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Thread: Recommend an automation system

  1. #1
    Automated Home Lurker
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    Default Recommend an automation system

    Hello everyone

    I am starting a total home renovation in few months time from now. All floors and walls will be teared down, all wiring plumbing and so on will be built from scratch.

    This renovation has given me an opportunity to automate my home as well. But I can not decide which system to choose. Maybe someone can point me in the right direction.

    Here is what I have thought that the system could do:
    1. Control the lighting and dim them according to light available. All the lighting will be controlled manually also by using dimmers. Do not know if it is possible, but I would like to use switches from http://www.speed-key.co.uk/ as they are the best looking ones I have seen on the market.
    2. Control under floor heating using data collected from control panels and temperature sensors in every room. The control panel would be one from SpeedKey.
    3. Control the sauna heater. If possible, the program should have a function to start the heater remotly (i.e. I give the system an order to heat the sauna to 90C on a specific time, the program then calculates how long it will take using predefined data and start the heater on time)
    4. Start the ventilation when needed in bathrooms and in other rooms once a day using a timer.
    5. Of course it must have an option to control the security system.

    Thank you all in advance
    Rauno from Tallinn

  2. #2
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    seems to me your choice is between KNX / EIB & Idratek :

    http://www.idratek.pl/
    http://www.idratek.com/
    http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/vbull...splay.php?f=27

    with the Idratek having fewer style options but being the more capable & lower cost - its modules can feed off switches of your choice, to match your style preferences ...

    Chris

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the quick reply.

    I took a look at the Idratek system and it seems to fill all my needs.

    But one thing I can not figure out is how can I use the dimmer switches with the system?
    I was planning to use presence detection for lighting, but got a little worried that my cat will also trigger the presence sensor and turn on the lights. Can the presence sensor be tuned such a way that the cat can not trigger it?
    The secondary control would be the SpeedKey dimmer. How do I hook it up into the system so I could use the dimmer to change brightness or turn of the lights in a way that the central unit knows that I have done that.

    My expression skills are not that good in English as it is my secondary language. So I hope you understood my questions.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. #4
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    Idratek have dimmer units, and most of their modules also have digital inputs - ie: connect the switch of your (aesthetic) choice to one of these digital units (on any convenient module) & use one pole for up & one pole for down, and even (if desired) another pole for scene A, another for scene B, etc.

    ie: use a Speedkey switch unit, touch or mechanical, whichever - for which there are several options, here :

    http://speedkey.en.alibaba.com/

    in conjunction with an Idratek dimmer unit ...

    for typical Speedkey wiring details, click the Wiring & Installation button here :

    http://www.speed-key.co.uk/lighting_control.htm

    the Speedkey units look neat ... was wondering how to programme them - it seems they probably come pre-programmed, if I understand correctly - eg: click the Models button in the link just mentioned !

    wonder how fast to respond the touch screens are ?

    NB: might be best to ask questions about Idratek over on the Idratek forum part of Automated Home, where people have lots of expertise & experience - ie:

    http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/vbull...splay.php?f=27

    the moderator there also has a good blog on his set-up ...

    Chris
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 7th July 2009 at 08:42 AM. Reason: more

  5. #5
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    It is important to unerstand that the IDRATEK system is a highly integrated one and it is also 'information rich' - we like to describe it as 2nd generation Home Automation. Although this might sound like promotional blurb it is actually a very important if as yet poorly understood difference to other systems.

    With the IDRATEK system what something does depends on the state of many other variables. You can for example connect a 3rd party button into the system but what that button actually does when you press it not only can be anything that you programmed it to do but also can vary depending on any presently existing circumstances which the system as a whole (not just lighting aspects) 'knows' about.

    It's the same with any of the automation - it is system wide context dependent. You walk into a room, how/when should the light come on? Is it dark enough? What do we mean by dark enough - in the room or outside the house? Is it a bedroom and after everyone asleep? Has someone already overriden the lights to be OFF despite it being dark and before bed time? What level should the light come ON to? Which 'scene' under present set of circumstances if multiple lights? Remember - talking automation here, i.e. minimal user having to press buttons

    Timed motion sensing alone is quite a poor control method for automation since if you set the timers too long then things will be ON for much longer than you need (eg. lights after you leave a room). If you set the timing too short it can become irritating (lights going OFF when you sit still for a while). Occupancy detection is better, and in our system uses integrated information to work out. However low cost motion detectors (whether ours or 3rd party) tend to be the prime source of presence information. So if the sensor detects a cat then it cannot (without further information about likely house occupancy.. ) tell that its not a person. Sensor positioning and use of 3rd party 'pet immune' sensors are ways to get around this.

