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Thread: First foray into HA

  1. #11
    Automated Home Guru Wexfordman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    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!
    But leaving you with an excellent alarm system in its own rights


    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    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.
    Yeah, lot of options about, but i think its important to consider the benefit of a tightly integrated alarm and HA system. For example, you want your house to behave differently when its occupied, when no one is home and the security is off, when the sevurity is in night mode etc. This can only really be done if your HA system knows what your security system is doing, or if they are one and the same!

    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    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!).
    Absolutely, but automation does not make your home able to read your mind,predict the future, or compensate for unplanned events. It will always require some form of manual input or intervention. What about the late arrival home, or even the early arrival home, and you want to turn on the heating early, or late! What about if someone rings you and needs to get into the house, but the system is armed and you need to disarm it. You need remote access, and smartphone access is an essential part of any system.

    I am sure smartphone access can be delviered via other ways besides comfort, but I think it would be a mistake to discount remote access via smartphone!

    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    -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.
    Yep, and should behave differently depending on the house status... night mode, day mode,away mode etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    -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.
    Unless you live an entirely predictable life with a rigid schedule, you have to plan for an allow for erratic behavour, such as arriving home late. How does the system know you are on the way home to warm up the house, or heat the hot water for your bath. How does it know if your running early or late or off schedule unless you tell it ?

    Schedules can be done with manual rotary timers and you dont need HA, but if you want to be able to do what your asking above, then you have to have some form of remote access to tell your system what to do.


    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    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)
    I think most HA systems, that are well integrated do what you are looking for. In my own setup, light switches are used, but in exceptions. Most of my lights are automated depending on events, such as internal door opening, pir sensors etc (again, reacting differently if its day or night, or if the system is armed, disarmed, night mode etc).

  2. #12
    Automated Home Jr Member
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    I believe that Comfort is probably one of the better systems out there, and in all likelihood the system I'll buy. The only concern I have is how DIY friendly the system will be, or not. Obviously to do this properly you'd have someone come and install the system- but that seems like taking the fun out of things! I also need to spend a bit more time understanding the capabilities of the software. Solutions like HomeSeer have user developed plugins.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wexfordman View Post
    I am sure smartphone access can be delviered via other ways besides comfort, but I think it would be a mistake to discount remote access via smartphone!
    I did not intend for it to appear I do not want to control systems via my phone at all, it'd be great to be able to control things remotely. I believe that the selling point, though, should be the automation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wexfordman View Post
    Unless you live an entirely predictable life with a rigid schedule, you have to plan for an allow for erratic behavour, such as arriving home late. How does the system know you are on the way home to warm up the house, or heat the hot water for your bath. How does it know if your running early or late or off schedule unless you tell it ?
    Unfortunately my life isn't predictable, but it needn't be. Why should this action be scheduled? My phone already reports my location to Google Latitude (required for 'Google Now' to provide me up-to-date information) why can my system not poll latitude for my position? If I'm within a certain proximity to my house, the system can assume I'm on my way home.


    Thanks again for your reply, I think it's great to hear from like minded people. It's also nice to see if I'm disillusioned with my thoughts of how a HA system could work.

  3. #13
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    I'm from IDRATEK so this is music to my ears, since you have basically spelled out what we are always ranting about - namely the difference between intelligent automation (with emphasis on less user interaction) rather than more elaborate remote control / rudimentary automation. But what do you think is easier to sell? Something which tries to make itself less visible or something shiny and bright? Don't get me wrong, the latter is nice to have as well and I have to admit to fiddling with the smart phone interface far more than I need to ...

    I sympathise with your view about being able to interconnect with various source devices but the problem is that this can lead to the path of rudimentary automation. The IDRATEK system is infact able to connect to some non IDRATEK devices by various means but if this is used for more than the odd device here and there you risk ending up with integration only in the sense that the devices are connected to the same system - sure you can send a 3rd party device commands and maybe even read some data and act upon this in some fashion but often it will be in the realms of writing bespoke If-then-else type logic and increasing effort to untangle the mess of interactions as the system scales up, which is what we have spent years trying to help people avoid...
    Last edited by Karam; 29th November 2012 at 01:33 AM.

  4. #14
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    If your not afraid of wiring a plug, then wiring Comfort is straight forward and should not need any specific expertise. The only thing to note is make sure you use the correct cable type (especially for the keypads), and keep the wiring tidy in the control panel (this allows for troubleshooting if necessary). Even the connector blocks for the sensor connections are designed with DIY in mind as they have inbuilt spade contacts and can be removed from the board...

    I am wiring up my system myself, and would not do it any other way as I will know it inside and out..

  5. #15
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    Vangelis, thank you! That puts my mind at rest. I have enough electrical knowledge to know that I don't know everything, wiring a plug or changing a light switch or socket would be fine. What I don't want to do is mess around with anything more than that.
    I think you ought to get some commission on the Comfort system!

    Karam, thanks for your reply- the solutions provided by IDRATEK do appear to be strong and have a good following. I don't think it's the system for me though, the pattress modules may have an acquired taste- but to me seem rather ugly. It also looks to require a bit more messing with electrics than I'd like.

  6. #16
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    Not affiliated to Cytech at all - I just was in your position some years back and stumbled onto the Comfort system by chance. Not looked back since. They are even starting to look at the aesthetics for the product such as KP06

    A big bonus for me is the Support Forums as there are plenty of like minded people out there (such as Wexfordman), who are more than willing to offer advice based on experience with the system. Plus Ctech's tech support both on hardware and software is really good and timely.

