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Thread: Automating our new build

  1. #1
    Automated Home Sr Member mcockerell's Avatar
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    Default Automating our new build

    Hello everyone,

    We are currently in the middle of our new build and will shortly be starting first fix. I have put quite a bit of thought into what we want to achieve from any home automation since we embarked on the project in October 2007. At one stage I was very keen to use kit from another UK supplier, but for a number of reasons have now gone away from this - I was pleased to come across Idratek fairly recently, and this seems to fit most of our needs.

    I have decided to use individual zone programmable controls for the underfloor heating and hot water (fed by a combination of solar panels and gas boiler), but hope to provide high-level management of the system by coupling into the RS-485 network used by the Heatmiser controls.

    Similarly we will initially be using the standard (supplied) controls for the heat recovery ventilation system, which incorporates brine-to-air cooling. Again, the ventilation system controls use an RS-485 network, while the brine system itself uses simple volt-free contacts.

    My plan is to initially use standard switching and wiring (to keep things simple for the trades) and over time use Idratek modules with Cortex to overlay more complex supervisory control schemes. This is partly because I have a background in control engineering, but also because where we will be living we can apparently experience fairly frequent mains electricity outages.

    I plan to run in fairly copious amounts of Cat5e, and may well install some Idratek wall units from day one.

    For the lighting I would like to retain standard switches, but have a centrally controlled override so that we can give the appearance of occupancy for security. There should also be a failsafe way of operating the lighting in the event of a failure of the control system.

    I have come up with the scheme in the attached file for wiring the lighting.

    Relay 1 enables/disables the wall switches (failsafe is switches enabled), with Relay 2 switching the lighting on and off.

    The idea would be for the electricians to wire the wall switching in the standard way, but with cabling from the switches and the light fittings taken back to a central point where the relays would be installed. Although the initial plan is for only some of the lights to be centrally controlled, most if not all of the ciruits would be wired this way for future expansion.

    We don't see the need for much dimming of lights - we are instead looking at having multiple circuits and different types of lighting (ceiling, wall, lamps) in those rooms that might need varying levels. Many of the light fittings that we plan to use are non-dimmable anyway.

    Can anyone see a major flaw in this idea?

    Thanks in advance,
    Martin
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by mcockerell; 13th January 2009 at 05:22 PM.

  2. #2
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    just a few thoughts ...

    in power cuts, the lights etc won't work, but Idratek will if use use their intelligent power supply ... people here have found Cortex reliably starts-up again, too, with Reflex keeping things going in the meantime ... ie: the control system is likely to be the more reliable !

    people have found Idratek works well at looking after the lights ... wonder if they would be brave enough to do without manual fall-back ?

    from what we've seen, going 100% Idratek is an option ... so why have a conventional system as well ?

    presumably, you plan to run the Cat-5e at first fix ... good idea to run it to all control points (incl: light switches etc) ...

    did you see David's blog at

    http://www.gumbrell.com/

    since he reorganised it, you have to dig a bit ... select Home Automation (in box top right), look into the Archives (start with March 05 & work up), and click Continue Reading everywhere ... but there's a lot of really helpful stuff there !

  3. #3
    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    I have no manual backup. I have Reflex configured in case the Cortex PC becomes terminally unavailable. The main consequence is I have to be careful when I update Cortex.

    The disadvantage in not having Idratek units as wall switches is that you have no obvious means to provide user feedback or input. This may not matter if you are using it simply to provide some unoccupied activity simulation.
    ----------------------
    www.gumbrell.com

  4. #4
    Automated Home Ninja Viv's Avatar
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    If your family are typically the only people in your home then having the conventional wall switches in parallel with the Idratek control is quite acceptable and provide a complete manual fall back (beyond reflex). However if you have many visitors you may find they also operate the manual switches which can causes some confusion.

    I see in your wiring alternative you try to eliminate this problem. However having alternative wall switches does mean people try and use them and in your set-up they would not do anything when automated.

    On a slight aside... The latest DFP design with its seperate XRM relay module in the right hand side of a dual pattress does mean the wiring is future proof. This means should Idratek products no longer be available and you cannot get an alternative you can simply replace with a conventional wall switch.

    Viv

  5. #5
    Automated Home Legend Paul_B's Avatar
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    The way I have done it with standard switches is to cut into the switching side of the light circuit. Then place an Idratek unit in the loft space for contolling the switching side of the light. I then have fed an RJ-45 cable down alongside the mains switch cable (now disconnected) to the light switch. Both the top and bottom of the mains switching cable have been terminated to avoid any form of shorting or confusion.

    I have replaced the wall switch with a GET plc momentrary type light switch (as you would find in most offices). I decided to go with a momentary switch to avoid a switch being on but lights off or vice-versa if you see what I mean, would possibly be confusing. The RJ45 just makes a voltage-free signal to the digital inputs of the aforementioned Idratek unit in the loft.

