My Automated Home: One Woman’s Journey into the Smart Home World

Sometimes the tech world can seem like a private mens club. Thankfully that’s changing with each year that passes and our latest ‘My Automated Home’ feature comes from our forum member Mavis.

Read on for a female perspective on the smart home, the good and the bad, and even an admission that it’s not just men that sneak those tech purchases into the home past their better half!

Catching the Bug

As a 47 year old woman I guess I am in the minority when it comes to my love of all things techy. I can think of nothing better than getting a new appliance or gadget and sitting down with the instruction book and trying out all the features.

My love of anything technical began when my dad bought me a ZX80 way back when computers were only just becoming the ‘norm’. I studied Computer Science at A level and even though I failed all my A levels, I still remember with fondness the programme I wrote on a BBC computer with BASIC.

I have always lusted over the fully automated homes that used to appear on Tomorrows World with such gadgets as automatic lights, blinds and curtains that operated remotely and piped music. Well, my dreams are finally turning into reality. 

My Smart Home So Far

We moved house last year and I decided after reading a few forums on operating heating remotely that I would invest in the Honeywell evohome system. I like the freedom being able to set each room to a different temperature, as well as having the technology to turn the heating off or down remotely.

The touch screen controller is a dream to use and it is so easy to, for example, boost the temperature in the bathroom just before using it. My home feels much more comfortable and we have the added bonus that it looks as though we are saving a significant amount of gas although it is early days yet and we don’t have any true data to compare against. I have also had a bit of a play with IFTTT and now have some radiators set to come on if our son is on day shift at the weekend – it picks up key words from my Google calendar and triggers the radiators to come on at a set time. Ideal for irregular shift patterns.

Node Zero

So I have caught the bug and now have moved onto automating my lights. I went with the LightwaveRF range and have changed all our light switches and some of the electrical sockets too. This has enabled me to get round issues such as a light switch behind a door – I have installed a wireless ‘Mood Switch’ in a more accessible place and a wireless light switch next to the exterior kitchen door. I have also installed a PIR in the hall for the night time trips to the bathroom. Again the techy part of me was not happy until I got the remote gateway so I have now set my sitting room lamps and light to come on at dusk every day (and one touch of the ‘Mood Switch’ switches them all off.)

Energy Consumption Graph

To monitor all of this I have the Loop Energy Tracker which monitors both electricity and gas. The advantage of the Loop is that it produces usage graphs so you can compare your usage day on day.

But it has not all been practicality. In the bedroom, purely for decoration, I have a set of fancy string lights plugged into a LightwaveRF timer plug set to come on at dusk and go off at a set time.

Home Automation with a Woman's Touch

What I don’t like about modern automated living is all the clutter that comes with electrical connections. Every room has at least one tower electrical adapter and the number of internet gateways, chargers and remote controls does not make for a tidy home.

I have never been a shoes and handbags girl and instead get the same rush over a new Sat Nav or phone.  I have also been known to hide purchases from my husband as he thinks they are a waste of money – I certainly did not tell him how much the light switches cost!

Future Plans for My Smart Home  

  • Change to LED bulbs throughout, not as straight forward as it sounds as I am struggling for compatibility for LWRF and dimming in general.
  • Streaming music throughout the bungalow – possibly using ceiling speakers in the bathroom and kitchen and perhaps wireless elsewhere.
  • Making more use of IFTTT
  • Redesigning my garden with automated lighting and possibly a water feature.
  • I have always liked the idea of Raspberry Pi and would like to dabble with this and/or Python although I guess without a specific purpose then it would be pretty meaningless.
  • I also have a bit of a dilemma – possible circumstances may mean that we will move house again in a couple of years time so this has shifted my focus a bit to only installing semi permanent or easily removable tech.  The plus side of this means that tech will have come on further and I will be able to plan from scratch.

I have dreams of what I could do if I had a small win on the Lottery. I’d have someone come in and draw up a plan for the whole house so that I could gradually buy and install suitable and compatible tech that works with each other.

My other dream is for that large Lottery win and entails someone designing and installing the whole house so that it is bursting with tech, from colour changing shower cubicles with music, to concealed speakers in every room. Oh well, a girl can dream 🙂

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6 Comments on "My Automated Home: One Woman’s Journey into the Smart Home World"

  1. I think that openremote would be something with a value to you. It is opensource and ‘speaks’ many protocols. Ideal for DIYer like you. And it is free!

  2. I highly recommend NodeRed on a RaspberyPi, it’s a node.js based automation engine. awesome. I have it working with my LighwaveRF lights, maplin weather station and some homebrew xrf temp and light sensors – all good fun 🙂

  3. Interesting article thank you for sharing. Had my RPi a year now, runs my media. LightwaveRF electrics look good but got burn waiting for their heating controls.

    Have in-ceiling speakers in bathroom and a DrAmp in wall amp with them. Guality music in shower is a good selling point (to hubby in your case).

  4. Just thought I’d lend a little moral support from a fifty-something fellow female gadget lover.

    We too have LightwaveRF in our home, mostly used with the plug in adapters in conjunction with IKEA LED lights of various flavours.

    We have backlighting (literally) on the TV in the lounge, which switches on at dusk, and off at around 2am (so it gives enough light to at least see where you’re going without fumbling for light switches, even after a late night out).

    My particular favourites, though, are the LED strips in the bedroom that are programmed to switch on in succession (they’re non-dimmable, so I’ve improvised) for a gentle wake up in the morning, and also to switch on at night, ready for bed.

    I’d like to add some PIR sensors for places like hall, landing and bathroom, but I too am treading carefully – my partner is techy too, but not quite as enthusiastic as I am.

    My biggest disappointment so far has been the wireless (Auraglow) bulb that I bought for the bathroom. The ability to choose colours for a moody leisurely bath was lovely, but the bulb simply wasn’t bright enough for everyday use as the only light in there (at least, it’s the only light until we finish rebuilding and refitting it).

  5. The PIR in the Hall is both a godsend and a pain – I have now managed to get my Megaman LED bulbs to work in the light fitting so have them dimmed right down, ideal during the night. PIR is fitted to cover all the internal doors but if you are doing something by the front door then then sensor doesn’t pick you up and the lights go out. Queue hubby ranting!

    I like the sound of the LED strips and am now thinking for under the kitchen cupboards.

    The best thing about decorative lights such as the ones in my bedroom and, I guess, the LED strips, is the ability to time them on and off. If I couldn’t do that then I most probably wouldn’t use them at all.

    Now off to give my card some hammering – best place to buy LED plug in strips please??

  6. You could try searching for “LED rope”, “LED tape” or “LED strip” at http://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/. They have various options (including some RGB ones) and have always found their service & price to be very good.

    IKEA used to do some but I haven’t checked there in a while.

    HTH!

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