done again my handy friend Joe, and it took him short of an hour to get it installed. The hub and interface and included door sensor were a breeze for him, so I quickly moved to setting up the door in its required app and HomeKit. Unlike the Hunter fan setup, this one worked basically instantly, and required no work by me other than scanning its HomeKit setup code.
The garage door opens now perfectly short of a major caveat via HomeKit, and that caveat has zero to do with the Chamberlain product in any way. Siri requires authentication to open and close the garage door, via Face ID or Touch ID, or Apple Watch, just like it does for a HomeKit door lock. This presents a huge issue for my dream scenario, since CarPlay doesn’t show the authentication requests, so the garage won’t open automatically when I pull up to my house. I never see the authentication request. So basically this renders this garage door opener useless for me, short of seeing if my garage door is accidentally left open when I am not home. Do I think Apple will fix this glaring HomeKit short fall? 100%. Let’s just hope its with iOS 12 in a few weeks.
I love the ease of use and the plug and play functionality of the Chamberlain MyQ garage hub, and for roughly $150, its a great investment that works with both Siri and Alexa. But works is a loose description when it comes to HomeKit, but we can only hope it gets better with CarPlay notification integration over time. I want to love it, but my tender lover Apple is making it difficult out of the gun.