OK, I think all geeks must have thought about stepping into home automation at least a few times so I decided to finally give it a go. During my first hour of research it all seemed too daunting and confusing because there are so many systems at such different prices and so many different systems that dont appear to work alongside each other, some systems only control heating, some only lighting and some controlling everything but dont review well. After talking to a few friends who had already taken the plunge and a load more friends who also liked the idea I started with an open source piece of software called Domoticz. This software can can talk to many different manufacturers of home automation equipment without much work from me which means that I am not cornering myself into a system that wont be supported in a few years time or leave me envoious of others when something better comes out. The forums seem to be quite busy and it looks to be activly developed and who doesnt like open source software?
I have it installed on an original Raspberry Pi that I picked up a when they were first released (every geek should have at least one). This becomes the ‘hub’ of the automation as it will talk to all devices in your home and control what they do and when. Domoticz can also be run on Windows\Mac but I like the Pi because it is so low powered, small and cheap.
Maplin had a good deal going at the time on a pack of 3 remote lightwaverf controlled power switches like these that I couldnt turn down so I bought 2 packs.
Then things started to get a little expensive…. I needed an RFXCOM transciever, again it appears that many home automation systems use the same 433Mhz band that this supports and so it can talk to many different systems, it is also supported and recommened daily on the Domoticz forum. After weeks of watching ebay and amazon they never turned up and so I took the plunge of buying the USB transciever for £84 which seems like alot of money for something that shouldnt be seen. Suddenly I really need to make this work! I bought mine from uk-automation and it arrived quickly with a royal mail tracking number.
Like a kid on his birthday I couldnt wait for this to turn up in the post, luckily it arrived on a Friday so I had the entire weekend to make it work. Almost dissapointingly it took me all of around 10 minutes to get it plugged in and controlling the lights on the fish tank, even more dissapointing was that Kerry didnt really seem to understand how exiting it was to turn the fish tank lights on and off from my Laptop. I hope the fish arn’t epileptic because I had to test it out again and again.
This is when things start to get exciting and got me starting to think about the possibilities that Domoticz brings, there are several main items that can be setup in Domoticz:
1. Switches, these are your end controllable devices. In my case the fish tank light was a switch witch I aptly named ‘Fish Lights’
2. Scenes, these allow you to set a collection of rules against your switches. For example I have a scene which will turn on the main downstairs lights for 2 minutes and then switch on the bedroom lamp, we now use this every night when going to bed so that we have 2 minutes to check the doors are locked etc . It even turns the bedroom lamp off after an hour just in case we fall asleep before we remember to turn off the lamp.
3. Events, this is a little more complicated to setup but is great once you get your head around it. You can create actions based on events, an example would be to turn on the entrance light if the sun has set and the front door opens.
As you can see the options are endless, you can even assign notifications to a switch\scene or use them within an event so that you can get a push notification\text\email when triggered.
To get your imagination running I also have apps on both of our phones that turn on a switch when we are home and off when we are not. There is then an event for when neither of us are home to run a few scenes to turn off a bunch of different things after 5 minutes.
Please drop me a message through the contact page if you already have or are thinking about home automation, I would love to know what other people are doing out there.