    Thereby, I have a solution that can easily be removed and returned to "normal" operation (re-connect the mains switch cable via a junction box and cable to the switch). The lighting control in Cortex is so advanced and well thought out that it doesn't matter if lights are controlled by other sensors (PIR, light-level, time of day) or manually via the switch. The desired effect can be achieved, even if a light is turned on manually and the user then leaves without manually turning it off Cortex can takeover and turn it off automatically. The switch also allows for manual override so lights are normally off during the early hours even if someone gets up, but the normal situation can be over-ridden via manual input of the switch.


    As for your point concerning power then definitely go for an IPS (Intelligent Power Supply) from Idratek, but also consider a small computer UPS (uninteruptable power supply). If like most of us you use a low power Mini-ITX based computer even a small UPS could keep the server running for several hours. The UPS will also protect against dirty power spikes causing hard-disk problems as well.

    HTH

    Paul

  6. #6
    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    ... I think people are saying that you have to embrace the automation
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  7. #7
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris_j_hunter View Post
    ...... people have found Idratek works well at looking after the lights ... wonder if they would be brave enough to do without manual fall-back ?
    Just out of interest I pulled out some statistics from the database of a larger installation:

    Total objects = 1121
    Network objects = 750
    Idratek modules = 120

    (Note: One IDRATEK module may embody several network objects eg. imagine a DFP-H02 with relay drives, various sensors, digital inputs, buttons etc.)

    I counted around 170 lights amongst the Network objects.

    No manual backup as far as I'm aware.

  8. #8
    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    In my (retrofit) situation I am transitioning the lighting by running a three core and earth back to the distribution panel from every ceiling rose light fitting. The wiring is

    Neutral
    Original Switched Live (originating from the switch)
    Switched Live back to light
    Earth

    At the light fitting I therefore effectively break and loop the switched live via the cable length. Thus you only need to star wire lights (not switches).

    At the distribution panel if I connect the two switched lives together then the circuit operates in the totally standard way using the existing switch. If I separate the two and connect the 'Switched live to light' to a dimmer or relay channel it is controlled by automation.

    Relay connections
    Common: switched live to light
    Normally Closed: switched live from switch (from light)
    Normally Open: automation control output


    Additionally I can connect the 'original switched live from switch' to a relay coil and use the volt free outputs as inputs to automation modules - thus allowing the original switches to control the system. Likely you will want momentary switches though if you use dimmers. I am using some very narrow stackable DIN rail mounted relays for this.

    This has allowed me to implement the system gradually and with original functionality retained, It also only requires one changeover relay per light and if you can power the relays from one switch to return the system to original functionality. Should IDRANet fail I intended a system where the relays would drop back to this mode automatically. If you want to save the relay cost and are prepared for a little more work should you wish to revert the system you could use links instead of relays.

    At one stage, once I had moved to all lights on automation control I was considering dropping the residual lighting circuit ring (ie the switches) to a voltage free circuit which might mean I could do away with the relays and feed the return 'switch' path back into inputs directly - but with consideration of the isolation (wire runs adjacent to mains over cable length) and also therefore noise I abandoned this. I may consider moving to a low DC voltage lighting ring and opto isolators however. This would preclude an automatic fallback system however.

    K
    Last edited by Kevin; 15th January 2009 at 02:33 PM.

  9. #9
    Automated Home Sr Member mcockerell's Avatar
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    Thanks all for the constructive feedback which I have read with interest. I have also reviewed a number of other posts in the forum.

    Another reason for my approach is the time that I now have left to plan a fully automated solution before we need to start first fix electrics - as I said in my original post I have spent months looking at this, but only recently became aware of Idratek. So I guess I was looking at a bit of a compromise - something that the electricians could install, but which I could alter later.

    Given the feedback I am reassessing the potential for a more complete initial implementation - the challenge will be to work out exactly what I need the electricians to do before they start.

    I'll let you know how I get on!

    Thanks again,
    Martin

  10. #10
    Automated Home Sr Member mcockerell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul_B View Post
    I have replaced the wall switch with a GET plc momentrary type light switch (as you would find in most offices).
    I've been doing a bit of digging around and found the Click Modular range by Scolmore International (http://www.scolmore.com). They have a full range of switches, including retractive, which can be fitted into several sizes of modular faceplate in various finishes to match their other product ranges (e.g. white, stainless steel, brushed chrome, etc.). Other specialist modules include RJ-45, TV, satellite, BT jack and phono sockets.

    Does anyone have any experience of using them?


    Quote Originally Posted by Paul_B View Post
    As for your point concerning power then definitely go for an IPS (Intelligent Power Supply) from Idratek, but also consider a small computer UPS (uninteruptable power supply). If like most of us you use a low power Mini-ITX based computer even a small UPS could keep the server running for several hours. The UPS will also protect against dirty power spikes causing hard-disk problems as well.
    I was thinking about using an IPS, and already have a UPS that could be used for the Cortex PC (I already have a suitable Mini-ITX syatem as well), so this is probably the way forward.


    Many thanks for the feedback,
    Martin

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