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Topic # 198644 17-Jul-2016 16:13
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From what I can see there are a couple of local, proprietary solutions (like econnecx.com) that will do pretty much everything I want at the cost of being absolutely tied to that provider and if they go out of business, well it stops working. 

 

I have looked and asked in a few places, but there doesn't seem to be a simple guide to DIY home automation... It's like when someone asks about Linux and gets told "Oh it's easy, there's TONS of documentation". Huh. 

 

So, here's a simple question. Say you were building a new house. Single story, timber with brick cladding. WHat would you spec into the build to allow, at some stage in the future some form of home automation to control stuff like the following. 

 

- Heating

 

- Lighting (can be programmed to put lights on at dusk for a random period of time or react to someone in the hallway etc)

 

- Turn the light off and pull the blackout curtains when the projector turns on

 

- Remotely monitor/open/close the garage door

 

- remotely set/unset the alarm and unlock/lock the door to let contractors in for example or if someone loses keys

 

- Keyless (prefer RFID) alarm arm/disarm, entry

 

- Remote (or timed) control of a number of appliance (like towel rail, HWC etc)

 

- Logging of environmental stats (like heat, humidity)

 

I think that's all I would conceivably want in the near future... I already have a good handle on cameras and NVRs (but if able to be integrated easily - like grabbing snapshots from the camera when the doorbell is pressed and emailed/MMSed to me then I'm interested) 

 

So what do I tell the builders? Some stuff is obvious like lots of Cat6, some slightly less obvious like some appliances might need to be on individual circuits - but what don't I know? 

 

Or is it still a case of this is only feasible if you immerse yourself in it or throw lots of money at someone? 

 

Cheers - N

 

 


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  Reply # 1594025 17-Jul-2016 16:42
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The problem with most DIY stuff is that its connected to someone elses cloud. In some cases for everything, in others only for access when not at home.

 

Things like wemo, the limitless LED bridge, most CCTV stuff, nest, is they all have a server that someone else is paying to run and maintain to have the nice app work with the product.

 

When they decide to stop paying, or if they go broke no more app, and in the case of some devices no more work at all since they get weather information and similar thru that same server. Best case like a wemo it becomes a lan controlled only switch without internet. Worst case it powers on, connects to the lan and then times out finding its server and will do nothing but blink its pretty status light.

 

That is why I prefer the idea of running openhab in house and then just setting up a VPN or reverse proxy with certs to get it accessible from my phone when I am on the go. Not using someone elses computer that I am relying on their good will to keep on paying to maintain.





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  Reply # 1594053 17-Jul-2016 16:57
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richms:

 

The problem with most DIY stuff is that its connected to someone elses cloud. In some cases for everything, in others only for access when not at home.

 

Things like wemo, the limitless LED bridge, most CCTV stuff, nest, is they all have a server that someone else is paying to run and maintain to have the nice app work with the product.

 

When they decide to stop paying, or if they go broke no more app, and in the case of some devices no more work at all since they get weather information and similar thru that same server. Best case like a wemo it becomes a lan controlled only switch without internet. Worst case it powers on, connects to the lan and then times out finding its server and will do nothing but blink its pretty status light.

 

That is why I prefer the idea of running openhab in house and then just setting up a VPN or reverse proxy with certs to get it accessible from my phone when I am on the go. Not using someone elses computer that I am relying on their good will to keep on paying to maintain.

 

 

 

 

In many cases it is also not a case of 'if' they turn off their server, but when, as at some stage the service will likely reach the end of it's life. I have been affected a few times by various cloud services prematurely closing down their services.  In these cases, if it is quite a new device,  I have just returned the device to the retailer for a refund, or to switch for another product. So it is best to have a product that allows you to connect to an open source solution incase the company every stops trading. Many companies do have quite a short life, especially tech related products, compared to the life of a system and house. 

 

I like my tech, but not sure I would do too much in the way of home automation in a new house. 


 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 1594272 18-Jul-2016 09:11
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There's different levels of home automation. There's the DIY OpenHAB (et al) crowd who use technologies developed more for retrofit applications (but work perfectly well from new build, too). And then there's the commercial systems Control4 (et al) which are much better implemented at build stage.

 

We have a Control4 project in the office now and it sounds like it's going to be a costly exercise to get up and running, but will do everything you want, and more. The basics of the install are running cat6 to each switch, and relays at the board for controlling the circuits. All of this is hooked up to a controller module which Control4 setup and and manage (no DIY tinkering here). Most hardware can be controlled in different ways and integrated into the system.

