Home Automation – Introduction

I’d have to say that the website update [technically] is my most RECENT project. However, I’m certainly not looking to get into webdesign, so let’s get into something a bit more interesting – Home Automation!

I started researching various Home Automation (HA) manufacturers, products, and technologies around 4 years ago. For starters, it’s not exactly a necessary expense, not much on this entire site is and that’s what makes it a hobby. So after quite a bit of research, my first ‘HA’ purchase (about 2 years ago) was lighting… wireless dimmers actually. I installed a number of Zwave dimmers throughout my home and was able to control them via a Zwave remote control. Have you ever been laying in bed watching TV or reading, about to go to bed, only to realize that you left a light on somewhere else in the house? Now, I was able to reach over to the nightstand grab the remote and turn the lights off… some call it being lazy – I call it convenience [that I really wanted].

Sounds cool, right? Well, technically that isn’t HA – what I had was simply controllable lighting. Home automation is having the lights turn off automatically at bedtime. To get a more automated system you really need a dedicated controller, and there are a number of paths to go down. I really liked the Elk M1G control board. It’s a security panel first and home automation panel second. So I purchased the M1G and as of about 2 months ago – it’s been installed (although I’m still adding things to it an expanding the system).

As mentioned above, the Elk is the dedicated controller – it’s the hub to the automation system. So what can the system to today? Well, it’s tied into my Zwave system – so it can be used to control lighting. One feature of the Elk is that it has a ‘rules’ section, where I’m able to write rules which dictate when things happen. For example, this past holiday season I realized that I no longer needed to turn our Christmas lights on/off manually… Zwave is a wireless technology and it isn’t limited to lighting. There are manufacturers that produce Zwave receptacles (a.k.a outlets), door locks and deadbolts, thermostats, etc. So, I replaced the receptacle that our tree lights plug into and wrote a ‘rule’ – at sunset the lights were set to turn on, and at 9:30pm the lights were set to turn off. What’s that you say? You can do that with a simple timer? Sure, you can… but what happens when you have friends/family over and you want to show off the decorated tree and have the lights on? Do you have to fiddle with the timer? Who wants to do that? So, in addition to the rule, I also set one of the buttons on our security keypad to turn the lights on or off – basically a remote light switch for the outlet near the tree.

What I described above is just a simple introduction. The end goal is to have rules written for all (or most of) the lights in the home… to have exterior lights come on at dusk and have them turn off shortly before sunrise. If it’s dark outside when I come home from work, I’d like certain interior lights to be on. When I leave for work, I’d like the thermostat to ‘know’ I’m not home and adjust the temperature (energy savings). If I have family members, close friends, or servicemen who need to enter my home while I’m not there, they can call me to let me know that they are there, and I can unlock the door for them… without the need for them to have a key to my home (and the added risk that they could lose that key).

Thanks again for stopping by!

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