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Home Automation - what to do?

Discussion in 'Smart Home, Climate Control & Security Forum' started by spongey_m, May 15, 2018.

  1. spongey_m

    spongey_m
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    Hi all,

    Moving into a new home soon and whilst our current home has a certain degree of home automation tweaks, I'm looking to take this to the next level.

    At present the kit I've got is:
    • Ring - Standard
    • Sonos Play 1 x 2
    • Amazon Alexa x 3
    • TP Link Kasa Plugs - numerous, used for lamps
    • Logitech Harmony Elite
    • 2 x Magic Home LED controllers
    • Mix of Android & Apple devices.
    • Firesticks
    • Nest
    • Google Wifi - 4 access points
    • Synology NAS
    • HP Microserver

    Whilst things work well so far, the kids know how to turn on the TV using Alexa & know how the remote works, wife know's how to answer the Door and use the Sonos. All other elements are seemless. LED's come on at specific hours, as do the lamps using the Kasa Plugs. I'd like to look at some smart bulbs but also have switches that have dimmer functions & in some rooms motion detection. I would like the switches as moving to fully automated to our life won't suit when the inlaws look after the kids and everything goes dark!

    I'm looking for a central system that can manage and/or integrate with these appliances, as well as something whereby if the internet goes down, I can still turn on the lights. With regards to programming this possible system, I'm happy to learn as have some scripting skills.
     
  2. davidegee

    davidegee
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    Home assistant will do that for you
     
  3. mushii

    mushii
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    What is your budget? This will determine what is available.
     
  4. nrees87

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    Smart bulbs are a total waste of money, imho. Having to replace the (relatively) expensive control hardware every time a filament pops? Crazy! We've got a handful of Hive bulbs strewn around the house, as we were given a testing kit F.O.C by British Gas. I'm really not a fan.

    We've got 9 x GU10 bulbs in our bathroom, 4 x GU10's on the landing, 5 G9's in the master bedroom, 5 x GU10's in the kitchen and several bayonet bulbs in the other rooms - the cost to upgrade every bulb to a "smart" bulb via Phillips Hue / Hive would be eye watering! The cheapest solution is to make every light switch "smart" instead and never worry about blowing a bulb again.

    Personally, I'm evaluating Fibaro Z-Wave dimmer & control switches. They simply wire in behind the light switch and can be controlled by one of the many home hubs (Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings, Logitech Harmony Hub etc.) for seamless integration. There's also a range of z-wave PIR / motion sensors on the market that you can use to trigger events/alerts etc.

    Nate
     
  5. Jamie

    Jamie
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    TBH I've been in a similar position and it's not as clear cut as you'd think.

    I never buy bulbs at full price, there's often offers of various sorts on Hue, additionally there are other options for bulbs, either cheaper white only or white ambience and there's also a few 3rd party bulbs and devices that work with Hue. (I use a number of Innr bulbs for some areas)

    So for example my bedroom has 3 bulbs, a main light and 2 bedside lamps. Fibaro dimmers seem to be 50 each, you'll probably also require a bypass module if using low loads at £9 EA so that's ~180 as a starter and you only get basic dimming.

    Instead I got 3 hue colour bulbs on a 3for2 offer so less than 80quid and get full control of colour temperature and colour.

    Fibaro makes more sense for rooms with lots of bulbs on a single circuit but again you don't get individual control of each bulb, you're restricted to the zones that have been wired in.
    Also for my house the chance of fitting the Fibaro modules behind the switches is about zero without considerable work to install a deeper backbox.
     
