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Thread: Questions for potential new Idratek install

  1. #1
    Automated Home Lurker
    Join Date
    Nov 2016

    Default Questions for potential new Idratek install

    Hey, great forum here!

    Apologies for what will be quite a long post
    I plan on moving home early next year and have been investigating options for lighting/heating control which will allow me to tweak when I have some free time. This has led me to this site where I discovered Idratek kit.

    My current system consists of a DIY approach, built using Node Red ( This gives me control over my Zwave network, multi room audio, linux media PCs, RGB LEDs etc. My lighting is currently controlled via Fibaro (Zwave) modules combined with momentary switches. Currently there's no central heating control but overall everything is working quite smoothly and very easy to extend.

    Although the 'new' house has somewhat satisfactory wiring, light switches are not where I'd like them, lights are simple hanging pendant types in every room and the sockets are lacking significantly. Figured it would be a good time to get it rewired with some home automation in mind, especially considering the decor leaves a lot to be desired.

    I see three possible options for the new place:

    • Continue using Fibaro dimmer/switch modules
    • Loxone (expensive!)
    • Idratek

    Initial investigation of Idratek looks like it could potentially tie into my existing control system fairly easily with some bridging of APIs (likewise for Loxone too), I'd really like to not reconfigure the whole system with another provider given how many hours I have put into the existing system.

    But there's a few questions to see how workable this would be:

    1) I'll be getting a qualified electrician in to run cables/connect everything up
    1a) Can I run the CatX leads to momentary light switches myself under current UK regs to cut down on install costs?
    1b) Can I connect these CatX leads to the dimmer/relay modules from Idratek or does that need to be connected by a qualified electrician?
    1c) What information will they need with regards to wiring up dimmers/relays? It all seems fairly straightforward based on the information I have read so far.
    1d) Or do I need someone who has had training with Idratek installs?
    2) Assuming I need IPD-001 at the core of my setup to power the dimmers/relays DIN modules or are they self powering from their 240v input?
    3) Using the dimmer (QLD-001) and relays (QRI-002), can these be configured to act independently if the rest of the system fails. For example Input 1 would increase brightness on output 1, input 2 would decrease brightness on output 1.
    4) Can this 'simple' configuration be taken a step further without a Cortex controller where a input module (ODI-002) would allow input 1 to turn off all outputs on a dimmer module configured using Reflex?
    6) What happened to the radiator actuator AXT-111?
    7) Assuming other low voltage radiator actuators can be used with Idratek, but given they typically run at 24v and Idratek seems to be 14v how would the wiring be configured?
    8) Regarding APIs
    8a) Can I send/receive RS232 commands without Cortex to control devices on the Idranet? (Assuming not seeing as theres a lack of documentation on this)
    8b) Does Cortex have any sort of network based API allowing me granular control over my devices? I'd like to be able to say Dimmer 1 to 50%, Dimmer 2 to 75% for example.


  2. #2
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005


    1a) I'm not a qualified electrician so this is just fodder for any discussion. I can't see why not. I think you would have to be aware that the Catx itself is well clear of any mains cabling (>10cm I believe) along all sections of a cable run or at very least isolated by a physical barrier with mains isolation rating (which probably means >1KV but better check).
    1b) The digital input side is isolated from the mains side either via relays or optoisolators with well over the minimum required isolation levels on any modules that have to handle mains, and the power supply to the system also isolated. So, as long as you don't make a habit of doing wiring work on the digital input side whilst mains is live on the mains side and you run the cables sensibly (see 1a) then again don't see why not. I think it is still also the case that you can get someone to inspect your work to approve this officially if such is required.
    1c) The information should be sufficient. The only thing I might perhaps add to this (though a qualified electrician would be well aware) is to ensure that Neutral returns for lighting circuits on a given QLD module are not mixed, e.g from different RCBO protected rings.
    2) As a minimum you need a 12-15V isolated dc power source for the system and all modules are then powered from this via the network cables. One or more IPDs or MPDs then connect the power supply into the network structure as well as providing some primary network spur connection points (and some protection components). The MPD is a simple passive module which is ok for a simple structure. An IPD is an active module which provides features such as network spur fault isolation and recovery, current monitoring and a lead acid battery charger. So its the type of thing that would be recommended for a proper installation. An IPS is a built up box which contains an IPD, a suitable SELV power supply and a back up battery as well as some other sundry components to provide a ready to use supply block. So what you use depends on your circumstances/needs.
    3) Yes
    4) Yes
    6) They became too expensive (we simply resold these from Sauter) compared to others on the market.
    7) You would use a separate 24V supply for the actuators in any case and simply use IDRATEK relay modules to switch the 24V to the different actuators. Depends on how many actuators, but typically a 2A 24V supply could probably cater for 6-8. You can of course also use 240V actuators but obviously more safety related considerations if on room radiators as opposed to a UFH manifold.
    8a) In principle you can because that is effectively what Cortex is doing. However... managing an IDRATEK network is much more than simply sending commands to modules. You have to write the code to handle the asynchronous traffic to and from modules and to deal with things like commissioning modules, dealing with error reports, Reflex programming utilities, and so on. Bear in mind that the system was built for automation and not simply as a form of device control with some user defined logic on top - though of course it can be used in that way. Cortex takes care of a lot of those pesky details such as understanding that turning a light off when the automation has put it on does not actually mean 'turn off' but 'override', working out room occupancy (not the same as motion sensing), all the details of handling a multi zoned heating/cooling structure with the associated plumbing components and perhaps less heard of concepts such as load building, implementing a sophisticated alarm structure, camera handling, speech, web server, and so on and so on. So in a nutshell it is typically easier to have Cortex manage all the details with API access a little bit more abstracted. I understand though that with having a mix of technologies you will probably be wanting to use it in more of a control mode... at least for now :-).
    8b) Following from above, yes we have a Web API which allows both abstracted and granular control as you describe and also it provides access to data and object structures. So you can tell a dimmed light to go to some particular level but equally you can trigger a scene or a macro to get Cortex to handle co-ordination with anything else that might be going on.

    Happy to help with any further questions and if you wish to contact me directly feel free to do so.

  3. #3
    Automated Home Lurker
    Join Date
    Nov 2016


    Thanks for the reply, couldn't have asked for a more in-depth one!

    That covers all of my initial concerns, just wondering has anyone ever mounted the general purpose input/output modules on a DIN rail? Just wondering about the possibilities of keeping everything in a single enclosure.

  4. #4
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    Mar 2005


    If you use a cabinet rather than consumer unit type enclosure then its a case of using a shallow surface mount back box, but also bear in mind that digital inputs on QRIs, QLDs etc can also be considered general purpose with a couple of caveats:
    - QLD digital inputs have a default Reflex which enables pairs of inputs to act as dim up/down controls 'out of the box'. This Reflex is disabled by Cortex when it is running the network, since it needs to have full control and knowledge of what's going on otherwise you can get conflicts of directives.
    - QLD, SLD and DFP mofules do not implement the pulse count feature.

  5. #5
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    North Lancashire


    you've got Idratek on your list - that suggests you're likely to appreciate its benefits ...

    we're more than pleased - it's way more capable than most people can imagine, and way more likely to provide you with a system you'll be happy with ...

    it was easy to set up, and has the capability to match likely growing demands & ideas ... lots of in-built logical constructs (objects) to comprehensively manage things people need (heating, thermal stores, lighting, all sorts of alarms, etc, etc, etc, it's a long list) and adding own logic specific to particular circumstances is very easy (using their General Logic objects) ...

    that's our experience, anyway - we looked & looked, and delved into quite a few, but didn't find anything that came close ... many could do simple remote control, even dumb automation, only Idratek could do intelligent & context-sensitive automation (along with manual local & remote control when occasionally needed) ...
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 16th November 2016 at 06:50 PM.

  6. #6
    Automated Home Guru Nad's Avatar
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    Jul 2008


    I did our 1st install back in 2009 and that was a very small simple installation with just some lights and heating under Idratek control, it was so successful and became such an integral part of the home that the installation got scaled up 10 fold when we renovated/ rebuilt the house earlier this year. So expand-ability is no issue at all but in order to take it to that next level you should give careful consideration to the infrastructure required to make it happen. It does leave you with bit of a problem too, as there is no fallback in the event that you want to go back to a more traditional installation. I'm not sure how I would explain it all to the next owner if we ever decided to sell

    We were essentially rebuilding the house so I made the decision to go all in and opt for a fully centralized wiring schema (the builders thought I was bonkers and had never done anything like it in the past, nor will they likely do anything like it again tbh). Some builders were put off by my "ideas" and gave us some silly quotes but the ones we finally went with were up for the challenge and were happy for me to deal with the Idratek side of thins while they did the traditional works. It worked out well and we had a good working relationship which is vital to make it a success.

