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Thread: Newbie questions

  1. #1
    Automated Home Lurker
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    Default Newbie questions

    So I'm trying to create some home automation. I've been reading about the subject and this is what I've come up so far:

    1. I need software to receive and send commands and program events (ie. Homeseer, or some open source project)
    2. I need sensors, switches, etc. (ie. Insteon)
    3. I need hardware between the server computer (1) and devices that's compatible with both (ie Tellstick, RFXCOM)

    Have I understood the concept right? If so, onto my actual question about the last point (3): what is the preferred hardware to connect wired sensors, ie. door switches or any other open/closed circuit based sensors? What about controllable devices like a siren or light? Thus far I've found many solutions that are wireless but I also need some wired sensors/devices. Any help is appreciated!

  2. #2
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    What you need to do is look at what you want to achieve. I guess from the questions you want to be able to do lighting and maybe heating control.
    Once you have written down what you want to achieve then start looking at the systems available. Its a bit like buying a car, you don't just buy the first car you see, you normally have a list of requirements and normally its the car that ticks the most boxes for the budget available. Well its the same with home automation.
    Some other systems to look at:
    Loxone (standalone only needs a pc during programming). Has various expansion modules so you can expand as needed when you need to. So you can start off small.
    Idratek Does require a PC running all the time, but has a kind of failsafe mode should the PC crash or fail, so you can still operate the lights etc.
    There are other systems like Insteon, PLCBus (there is a homeseer plugin for this), Z-wave.

    If you are planning a big system install, try and do it in stages. Get one stage working before moving on to the next, that way if you have a problem you know that there is a 90% chance its the stage just installed. I know people who have spent 6 months between stages, and complete a stage as and when budget allows.

    This has probably thrown up more questions.

    Remember the only silly question is the question thats not asked.
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  3. #3
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    Hello and thanks for the reply!

    At this point, my home automation project is more of a hobby to explore interesting technology and learn something new, rather than a serious project with strict goals. With my current small apartment, many would say this is pointless, but I think it's better to learn now and be prepared for the future

    Loxone seems like an interesting system. After reading through their site a while, few things come to mind:
    - Proprietary hardware: although the sensors can be any analog/digital sensors, should the main component fail, I need to buy another one from Loxone. With wireless devices, it seems to only support EnOcean.
    - Price: since I need both wireless and wired devices, I'd have to buy the EnOcean extension, making the total 800/$1,025 which still doesn't include any devices. At this point, this is too much for me.

    I didn't explore Idratek as thoroughly, but I assume the same stands there.

    This is a list of "must haves" I came up with:
    - modularity and open standards as much as possible
    - control interfaces for browser and Android/other smartphones
    - instant notifications to smart phone, ability to call would be a plus (not necessary if the notifications are customizable, ie. normal short notifications for "info" type of events and high priority notifications for alarms which need to be dismissed by the user)
    - support for wired and wireless devices (Loxone has a good support for wired devices with its array of digital/analog inputs/outputs)

    I'm also somewhat of a control freak, so good logs of all events (with nice graphs) could also be added to the list..

    Thank you for the suggestions so far, please keep them coming. I'm especially interested to hear what options I have regarding the wired devices, since wireless is pretty much covered with RFXCOM, Tellstick and other adapters.

  4. #4
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    re: loxone .. a PLC is more reliable than a PC. i wouldnt trust a PC and its various points of failure to control my home. and if your server fails, youre going to have to spend dollars to replace something anyway, proprietary or not

  5. #5
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    That's true, some dollars will have to be spent, but a PC can be as low as $0 (perfectly fine PCs are being sent to trash by companies and individuals all the time) plus it is modular, while Loxone costs the aforementioned fortune

    While PLC can be more reliable, I wouldn't be too worried about properly set up PC with RAID, monitoring and backups.

  6. #6
    Automated Home Guru Vangelis's Avatar
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    Comfort (www.cytech.biz) is a dedicated Security/Automation system. It uses UCM's to provide various interfaces (Ethernet, ZWave, LightWaveRF, Cellular). You can customises its function using IF-THEN-ELSE programming, and there are iOS and Android Front-End applications.

    Vangelis

  7. #7
    Automated Home Guru Wexfordman's Avatar
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    Comfort and velbus :-). Although I think your solution in an apartment probably needs wireless retrofit , so you could go fir comfort with zwave etc.
    Last edited by Wexfordman; 3rd April 2013 at 02:40 AM.

  8. #8
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    Firstly I should make clear that I am from IDRATEK. As my usual mantra goes ... there is a difference between home automation and home control. So collecting together sensors and actuators and a bit of logic is just the start. The IDRATEK system would provide the functionality you listed with ease and superficial programming effort but it will also provide you with something that you might not appreciate until you actually have it - which is the highly integrated automation environment. It may not have other characteristics on your wish list but then that is partly the reason it is able to do what it does. So as is usual with these questions its a case of horses for courses and, as toscal suggests, considering what you'd like to achieve.

    I don't think its pointless to have automation in a small apartment as there are many features which are not simply about remote controlling your lights. In fact I attach an annotated example snapshot of Cortex plan view for an IDRATEK installation in a 2 bedroom flat. It probably looks a bit busy (even with some items hidden...) and perhaps the owner somewhat over specified, but its implemented with 23 modules and I don't suppose you could say there is shortage of data . Not saying this system necessarily fits your present bill but perhaps food for thought as to what's possible..
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Karam; 8th April 2013 at 01:56 AM.

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