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Thread: First foray into HA

  1. #1
    Automated Home Jr Member
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    Default First foray into HA

    Hi all,
    I've been lurking around these parts for quite some time and felt it's time to sign up!
    I've been looking at home automation for quite some time, I've been living in rented accommodation since being at University so I have never been able to install any systems.
    I'm getting close to buying my first house, so I've been researching different approaches to HA a bit more intensely.

    The house we're hoping to buy does not currently have a burglar alarm, so this is where my search starts. Obviously, with us buying a house funds will be a bit tight, but a burglar alarm is fairly essential. If I can find a system that has a good security module, then it'd be a wiser spend of my money.

    This is where your knowledge and experience can aid me. What system would you recommend? If you could start over again, what would you do differently? What's worked really well?

    What I'm prepared to do:
    I would prefer to leave existing electrical cables where they are. I'd prefer to have the HA augment the current electrical system. i.e. current 'traditional' light switches will still turn lights on and off. (I don't mind replacing wall switches and sockets though). I basically don't want to be undertaking an awful lot of electrical work. I can run data cables, and minor electrical work, wherever and I don't mind getting dirty, and in fact would prefer a cabled alarm system (something which seems hard to find as everything is wireless!)
    I can setup a dedicated network for HA, and have spare PCs if there is a suitable software option. I also don't mind buying dedicated hardware.

    I intend to start off small using the system mostly as an intruder alarm and a small amount of lighting control. I would be looking to expand the system further in the future though.

    Wish list:
    - Intruder alarm with text/phone/email alerts preferably with cabled sensors (not wireless PIRs) [PIR sensors used for intruder alarm, could work with HA system to know if room is occupied, etc) - Bonus ability of working with CCTV -
    - Scheduled and 'Clever' programming. If it gets dark outside, slowly bring up lights inside if room is occupied.
    - API or some ability to receive commands over network from another application (For example my XBMC setup could issue a command when a film starts, and HA could dim lights)

    My current thoughts:
    I quite like the look of Z-Wave. There's a fair few UK appliances available, and the z wave fibaro modules look ideal! I haven't seen much evidence of people using burglar alarms with zwave though.

    It would appear I should avoid X10 at all costs.

    I was unaware of IDRATEK before reading these forums, and it looks quite promising. But I would rather not lock my self in to one manufacturer, as I'd quite like to use this system for many years. Basically, don't want to keep all my eggs in one basket- unless it's a particularly strong basket!


    Many thanks for your help!

  2. #2
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    Comfort as main alarm and HA system (www.comfort.org.uk)
    LightwaveRF for light controls (www.diy.com) B&Q sell them under the Seimens brand

    LightwaveRF replace your light switches and can on/off/dim also by iPhone app
    Comfort has a LightwaveRF interface (via Eth2 Module and Lightwave WiFi Hub) also has Smartphone interface

  3. #3
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    Thank you for your reply Vangelis. The comfort system does indeed look to be very good. It's a shame their website is utter pants!
    I'll have a hunt around for a bit more information on the system. Anyone in this forum using Comfort and can recommend it?

  4. #4
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    I agree, it is a bit clunky. Have a looksee at www.comfortforums.com which is alot better and gives a wealth of information and documentation.
    I ran a Comfort system 1 for a few years - as an alarm. I am now installing a Comfort system 2 with Z-Wave and Ethernet integration.

    The Z-Wave 3 module is now 2-way comms, so you can get status of Z-wave devices (ala Fibaro). It also supports Lightwave which I already mentioned.

    The basis of the HA function is an If->Then->Else response (with timers). So for instance a PIR could trigger the landing light on detection and turn off after a period of time (nothing new there), however with Lightwave, at night time, it could do the same but only put on the light at 20% (so as not to wake the household).

    It can also do neat things such as, when alarmed, it will not trigger the alarm, if it detects a certain sequence of PIR activation, as in the path to the bathroom.

    The limits are down to your imagination really - the support is excellent and timely which is a real bonus if your having difficulties.

