Special Features

Implementing an automation system into a home gives residents access and control over nearly any device in the home. This includes lights, appliances, electrical outlets, HVAC systems, etc. The systems or devices are connected to a remotely controllable network allowing a mobile device, or a specific control point in the home, to provide the user with the controls. The following proposal outlines the design of a home automation system to be implemented in the Alfred University Tiny House project. The objective of installing the home automation system is to increase the efficiency of the home by programming and scheduling different phases into the system as well as giving the user direct control over different load devices in the home.


By the use of sensors like motion detectors and thermostats in the tiny house, we can program phases into the home automation system that will cut down on unnecessary energy dissipation. The structure will be designed with window placement that will make the most of natural light during the day. Therefore, ideally, lighting systems will not need to be used during this time and the house will go into a daytime mode or phase. Additionally, when the home is unoccupied, the inside temperature won’t be of great concern, within reason, so heating and cooling can be put into less energy-demanding phases during this time. The user will also have the option to make changes to the state of different devices in the home using an app on their smartphone. This way, a day with little sunlight won’t mean sitting in the dark and heating or cooling systems can be activated remotely as you head back to the home.

The Problem

A tiny house is typically strategically designed to be more efficient than a classical home setup. Including a home automation system will further the efficiency capabilities limited by a manually operated tiny house configuration by giving the home the ability to react to its environment.

There are a few problems associated with a standard tiny house setup, which include the following:

  • Tiny houses, by definition, run on less energy than the normal home, however human error still needs to be accounted for. Unnecessary artificial lighting will waste your harvested power, but manual switches still tend to be left on.
  • By the same principal, even with electronic ignitors to reduce propane waste of a continuously running pilot light, the ignitors can be left on, or thermostats left at high set points, at times they aren’t needed.
  • This wastes another resource a tiny house needs to maximize.
  • In the effort to be energy efficient, heating or cooling in a tiny house is often not enabled until someone is home to manually turn them on, creating inconvenience and possibly discomfort in environments with temperature extremes.

The Solution

As discussed, a solution to these concerns can be reached by collecting as many energy load devices within the home as possible onto a single network. This will eliminate a large percentage of energy waste due to human error because the house will have a microcontroller to process sensor signals and make decisions based on the surrounding conditions.

Microcontrollers suitable for home automation are manufactured by several different companies, each offering varying degrees of capability and features. The Samsung SmartThings Hub can be connected to an internet-connected router and used to control and automate more devices with a smartphone than most if not all its competitors for a fair price. The CPU can process certain automation commands locally, meaning continued operation if you lose your network connection as well as 10 hours of backup battery power in case of a power outage. These features set the SmartThings Hub apart from many other microcontrollers used in home automation. Also, as opposed to some other options, the list of “Works with SmartThings” vendors is impressively long and allows for communication with close to 200 compatible devices. The SmartThings hub supports apps for both Android, iOS, and Windows as well as IFTTT (If This Then That) user-created recipes.

Proposed Work

The SmartThings Hub is connected to a router through an Ethernet cable. This needs to be done because the hub is not a router itself, but what’s called a “repeater.” The hub forwards data based on the destination address. A hub is used to take all the separate devices that would normally require separate apps to remotely control, and streamlines them so they can all be controlled from one single app. The hub repeats signals back and forth between your smartphone and all your home’s devices. The router will forward packets of data based on the network address.

Project Plan

The SmartThings Hub is compatible with hundreds of name brand devices. This creates a great deal of freedom when customizing the automation system for the tiny house. The objective is to design a system that will keep energy waste as low as possible without forcing the resident to sacrifice all aspects of convenience and comfort. Table 1 shows a list of the currently proposed devices, locations, and functions. Other devices may be added to the design as needed.

Proposed device list with locations and functions.
Location Device Brand Function
Main Common Area 45857 GE Dimmer GE Ceiling LED
CT100 thermostat 2Gig Heating
Hub controller SmartThings Internet connection
N750 Router Linksys Internet connection
DZR15-1LZ smart outlet Leviton Miscellaneous appliances
Task Area GE12727 on/off switch GE Overhead LED
Bedroom 690402 Motion sensors IRIS Ceiling LED
DZR15-1LZ smart outlet Leviton Miscellaneous appliances
Bathroom GE12727 on/off switch GE Ceiling LED
Outdoor (Deck & Side door) BD-002-2 Solar powered/Motion outdoor light


Deck Lighting and Door Lighting


Based on the design and materials currently proposed, Table 2 breaks down the funds necessary to carry out the project. Further research may lead to discounted prices depending on combination offers and sales prices. Devices were selected based on both needs of the system design and product reviews so that replacement or device failure can be avoided. All devices listed in Table 1 have been checked and cleared for compatibility with the SmartThings Hub by use to the “Works with SmartThings” webpage.

