Mike Kramer had two thoughts on his mind when he began to upgrade his existing Home Automation systems: Security and Energy Efficiency! With concerns over family safety as well as suffering ever rising gas and electric bills, Mike new that he needed to resolve some issues with his current alarm system and do as much as possible to reduce energy usage around his home.
"Instead of reviving our old alarm system, I looked at systems that covered as many areas of Home Automation as possible.
Having created a system that utilises multiple technologies, Mike is able to monitor his energy consumption and fine tune the heating to meet his goal of saving money on his monthly bills. He now sleeps much more soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that his house is secured from any potential threats.
To keep costs to a minimum, Mike could have chosen to repair the current alarm, continue with his legacy X10 and 433MHz devices and fit some simple TRVs (Thermostatic Radiator Valves) to his radiators. However, he felt that investing any more money in outdated and antiquated solutions was pointless and it would make more sense to put those funds towards a newer system.
After researching thorougly, Mike decided that instead of choosing a particular technology to base his system on he would look for a central "controller" that could interface with as many different technologies as possible. This would allow him to mix and match to suit his budget and needs.
Mike discovered that the Vera range from MiCasaVerde would fulfil this role with ease, supporting Z-Wave devices out-of-the-box which have status reporting and confirmation of commands being successfully received. He also found that the Vera could be expanded to support LightwaveRF devices. As an added bonus, this would allow him to re-use some of his existing legacy devices too, meaning that he had more money available to spend in other areas.
"I wanted to make everything in the house easy to use and able to be controlled from my iPhone or the Internet!"
By ensuring maximum compatibility, Mike has succeeded in implementing an incredibly flexible system. He has replaced his old alarm with something that offers much more functionality and managed to retain some of his original X10 devices to reduce initial installation costs.
After considering the available options, such as the Fibaro Home Center, Mike settled on the Vera. It satisfied his requirement to support multiple technologies and allows him to use both Z-Wave and LightwaveRF devices in his house. By leveraging it’s scenes capabilities he has created "Home" and "Away" scenes to take care of his lighting, heating and air conditioning, turning them on and off appropriately depending on house occupancy.
To integrate LightwaveRF into his system, Mike installed an RFXCom RFXtrx433 USB 433.92 MHz transceiver with antenna. Coupled with a plugin for his Vera, it gives him the ability to use an even wider range of devices in his system including his legacy X10 equipment and Oregon Scientific temperature, humidity, rain and wind sensors. The active developer community on the MiCasaVerde forum continue to improve on the plugin, adding support for additional devices as they become available.
Mike concentrated some of his efforts on replicating and improving the functions offered by his old alarm system. His Vera is now providing security for his home and arms all his Motion Detectors and Fibaro Universal Door & Window Sensors automatically when the house is empty.
Using the GPS capabilities of his smart phone along with a geo-fencing plugin for the Vera gives Mike's system the "big brother" ability to know where he is in relation to his home! CCTV IP Cameras have also been added to the system and his Vera will take a snapshot of the appropriate camera and email it to him should one of the sensors be tripped. It is extremely simple to handle this type of technology integration with his Vera and this gives Mike additional piece of mind when he is away from home.
Being a keen gardener, Mike wanted to extend his use of Z-Wave to control his garden lighting and a water feature so he is using Fibaro Relay Inserts to achieve this goal. He also installed a Fibaro Roller Shutter module to automate his awning which offers in, out and stop control.
A Garage Door Detector is being used to protect Mike's garage door. This is a really neat device that is able to detect whether the door is open in a horizontal position or closed in a vertical position. He is also using a Motion Detector installed at the front of the house to track movement.
Mike is a big movie fan and has an extensive Home Cinema system. By installing On/Off Switch Sockets he is able to control all the individual pieces of equipment. This saves him £££££s by turning off parasitic devices that use "standby" electricity even when they are not in use.