  5. #5
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    Thanks again Vangelis.
    I discovered comfort forums yesterday in my hunt for more information. The comfort system does look very powerful, though doesn't appear to be very DIY friendly.
    I need to read a bit more before parting with that much money!

    A comfort system with z-wave and Ethernet modules may be the way I go, although quite pricey.

  6. #6
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    I guess that depends on your experience with wiring - hardest part I have found is running the cables over the house. As for mounting the modules and wiring them, there is plenty of documentation regarding that on the forums.

    The system can get expensive, but I have not seen a system that can integrate with so much and not require a stand alone PC to be on all the time. Once you get your head around the Response programming, then it can be quite powerful - but again it depends on your experience.

    With the Eth module you can program it with your PC which is alot better than the keypad. The iPhone / Android app allows for real time sensor status which is good for setting up also.

    I, like you, had a good look around before settling on Comfort, but it met all my needs and was expandable and had regular OS upgrades to cater for more functionality and bug fixes.

    Other on here will have had good experience with other products but I have yet to find a system that integrates Alarm function and HA as well as Comfort.

  7. #7
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    It does indeed look powerful! Running cables for sensors is no problem, and would give me something to do on my weekends :-P
    It's a shame that systems like LightwaveRF don't appear to have a sensible system to have a "Server" or central brain. The LightwaveRF look really quite nice, but seems to only want to be paired with remote controls whereas I'd prefer automation.
    Thanks for your suggestions Vagelis. I've got plenty of reading to do on the Comfort system! I'm just trying to compare that to having a standard alarm system and then looking at the Home Automation separately.

  8. #8
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    LightwaveRF does via it's WiFi hub - you can set schedules etc. This can be done on the iPhone App yet its stored on the hub. You can even control power sockets and Thermostatic valves on rads - there is more in the pipeline as well.

  9. #9
    Automated Home Guru Wexfordman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    It does indeed look powerful! Running cables for sensors is no problem, and would give me something to do on my weekends :-P
    It's a shame that systems like LightwaveRF don't appear to have a sensible system to have a "Server" or central brain. The LightwaveRF look really quite nice, but seems to only want to be paired with remote controls whereas I'd prefer automation.
    Thanks for your suggestions Vagelis. I've got plenty of reading to do on the Comfort system! I'm just trying to compare that to having a standard alarm system and then looking at the Home Automation separately.
    I have comfort for nearly 12 years, and simply cant fault it. As an alarm system, it is pricey, but it is not just an alarm system, and this is what you ahve to bear in mind. Another thing worht noting with comfort, which I think fits your bill, is its interoperabilitywith so many different systems, which would allow you to be a bit more flexible with what HA system you put in, including zwave,lightwave, x10 (yeah, sometimes x10 does still have a few uses, but not as your core HA system) etc.

    I have had comfort 1, and comfort 2, homevision, x10, multiroom audio etc, and after 12 years, the only system still remaining (although upgraded) is comfort. I gotrid of homevision, x10 (most of it anyway), and comfort has outlived myhome audio system too.

  10. #10
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    Thank you both for the feedback. It seems that Comfort is the "grown up" and well rounded solution. I'm still exploring my options, and considering having a separate alarm and HA system. The comfort may be too much like running before walking. Me and the other half may end up hating automation!
    I'm currently looking at other z-wave options such as micasaverde, or getting USB Z-Wave controller and playing with a few software solutions such as HomeSeer and some open source.
    I'm not overly interested in controlling the house from my smartphone, which is what everyone seems to be marketing. I think if Home Automation is done correctly it should be automated (as it is named!).
    -Lights should come on when it's dark and someone is in the room. Lights should switch on in a dimmed state during the evening to illuminate the path to the bathroom.

    -Heating should come on if it's cold and there is someone in the house, or if I'm on my way home from work. If I'm away on holiday the heating should just ensure nothing gets too cold it'd break- but then have the house warm for when we return.


    It just seems odd to me that everyone markets these products based on basically just moving the switch- I want rid of the switch! (Obviously the switch would never go, as the system wont be able to account for everything, but using the switch should be the exception, not the rule)

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