    Each installation is different so you may need to split the installation, I was originally going to split it into 3 main locations (one on each floor) but things worked out in such a way that I had to go for a single location. Fortunately I had the required space and the necessary access to make this happen. It did cost more in cabling though!

    In response to some of your questions ...

    1a. What Karam said pretty much covers it. I went with the pink C-BUS cable as its rated to be used within environments where you have mains electricity i.e. consumer units/ switch boards.

    1b. I insisted on doing the Idranet connections on the modules and the final terminations of the electrics on the modules as I was more confident in doing a better and neater job than the electrician they were using. This was on the understanding that a Part P certified electrician will do all the necessary inspections and tests prior to issuing the electrical certification. Which he did and the certificate was issued. Another slight point on this, they may not fully appreciate the time required to test such an installation, they are usually use to standard ones which has 10 - 15 circuits and get them done in 3 or 4 hours. My one took 2 or 3 full days as they had to test and log around 100 individual circuits.

    1c. Keep in mind that the QLD provide both live and neutral connections where as the QRI/QTI/QRH has neither so make sure they have thought about how they are going to provide the supply to these modules and how the neutrals will be terminated. Also, as Karam said don't mix up neutrals.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the regs changed at the beginning of this year which means any consumer units used must be the full metal type. We had gone with plastic ones and got away with it because the installation was started at the end of last year. This can have a considerable impact on the budget (I think I ended up using 24 MK 22 unit enclosures).


  7. #7
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005


    The question of regression probably depends on whether you have retro-fitted over existing infrastructure or have a new build and decided to do things radically differently. We found with continental installations that people seemed to be quite happy to have a bunch of DIN rail modules in a large metal cabinet at one location doing most of the switching/dimming and sometimes even sensing functions whereas in the UK this isn't quite so popular in an average sized home.

    I have personally been involved in one or two retro-fitted projects where in some locations existing light switch points had their mains cabling securely terminated and tucked out of the way with modules then just utilising the pattress box, and in other locations the existing cabling was connected to a particular module's mains switching function (e.g for local switched lghting). Typically, additional mains cabling was then run to lights that would be better actuated via centralised modules (e.g dimmed via a bunch of QLDs). In such cases its relatively easy to revert to the old structure, but there will still be some effort involved. For those that might be interested I've uploaded a zip file containing some wiring and other details for case study 7 of our install examples (see link below pictures). What you might note from these is that this followed a more star type topology in the end - as a result of the electrician advising it would actually be easier and cheaper to do it that way in that particular property. By contrast another property used small clusters of DIN rail modules on different floors where these were required, with no location that could be identified as a 'node 0' other than perhaps by the location of an IPS power supply unit (PC being a headerless mini-nettop hanging off the back of a TV - though for contingency we put in 3 possible locations for the PCU interface into the system).

    It probably does sound daunting to hand over an extensive installation to a new owner primarily because home automation to this extent is a new and sometimes scary concept to people who may have no interest in technology. However the complexity aspect largely arises from your own knowledge of what lies underneath and the level to which you 'like to play with it'. At one extreme one can always take the lighting down to a purely Reflex level and perhaps replace any sophisticated Cortex based heating control with something more conventional like a basic thermostat or Nest like product. On the other hand you can set up relatively simple (less automated) functionality within the Cortex framework and if the new owner decides they'd like to go further then that's up to them. Having said all of this I certainly know of a number of installations that have already handed over to new owners years ago. In most cases to people who didn't have any prior knowledge about home automation. I think the main bone of contention tends to be with heating automation because people are more accustomed to having an absolute temperature setting interface. But again one can begin by dumbing things down by for example removing detailed (or even any) occupancy based automation and having largely flat profiles such the set point becomes more 'deterministic'.

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