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Thread: New User, Big Project, Advice Needed

  1. #1
    Automated Home Lurker
    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    Default New User, Big Project, Advice Needed


    I have been looking at options for home automation and security. I have found lots of options but nothing that has jumped out as perfect for my current requirements or my future. I am new to this so I am hoping someone can help point me in the right direction.

    I have just purchased a house. It has 12 rooms not including the cupboard under the stairs and 2 attics'.
    It was re-built 19 years ago and as such it has a 19 year old alarm system with the siren inside which i hate but thats neither here nor there at this point.
    The PIR sensors are hard wired and there are 13 of them so I would rather re-use them than replace them with wireless ones as that would be costly and i would rather not have to change battery's. There is also a single magnetic door contact I would like to reuse as it is also wired.

    I would also like something to control my hot water timer (not a thermostat) which at best can do twice a day. This has two switches, one for tap water, one for the Radiators. The radiators have thermostatic valves and i am looking to replace these for wireless ones.

    I also want to control the lighting throughout but that is part phase 2 for me. initially i just want to disconnect the PIR's from the old alarm and retrofit these to a new solution integrated into the home automation solution so i can use them in future for other automation such as lighting and heating switching depending on occupancy perhaps.

    I have looked at OpenSource such as OpenHAB and Freedomotic but in either case I can not figure out if/how to use USB 16 port relay board or how to control my hot water heater (ideally wirelessly). Also I want a web interface as my server will not have a monitor connected. It will be wall mounted in place of the current alarm.

    But, on the other hand, if there is a commercial solution that fits the bill (and is available in the UK and has UK peripheral support) then I am inclined to go that route so that if i do ever sell the place, i am not the only one who knows how it works.

    So to summarise I want to find a solution that can:

    * Retrofit the wired PIR sensor i have installed
    * Control a hot water switch (not central thermostat as it is in the utility room)
    * Control all the major brands such a ZWave, X10, UPB etc. for choice
    * Web interface and maybe an iPhone interface

    I think thats all I need for now, though in future i want to control blinds, lights, flood sensors, outdoor stuff, Appliance control/alerting, locks etc.

    My budget is not a shoe string but the cheaper the better as then i can purchase more peripherals but I am not looking to skimp on the brains.

    Any help would be appreciated.
    Last edited by AndyVirus; 11th October 2012 at 12:44 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Near Alicante Spain


    I reckon you have at least 2 options. Option 1 A stand alone system that doesn't require a PC to be up and running 24/7. Or Option 2 a system that does require a PC running 24/7. Both types of systems have pros and cons.
    For Option 1 look at the Loxone Miniserver, this can be expanded, their head of UK operations is also a member of these forums. The main unit can be expanded with various other bits. It has a built in web server and has free apps for iOS and Android control.
    For Option 2 Idratek is worth looking at, it even has its own sub forum on here.

    As I said both have pros and cons, and at the end of the day some people like one or the other, I actually like both. And if I was to redo my house from scratch again then I would choose one of the above systems. Though I do prefer a stand alone non PC based system. But if a windows PC is only running one or two programs and is properly maintained they tend not to crash.
    I currently have an x10 based system using the Homevision Controller.
    Last edited by toscal; 11th October 2012 at 01:59 PM.
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  3. #3
    Automated Home Lurker
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    Oct 2012


    Thank you toscal! That has gave me a good starting point.

    I would not run a Windows server as it just seems overkill, it would have to be Linux solution if I was to go that route. I understand Linux better and im not a GUI fan in general.

    Thankyou for your advice and the fact you would go one of these routes if you were to do it all again is very encouraging. I will take a second look at the Loxone solution.

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005


    Quote Originally Posted by AndyVirus View Post
    I would not run a Windows server as it just seems overkill, it would have to be Linux solution if I was to go that route. I understand Linux better and im not a GUI fan in general.
    I'm from IDRATEK so the usual discalimer regarding bias applies but hopefully I can provide some clarity amongst this...

    It's not so much a choice of whether to run a Windows or Linux server or some smaller 'standalone' computing platform. At the end of the day these are all control elements albeit of varying complexity, pros and cons. But the main issue is one of paradigm and what is required to implement it.

    The IDRATEK system does not need a Windows PC to run in a basic control mode, indeed that is its fall back position should a 'central' controller fail. However what makes the IDRATEK system very different is that it is a highly integrated automation system and not purely a control system. The difference is that in a control oriented approach you are engrossed with how do I make this button do this or that and how do I construct the logic to perform some facet of automation. The automation (not control) aspect gets increasingly difficult as your installation gets larger and the number of interactions between sub systems and feature abstraction increases. So with the IDRATEK system there is a fundamentally different approach. The emphasis is very much more on intelligent automation and enabling you to achieve an intergrated structure incorporating many of the expected feature categories such as security, heating, lighting, communications and so on with little programming effort. For example, should you really have to press a button to switch on a light each time you walk into a room, or to only use schedulling as the way to regulate your heating setpoints when your patterns of activity are not exactly regimental, or to use sunrise/sunset times to control lighting rather than the local lighting conditions? I could go on ...

    To achieve its extensive capabilities and processor intensive features such as camera image handling, the IDRATEK system requires a fairly substantial computing platform and the choice of MS Windows rather than say Linux was a matter of need rather than desire. It is true that when we started out there was scepticism about Windows' stability but in practice this proved unfounded if you treated the platform as a dedicated part of the system and not doubling up as your home PC (though I have to admit that my own has been the latter for about 8 years..). These days a small net top or fanless micro PC perhaps with SSD is sufficient to run almost any size installation as long as you don't expect to manage a significant number of cameras.

    The fundamentally different approach of the IDRATEK system means that it scales effortlessly to larger installations. In fact it becomes even more cost effective both in terms of hardware and programming effort. The hardware side is an inherently distributed structure so a larger installation also does not mean a correspondingly larger number of cables to some central area - unless you want it to be of course. In short it is great for larger installations. As to whether its a suitable choice - really does depend on what you want to achieve. If you just want to add the odd sensor or appliance control here and there and see how things go over time then maybe no great advantage to the IDRATEK system (at least initially) since you will be mainly in control oriented mode for a while, but if you are planning for a more fully fledged automation system and integrated feature sets then its likely to be a different matter.

  6. #6
    Automated Home Guru Wexfordman's Avatar
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    Nov 2005


    EdYou could also consider the comfort system along with a number of different control systems either one or a combination. Zwave knx cbus, x10, velbus etc.

    Advantage of comfort I think is its a control system without needing a running pc, and you are looking it restricted to any specific home control system. It's also got excellent iphone app as standard.

    I've had Comfort for 12 years now and never regret it. Recently changed from x10 to velbus for control and really pleased with the change. The x10 is still*used in 2 circuits in the shed thougb

  7. #7
    Automated Home Sr Member b_weijenberg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006


    Or use a Linux system with DomotiGa, a Windows system with Homeseer or a Micasaverde VERA. This supports Z-Wave.
    Add the RFXtrx433 and you can use also Oregon sensors, X10, HomeEasy, LightwaveRF lighting modules and more.

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