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Home automation for the less-smart? Anyone want to do some teaching?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by JeffS, Jan 20, 2016.

  1. JeffS

    JeffS Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2015
    Messages:
    239
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Ok...I would love to start some home automation stuff. But other than a garage door, and a smart thermostat that I can control from my phone...I have no idea where to start.

    I just read the opening posts in the new Home Automation thread that just started up. And it's another thread with a bunch of brands and jargon that I just don't have any info on. Based on what the Tesla can do, and what has been done that's really simple and really cool... I'm wondering if anyone could step in and do some teaching? Where do you start? What's involved?

    The Tesla documentation on HomeLink has a ton of information on what's compatible. But for someone with no knowledge, that's not a good place to start. So this thread is here hoping that folks might chime in with a simpleton view of cool things to do, what's needed and how to make it work. Anyone game?
     
  2. SpiceWare

    SpiceWare Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2015
    Messages:
    197
    Location:
    Fresno, Texas
    #2 SpiceWare, Jan 21, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
    I got started on it because I wanted to be able to turn lights on/off from places I could not. As an example, I have a T shaped hallway with 4 ways to get into the hall:

    SD_5735_back 1.jpeg

    I could turn on/off the hallway light using the switches (S) by the Dining Room, Office, and Guest Room, but not from the switch in the Kitchen (it only controlled the kitchen overhead lights). To solve that problem I installed some Insteon switches. The switches in the hallway became these:

    IMG_6907.jpg

    While the switch in the Kitchen became this:
    IMG_6904.jpg

    The light switches talk to each other using the wiring in the house, as well as radio signals. With 2 ways to talk they work quite reliably. I used to have X10 switches installed; they only communicated via the wiring and the signal would fail about 5% of the time, which was annoying.

    You do not need a computer or other device to make the switches work. The little clear button at the bottom of the switch puts them in programming mode which lets you establish connections from one switch to another. I used that to connect button A of the kitchen switch to the hallway switches. I replaced button A with one labelled HALLWAY from the 50-Button set.

    Not shown in my quick sketch is the doorway from the garage - it's by the guest room door, opposite the light switch. The door opens inward, somewhat blocking that light switch so I added a motion sensor in the garage and positioned it to detect when I walk up to the door. When it sees me it'll turn on the hallway light, then turn it back off a couple minutes later - enough time to get into the house, disarm the alarm, and turn on other lights if needed.
    IMG_6905.jpg


    An example from another part of my house - my living room has this, from which I can control all the lights in that section of the house. The switch on the right is a dimmer switch, which was set to about 40% when I took the photo.
    IMG_6906.jpg

    The LAMP button controls the table lamps by the couch, which are plugged into this. The LED denotes off(red) or on(green):
    IMG_6909.jpg IMG_6910.jpg

    I also have a number of remotes so I can control the switches from places like on the couch:
    IMG_6908.jpg

    While you can automate the switches using software on a computer, such as Indigo if you're a Mac user like me, I only recently got into that so don't have much experience with it. The software does make it easier to make connections between devices. Also the software supports multiple brands of home automation equipment that may not be compatible with each other. The software can "bridge the gap" between brands so you could use an Insteon switch to control another brand of thermostat. To do this the software must be running 24 hours a day. Because I turn my Mac Pro off each evening, I installed the software on the Mac mini that drives my TV. It's on 24 hours a day in order to record local TV stations - as of my last scan I can receive 129 stations via antenna here in Houston.
     

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