Current proposed materials costs for home automation system
Brand Part # Description Qty Cost Total
GE 45857 Dimming Wall Switch for LED's 1 $49.50 $49.50
12727 On/Off Toggle Switch for LED's 2 $34.80 $69.60
2Gig CT100 Smart Thermostat 1 $121.00 $121.00
Leviton DZR15-1LZ Smart Outlet for various appliances 2 $39.97 $79.94
IRIS 690402 Smart Motion Sensor 1 $29.99 $29.99
Linksys N750 Router 1 $34.95 $34.95
Aptoyu BD-002-2 Solar powered motion outdoor light 2-Pack 2 $14.99 $29.98
Cree BA19-08050OMF-12CE26-1C110 Dimmable LED 6-Pack 1 $86.82 $86.82
SmartThings STH-ETH-250 Hub Controller 1 $83.99 $83.99
Total $585.77

At an estimated labor cost of $25/hour the labor costs for the proposed design will be as follows in Table 3.

Current proposed labor costs for home automation system.
Brand Part # Description Qty Install Time (hrs) Program Time (hrs) Total Time (hrs) Total Labor Cost
GE 45857 Dimming Wall Switch for LED's 1 1 0.5 1.5 $37.50
12727 On/Off Toggle Switch for LED's 2 $37.50
2Gig CT100 Smart Thermostat 1 1 1 2 $50.00
Leviton DZR15-1LZ Smart Outlet for various appliances 2 1 0.25 1.25 $31.25
IRIS 690402 Smart Motion Sensor 1 1 0.5 1.5 $37.50
Linksys N750 Router 1 0.5 0.5 1 $25.00
Aptoyu BD-002-2 Solar powered motion outdoor light 2-Pack 2 0.5 0 0.5 $12.50
Cree BA19-08050OMF-12CE26-1C110 Dimmable LED 6-Pack 1 2 0.25 2.25 $56.25
SmartThings STH-ETH-250 Hub Controller 1 0.5 1 1.5 $37.50
Total $325.00

The final cost summary includes materials, labor, and overhead costs and is estimated as follows in Table 4.

Current proposed cost summary for home automation system
Materials Cost $585.77
Labor Costs $325.00
Overhead Costs (Labor*0.87) $282.75
Grand Total $1193.52

Future Opportunities

Home automation is a vast field and this project has plenty of room for future expansion. The current home automation design focuses on energy efficiency based on the current tiny house structural design. As the home itself continues to be optimized by future Alfred University student, the opportunities for automation will also increase. The SmartThings Hub controller is capable of communicating with over 200 devices, so a tiny house should have no trouble staying under the device limit.

Possible additions could include

  • Automated cooling system
  • Entertainment systems
  • Automated retractable awning
  • Security systems i.e. webcams and locks

Essentially any addition to the tiny house will lead to room for automation expansion.

Potential Problems

There are a few possible issues that are foreseeable with this system. As one would expect, if the tiny house is parked in a dead zone your lack of internet connection can create a problem with device communication. Ideally, the tiny house would be in an area with internet connection and this problem would be avoided all together. One of the reasons the Samsung SmartThings Hub was selection as the controller for this design is because the CPU upgrade allows the resident to continue to control devices using the local network when internet connectivity is lost.

Additionally, the more electronics you have communicating with each other over one network the more opportunities there are for hiccups in data transmission. This shouldn’t be an issue with the tiny house because these hubs are designed for full-scale homes and the tiny house has significantly less to control and monitor.

We also need to consider the power the automation system is going to draw and therefore take away from the energy harvested for the appliances. The usage of the system will have to be communicated to the solar panel section of the tiny house project and the two groups will have to collaborate for the majority of the project.


Although the tiny house does not need to be automated, the exciting possibilities offered by automating the home are undeniable. The efficiency of the house can be increased and monitored all by the use of an app on your smartphone. The energy waste due to human error can be drastically decreased because the home will have a new ability to react to its environment. The tiny house is being constructed with the plan for home automation making the process of efficiently designing an automated home much easier. Although there are a few foreseeable obstacles, the technological advantages offered by a streamlined network in the tiny house can outweigh them.