    Integrating 3rd party switches into the IDRATEK system is quite common and works fine because a mechanical switch function is quite well defined no matter what it looks like externally (we do also cover the distinction between momentary and non momentary types, for example when it comes to dimmer control). More sophisticated switches may not be so easy to integrate if they don't behave like a simple switch, because you'd need to know how to translate their signal into something understood and each manufacturer will probably have their own protocol. Similarly 3rd party feedback cues such as indicator lighting on swtches are not naturally catered for by the integration in our system, although simple ad hoc behaviour such as operating backlighting when dark could be more easily accomodated.

    With heating control, as Chris pointed out, the IDRATEK system is very sophisticated and easily able to integrate multiple sensors and provide independent detailed temperature setpoint profiles to say nothing of occupancy based back off profiles, compensation for external conditions, rich historical data archiving, energy usage analysis, and so on. Though it might well be feasible to some extent, the use of 3rd party control panels and sensors will most likely result in operating at the lowest common denominator, or at least the IDRATEK system acting as some crude controller of the 3rd party system. I think this would lose much of the integration benefits. The other problem is of course trying to figure out how to connect the two systems, as 3rd party heating systems which use anything above a basic thermostat type idea will likely have widely differing signalling protocols. In short not something we like to to encourage - not because we just want to sell our products.

    The sauna idea might be achieved adequately by some simple mapping function (probably worked out from the heating curve data) and taking account of starting temperature. If starting point external and water temperatures are different then some other mappings could be used, or ultimately something more elaborate like a transfer function might be used if warranted.

    Ventilation of bathrooms can be automated based on occupancy, humidity level changes or timing or perhaps other factors too. Using a scheduled timer alone is of course straightforward but probably not the most efficient or convenient method.

    Integrating into a 3rd party security system might be achieved at some level depending on the level of integration you require. For example, with some DIYing work you may be able to utilise the 3rd party sensors for IDRATEK motion detection and you might be able to use an alarm output from the 3rd party alarm to triggger an IDRATEK based alert to your phone or e-mail or such. It tends to be much more difficult however to allow IDRATEK to set or unset the alarm because the signalling from the 3rd party control panel is often proprietary and differs from one product to another. As with the heating system you will likely lose much of the benfit of the integration fetaures. Ofcourse the IDRATEK system does itself provide an advanced security function which includes integration of camera imaging, remote access, data archiving etc. And its about to get even more sophisticated ....

  6. #6
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    yep - 'tis tempting to try a SpeedKey touch-screen switch unit (not the dimmer version) to provide simple button-inputs (to Idratek), 'though the fixed legends rather ruin the options !

  7. #7
    Automated Home Guru Nad's Avatar
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    That's a very interesting reply Karam. The reasoning you stated is pretty much exactly why I went with Idranet. It gave me the greatest control out of the box and allowed me maximum creativeity with the system. (I like DIY )

    I was not able to sell the Idratek interfaces to my wife so have had to make (more like in the proces of making) my own switch plates. The speed key items look interesting but looks like they are a bit limited to what you can have displayed on it. Even so, I would be very interested to see if any one buys it and what they think of it.

    As I'm deploying/ developing the system gradually i decided to get an alarm system that will be easy to integrate into Idratek. I saw that a few people had gone with Texecom and further research confirmed that this was a good option. So I went with the Premier 48 (maximum of 48 zones and each zone can essentially have it's own mimicked output). I have all the motion sensors feeding back into Idratek so now i have basic presance detection using the alarm PIRs but as the data is being fed out of the alarm pannel to Idratek via digital input modules the alarm can still be considered an independant entity and will function as it should what ever the HA system does (or doesn't do).

    The Texecom also alows you to set zones as arming triggers so i can use an output module to trigger an input in the alarm pannel to arm the system (this does mean that it's no longer a Grade 3 pannel or something long thoes lines, but it makes no differance to the general consumer). You can also use the same funtion to disarm too but I've opted to only disarm via code entry. So I have a timmed output that trigers the arming say at midnight if the sytem is not armed already. Obviusly you can get much clever than this with regards to arming of the system but for now this is a far as i've gotten

    Just my 2p worth

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