  6. mushii

    mushii
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    If you are going to install Fibaro Zwave lighting modules then you are going to need some form of ZWave controller. The cheapest being one of the Vera Products, which get very mixed reviews. Smart things is not an option as it is cloud based so if the internet goes down you lose control, or if their servers crash like they did 2 months ago with a 48 hour outage. So ideally you are going to want a controller that has local control fully baked in so either Fibaro or Homeseer, or you could look at a pc/Mac running local software, something like Homeseer (pc) or Indigo (mac), or you could look at one of the high end products that need dealer install and support - such as Control 4, Crestron, KNX or similar. Each of these solutions comes at varying price points which is why I asked about your budget.
    Smart bulbs are convenient as they don’t require you to modify infrastructure. Most of the zwave lighting modules will require a negative wire at the switch which for the majority of UK lighting circuits is not present.
    Unfortunately home automation, that is not cloud based and is reliable is not cheap. I am currently leaning towards Homeseer as is a mature and fairly reliable product, but it isn’t cheap. For what I want I need to spend £500 -£600 to get me started. That’s just for the controller, each light switch that needs Zwave control will need a module at £60 a throw plus the cost of running a negative wire to each switch and making good the damage - maybe another £200 per switch. All of a sudden those Hue bulbs - the ones without filaments don’t seem so expensive. Just to replace my 4 hue bulbs in my living room, with a non-cloud based control solution is looking at over £1000, with everything factored in. That doesn’t give me colour or the ability to change the colour temperature, that just lets me dim and on/off my lights. This maybe substantially cheaper on a new build that is wired with neutrals to light switches but it is still not a cheap solution (to work reliably). On top of all this you need to factor programming and tinker time to set up your new controller and wife annoyance factor when things don’t work first time.
    The Fibaro modules are very good but there is no guarantee that they will last any longer than a hue bulb, they should do, but they do fail. I can nip down to B&Q or Curries to buy a new Hue Bulb, I don’t know of any high street retailers that sell Fibaro it Aeotec Zwave modules. You need to factor all of this in if you are looking to transition away from traditional wiring and infrastructure.
    That said installing Fibaro Modules with homeseer it is still my preferred long term solution, but I understand what it takes to install, support and maintain a custom install. It needs to planned carefully not only for the install but for living with it also.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  7. nrees87

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    Assuming that your bedside lamps are wired into the lighting ring and on a single switch, you would only need 1 Fibaro module (£50). It goes behind the switch, not at the fitting end.

    If you've got a double switch - then you'd need 1 x Double module (£50).

    I will concede that, for lamps that are mains-controlled, smart bulbs do have their place (mostly because you can't see how f-ugly they are) - though I would still be tempted by smart power sockets, but I've not really explored that avenue as it's not a requirement in our smart home design.

    Any room that has more than 1 bulb on a switch is perfect for at-the-switch control. Almost every room in our house has several bulbs per switch - which is why Fibaro makes perfect sense. Stick one in each switch back box and be done with it.

    I can't say I've ever needed to control individual bulbs on the same circuit (and can't think of any time I ever would need to) - so this is a non-issue for me. Though, if I so desired - I could always use some of the GU10's with the RGB/ON/OFF remotes.

    Nate
     
  8. mushii

    mushii
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    Nate how are you controlling your Fibaro modules ? Do you have neutrals at your switches ? Because the 2 wire installations of the Fibaro modules do not play nice with LED lights, Vesternet will tell you that they make LEDs flicker with 2 wire installs when you try and turn them off (2 wire installs dont turn off, they just dim to very low level)
     
  9. nrees87

    nrees87
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    No neutral at my switches mate, just standard twin & earth (plus a master/slave wire on the landing & hallway switches).

    The resolution to that comes in the form of the additional "low load" module from Fibaro.

    Nate
     
  10. mushii

    mushii
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    @spongey_m the nice thing about the fibaro modules is that even with an internet outage you can still control your lights (via the switch) as normal. IMHO they are the best of what is out there for a DIY install, there is no doubt about that. The wider question is how you control them. If your wife is tolerant of things not always working as they should then Smartthings maybe an option. For me it is too flakey and does not exactly have track record of reliability (being 100% a clod based solution). If budget is an issue then a good starting point would be a Vera Plus

    Z-Wave Vera Plus

    I suggest in doing some research into what you want to do and what is available. Vesternet are a pretty good site to start with. They have lots of home controllers available at different price points and different topologies (either local control or cloud control) you need to decide what it is you want. I have been 2 years evaluating what I want to install permanently and have changed direction 2 or 3 times, due to limitations of the system (and cost of implementation). Currently, just for my AV room I am running Logitech Elite with Alexa, which for nothing but laziness works nicely but it isn't a whole home solution.
    For my kitchen extension I am looking at a mixture of Hue and Fibaro modules (fibaro for the GU10's and Dresden (HUE) RGB controllers for the LED ribbons, with alexa integration.
     
