Sunday, June 2, 2013

Home Automation

A few years ago, I spent some time installing X-10 devices around our house.  I (and my wife) was never really happy with the results.  The main problem that we had was with reliability.  We needed to install a phase couple in order to improve reception of between the different 110V legs.  Another difficulty when setting up an X-10 network was that there is an extra step to configure battery powered devices.  The battery powered wireless devices would need to be in range of an IR/RF to X10 bridge in order to send the signals to other devices.

I decided to try some home automation projects using Z-Wave.  Since Z-Wave uses a wireless protocol for sending commands, there aren't the problems from using a powerline protocol.  And, since Z-Wave uses a wireless protocol, it is very easy to add wireless battery powered devices.

I ordered a Mi Casa Verde VeraLite to use as the controller.  This will let you control any of the Z-Wave devices in your house, as well create custom scenes.  It also has a web server, where you can control your devices and scenes.

The first small project that wanted to accomplish was to automate turning off the lights in the garage, as these tend to be left on.  I bought a couple of Z-Wave light switches and motion sensors.  Once the devices were paired, it was pretty easy to configure a scene that would turn on the lights when motion was sensed, and a scene that would turn off the lights 2 minutes after no more motion is sensed.

I can also control these devices from an Android device using the Home Buddy application, even when out of the house.

Since these Z-Wave devices are working pretty well, some of the other projects I want to work on in the next few weeks/months are:

  • Z-Wave control of garage door opener, with sensor to detect the door remaining open
  • Control of lighting when watching movies
  • Detection of washing machine / dryer cycle to trigger a notification on completion
  • Control of other lights that tend to be left on.