Over the last few months we’ve been working away on the Loxone plans for the new house.
Loxone is a BMS (Building Management System) built around their Miniserver, the brains of the entire operation. Here are some of the Loxone features that we are considering for the Automated Home 2.0…
Lighting is probably the most popular place to start making your home ‘smart’ in the UK.
We talked to a couple of lighting design companies and whilst we’d love to have had their input it was just another one of those figures in our spreadsheet that ultimately didn’t make the cut.
On the up side we’ve found that our Loxone partner has lots of useful lighting experience we can use instead.
The system can switch and dim nearly any type of light but Loxone manufacture their own fittings too. We’d like to use these where possible and we especially love their ‘LED Pendulum Slim’ lamps…
It would be great to have some Scene Lighting in the Kitchen / Dining / Living room to help zone things and use Loxone’s RGBW Pendant lights, LED tape and down lighters to set different moods. We had some round pin 5 Amp sockets in the old place for table lamps which we’re considering again too.
It seems simple, but one of the features we enjoyed most during our visit to the Loxone Show Home was automated Lighting. Movement sensors (PIRs) mounted in the ceilings that turned on lights as we entered a room. The relative new ‘Ceiling Light Tree’ actually has one built in to the centre of the unit so you can light and detect movement in a room all from a single unit.
Door sensors are also an option we are considering for smaller rooms like the Pantry, so the light would be on the instant the door starts to open.
It’s unlikely our budget will stretch to much in the way of outdoor lighting at this point, but we’re definitely planning to reserve a few circuits for it. We’ll be adding some cable runs for other future things like drive lights / gates / and an intercom there too.
Security & Access
Because of those movement and door sensors we mentioned above, Loxone basically has all the elements of a burglar alarm already built-in. So the addition of the Loxone Alarm Siren seems like a sensible choice. Personally I think that sirens aren’t always that useful, especially in the countryside. However with Loxone the system can phone and text me when there’s an alarm condition which is much more useful than a bell ringing in a field somewhere.
Driving a car that uses your smartphone as the key is fantastic and it would be great to add motorised locks to the house to remove the need to carry a key for it too. Each one of Loxone’s NFC Code Touch keypads can operate multiple doors and they can also allow limited or one time access to your home. So you could for example give a cleaner access on Tuesdays between 9am and noon or create a PIN to let a delivery driver leave a parcel in your garage.
Instead of typing in your own PIN each time you get home, you can use a little NFC Key Fob like in the photo above. But I’d really prefer not to have to carry anything but my phone, just like with my car. Apple (being Apple) have refused to open up NFC to 3rd party developers, years after adding the feature to their phones. Fear not though non-Android users, as Loxone also provides these Encrypted NFC Smart Tags (stickers) which can be placed on the back of your iPhone instead (but really Apple, we shouldn’t have to do this).
We’re installing electric roller Garage Doors and we’d like to interface to them too (look out for a separate post on the garage door setup in the future).
We’re planning to install multiple IP CCTV security cameras and Loxone has the ability to display CCTV images in their app.
Finally the entire Loxone system can be brought together to mimic presence in the house. Operating lights, blinds and playing music for example while you are away on holidays, which should be enough to convince the casual observer that the house is still occupied.
Shading / Windows / Blinds
We’re fitting Keylite roof windows in the KDL room and study. Each of these 7 units are electrically operated and we’d like the Loxone system to be able to open them automatically, before the house starts to over heat in the summer for example.
While data from an Internet Weather Service is useful, it would be great to have Loxone’s dedicated weather station on site to accurately detected local wind and rain conditions. Using this device the system could then close those roof windows automatically in wet and or windy conditions too.
The weather station can also play a part in the heating strategy for the house, acting like a weather compensator.
In addition to opening and closing the windows, the blinds on the roof lites will be electrically operated too. We plan to add motorised rollers on the sliders too, with Loxone controlling them all to provide automated shading in the summer.
Heating / HVAC / Energy
The Loxone system includes Valve Actuators that can be used on a manifold for example to control under floor heating (which we’ll have on both floors of the AH2).
Each area can have its own temperature sensor, as these are conveniently built into the Loxone wall switches. The system can take the average of several sensors to more accurately determine the room’s temperature.
Loxone’s Modbus extension could talk to our heating system as well as providing energy monitoring duties. Ideally I’d like to measure how much power any future EV charger or solar PV system we install consumes and generates.
Something I need to look into more is smart appliances with timers for using off-peak electricity. Something that would allow us to run the dishwasher and washing machine at night using lower price energy for example.
We’ve had a Sonos system since 2005 and it’s always been a superb multi-room audio system. And while it can be integrated, Loxone provide their own multizone audio system, so this is something we’re considering too.
It can also be used to play announcements around the house using its text to speech engine for things like the status of alarm (set/unset), playing a custom doorbell sound, smoke detector warnings etc all through the Loxone Speakers.
We don’t want any speakers sitting around the floor, although that means it’s going to be hard to get the great sound we enjoyed in the last house unless we can find another speaker solution. Sound bars are probably our best option for the TVs.
Loxone aren’t known for their media controls, but that’s fine by me.
I think things are changing rapidly here (it seems like IR and Universal Remotes are going the way of the Dodo), so it’s hard to even get a handle on what exactly our needs are at this point.
Catchup services are so good now that we’ve easily lived without any TV recordings for the last 12 months in our temporary accommodation. So while Sky Q was excellent in the old place (and is always an option to add to our network later on if we change our minds), I’ve currently no plans for any DVR at all.
In fact I probably watch more YouTube than anything these days, so with that, Netflix and the rest of the streaming services, I really can’t see myself installing anything other than a few smart TVs with a good old hardwired Ethernet connection to each one, plus a Coax for Freeview.
In regards to integration, Loxone has an open API and can also interface with http, udp, RS-232, RS-485, DALI, DMX, EnOcean, Modbus and 1-wire amongst others. Add that to the normal array of digital and analogue I/O’s and there’s not much I can think of that cannot be integrated.
On the advice of our installer Scott, we plan to use an Airbase extension along with a few Air modules here and there. This means the house will already have a good Loxone mesh network so any future wireless additions (Christmas tree lights in a Smart Socket Air for example) should ‘just work’.
Loxone make their own Smoke Detector Air, but as it’s not mains powered it cannot be fitted to a new build. Alternatively we could integrate with some third party ones with the appropriate contacts.
My better half liked the Touch Nightlight Air in the show home so we might put one of those in the master bedroom. Not sure that we’d get much use out of the Touch & Grill Air BBQ accessory in ‘sunny’ Northern Ireland though 🙂
I’ve always wondered if it’s worth investing in water leak detection, but it’s another option to consider.
We’ve got a couple of outside sockets on the wish list too, one for the pressure washer at the rear and another at the front for an outside LED Patio lamp like this.
Our LAN and Wi-Fi setup will be a separate consideration (and posts) but at this point I’m hoping to use as much PoE for Wireless Access points and CCTV Cameras as I can.
One of the things people usually learn quickly when setting up a modern smart home is that it’s really no fun at all having to get your phone out every five minutes to control stuff.
This is where true automation comes into play, with the house controlling lights, blinds, heating, access, music etc all automatically based on things like your movements and the time of day. We certainly don’t plan to do away with wall switches either, and I really liked the scheme in the Loxone Show Home that meant each switch used an identical setup for music, lights, blinds etc, making it much easier to remember.
I’d love one central on-wall master panel for the system too, so an iPad setup like this in kitchen is on our wish list.
While voice control is not currently a core feature of Loxone it can be added with the 1Home system which we are also really interested in.
What Have We Forgotten?
As is often the case, blog posts like this are as much for my benefit as anyone else’s as they force me to get my own thoughts together.
So, is there anything I’ve forgotten? Something else worth considering? Let me know in the comments below.