  11. mushii

    mushii
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    Cheers Nate I will have a play. Are you using Smartthings to control them ?
     
  12. spongey_m

    spongey_m
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    I do like the look of Home Assistant, however I've used the Raspberry Pi (brought every incarnation) and I've had 1 unit nearly catch fire! My concern would be are they powerful enough to do the job? I could however build a dedicated Linux virtual machine to run this on using my MicroServer for a bit more grunt, so it's certainly in contention, my only issue is what happens if the internet connection drops? Can I still turn on a light switch? Has anyone got a full install going that can tell me a bit more?

    My budget is flexible, but personally wouldn't want to spend more than £2000. I'd be a happy man using Home Assistant if I can code it myself integrating my existing kit and just adding some form of smart to my lighting. I had a look at the Loxone system, that is probably the closest to what I think I'd like as an end product, very polished, but think that once I've added in all the bits I'd like to have whilst the house is being redecorated would go over budget.

    Bulbs - my thoughts are that yes, smart bulbs cost a lot, but like the idea of being able to change colours etc so may look at some in certain rooms, but that's more of a nice to have than anything. Question for those using Fibaro - other than switches & dimmers does it offer anything else in the world of automation? Regarding the wiring. I've previously built an extension to a house and had an electrican fit a new mains box and all the new points had neutral presented to them. Considering the age of the new house (circa 1900's) may look at rewiring the whole place but may need to sit down with a large drink when I get that quote in....

    Totally agree with you with regards to planning everything in. I want to do this once and do it right.
     
  13. nrees87

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    I was using a SmartThings hub I borrowed from my mate to see how I liked the combination.

    To be fair, it was simple enough to set up and it played nice with my Harmony Hub & Elite, so it was fairly successful as far as short tests go.

    When I come to finish off my Smart Home project - I may very well opt for a v2 SmartThings (as it does "some" local/offline processing). Seeing as half of my downstairs doesn't have any wiring at the moment, spending a few hundred quid on modules & hubs would get me a swift kicking from the wife.

    Nate
     
  14. nrees87

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    Yes, they do a whole raft of smart bits n bobs (see here) - though some of them are a bit conspicuous for my liking.

    Nate
     
  15. mushii

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    LOL I feel for you Nate - I have had 20 years of getting stuff past SWMBO. For me I found that the important thing was not to get too hung up on one solution, particularly for hardware. i think that there is a lot of good technology out there that doesn't always come from a single solution provider or technology. I have Zigbee, Wifi, and Bluetooth currently and am looking to add Z-Wave (once I have finalised a controller).
    My quest is to find a Hub/Controller that fits my needs. The one thing that it must have, whatever, is local processing which is why I have discounted Smarthings, Homey, Zipato, Dlink, Popp and many of the cheaper solutions. Unfortunately this means that I have to look at controllers that cost substantially more.
    Light switches are another contentious area. As a bare minimum they have to operate as normal light switches. If the internet goes down or the hub doesn't work, they still have to operate as on/off switches. I have worked on some big installs with some very fancy lighting control (LCD touch panels as switches). They do lots of clever things, until the internet fails or the power goes off intermittently, or the controller fails, then they become useless boxes until everything reboots.

    @spongey_m Fibaro also do other modules, RGBW controllers, 1.5kw switches, sensors, radiator controllers, plug in modules, Smoke and CO sensors, Motion controllers etc

    Latest Z-Wave Fibaro Home Automation Devices | Vesternet

    and a very nice home controller that should be given serious consideration

    Z-Wave Fibaro Home Center 2 System - Black

    BTW I have no affiliation with Vesternet. I just use them as my first place to look at HA equipment
     
  16. m4rky_m4rk

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    You missed one BTicino MyHome. There are a few threads on here ;)
     
  17. mushii

    mushii
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    Sorry @m4rky_m4rk I was actual reading your thread earlier, as it is a system I have absolutely ZERO knowledge or experience of. Always happy to learn.
     