 

I'm setting up an OpenHAB system at home and it's mostly over wifi/z-wave rather than re-wired and is a slowly growing amorphous mesh of hardware and tinkering. My setup is very much in its infancy and changing every few weeks but I can see the level of automation and control will surpass the Control4 setup, it just won't be as seamless. To do what you want would be easily integrated into a z-wave mesh via relays and multisensors. It's not going to be the cheapest, and will take some time, but it'll do what you want and more.




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  Reply # 1594275 18-Jul-2016 09:16
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Disrespective:

 

There's different levels of home automation. There's the DIY OpenHAB (et al) crowd who use technologies developed more for retrofit applications (but work perfectly well from new build, too). And then there's the commercial systems Control4 (et al) which are much better implemented at build stage.

 

We have a Control4 project in the office now and it sounds like it's going to be a costly exercise to get up and running, but will do everything you want, and more. The basics of the install are running cat6 to each switch, and relays at the board for controlling the circuits. All of this is hooked up to a controller module which Control4 setup and and manage (no DIY tinkering here). Most hardware can be controlled in different ways and integrated into the system.

 

I'm setting up an OpenHAB system at home and it's mostly over wifi/z-wave rather than re-wired and is a slowly growing amorphous mesh of hardware and tinkering. My setup is very much in its infancy and changing every few weeks but I can see the level of automation and control will surpass the Control4 setup, it just won't be as seamless. To do what you want would be easily integrated into a z-wave mesh via relays and multisensors. It's not going to be the cheapest, and will take some time, but it'll do what you want and more.

 

 

So if I understand you correctly, a DIY OpenHAB (or similar) solution can still be cleanly retrofitted (perhaps with changing switches) because the comms is Z-wave rather than cable to each switch?

 

I'm not afraid of DIY - in fact probably prefer the option of building myyself - I just wanted to make sure there was nothing that's MUCH easier or cheaper to do during the initial house build.

 

Thanks for the response!

 

Cheers - N

 

 


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  Reply # 1594278 18-Jul-2016 09:22
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I would also consider looking into low voltage lighting circuits and wiring up in star-config. So the idea would be to run LV wiring from all light fixtures back to a central hub. The same with all manual wall switches. The does two things, 1) allows for easy automation since you can use cheap LV relays to control every light in the house (without having to use relatively expensive Z-Wave, or other RF, in-wall devices). And 2) means it becomes very easy to setup a battery/generator powered backup system for running your lighting in the event of a power outage or running off-grid. 

 

Most lighting these days is LED and is LV anyway - so it makes sense IMO to wire it up this way, rather than running 240V everywhere, just for it to be fed into a transformer in the ceiling/wall to down-convert to 12V to run the lights.

 

Wish I had done this on my new build 5yrs ago!


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  Reply # 1594301 18-Jul-2016 10:18
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SumnerBoy:

 

I would also consider looking into low voltage lighting circuits and wiring up in star-config. So the idea would be to run LV wiring from all light fixtures back to a central hub. The same with all manual wall switches. The does two things, 1) allows for easy automation since you can use cheap LV relays to control every light in the house (without having to use relatively expensive Z-Wave, or other RF, in-wall devices). And 2) means it becomes very easy to setup a battery/generator powered backup system for running your lighting in the event of a power outage or running off-grid. 

 

Most lighting these days is LED and is LV anyway - so it makes sense IMO to wire it up this way, rather than running 240V everywhere, just for it to be fed into a transformer in the ceiling/wall to down-convert to 12V to run the lights.

 

Wish I had done this on my new build 5yrs ago!

 

Yes, good point. We always ask our sparkies to run LV wiring in a star config. It's much easier to manage that way.

 

If you're planning on retrofitting then new LV wiring might be a job too far, but would certainly future proof the house.


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  Reply # 1594303 18-Jul-2016 10:23
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does anyone have any links for the LV start wiring? and also the products used for the transformer etc.?

 

 

 

what about the lights themselves? can you get LED lighting with out the transformers on them?


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  Reply # 1594324 18-Jul-2016 10:42
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Jase2985:

 

does anyone have any links for the LV start wiring? and also the products used for the transformer etc.?

 

 

 

what about the lights themselves? can you get LED lighting with out the transformers on them?

 

This won't answer all your questions, but might give you a start.


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  Reply # 1594328 18-Jul-2016 10:47
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SumnerBoy: I would also consider looking into low voltage lighting circuits and wiring up in star-config. So the idea would be to run LV wiring from all light fixtures back to a central hub. The same with all manual wall switches....

 

That would be ELV rather than LV.  Interesting idea.  I assume the dimmers would then be at the hub rather than local.  A larger house would would probably need multiple hubs to limit the length of the ELV cabling.  Has anyone ever done this arrangement in a house?

