Choosing a Smart Home Controller is very much like buying a car - the decision to choose a particular manufacturer is only the first choice you have to make, after that there's a bewildering array of models and options on top!
Since 1999, HomeSeer has been developing Home Automation software and now has thousands of systems in use around the world! Starting out with a software only system that has evolved over time meant that they had a good understanding of hardware requirements when they began to include dedicated standalone hardware "HomeTroller" Controllers in their range.
Unlike others, HomeSeer doesn't reduce software features and functionality across their range of Controllers - so you get the same capabilities in all HomeSeer models, with the only differences being purely hardware related. HomeSeer also boasts one of the most comprehensive lists of compatible devices, with thousands of devices from hundreds of different manufacturers supported across a wide range of technologies.
Our "Choosing a HomeSeer Controller" guide will help you to understand the differences between the different HomeSeer Controllers - HomeSeer HomeTroller PRO Smart Home Hub, HomeSeer HomeTroller Plus Smart Home Hub and HomeSeer HomeTroller Pi Smart Home Hub.
|Feature||HomeSeer HomeTroller Pi||HomeSeer HomeTroller Plus||HomeSeer HomeTroller PRO|
|Software Features||HS4 Pi||HS4||HS4 PRO|
|Graphical Block Scene Editor|
|vBasic (VBScript) Scripting|
|Virtual Devices - IP Strings|
|Virtual Devices - Script-based|
|Android Wear Support|
|Alexa Voice Assistant|
|Siri (via iOS App Shortcuts)|
|Number of Plug-Ins||Limited to 5 Linux||All||All|
|Recovery / Backup|
|Bridge (Linking Controllers)|
|Home Automation Support|
|Z-Wave Plus (868.4MHz)|
|Recommended No. of Z-Wave Devices||30 - 50||up to 232||up to 232|
|Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|IP Camera Support|
|Z-Flash Firmware Updater|
|Z-Seer+ Z-Wave Diagnostics|
|HomeSeer Branded Plugins|
|Processor (CPU)||Quad-core ARM (1.2GHz)||Dual-core Intel Celeron (2.4GHz)||Dual-core Intel Celeron (1.5GHz)|
|Storage (Flash)||16GB micro SD||64GB SSD||120GB SSD|
|Ethernet||10/100 Base-T||10/100/1000 Base-T (Gigabit)||2 x 10/100/1000 Base-T (Gigabit)|
|Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|Case||Plastic||Metal / Plastic||Metal / Plastic|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||113 x 97 x 27mm||220 x 145 x 100mm||200 x 165 x 38mm|
- Features may require third-party Plugins / Apps and additional hardware.
In the case of optional HomeSeer tools such as HSTouch Designer and Z-Seer+, these are additional purchases on the non-PRO versions.
What do these differences mean?
All of the current HomeSeer Smart Home Controllers will run your Home Automation system with stability and reliability and, as mentioned previously, the software features and functionality aren't limited in any way across the different versions.
That said, the HomeSeer Plus and HomeSeer PRO versions do give you much more powerful hardware which can be beneficial as your Smart Home expands to include other technologies such as ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy, either now, or in the future.
It's also worth bearing in mind the fact that the PRO version of the HomeSeer software comes with licences included for additional HomeSeer tools such as HSTouch Designer and Z-Seer+, as well as also including all HomeSeer branded Plugins / Apps as standard.
General Software Features
Remote and Mobile Access
You are able to control the system from a smartphone, tablet or computer whether you are at home or away. App Widgets (provided from a third-party Plugin / App) can also be created to allow quick running of common tasks directly from the home screen on your smartphone or tablet. Android Wear support (provided from a third-party Plugin / App) also allows scenes to be quickly run from an Android Wear Smartwatch.
Alexa and Google Assistant are both available across the range of HomeSeer Controllers, with the integrations being improved upon all the time.
Alexa has two types of Skill available - a Smart Home Skill that offers basic functionality ("Alexa, turn on the light") and a Custom Skill that offers more advanced functionality ("Alexa, tell HomeSeer to get the status of the temperature sensor")
Google Assistant and the HomeSeer Controllers work together to make your Smart Home even more convenient to use! With the Google Assistant integration you can control lights, scenes and more, all without lifting a finger.
Siri voice control is also supported, but only via Siri "shortcuts" at this time.
Geolocation features use the location based services on your smartphone. When you are within a pre-determined range of your home, this can trigger scenes to run. For instance, a heating scene could be triggered when you are 5 miles from home, or an outside light scene when you are just arriving home. This is available in all the HomeSeer Controllers via various third-party Plugins / Apps.
