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Hardware Hacking Build

New Home Automation? 336

An anonymous reader writes "Ok, fellow geeks... I have the luxury of finally building my dream home from scratch. It's going to be good sized (~4000 sq ft over 3 levels), and rather than run around at night to make sure my lights are off, doors are locked, garage is closed, etc, I really want to put in a home automation system. Since the walls aren't up, this is the time for complete flexibility as to my options. The last time I did a whole house, it was years ago, X10. Since then, lots of other protocols, both 'proprietary' and more general (like WiFi) have come on the market for devices — all better than what I've worked with in the past. What do you all have experience with and recommend as reliable, secure, and fairly easy to use? Something with a good chance for long term availability of parts and features would be a bonus."
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New Home Automation?

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  • Re: Don't. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pcwhalen ( 230935 ) <pcwhalenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:15PM (#45946815) Journal

    Guy I know is a builder. Has a closet on the top floor of his house that opens into a crawlway [lighted with LED lamps] leading to each room on the top floor. There are 2 large pieces of PVC pipe with wiring running in and out. One is to the 1st floor room below and the other is to the 2d story room beneath. There is a set of 2 larger PVC pipes that lead to the basement and electrical switching and panels. He has a strand of fish tape [http://www.harborfreight.com/50-ft-fish-tape-38156.html] in each to facilitate pulling wires.

    He said it doubled the cost of wiring the house, but it has future proofed any wiring or room access needs.

    He is a guy with a lot of money and WAY too much time on his hands, but I thought it was cool. He shows it off at cocktail parties. 7,000 sq. ft. house, sold it for 4 times the cost to build it 6 years earlier.

  • by aXis100 ( 690904 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @12:14AM (#45947661)

    I've nearly gone as far as I can automating systems and devices my current home - temperature & humidity sensing in most rooms, motion sensing in every room, zoned ducted evaporative aircon, a couple of split reverse cycle aircons, z-wave lighting and exhaust fans, and mains power monitoring.

    -- Lighting ---
    Z-Wave works mostly well enough, and I use this to automatically turn on lights when motion is detected, turn off lights after a while with no motion, or turn off when I go to bed. Unfortunately the turn-on the signal can take up to several seconds on a large 1-wire network, so even when the motion sensor triggers quickly you can still be halfway across a room before the lights turn on which is a pain. On top of that, I cant disable the z-wave dimmer soft-on and soft-off feature which is a pain when you're trying to get quick response. For the turn off, it's probably not worth it since I upgraded to LED lights as the power saved is negligible.

    At the price of parts + install being $150 - $200 per light fixture it's not really been worth. A few minor conveniences and a lot of annoyances. I think I'd be better off with no automation on most regular light fixtures, and just some inline z-wave switches on frestanding lamps and mood lighting. Maybe automation on the living room and master bedroom for convenience / scenes.

    -- Temperature / Humidity ---
    Temperature and humidity sensing in every room has been great. In Australia where I live it's quite uncommon to have a whole house climate control system, so I've used these to help come up with a automated strategy for every room that integrates the available air conditioning systems. Also I've used the temperature, humidity and (calculated) air speed in each room to create a "feels like" temperature. Controlling against this rather than the dry air temp has given a much better result.

    I've been using 1-wire devices as sensors, which need 1 or 2 twisted pairs for comms and power - cat5 is great. The DS18B20 temperature sensors are very cheap, have been very reliable and can send signals over long distances. Unfortunately the DS2438 based humidity sensors are not as good and I've had to partition the network a 1-Wire hub. Currently I still have intermittent errors with just 30m of cable on each DS2438 leg, whereas the DS18B20 temperature sensors could cope with a load of 100m plus. If I was building a new house I'm not sure if I'd use them again due to the issues with humidity sensing, but I'm not convinced there's many other affordable alternatives either. For reference the DS18B20 sensors are costing me about $2 each, and the DS2438 based humidity sensors (using a Honeywell humidity IC) are about $20 each from parts. Since I work as a control engineer, my next preferred option would be modbus slave devices over RS485.

    -- Air conditioning ---
    For the split reverse cycle aircons I used a central GlobalCache IP2IR infrared blaster, and then ran long wires with a concealed IR emmitter fitted inside the aircon head units. This works fine but the IR programming for air conditioners is painful. I wish there was an automation interface standard for them.

    For the ducted aircon I had to integrate the zone controller using an arduino for digital IO, communicating back to the central server via RS232 serial (over cat5). I upgraded the fan to use a VFD (variable frequency drive) and this can be controlled directly over RS485 using MODBUS RTU.

    -- Conclusion --
    If I had my chance again I'd probably just run multiple cat5e or cat6 to every room
    - 2 to 4 at floor level for computers and TV's
    - 1 or 2 behind the light switches for potential CBUS or other wired lighting control systems. These would be wired to a seperate patch panel
    - 1 or 2 behind a wall mounted sensor enclosure - this could then have both a temp/humidity sensor and IR emitter fitted. These would also be wired to a seperate patch panel

    Ideally I wouldnt run any mains power to wall light switches - all of t

  • Re:WTF? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:13AM (#45947923)

    It's a matter of degrees; the question is not so black and white. Though I don't agree that a 4000sq ft. home is waste of resources, I see where he's coming from.

    Here's the thought experiment I've mulled over:
    1. What if you, by some hard work and luck, managed to have enough money to buy the world's entire food supply, fair and square. You might be in the right, but you might understand how some people may take issue with that and wrongfully part you with your rightfully owned food rather than starve to death. Who has the moral high ground, if you watched the rest of the world starve while you sat on all the food?
    2. What if it's just 1/2 of the world's food supply. Billions will still starve if you exercise your ownership.
    3. What if it's just 1/100 ? It'll probably still affect prices enough to cause millions to suffer.

    4. What if it's 1/6000000000? Well, of course! It would be immoral to prevent you from getting your share.

    So where is the line between 3 and 4? Or, would some slashdotters actually agree that 1 is perfectly OK?

  • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:37PM (#45957375)
    And this is how you put the cord in the conduit. You tie a plastic bag to the end of the cord (which should be on a good spool), stick it in the conduit, and then hook a shop vac hose to the far end. Most people cut a clear soda bottle to use as an adapter between the shop vac hose and the conduit. The result is, the vac pulls the bag (and the cord) through the conduit, and when you see the bag land in the bottle, you shut the thing off. I saw someone pull over a run over 100 feet long, buried underground that way,(not digging that up to add cord) and it worked like a charm.

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors