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Anyone into home automation?
Old 03-13-2017, 10:35 PM   #1
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Anyone into home automation?

I'm in the middle of a kitchen remodel and other work on the house for the DW and I first decided to add some automated lights to the kitchen. I'm one of those who rarely can just dip their toe into something, so after becoming fascinated with the research, I've moved on to setting up the whole house with the latest in home automation.

So far I only have one smart light/video camera (Kuna) at the front door and my Nexx wi-fi garage door controller hooked up. As the kitchen and other things get completed I will ultimately have a host of other systems coming online including lots of audio, more security, thermostat/smoke alarm, smart irrigation controller, locks and lighting all hooked up to a smart hub and controlled via my home network.

So far, with only the two things that are hooked up, I have a lot of new, useful functionality. My garage door actually opens when I drive up. No hands required - I already feel like Batman! I can't wait for it all to be finished!

The technology finally seems well-thought-out and very easy to use. The systems are all modular, but integrate seamlessly through a smart hub. Control is via iPhone or via Alexa, so my wife will be able to turn on her kitchen lighting, stereo and stove hood; and set timers, convert measurements and make shopping lists all without touching a thing - at least that's the goal. I've read these systems are helping the physically handicapped and I imagine will be equally helpful for seniors as well. They should also help us save money on water, gas and electricity.

Has anyone taken the plunge or done research on setting up their home? What has been your experience so far? Any unanticipated benefits/pitfalls? I can tell you that I am already getting a lot more notifications on my iPhone.

FWIW, I had an Amazon consultant come out for free - I just set an appointment online - to answer my questions and talk about the different Alexa-compatible home automation products. It's an amazing service, although the techs are also still learning about all the many different products and their capabilities.
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Old 03-13-2017, 10:56 PM   #2
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We put in Nest smoke alarms and thermostat. Absolutely love controlling thermostat remotely from my phone. However the smoke alarms had to be returned. A couple of them regularly had false alarms. We tried just swapping them out but no luck. After multiple times being awakened at 2 am, we had to take them all out and get something else. New ones aren't "smart" or as cool looking as the Nests were but at least no false alarms.
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Old 03-13-2017, 11:09 PM   #3
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Nothing except the fireplace can be turn on and off with a remove control. I don't want anymore device to spy on me. Even though, I'm not doing anything wrong. I just don't like the idea.
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Anyone into home automation?
Old 03-14-2017, 12:05 AM   #4
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Anyone into home automation?

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Originally Posted by Fedup View Post
Nothing except the fireplace can be turn on and off with a remove control. I don't want anymore device to spy on me. Even though, I'm not doing anything wrong. I just don't like the idea.


If you have a microwave they already know what you're doing
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Old 03-14-2017, 12:16 AM   #5
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If you have a microwave they already know what you're doing
That's it. I'm bringing my sledge hammer.
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Old 03-14-2017, 12:17 AM   #6
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I remember now back in 1986 reading an article about a woman CEO of a tech company who wanted to automate her house. She had a few guys running wires from all over the house to a central control station consisting of 2 IBM AT 286. Now, back then the AT PCs were a big deal. She then had programmers writing software for her.

Maybe the software was buggy. Maybe the hardware was glitchy. But the results were that her lights turned on/off randomly, and a lot of things did not work as planned. The article ended by saying she was still trying.

I now recall reading that in Byte Magazine.


PS. Just recall my niece gave me a Nest thermostat last Christmas. Darn, where did I put it? I am going looking for it.

PPS. Found it! Or rather, my wife just pointed to the corner of the room, and there was where I put it. Darn, she's got better memory than mine.
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Old 03-14-2017, 01:33 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Scuba View Post
We put in Nest smoke alarms and thermostat. Absolutely love controlling thermostat remotely from my phone. However the smoke alarms had to be returned. A couple of them regularly had false alarms. We tried just swapping them out but no luck. After multiple times being awakened at 2 am, we had to take them all out and get something else. New ones aren't "smart" or as cool looking as the Nests were but at least no false alarms.
Interesting, I'll have to watch out for that. I'm not excited about 2AM false alarms...

I'm not too worried about Big Brother anymore. My only illegal habit is legal now in CA. If he wants me, he already knows where to find me. One major purpose of all this is to be able to watch and control my house while I'm traveling Down Under.
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Old 03-14-2017, 03:50 AM   #8
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Thanks to Birthday and Christmas gifts from my daughter this past 3 years I have installed a few smart devices and enjoy using and having them.

Nest don't support thermostats that need anything other than 24v and since we have an instant hot water and heating system than requires a 240v thermostat we switched it out for a Hive when we moved to England. Similar to Nest but has some nice additional features such that it can send you an alert if you leave the house without turning down the heating. We also have it set to send an alert when we are returning home and from 20 miles out it suggests we may want to turn the heating on.

We also have Hue smart lights, Nest webcams and Nest smoke and CO alarms plus an Amazon Echo to voice control them.

The cameras automatically switch on when we both leave the house and send alerts and emails when sound or activity is detected, plus after sunset they also turn on lights when they detect something, and also turn the lights on and off randomly after sunset when we are away.

Our house does not have a convenient switch inside the front door so I have the hall light set to come on automatically as we arrive after sunset.

The ability to know when it is sunset is very useful, no need to be changing timers on a regular basis.
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Old 03-14-2017, 03:59 AM   #9
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I've dabbled a bit. The Honeywell thermostat at our weekend house can be controlled by smartphone app or Alexa. That's very useful-- it's nice to turn the heat up as we leave the main house and walk into a warm house when we get to the mountains. We also have a Swann video security system there to monitor the outside via smartphone app.

I have a couple of WeMo outlets at the main home that I use with Alexa to control lamps. I bought another with the intent of using it at the mountain house, but found out that I can't use the same WeMo account to control devices on two different networks. The WeMo "FAQ" indicated they were working on adding that capability. (It's been a few months, time to check and see if it's ready yet).
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Old 03-14-2017, 06:07 AM   #10
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As we winter in FL, at our house up north, we have 4 cameras monitoring different rooms/basement, a Schlage wireless cellar door lock (in case we need someone to go in the house we can unlock from anywhere), a remote temperature monitor with 3 sensors (one on the hot tub, one in the dining room, one near the furnace) and a few lights that can be turned on/off remotely.
Oh! and a Roomba to vacuum our floors on a set schedule.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fedup View Post
Nothing except the fireplace can be turn on and off with a remove control. I don't want anymore device to spy on me. Even though, I'm not doing anything wrong. I just don't like the idea.
Not sure if this has happened to you: We have a gas log with remote. One day, all on it's own the log started up. Something, somehow sent a signal (a plane flying by? the town doing a drive-by to read our water meters?) and pop! the fire started. We disconnected the remote after that. Lucky we were home.
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Old 03-14-2017, 06:10 AM   #11
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I use an old X-10 system in my home office. There are several lights and fans which I have control over via hardware remote.

The new Hvac systems have Rheem echonet WiFi. That has been the most successful attempt.

There is one auto infrared wall switch that senses when you enter the utility room. That has been a winner. Some sensors did not work well, being affected by mirroring of external light.

Because I've worked with hardware and software tech for so long, I'm reluctant to be a tester.

I one had a brief role working with a few engineers who were funded by a wealthy individual to make a better automation product. Too many variables!

I like the convenience of simple tech. What happens in storm, power goes out, you're in the driveway? Did you remember to bring a key for front door?
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Old 03-14-2017, 06:28 AM   #12
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If you have a microwave they already know what you're doing
The CIA has weaponized Lean Cuisines...
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:33 AM   #13
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We have 3 ip cameras that I monitor remotely. I recently installed a smart garage door opener, but haven't set it up yet for remote access. Looking into controlling sprinkling system, driveway gate, lights, thermostat, and door locks.
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:46 AM   #14
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The Honeywell wifi thermostat is wonderful. Alexa is great. My NAS (Network Attached Storage) is accessible from anywhere. Have a few wifi cameras that we fire up when we leave for extended periods. Have an Acu-Rite wifi weather station that is hooked up to Weather Underground.

Would like more, but I am hesitant because: 1) a communication protocol shakeout needs to happen. For example, my Acu-Rite weather station does not connect directly to wifi. It needs a proprietary hub ($60). Many home devices use different communication protocols (whatever that means?) - Zigbee, Z-wave, etc. 2) Most of these devices will not work unless the devices are remotely connected to the manufacturer's servers. 3) The apps or software supporting some of the devices are not ready for prime time.
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:55 AM   #15
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I had two Honeywell Wifi thermostats in my weekend house but they would regularly go offline so I couldn't turn the heat pumps up or down when I was heading down there. I could call the ISP and have them remotely reboot the router and often the thermostat would reconnect but what a PITA. I coded the MAC addresses into the router which seemed to help briefly but the problem returned. I am interested in hooking up a wifi enabled cam to my front door so I can check out who is knocking late at night.
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:57 AM   #16
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8, maybe 9?, years ago, I looked into audio for the house. Yamaha had a server/stereo. You could buy wall mounted devices that looked like intercom controls. You could have preset play lists - Joe's music or Outlaws, or whatever. This was going to be thousands.

Now, I have Echo Dot ($40), bluetooth receiver ($15) and some old computer speakers ($10). Plus a Pandora subscription - $40 a year.

Point is that early adapters sometimes get burned. OTOH, wait forever and you pay zero, but get no functionality. In some cases, I have jumped in. Others I have waited.
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Old 03-14-2017, 08:14 AM   #17
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I've dipped my toe into this, more at the hobbyist level. I found these:

https://www.amazon.com/HiLetgo-Versi.../dp/B010O1G1ES

< $9 and it has built in wi-fi, 1MB read/write non-volatile memory, input-output pins to interface to 'things', and I load it with a version of the Python programming language:

Overview — MicroPython 1.8.7 documentation

I have one of these connected to my well pump to record the on/off times, and it uploads these to my computer once an hour. Years ago, I had a leak underground, and the pump ran continuously to maintain pressure, unknown to me until it just couldn't keep up anymore.

I used an old phone charger, connected it to the 220V that runs the pump, and ran the 5V output through a a voltage divider (a couple resistors, and an LED indicator) into the 3.3V logic pins on this board. The board is powered through a separate 5V charger to its USB input.

I wrote the code to get time from the internet on boot-up, monitor the inputs, record the time and length of any changes from ON/OFF and OFF/ON to it's local flash memory, and to upload these on the hour. It starts a new file each day, and deletes files older than two days. It's working very well. Even though I have only very limited error checking/correcting (one of the hardest part of programming), I've only had a couple hiccups over several months, requiring a re-boot, and it's run for over 6 weeks now w/o an error. I actually think those errors may have been me shutting down my computer in the middle of an upload, something I didn't write error handling for.

I bought two more, so I could experiment w/o taking it off line. I have a few little improvements to make to the code, and then on the computer side, I want to have the receiving program look for any readings outside pre-set limits (On too long, or too short, too many cycles in a day), and email me an alert, plus a daily email if all is OK (so I know it's running).

I plan to connect these to my sump pump, and maybe a few other appliances. Mostly hobby based, but practical, and I'm fascinated by how cheap and capable this technology has become.

On a technical note, I chose the MicroPython language, as Python is actually used by programmers today, and many of the other languages for little devices like this are unique - I wanted to refresh myself on some language that would be transferable. It also means I can (and do) use Python to script the computer side, so my mind is in the same place when working on either side. This helps if I decide to write any little programs on my computer.

-ERD50
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Old 03-14-2017, 08:15 AM   #18
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Right now only my thermostat would qualify- the electric company offered us one for free if we'd agree to let them cycle our A/C on and off at 15-minute periods during times of peak demand. As others said, it's great to turn the heat or A/C down to minimal levels during long absences and turn up again using a smartphone so it's comfortable when you get home.

I'm a bit edgy about doing much else- partly privacy concerns, partly concerns about what happens if the Internet is down (and I want to get into the garage, for example). I also wonder what happens when you switch providers. I'm planning on moving to Google Fiber in the near future so now I need to make sure that it works not only with my computers but with MagicJack, my wireless printer, my two Roku boxes AND my thermostat! Would love to be able to control the sprinkler system remotely, though, based on what rainfall there is back home.
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Old 03-14-2017, 08:36 AM   #19
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Quote:
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If you have a microwave they already know what you're doing
That's right!

I'm often tempted to look into automation but always come back to deciding it is not worth the effort for me. Example, I have had fully programmable thermostats in my house for 20 years. They are ALWAYS locked at the same temperature which is changed in the Spring (when cooling starts) and in the Fall (when heating starts). If I bother programming work/sleep/weekend, etc (although "work" is no longer needed, luckily ), it gets overridden with a "lock" within a few days. I gave up the struggle a long time ago....
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Old 03-14-2017, 08:44 AM   #20
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I have that gifted Nest, and it is still in shrinkwrap after 3 months.

And just now, learned that even sex toys are connected to the Web. Good grief!

See: Sex toy owners receive $10,000 each for having their privacy breached.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
I've dipped my toe into this, more at the hobbyist level. I found these:

https://www.amazon.com/HiLetgo-Versi.../dp/B010O1G1ES

< $9 and it has built in wi-fi, 1MB read/write non-volatile memory, input-output pins to interface to 'things', and I load it with a version of the Python programming language:

Overview — MicroPython 1.8.7 documentation...
Wow! Amazingly cheap. Maybe I should get into this.
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