My home automation solution

My home automation solution

Posted By: pmietlicki

Published to Home automation on Apr 29, 2017

Why ?

It all started after my sudden interest in an alarm system . Looking on the Internet (a variety discount sites), I noticed that for a "mid range" system, you had to pay about 300€. Just for a siren and a control system without alerts when triggered. Then I realized I could have the same thing for about 50€ more but with a significant advantage, an home automation system.

Features

My home automation system embeds :

  • An alarm system
    • Intrusion detection
    • Siren
    • Automatic activation in case of absence
      • I created a luup script to activate automatically my alarm system if nobody's here
    • Enable / disable remotely
      • With Internet, smartphone, remote control ou the karotz rabbit
    • SMS alert
  • Heating management
    • Temperature detection
    • Automatic temperature setting
    • Enable / disable automatically the heating system
    • Automatic adaptation of the heating depending on the presence / absence
      • Economic mode if absent
      • Comfort mode if present
  • Light
    • Ignition / Automatic Light Extinction
  • Fire detection
    • Siren + alert by sms
  • Shutters control
    • Closing / opening remotely
  • Alert on battery level
    • Alert by sms / by email if the battery of one of the components becomes critical

This solution requires no electrical connection, components are communicating by radio waves, you will not have to pass cables or change your electric installation.

Remember that a worthy home automation solution offers the creation of "advanced" scenarios based on Internet information (weather, etc. ). We could think about, for example :

  • Automatic watering only if it does not rain
  • Opening / closing shutters depending on the position of the sun
  • And all you can imagine

Shopping website

vesternet.com : english website, despite the conversion rate, there are not very expensive and they sell European standards appliances. Fast and free delivery, many starter kits are available. In my case, for a home automation box (vera lite) + siren (Everspring) + an opening detector (Everspring) + motion detector, brightness, temperature and humidity (Aeons labs multisensor) = 257 £ or 319€. This will make a small home automation alarm that you can turn on or off with your smartphone with SMS alerts in case of intrusion. You can also try bulk orders if you want cheaper products.

Choice of the home automation box

My choice was influenced by various criteria: the independence of the system, cost, scalability (available API) and an active community.

  • Independence from external servers : for example, if you purchased a rabbit (nabaztags or karotz), you'll get an unusable product with the bankruptcy of the company
  • A low cost solution (350€ max.)
  • Possibility to develop his own plugins and scenarios (maybe the most important thing)
  • A reliable solution

Let's talk about protocols

Without going into details ( it bothers everyone ), the protocol is the communication system of your home automation box. That is how or what could be called by extension, the "language" used by your box to communicate with the components (sensors, siren, etc. ) .

Different types

There are "open" protocols (that does not mean free) or, what I would call, a standard because they allow manufacturers to produce components based on this protocol (in exchange of royalties of course). This is the case of zigbee ( free specification) or zwave and a new one enocean (the best one I guess).

On the contrary, "proprietary" protocols are usually developed by a manufacturer that him and just him use to create components that embeds its protocol. A proprietary protocol may, one day, be "opened" to other manufacturers but nothing is guaranteed. So that's a customer lock-in strategy...

Another thing to consider, and that is very important is the adoption factor. The solution you'll buy will have a better guarantee of continuity if a large community of people use components based on the same protocol. It's kind of the case, at the time I write this article, between zigbee and zwave. Zwave being used by many more manufacturers (currently), you can find zwave components easily. Even though zigbee embeds more feature and is more "open".

Finally, I chose an "open" protocol used by a large community of manufacturers : zwave. But I'm really looking forward with a great interest at the enocean protocol.

The box(es)

To me, the least expensive, most scalable and that won't cost any monthly subscription is the vera lite. If I had more money, I might have purchaed the home center 2 by fibaro.

The solutions without subscription

My choices :vera lite by micasaverde and home center 2 by Fibaro.

Vera lite : 179€, that's the one I have, that's one of the least expensive box. It uses the zwave protocol (one of the standard with zigbee and enocean). It embeds a lua script engine (called luup) and, thus, offers the possibility to extend your box with plugins. I used it to create a script called event2gcal, I use it to freely send sms alerts (thanks to goole calendar). A « market » of free applications is included so you can install script made by others. The power consumption is only about 6W and you can use it to control 50 components (more than sufficient for a small home automation system). You'll have an independent solution that you can control inside your private network.