Plugin / App Support
There are a vast array of Plugins / Apps available from both HomeSeer themselves and from third-party developers. These Plugins / Apps help provide support for external systems, such as Philips Hue, Sonos, IFTTT and Yamaha. Plugins / Apps allow you to do more advanced things without needing to develop your own code.
HomeSeer are one of a very few manufacturers to monetise their Plugin / App infrastructure and this really helps to reward developers for the time they spend on developing for the platform. It also means that you are a paying customer entitled to official support if there are any issues with the Plugin / App - something that is missing from other Controllers.
Of course there are also many free-to-use Plugins / Apps available for HomeSeer too, so it's worth looking at those to see if they will suit your requirements before spending any more money! Most paid Plugins / Apps also have trial periods as well, so you can try them first to see if they will be worth your hard-earned cash. It's also worth remembering that the PRO version of the HomeSeer Controller includes all of the paid HomeSeer branded Plugins / Apps, so if you find that you do need several of those then consider choosing a PRO Controller from the outset as it might be more cost effective in the long run.
Since the HomeSeer software is capable of running on both Linux and Windows operating systems, Plugins / Apps are targeted at each platform separately. The HomeSeer PRO and Plus can run all versions of Plugins / Apps whereas the HomeSeer Pi model will only run Plugins / Apps that are targeted at the Linux operating system.
The HomeSeer Pi is also limited to only running 5 of the Linux plugins due to performance constraints of the hardware. While there is no real limit to the number of Plugins / Apps that can be installed on the other HomeSeer Controllers, you may see the performance affected if you run too many! Bear in mind the CPU and Memory specifications mentioned previously - if you are planning to run a lot of Plugins / Apps then it would be worth considering the higher specification of the HomeSeer PRO.
Recovery / Backup
All HomeSeer Controllers can have regular backups, and in the event of an issue, can recover previously saved versions of software and configuration. Backups are stored on the HomeSeer Controller directly and can also be downloaded locally. A subscription to one of the "MyHS" Premium services also allows automatic systems backups to be stored in the HomeSeer Cloud as a supplemental off-site recovery option.
A unique feature to the HomeSeer Controllers is the ability to be able to separate the backup of the Z-Wave network from the more general settings - this can help if you wish to have a fresh start with your settings and configuration, but want to avoid having to add all your Z-Wave devices again!
Bridge (Linking Controllers) Capability
When we talk about "Bridging" of Smart Home Controllers it's usually in terms of the Z-Wave protocol and we typically mean the ability for several Controllers to be used together to create a much larger system than is possible with just one.
With multiple Controllers it allows you to have more than 232 Z-Wave devices on the whole system and you can configure your system to maximise Z-Wave network access by locating the Controllers in different parts of the building.
Unlike with other Smart Home Controllers, HomeSeer takes a slightly different approach for this. Rather than having to buy multiple HomeSeer Controllers you can simply utilise their Z-NET Network Z-Wave Plus Controller.
Z-NET is a network-connected Z-Wave Interface that communicates with the main HomeSeer Controller over either WiFi or Ethernet. This means that you can locate your main HomeSeer Controller out of the way (perhaps in an equipment rack or cupboard) and then optimally place Z-NETs around your home where they are needed for the best coverage. In fact, you can site the Z-NET wherever you have Ethernet or WiFi connectivity, for example in remote buildings such as garages, sheds, summer houses and storage units.
Home Automation Support
Although all of the HomeSeer Controllers will support a Z-Wave network, it is also a good idea to look at support for other technologies as this enables you to choose from a wider selection of products going forward.
All the HomeSeer Controllers are fully certified Z-Wave Plus devices and will therefore experience all the improvements that the Z-Wave Plus protocol implements when used with a Z-Wave Plus interface.
The extended features of Z-Wave Plus include increased range (up to 150m), greater battery life, more available RF channels supporting higher bandwidth communications, standardised methods for Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware upgrades amd improved self-healing, fault tolerance and diagnostics on the Z-Wave network.
ZigBee is a popular technology used by many products. It has been very popular in the US for a number of years, and although Europe has been slow to adopt it, we are seeing more and more European centric ZigBee devices coming to market. HomeSeer supports both ZigBee Home Automation (ZHA) and ZigBee Light Link (ZLL) protocols and therefore supports a huge number of ZigBee devices!
Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices can be controlled directly from a mobile phone or tablet (or computer) that supports these Bluetooth protocols. This makes them very easy to install and configure - a true plug-and-play experience. Various third-party Plugins / Apps are available to allow HomeSeer to use Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy products alongside any Z-Wave or ZigBee devices you also have.
433Mhz / 868Mhz
By installing a third-party Plugin / App that supports the popular RFXCom RFXtrx USB transceivers, HomeSeer Controllers can utilise all sorts of 433MHz and 868MHz based devices including LightwaveRF, Somfy, Oregon Scientific, HomeEasy, Honeywell and many, many more!
IP cameras are supported by all the HomeSeer Controllers and many popular camera types such as Foscam and Amcrest are supported out-of-the-box. There's also support for generic cameras too.
A subscription to one of the "MyHS" Premium services gives the capability for camera recordings that are triggered by events to be stored on the HomeSeer Cloud servers.
Optional HomeSeer Tools
HomeSeer produce several optional tools that compliment their Controllers - HSTouch Designer (for designing custom screens that control HomeSeer from your smartphone, tablet or PC), Z-Flash Firmware Updater (for OTA updating of Z-Wave devices) and Z-Seer+ Z-Wave Diagnostics (for comprehensive Z-Wave troubleshooting).
With the standard HomeSeer Controllers these are optional extras with additional costs, but in the PRO versions they are included! As mentioned previously in the "Plugin / App Support" section this means that it can be more cost effective to plump for a PRO version from the outset if you think that you will need these tools now or in the future.
There are some key differences in the hardware between the HomeSeer Controllers. Some will affect the performance of your system, and others will give you extra features.
The CPU (or Processor) is the Controller's engine. The faster it runs, the faster your system will run. The entry level HomeSeer Pi utilises an ARM CPU whereas the larger HomeSeer Controllers offer higher performance Intel CPUs.
The other aspect of the hardware that affects performance is memory. The memory is split into two types - Flash and RAM. The basic rule (as for computers) is that the more memory the better, and you can never have too much!
- Flash - This is permanent memory, it holds the main Controller software and details of all devices, scenes, and programs for your system.
- RAM - this is used when the system is running. The more RAM available, the more things the Controller can do at the same time. This translates into allowing it to run more devices, run more scenes and allow it to run quickly regardless of what you ask it to do.
The entry level HomeSeer Pi features 16GB of micro SD Flash storage and the larger HomeSeer Controllers have SSD Flash storage which is faster and more reliable - 64GB in the HomeSeer Plus Controller and a whopping 120GB in the HomeSeer PRO Controller!
In terms of RAM, the HomeSeer Pi Controller features, while the Plus and PRO versions have 4GB to support larger Smart Home systems with many devices, Plugins / Apps and scenes.
Only the HomeSeer Pi Controller features built in WiFi, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the other HomeSeer Controllers can't be used on WiFi if needed - you'll just have to provide a compatibile USB WiFi Adapter. That said, we would always recommend that a Smart Home Controller is hard-wired via Ethernet if possible!
All HomeSeer Controllers have USB support enabling them to be expanded. A USB memory stick can be used to provide more storage space for example and the RFX Transceiver can be used to communicate with a huge range of 433MHz-based devices.
So ultimately which HomeSeer Controller would Vesternet recommend?
As we've mentioned previously, this is really down to the specific requirements of each customer, but based on our experience we would say that the HomeSeer HomeTroller Plus Smart Home Hub is currently the best choice for a number of reasons:
- The HomeSeer HomeTroller Pi has historically proven to be underpowered for most customers, with most needing to upgrade to a more powerful model within a few months as their Smart Home system expands.
- The HomeSeer HomeTroller Plus strikes a nice balance between price and hardware specifications, with a dual-core 2.4GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, a 64GB SSD for storage and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. This is several orders of magnitude above the Raspberry Pi hardware that the low end model is based upon.
- While the HomeSeer HomeTroller Pro is undoubtedly a very capable Controller, the difference in hardware specifications from the HomeSeer HomeTroller Plus isn't that much - they both have the same amount of RAM and while storage capacity is greater in the HomeSeer HomeTroller PRO, it actually has a lower frequency CPU. It also comes at a premium as it includes a license for the full HomeSeer 4 PRO software, which you may not need from the outset - you can always upgrade the software at a later date if necessary.
- The majority of other customers are choosing the HomeSeer HomeTroller Plus over the other versions.
Getting Help and Advice
Hopefully this guide has helped clarify the main differences between the HomeSeer Controllers and what they mean in actual real-world use. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.