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Thread: Home Automation startup - which to invest in?

  1. #1
    Automated Home Jr Member
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    Default Home Automation startup - which to invest in?

    Hi All,

    I have been thinking - I have a few x10 switches and controllers but nothing fancy, just a quick dabble to test home automation. Best so far was switching on the Christmas lights on every day/night. Even that is not always spot on, sometime the light go on, sometimes not. (wife-approval-factor=low)

    After reading a bit on the internet, I gather that x10 is not that reliable, and I thought I would ask the hardened and experienced home automation users for some advice.

    What technology would you invest in now?

    This is what I have:

    • Some x10 kit (wall switches, plug-in modules, CM15pro, Alarm system with x10 home automation build in [ESP Infinite prime])
    • CCTV camera at front door running off a stand alone application for motion sensing/recording/alerting (XPWebCam)
    • Windows 2008 R2 Server - always on running web server, application etc, with years of Windows server experience
    • .Net programming skills with C++ and C#
    • iPhone and Android phones need to work with the system (I can do a website for this)
    • CurrentCost electricity monitoring (with Techtoniq Energy Station)
    • I live in the UK


    What I would like, is to set lighting, and appliance control for ease and also energy saving. Nothing fancy, but keeping options/upgrades open.

    Ah, and the other factors are:
    1) Cost should be low, since this is a hobby, not essential for life.
    2) It should be wife-proof: tech should work, always and simple.

    Would extending my x10 setup be the way to go (cost=low, wife proof factor=low) or should I be looking into something completely new, since tech always change?

    What are your thoughts on this?
    Last edited by Creagan; 30th December 2010 at 10:38 AM.

  2. #2
    Automated Home Guru Geps's Avatar
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    What are your options for ripping up the walls and laying in Cat5 and other cables?

    Your choices are limited by hardware amongst other factors.....

  3. #3
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    Hi Geps, thans for the reply -

    Our house is a 30's build and was bought with the intention to renovate it - three yours later we have replaced only the hot water system. There is a plan to redo all the wiring, but I can not see this happening any time soon. In any event, the project will be done in stages.

    So, yes, laying new cables etc will be possible, but in stages, in the future.

    What hardware are you thinking of?

  4. #4
    Automated Home Guru Geps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creagan View Post
    Hi Geps, thans for the reply -

    Our house is a 30's build and was bought with the intention to renovate it - three yours later we have replaced only the hot water system. There is a plan to redo all the wiring, but I can not see this happening any time soon. In any event, the project will be done in stages.

    So, yes, laying new cables etc will be possible, but in stages, in the future.

    What hardware are you thinking of?
    I'm in the final stages of purchasing my first house which is also a 1930s house that's in need of renovation. Plan is to renovate it in the first half of the year and since it needs a full rewire I'll be flood wiring Cat5.

    I've looked at quite a few of the systems and chosen Idratek mainly based on cost. Functions wise I'm not after anything extravagant just the usual HVAC, lights etc so didn't make sense to go for anything more widely used. Add to that Idratek support seems to be pretty good.

  5. #5
    Automated Home Guru Geps's Avatar
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    Oh, also I tried a CM12u (or whatever the X10 PC interface is called) and a light switch and it didn't work. So I ruled out any powerline cabled networks from the off.

  6. #6
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creagan View Post
    1) Cost should be low, since this is a hobby, not essential for life.
    2) It should be wife-proof: tech should work, always and simple.
    Mmmm - low cost *and* reliable...

    I run X10 and I do have some (predictable) unreliability. Noise from my LCD TV can interfere with the powerline signals so I only have a few sockets where I can plug in the X10 transmitter. However, after a while experimenting, I know which sockets they are

    I could fix the noise issue with a filter but my current solution works for me. Apart from this known issue I've had no other "random" failures. X10 can be reliable and other people have similarly reliable installs. If you're serious about X10 then a different controller (such as Homevision) is probably the way forward and more reliable than the CM12-and-PC type-soutions.

    Were I to choose something from scratch then I'd probably go with either CBus or Idratek. Both are wired systems and Both have their plus points - CBus has some great-looking switches and is a fully commercialised and professionally supported range, modular products etc.

    Idratek doesn't (yet) have the installed product base of CBus but is an extremely competent system all the same; almost infinitely configurable. Idratek is a much smaller company than CBus (Schneider?) but you've more chance of speaking directly to the developers if you have a problem; Karam is a regular poster here on the Idratek forum.

    I know of at least one person that runs CBus and the Idratek software (Cortex) together thus getting the best of both worlds.

    Perhaps ask the "which should I choose" question in the CBus and Idratek forums here (and read some past posts) to give you an idea of each system's suitability.

    If you're a programmer, have a look at xAP. While not a "system" in itself it is a community-created home automation protocol that seeks to be the "glue" which allows different bits of kit to speak the same language.

    No real answers I'm afraid, but perhaps food for thought.

    HTH,

    Tim
    Last edited by TimH; 4th January 2011 at 12:44 PM.

  7. #7
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    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the reply. I have thought about this quite a bit and I will most likely stick with X10, reason is that I have an alarm system with x10 module (http://www.espuk.com/infinite1_3_1.htm) and a CM15Pro connected to a 24/7 server which is online. This seems to be working fine, only trouble I have is that someone is sending signals around my place affecting my house code. I wrote a C# app that monitors signals and somehow someone is sending G1 to G16 OFF signals in the middle of the night (G is my house code) - very annoying. Will switch house codes.

    I thought that X10 does not travel well - do you know if it can travel between two detached houses/bungalows?

    Anyway, I read up on it, and to be honest, spending more money and replacing a system that is working seems to be a bit silly. I will stick with x10, since it is working for now, and when more complex stuff is required, I will rethink things.

    I did have a good look at Idratek, and to be honets, if it wasnt for the price, I would have it in no-time! Looks like the dream system to me!

    Again, thanks for your input - much appreciated.

  8. #8
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    just a thought, but Idratek did an X10 interface module (that may still be available), so you might be able to pick-up from where you are, rather than having to start-over ... :

    http://www.idratek.com/public/docs/d.../XGW001_DS.pdf

  9. #9
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    Hi Chris,

    That was close! I got REALLY excited, since 'bridging' to IRDAnet/tek and keeping existing kit sounds very good, but unfortunately this is for the CM12 module (or similar serial device/controller) - I have a CM15, which is USB, and works a treat! Easy to monitor with software and very stable. Nice thing is that you can have multiple connections or applications connect to it with no problem, unlike serial devices.

    Thanks for the input though, wife will be pleased though, save alot by not being compatable....

  10. #10
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creagan View Post

    I thought that X10 does not travel well - do you know if it can travel between two detached houses/bungalows?
    Some of my signals go through multiple MCBs so I guess it would be possible for two separate dwellings' signals to interfere. Have you tried sending random "G" on/offs through the night to see if anyone else complains??

    EDIT - I perhaps should've added to my previous reply that you can get whole house filters to avoid interference from neighbouring properties with X10, e.g.

    http://www.letsautomate.com/10218.cfm?
    http://www.laser.com/?page=shop/flyp...93eb0d10ab892&

    Note they both seem to be rated for 63amps - you'd need to check the rating of your existing electrical supply and would (probably) need an electrician to fit it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Creagan View Post
    Again, thanks for your input - much appreciated.
    No probs, glad to help
    Last edited by TimH; 4th January 2011 at 06:05 PM. Reason: added extra info on filters

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