Home center 2 : 599€, powerful hardware (in comparision with the vera lite), intuitive and scalable interface. The lua scripts are compatible with this box. The protocol is zwave and you'll be completely independent of the manufacturer of the box. With more budget and a better wife acceptance factor, I probably would have bought that one.

Jeedom : not a box but a specific open source OS for home automation. They now sell boxes based on raspberry pi, that's the best one, open source, big community, a lot of plugins... I definitely would sugget this one if I had to begin from the start.

The solutions with subscription

eedomus : french box, 299€ zwave protocol but but extensible. Main downside: you will be dependent of the company... If the company goes bankrupt, your box will be unusable.

Zibase : french box 379€, multi-protocol (zwave, zigbee, etc.) compatible with most manufacturers (including somfy). Main downside: you will be dependent of the company servers... If you already have Somfy shutters, it could be an interesting solution to control them directly.

The boxes below require you to purchase the components of their brand, a lock-in strategy (clients are "locked" with the same company)

MyFox : 329€ ,for the basic starter kit, seems very easy to install. Perfect if you don't want to spend too much time with your home automation solution but you'll be completely dependent with their components. Note the rather high price of equipment and a subscription (9€ / month) is recommended if you want all the features. Myfox is a french company, is an innovative company that provides thoughtful products and solutions, all services provided for 9€ / month (unlimited emails and sms, video recording, connection to a monitoring center) seems reasonable. However, the components seem a bit expensive and the protocol used is proprietary (ie locked), you will be forced to buy only those components or ones approved by the company.

Somfy : box at 429€, proprietary protocol, expensive components. If you only have somfy components at home, I suppose it would be consistent to consider it.

Vera lite

A small price for a little box, I got it at 169€ on vesternet.

Installation

The installation of the vera is very simple: you plug in the power supply, you connect it to your network with the RJ45 cable to your Internet box, and you connect through a browser on 192.168.0.1 (the IP address depends of your network, you can find it anyway with the MAC address on the box).

Extra option (because it is a stand-alone solution) but interesting : you log into http://micasaverde.com/setup, this allows you to create an account on MIOS (micasaverde server) which you can use to connect remotely to your box in a secure way without having to configure anything by going to cp.mios.com

My plugins list

Event2gcal : I begin with this one because it is the one I created. It will gives you the possibility to automatically create events on your Google Calendar. This allows me to send alerts by sms thanks to google features when an event occurs (battery level warning , temperature, fire, etc.) . It keeps me from having to pay a sms alert service. You can get explanations on how to install this plugin on micasaverde forum and here .

Basic mobile interface : as its name suggests, allows you to control your vera with older generation of mobile phone

Smartphone Web Interface : as its name suggests, the same module as before, a little more "graphic" and for evolved smartphones

Virtual On/Off switches : module to create virtual modules containing variables. So say it like that, we do not see much use. But I use it, for example, to indicate the desired temperature in the apartment. I created a virtual module and I indicated three variables: temperature comfort, eco temperature and thaw temperature, it allows me to use these variables in the program that manages the heating. It is more like a graphic variable module container.

Countdown timer : you can trigger a timer with this module, it is convenient for chaining scenarios. A concrete example :
You detect an opening of the door while the alarm is triggered. It would be foolish to trigger the siren immediately, instead, you tell the intruder that the alarm is activated, you wait 2 minutes and if the alarm has not been deactivated in the meantime, then you trigger the siren. Typically, to handle this kind of scenario, you'll need this plugin.

Pilot wire controler : plugin that will make your heating management easier by creating an interface to control your radiator mode : frost, eco, and comfort mode.

Karotz controler : plugin to make your home automation solution interact with your karotz rabbit. I use it to talk to the rabbit following an alert or event. I also slightly modified it to allow the rabbit to take pictures and store them on my NAS. Also note that there is a plugin on your Karotz to do the opposite : make your rabbit interact with your home automation, which allows me, for example, to disable the alarm with an RFID tag.

Wunderground weather plugin : allows you to know the weather (wind, rain, temperature and min / max of the day). I do not use it yet, but this will allow you to trigger scenarios depending on external conditions. We can easily think of a sprinkler scenario that does trigger only if it is not raining.

Tags: Domotique, Vera

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