The Beginnings of a Home Automation Addict

Jun 13 2011

ImageWith all of the home automation talk lately (Android @home) and the fact I have been addicted to home automation, slowly turning my entire home into a fully automated system. I figured what better time than now to start a home automation series blog.

About ten years ago when I went over to a relative's house warming party. The first thing I noticed was all of the light switches in their home were not "normal" light switches. A few beers and several hours later I was enthralled with his home automation setup, and wanted to learn anything and everything I could about it. That is when my home automation addiction began. At that time his setup was pretty simple, all X-10 devices, and only controlled the lighting. A few years later he had switched to Insteon and that is when the system went beyond controlling just lights. The system was fully automated, with two way control, controlling the thermostat, lawn irrigation system, and even home theater equipment. Every time I visit I learn more about what I can do and gather tips and tricks on how to integrate what he did into my own setup.

In 2004 my wife and I purchased our first home, from day one I have been slowly switching out light switches and figuring out ways to further my automation addiction, and trust me it is an addiction. Currently I am running an Insteon thermostat and light controllers managing it all through mControl. The mControl management software is running on my Windows Home Server (WHS) system, which includes a WHS add-in. mControl also has a Windows 7 Media Center (WMC) plug-in so I can control my lights, and thermostat from any TV in my home. One of the main reasons I chose to go with mControl was because each tv in my home runs an Xbox 360 as a WMC extender and mControl fully supports extenders.

Over the next few months I will be writing a series of guides on home automation. The guides will start out with the basics of what home automation is, what you can do with it, and how to implement it. Each guide will break out the different technologies, what different control platforms (server software) there are and how to integrate the system into your home. Each guide will get progressively more in depth, to the point where you can use the articles to guide you with your hardware choices, and help you integrate automation into your own home.

Are you doing home automation? Leave a comment, lets us know what you think of the new series.

Comments

In my old place, I had x10 setup.  I liked it but when I moved to my current house the x10 got occasional bad signals.  Despite trying different channel adjusts for it, I'd still get ghosts.  Eventually I removed them because of lights randomly turning on or off(I blame WAF).  Do the newer units you use do any kind of signature to identify the controller to prevent this?

I initially had issues with Insteon in my setup, Insteon is basically the same technology as X10, transmission over power line and does some RF (depending on the device). Few differences with Insteon is that each Insteon is a peer/repeater of another device. 

I am always playing around with newer equipment as well, I am trying to get my hands on Z-Wave and Zigbee devices which are both truly wireless only and don't have the issues that power line devices have.

-Josh

I have 7 Insteon devices (including a thermostat, IP camera, and a garage door opener) and have had absolutely no problems with them. My electrical was completely re-done about 5 years ago, so obviously that has something to do with it. I'm only writing to make sure people with relatively new, clean electrical setup won't necessarily have the issues that oliverredfox did.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of your posts!

  -Jonathan

Oh, don't let me discourage anyone.  I'd totally try them again and still miss having them in my current place.  (hehe, had type more but somehow the rest of my post tripped the anti-spam filter)

I had similar issues as oliverredfox even with a new home due to the poor quality of the incoming power.

I installed a Whole Home Surge Protector, the Leviton Whole House Surge Protector 51120, and haven't had an issue since.  It was very frustrating prior to do so, I would lose a few Insteon devices a months.

I have been using all Leviton Vizia RF+ with an RCS thermostat and mControl. Works everytime all the time.

Glad to hear people have had success with insteon and mcontrol, I've been following the two for many years now but after the offer I put in on a house didn't pan out in 2008, I'm still renting. As soon as I do buy a house I'd love to do an insteon + mcontrol setup seeing as how I already use media center extensively. Unfortunately for me, I'm in an area with really old townhouses and electric quality could be an issue. Hopefully I can avoid many of the horror stories I've read with insteon devices over the years. 

 

This has always interested me..  The furthest I got was installing a zwave dimmer for my basement theater which I control from my Harmony 890.  It works good enough. The Harmony software only allows very basic integration, so I have to switch activities and then manually select the dimming setting.  I would like just have it on my main activity menu.  I looked into getting a usb dongle for zwave and then try to get USB-UIRT to send the command, but I couldn’t figure which software I needed to buy.

 

Our new home has a security system, so I do have one of the basics there.  TBH for me full HA is kind of solving a problem that doesn’t exist.  I don’t have a sprinkler system (why would I want to mow more often than I do now) and my thermostat is on a timer.  I don’t really want to come home to a cold house and wait for it to warm up.  Is the idea with all the light switches that you can turn lights off if there isn’t any movement in a room?  I would like to get whole house audio, but not sure I see the big draw for full HA.  Nonetheless I am going to definitely follow your progress to see if you change my mind. Smile

 

flips

Flips- HA is all about being efficiently lazy Smile

You mention the light switches.  Personally I do not like the motion sensor light activation.  I have never found them reliable enough or smart enough to handle multiple pets.

I have the majority of my light switches converted to Insteon switches and I use them in a few different ways.

1- A timed auto-off for lights in the pantry, garage, attic, utility closest, closets.  Our kids (and me too) never seen to remember to turn them off.

2- Outdoor lights are set to turn on at dusk and off at dawn.  We live in a "developing" area...having consistent lights is a plus.

3- When we play a movie from either the primary HTPC or bedroom HTPC Media Center (via a plug-in I wrote) checks if the lights are dimmed, if they are not it asks me if I want them dimmed.  I'm going to update this for a rear LED lighting soon.

4- A master all lights off switch.  Before going to bed I hit the "lights-off" button and everyone but the outside lights turn off.

Some other items I currently use Insteon for is my garage door.  I'm notified if it is open for more than 10 minutes and asks if I want to close it.

I have my thermostat and ADT security tied in with other controllers as well.

I could do everything I need to without HA or simple timers but it isn't as "efficient".  Or at least that is what I'll keep telling myself.

-Mikinho

mikinho wrote:
1- A timed auto-off for lights in the pantry, garage, attic, utility closest, closets.  Our kids (and me too) never seen to remember to turn them off.

I do a timed auto-off but I do with with motion sensors, basically an if statement, "if no movement in the area for 5-10 minutes then shut off the lights"

Quote:
4- A master all lights off switch.  Before going to bed I hit the "lights-off" button and everyone but the outside lights turn off.

Same thing here but I again do the motion sensor, if there is movement in any of the rooms in my home other than the bedrooms then I keeps the lights on until no movement is triggered.

Quote:
Some other items I currently use Insteon for is my garage door.  I'm notified if it is open for more than 10 minutes and asks if I want to close it.

That is my next goal/project, just funding is a little low right now.

-Josh

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