 

The problem with retrofit z-wave is that it's not 100% solid and requires a level of technical knowledge that many people don't have.  In my house if the z-wave goes down then big chunks of the house will be dead in the water. This is going to be a problem if I'm ever not around or when the time comes to sell the house.  You pretty much need to be in a position to return the house to conventional wiring arrangements, like a retro-UNfit.  This is probably less true of proprietary wired automation systems.





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  Reply # 1594332 18-Jul-2016 10:51
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mclean:

 

SumnerBoy: I would also consider looking into low voltage lighting circuits and wiring up in star-config. So the idea would be to run LV wiring from all light fixtures back to a central hub. The same with all manual wall switches....

 

That would be ELV rather than LV.  Interesting idea.  I assume the dimmers would then be at the hub rather than local.  A larger house would would probably need multiple hubs to limit the length of the ELV cabling.  Has anyone ever done this arrangement in a house?

 

The problem with retrofit z-wave is that it's not 100% solid and requires a level of technical knowledge that many people don't have.  In my house if the z-wave goes down then big chunks of the house will be dead in the water. This is going to be a problem if I'm ever not around or when the time comes to sell the house.  You pretty much need to be in a position to return the house to conventional wiring arrangements, like a retro-UNfit.  This is probably less true of proprietary wired automation systems.

 

 

 

 

Good point - the proprietary system I looked at made the point that in a system failure scenario all the smart features stopped working, but all elements remained accessible by manual controls. I'd be quite nervous of any system that required the smarts to be working so I could turn on a given light.

 

 

 

Cheers - N


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  Reply # 1594337 18-Jul-2016 11:12
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So what I would do (from what I am learning from my own retrofitting IoT) to prep for it would be:

 

  • All lighs and power sockets should be terminated at the distribution board. I.e. star architecture. Then you can have relay boards controlling power centrally.
  • Cat 5e cables to every socket
  • 4 core telephone wire to every light switch (or just do Cat 5e) or centralise light switiching at the distribution panel and run 12v with relay switches
  • Run Cat 5e to all light fittings so that you could go with data lines and 5/12v so you could install RGB Led.
  • And/or reserve enough hollow & accessible space next to all wall switches and outlets to install behind wall electronics. I'd say about 10x10x5cm
  • Reserve space for a "server room/cupboard" well ventillated, insulated and close to the main power board.
  • You'll want to run a server that does your IoT. Usually a Raspberry Pi 2/3 is enough. I'd do this especially because of the comments above re using cloud services.
    Also this should be the space where your Cat 5e converges or under the roof if temperatures, access and cabling design allows.
  • Think about swiches and PoE and if you want to use that.
  • Also run Cat 5e & power (think about general home 12v power too in addition to 220V) to strategic places outside the home!!! E.g. where you want to inastall cameras, doorbell, weather station,....
  • I'd probably also run 2xCat 5e and extra fibre to where your fibre/copper comes on to your property just to be sure! Having the issue now that I need it and it is a world of hurt and $1000's to redo later on.
  • And then you'd need to get all that through building codes, which I have no clue about.

I'd suggest if you haven't spent $1000 on cat 5e cabling you probably have not cabled enough! ;-)

 

A good place to get the necessary kit is gowifi.co.nz. I'm sure they'll also give discounts if you take a LOT of stuff.

 

Also at the moment you can save a LOT by going the DIY route e.g. ESP8266 stuff. But it means you have to spend a significant amount of learning and upskilling. If that's not your cup of tea then go commercial.

 

 

 

just my 2c

 

 


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  Reply # 1594360 18-Jul-2016 11:27
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mclean:

 

That would be ELV rather than LV.  Interesting idea.  I assume the dimmers would then be at the hub rather than local.  A larger house would would probably need multiple hubs to limit the length of the ELV cabling.  Has anyone ever done this arrangement in a house?

 

 

Yep exactly, all lighting control (including dimmers) would be in a central location. As you say, for a large house this might require multiple hubs. I came across a system (NZ based) when I was specing my new build 5yrs ago that someone locally had designed but never took to market. They had a controller node for each zone/room which was basically a hub in the ceiling above each main room which controlled all lighting for that area. Each hub was then CAT6 wired back to the server hub for overall control.

 

mclean:

 

The problem with retrofit z-wave is that it's not 100% solid and requires a level of technical knowledge that many people don't have.  In my house if the z-wave goes down then big chunks of the house will be dead in the water. This is going to be a problem if I'm ever not around or when the time comes to sell the house.  You pretty much need to be in a position to return the house to conventional wiring arrangements, like a retro-UNfit.  This is probably less true of proprietary wired automation systems.

 

 

I must admit I find the mains powered Z-Wave nodes very close to 100% reliable. I have yet to have a light not switch on/off when expected. The battery powered sensors are probably not as reliable, but then they are not designed to be, only waking up to transmit events/readings etc.