A Radiator Thermostat has been installed on the radiator in the lounge and this allows Mike’s Vera to monitor the temperature in the room and control the hot water flow which reduces gas consumption and wear on his boiler. Testing, experimenting and research are an important consideration with Home Automation as it is often the case that the system will evolve over a period of time until the perfect combination of devices is found. Mike made good use of the resources available on the Vesternet web site to compare the features and specifications of the devices that he was considering using.
Whatever your view on Global Warming, it can’t be denied that our climate is changing every year. Mike had previously installed AC (Air Conditioning) in the master bedroom to combat the long, hot summer nights and he wanted to incorporate control of this into his system. Fortunately, the Remotec AC IR extender offers a Z-Wave interface into the IR (Infra-Red) protocol used by most AC units, so it was trivial to add this functionality to his Vera.
Mike also makes use of a LightwaveRF 2 gang Dimmer to control the lights in his bedroom without having to run new cables or carry out any expensive decorating. A LightwaveRF 1 gang Slave Dimmer is also used to offer 2 way lighting. Fibaro Universal Door & Window Sensors help him to save more money by turning off the AC automatically if the windows are opened!
A LightwaveRF 1 gang Dimmer has also been installed in the guest bedroom offering local dimming and on / off control of the lights for when family or friends come to stay.
Dining Room & Kitchen
In the dining room Mike is using some more On/Off Switch Sockets to control feature lighting. His Vera handles automatically switching the power depending on whether the house is occupied or not. This is a great way to ensure that energy is not wasted - how many of us would leave those radiator lights on all day long just through habit?
A further Fibaro Universal Door & Window Sensor protects the kitchen back door and Mike is again using LightwaveRF 2 gang Dimmers to control both the kitchen and outside security lighting. The powerful logic built into the Vera lets him program advanced scenes, for example when entering his house from the rear, the kitchen lights can turn on automatically ramping up the brightness level over a period of time to prevent glare. Alternatively "Linked" events can also be created to give finer management, perhaps the security lighting can be turned on "when the kitchen back door is open AND movement is THEN detected outside" – great for automatically lighting the way when taking the bins out on a cold, dark winter’s evening.
Mike is using a On/Off Switch Socket to only switch on the CCTV IP camera in the kitchen when the house is unoccupied. This is another example of using his Vera to maximum potential, controlling the power consumption of the devices that make up the security system too!
Centre stage in the hall is given to the Secure Wall Thermostat which Mike is using to control his boiler. The two channel version of the Secure Boiler Receiver allows control of the hot water system too. This is a great use of Z-Wave technology and the remote access capability on his Vera allows him to manage his heating from iPhones, iPads and via the Internet. Whether he is sitting in the lounge or on a beach in Thailand, he can see exactly what’s going on at home.
Study & Gym
By choosing to use LightwaveRF dimmers in his study and gym, Mike has kept the costs down. Although Z-Wave is a more feature rich technology, LightwaveRF is more than adequate for less used rooms where the additional benefits of two way communication and status reporting may not be required.
Mike chose to stick with Z-Wave however for the radiator in the study and has fitted another Radiator Thermostat. With the four operational modes available, Mike is able to regulate the temperature in the room to suit the room’s usage patterns. For example, when the room is un-occupied the TRV defaults to "Frost Protection" settings to keep the temperature around the 6°C mark. When the room is in use the "Energy Saving" mode kicks in to raise the temperature to 18°C. There is also an "Open Window" function that can be used to automatically close the valve if a window or outside door is opened, preventing heat from escaping from his house.
Mike has taken huge steps to keep his energy consumption in check by taking control of his heating system and is already seeing real savings. He is using some really cool features in his set-up and is using the extensive cross-technology capabilities of his Vera to automate his home in many innovative ways.
With more improvements planned in the future, such as adding an Aeotec Power Meter to monitor his electricity usage, Mike’s adventure in Home Automation is just beginning.
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