  18. m4rky_m4rk

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    In simple terms....A BUS system works without internet. Its direct addressing over 2 wire 27v cable.. a switch sends a command onto BUS cable and the relevant relay picks up the command and turns the light/socket on. All switches and relays hang off the one power supply which is central. Relays are located in a rack. Of course there are more components if needed, DALI dimmers, Music, Video door control, sensors etc

    There are two of these systems I know of. KNX which was born in business and has the complexity and expense to match.

    The other is BTicino which is similar but less complex and easy for a home user to configure and add stuff too. I have my whole house set up with the BTicino BUS system. All lights, some sockets, inside and out, all windows have motorised external blinds connected to the BUS. On top top of that I have video door control, weather sensors, room probes, and a scenario controller.

    MyHOME automation - Legrand UK & Ireland

    Both systems are very common in Europe but not common in the UK for some reason, well KNX is but not in the home... it could be quite rare in the UK because these things are typically specified in a new build by the owner... not something the likes of Barretts, Redrow, Wimpey etc are going to offer. Its also not cheap for the initial extra outlay!!!

    Its like the old X10 add on components that communicated over the mains cable but a BUS system has its own shielded cable and no noise, reliability issues.

    If power is off and then returns the switches function immediately as they only need the central power supply for the basics to work. However, if you want to create scenarios then you do need a central brain. This takes a minute for it to power up and there is always the possibility of putting it on a UPS. I never found the need.

    One other place I know where BUS systems are popular is Australia. Called C-BUS in Aus. I am told that's because people prefer low volts systems due to strict laws on working with 240v. Another advantage of the BUS.. all switches are 27v.. no mains at the switch.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  19. m4rky_m4rk

    m4rky_m4rk
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    Good timing :) See above
     
  20. giffordpikes

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    +1 for home assistant. I run it on a raspberry pi 3 no problem. But plenty of people run it on a server or even your nas might do do it.
     
  21. davidegee

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    Assuming you run it locally, you will still be able to operate everything (local) with no internet. If your LAN is down that would be a different matter.

    It's a means of interfacing with lots of different systems, protocols etc, so whether they work with no internet is a different matter. The fibaro modules would operate manually regardless of LAN status.

    It can run on Pi fine or people run it on VMs in docker (i have zero knowledge of this).
     
  22. mushii

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    Cheers @m4rky_m4rk. I am very familiar with Modbus 2 wire infrastructure, so if this is similar I understand how it works. What is the central controller/processor for the system and what sort of price point is it ?
     
  23. m4rky_m4rk

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    There isn't necessarily a central CPU required if you don't to need to create scenarios. Then if you do want scenarios there are several devices that can do that. From simple scenarios to complex ones with conditions. I have the advanced scenario controller MH202 cost about 300euro. In the beginning I also had wall switches that could learn sequences and then later an LCD panel that could do scenarios too but the MH202 can do everything, so I just stick to that now.

    You could also use Raspberry PI and Openhab to create scenarios but that's all new too me and is WIP. Even more geeky...as the commands are opensource, OpenWebNet, you could create your own scripts to do what you want.
     
  24. nrees87

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    I totally get what you mean, I've looked at so many different systems - but as you say, none of them tick ALL the boxes. I think I've settled on TaDo for heating, TRVs and hot water control, Fibaro for at-the-switch lighting, Philips HUE for lamps and cabinet lighting.

    I've got the Harmony Elite & Hub for IR, Bluetooth and activity control, an Alexa on order for voice assistance.

    I'm still pondering the choices for home hub to integrate it all together. As you say, there's so much choice and lots of it is cloud based. Internet availability doesn't concern me as our broadband has only been down 4 days in 6 years - it's more around preventing delays or server outages at the providers end.

    The more I look at it, the more I'm considering building one myself using a controller and OpenZWave or similar.

    I've got a HP Proliant Microserver or two that are being decommissioned in the office, so there's scope to piggyback off one of those as they will be running 24/7 as an unRaid NAS.

    That's one of the reasons I've chosen the Fibaro modules - because they're connected directly at the switch, they will work manually regardless of what the hub or internet status is.

    The HomeCentre will also function without internet access (FIBARO)

    Nate
     

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