  7. #17
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    biccies, no problem. Its definitely a case of horses for courses with these technologies. I only picked up on your thread when I noticed that you were seeking more advanced automation i.e. rather than the more usual scheduling or lighting based on sunrise/sunset tables type of thing.

    Though I'm obviously an ambassador for it I'm not trying to push you to go for an IDRATEK system - only to explain what is different about it. Despite my affiliiation I am basically an HA enthusiast and get animated about what automation means to people and that there is wider understanding of the differences in philosophy. IMO its not like comparing a bunch of cars but rather different modes of transport. And in this the various pros and cons will obviously suit different peoples' requirements differently.

    To achieve a higher level of automation you do need comprehensive sensing. For example to automate a light in a room you need to know occupancy and light level in that room (aside from any scheduled or manual directives). A simple PIR arrangement in that room will just give you motion detection which then needs long timeouts, constant hand waving or some other deliberate action which can get irritating on the one hand or not energy efficient on the other so not very practical. Sunset/sunrise times or even a single outside light level sensor won't tell you much about the actual light level in a given room at all times. If you want zoned heating control then a temperature sensor is required in each zone and so on. So what I'm saying is that to do the job properly you end up needing a large number of devices. Hence the 'ugly' units you refer to usually can provide a full suite of high calibre sensors or power controls in one package and the connectivity of all these is then through a single bus cable to that module, so no rats nest central node despite the scale. Wiring at the low voltage side of things is straightforward for most systems and no less ours when you consider the scale. The main problem area of wiring is when you have to interface to mains i.e you need to get someone qualified either to do it or inspect it. Off the shelf wireless devices may mitigate some of this but unfortunately cannot yet give us some of the exacting properties that we require in some areas.

    The aesthetics are difficult to address, even for large companies. Someone will always want something in steel, brass or glass or different shape and next year it wil be something else. One way to have more choice for most systems is to use off the shelf switch plates connected into hidden modules but really this just addresses the switch side of things and, in our case, not the sensory modules nor specialised modules like our panels. In defense of our own products' style, sad reflection of our promotional skills - we are told they look better in the flesh . BTW the history is that we wanted them to be deliberately understated - don't ask..

  8. #18
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    Thanks Karam. I prefer the Comfort system because it gives the freedom of choice with automation systems. I'd prefer to not get "locked in" to one manufacturer. I suppose 'ugly' was a bit harsh of me, the modules do seem better suited to a commercial setting rather than the home.
    It's a good point that you make with motion/presence detectors. I always intended to use presence and light detectors for the automation of lighting, and there's a fair few available. My understanding of the comfort system is that I could use a 'standard' presence sense connected to a 'zone' on the Comfort panel, or a Z-Wave sensor for the set-up.

    Thank you, again, everyone for your input it's much appreciated

  9. #19
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    FWIW - what we found, our experience :

    when we started-out, we were looking for automation that would work the lighting & heating & look after security, flag-up problems of whatever sort, allow us to make inputs & adjustments & take-over when necessary, and do it all intelligently (albeit we could not have spelled-out what we meant by that) ...

    some Googling threw-up a short-list - KNX, C-Bus, Comfort, Dupline, Niko Home Control, Velbus, EnOcean, Idratek ...

    first two seemed v.capable, and the first offered truly multi-source options & some v.attractive face-plates etc - but both seemed expensive & not-so easily accessible for DIY ...

    third seemed more affordable, more DIY-friendly, and not unattractive, but appeared to have quite low limits on number of devices & interfaces it could support ...

    fourth seemed simple & robust ...

    fifth seemed attractive & offered prospect of tying-in AV as-well, but seemed expensive & appeared not to be DIY ...

    sixth was only just coming-out, so offered limited options - much better now, of course, but still seems quite expensive ...

    seventh was also a bit too-new, at the time, but offered prospect of a truly wireless solution ...

    after more than a little deliberation, we went for the eighth - everything put-together, it seemed both the most affordable & the most comprehensive, including plenty of options for linking to other stuff inside & outside the home ... it also seemed uniquely smart, seemingly the only one offering the possibility of fully context-aware automation without us having to forever if-then-else it all ourselves and/or intervene more than occasionally, and the only one with a thorough failure strategy ...

    aesthetically, like many, we were doubtful ... in-practice, though, of the many faceplates we now have around the house, we like them by far the most - subtle, understated, quietly in the background, doing their job, accessible when needed, pretty neat when we do look at them ...

    software wise, it uses a nicely distilled object oriented approach, at all levels - which keeps things simple, consistent, readily extendable, with all the hard-won clever-stuff simply encapsulated & readily available ...

    support is v.good ...

    capability & adaptability is great - of course there’s some learning curve, but results come quickly, adjustment & tuning & rework is easy, ability to interface with appliances & the various systems about the house is good ...

    we’ve found day-to-day real-world reliability first-rate ...

    NB: we're still installing, so not everything everywhere is up & running, but we're almost there !
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 1st December 2012 at 07:40 PM.

  10. #20
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biccies View Post
    I always intended to use presence and light detectors for the automation of lighting, and there's a fair few available. My understanding of the comfort system is that I could use a 'standard' presence sense connected to a 'zone' on the Comfort panel, or a Z-Wave sensor for the set-up.
    Yes but be careful because what is often called presence sensing is really just motion detection + timer

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