 

But totally agree that any system must be useable if the main server goes down - i.e. lights can be turned on/off. I think this would be achievable with properly designed relay/dimmer modules which have a manual override as well as the automation control. Effectively how the Z-Wave in-wall relays work. The wall switches would be wired up to these modules and any switching there would override the relay. Of course if those modules failed you would be out of luck...


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  Reply # 1594383 18-Jul-2016 11:45
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olivernz:

 

So what I would do (from what I am learning from my own retrofitting IoT) to prep for it would be:

 

  • All lighs and power sockets should be terminated at the distribution board. I.e. star architecture. Then you can have relay boards controlling power centrally.
  • Cat 5e cables to every socket
  • 4 core telephone wire to every light switch (or just do Cat 5e) or centralise light switiching at the distribution panel and run 12v with relay switches
  • Run Cat 5e to all light fittings so that you could go with data lines and 5/12v so you could install RGB Led.
  • And/or reserve enough hollow & accessible space next to all wall switches and outlets to install behind wall electronics. I'd say about 10x10x5cm
  • Reserve space for a "server room/cupboard" well ventillated, insulated and close to the main power board.
  • You'll want to run a server that does your IoT. Usually a Raspberry Pi 2/3 is enough. I'd do this especially because of the comments above re using cloud services.
    Also this should be the space where your Cat 5e converges or under the roof if temperatures, access and cabling design allows.
  • Think about swiches and PoE and if you want to use that.
  • Also run Cat 5e & power (think about general home 12v power too in addition to 220V) to strategic places outside the home!!! E.g. where you want to inastall cameras, doorbell, weather station,....
  • I'd probably also run 2xCat 5e and extra fibre to where your fibre/copper comes on to your property just to be sure! Having the issue now that I need it and it is a world of hurt and $1000's to redo later on.
  • And then you'd need to get all that through building codes, which I have no clue about.

I'd suggest if you haven't spent $1000 on cat 5e cabling you probably have not cabled enough! ;-)

 

A good place to get the necessary kit is gowifi.co.nz. I'm sure they'll also give discounts if you take a LOT of stuff.

 

Also at the moment you can save a LOT by going the DIY route e.g. ESP8266 stuff. But it means you have to spend a significant amount of learning and upskilling. If that's not your cup of tea then go commercial.

 

 

Pretty good summary - I have a feeling that POE is going to become a much more mainstream *thing*. Imagine wiring up lighting for a whole house by just running CAT6 to each fixture and switch. Jobs done. You then buy a 48 point lighting controller (patent pending!) which you patch all your light fixtures and switches into. That off-the-shelf device can route any switch to any light (or group of lights). It can switch, dim or send RGB signals and allow automation/remote access via a REST API or built in web server. 

 

Literally plug and play. 

 

Same with IP cameras and distributed audio. Everything controlled and powered over CAT6 cabling. The only 240V cabling required would be wall sockets and appliances. And as you mentioned, you would run CAT6 to all of those as well for control etc.

 

The future is exciting (in my head anyway!!).

 

 




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  Reply # 1594421 18-Jul-2016 12:06
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OK then... updated request... Say I wanted to dip my toe in the water before I move, what  do I need foe Openhab? I'm thinking...

 

 

 

- Raspberry Pi with a 7" touchscreen

 

- Z-wave USB controller?

 

- a couple of z-wave inwall relays (to provide smarts - control and state detection) to existing lights or sockets

 

- a couple of sensors (Is someone in the hall?)

 

- can I get an IR emitter to turn stuff on?

 

 

 

My chosen POC would be to have something that...

 

 

 

"Press a button on the touchscreen and the projector turns on, the amp turns on, the screen drops (via existing 12V trigger from projector) and the lights for the room turn off after 30 seconds"

 

By the sound of is this should be relatively simple and not require significant rewiring - just putting the relays in the light switches?

 

 

 

Cheers - N

 

 


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  Reply # 1594428 18-Jul-2016 12:22
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Not sure I would bother with the touch screen - might be easier to have a tablet (can get some pretty cheap Android tabs these days) - means you can move it around with you, and use for other things like web surfing/emails etc.

 

But yes, a majority of openHAB users start out on a RPi - I would go for the RPi3 - plenty of grunt then.

 

And a Z-Stick is a very cost effective way to get started. $120 + RPi + openHAB and you have a fully functional Z-Wave controller.

 

I haven't used the Harmony Hub but have read good things, and there is a dedicated openHAB binding so it should be trivial to integrate. This should give you your IR control.

 

Once you have those pieces it should be pretty simple to write an openHAB rule to do your POC.

 

Feel free to post questions here, or better still on the openHAB forums, if you need any help. Plenty of friendly and very helpful users on there.


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