Home Automation: Making our Home Smarter

My retirement provides me with spare leisure time to think about how to make our home smarter - not only for the sheer fun of trying out newly emerging technologies, but also to enhance our home's liveability, efficiency and safety. So, I decided to do some research on the Internet to find potential approaches to achieve this goal. With many commercial offerings around, both turn-key and integration-type, I decided to go for an open system approach that allows the integration of many manufacturers' products, rather than with one of the proprietary single-vendor systems offered by manufacturers or various local telecom companies. Little did I know what challenges lay ahead to devise and implement a workable and reliable home automation system.

The heart of our smart home system is MiCasaVerde's Vera home automation controller, VeraLite (tm). Using Z-Wave wireless technology, this controller communicates with many devices (such as door locks, wall light switches, wall outlets, web cams, thermostats, Air Conditioner, motion sensors, water/flood sensors, window blinds, Audio/Video equipment, and many more) scattered around the house. It both interrogates the state of these devices and also controls them. By connecting the VeraLite to the Internet via our home router/gateway, the VeraLite can be controlled from anywhere in the world via a mobile applicaton running on a laptop, tablet or Smartphone. So, we can see if a door is unlocked, see the cat sitting in the bay window, check the room temperature, get a warning about water around the laundry machine or smoke in the hallways, all this while on a ski trip in the mountains of Vermont. We also can operate the door locks to let the cleaning lady into the house, close and open the motorized window blinds, turn room lights on and off, adjust the thermostat, and call the plumber to fix a water leak, all this while on a sun vacation in the Caribbean.

During the last two years we installed two Fujitsu heat pumps on the main floor and the basement of our house. While one part of the house is well heated (surprisingly down to an outdoor temperature of -26 C), the far part of the house remained cool. To remedy this shortcoming, we installed room-to-room fans above the separating doors to move the warm air into the cooler rooms. These fans are controlled by the VeraLite home automation controller when a temperature difference is sensed. The home automation controller also coordinates the legacy electric central hot water heating in order to occasionally supplement the heat pumps at extremely low outdoor temperatures below -26 C. This combined optimized heating saved us a bundle of money during this year's exremely long and cold winter.

The open system approach of the VeraLite based home automation allowed us to integrate our existing TED5000 Electric Energy Monitoring sytem into the Vera controller. In order to extend the control of the VeraLite to our IR (infrared) controlled equipment, such as TV, radio, audio/video players, air conditioner and heat pumps, we integrated two wireless GlobalCache iTach WiFi2IR (tm) IR blasters, which now function as our universal IR Remotes, and as IR interfaces to the two heat pumps for room temperature control. As well, we were able to integrate our car's built-in Homelink (tm) garage door opener buttons on the rear-view mirror into the VeraLite home automation by interfacing a Homelink (tm) Controller via the Z-Wave network. A simple push of a button unlocks the house entrance door and turns the hallway lights on - convenient and safe. And of course, while on the way home we turned up the thermostat setting in our house to be greeted by a pleasant room temperature.

The open-system approach of MVC's Vera home automation system imposed essentially no limits on its expansion, and made it the central point of several, previously independent, multi-vendor home monitoring/control systems. This way only a single remote control point via our Smartphones or tablets is necessary to capture all of the important home status information and to control our "smart" home.

At this time we have the following devices installed and successfully connected to the Home automation controller:

MiCasaVerde VeraLite controller (UI5 web GUI) WayneDalton Homelink (tm) gateway WDHA-12R
2 Global Cache iTach WiFi2IR IR blaster
2 Intermatic 6-button Z-wave Remote HA09
GE 9-button Z-wave Remote 45600
3 Radiothermostat WiFi thermostat CT-30
6 D-Link WiFi Internet camera (DCS-930L/932L/942L/5020L) 3 Kwikset/Weiser deadbolt door lock 910 Series
3 Kwikset/Weiser lever door lock, Tuftin/Toluca style
Homeseer PIR (Passive Infrared) motion sensor HSM100
Everspring PIR motion detector SP103
5 Everspring Water/Flood sensor ST812
7 GE wall light switch 45609 Intermatic wall receptacle HA01 3 GE lamp plug-in module 45603 3 Intermatic screw-in lamp module HA05
2 AeonLabs in-line Smartswitch/Elecric meter GE Outdoor light/appliance module 45604 TED5000 (tm) electric energy monitoring controller Insteon PowerLine modem 2413S (*)
ActiveHome X10 Modem CM15A (*)
(*) not yet connected
2 Motorized window blinds FortrezZ Siren & Strobe Alarm Everspring Door Detector SM103 2 Everspring Door/Window Sensor interfaced
with Kidde Smoke Alarm
Vera Mobile for Android Smartphone app
Homebuddy Android Smartphone app
Homation Android Smartphone app

Some photos of select devices of our Home Automation setup:
MiCasaVerde VeraLite controller
WayneDalton Homelink gateway
Intermatic Z-wave remote
>Homelink car remote
Vera Lite controller tucked away
in the corner of a shelf
WayneDalton Homelink (tm) Gateway
Z-wave Remotes:
Intermatic (left) and GE (right)
In-car 3-button Homelink (tm)
Remote (at the bottom of the
rear-view mirror)
Kwikset lever dooor lock
Kwikset deadbolt dooor lock
D-Link Wifi Internet camera/
>Radiothermostat WiFi thermostat
Kwikset Smartcode lever-type
door lock
Kwikset Smartcode deadbolt
door lock
D-Link WiFi Internet camera
Radiothermostat WiFi thermostat
Homeseer PIR motion sensor
Everspring water/flood sensor/
GE wall switch
Intermatic wall receptacle
Homeseer PIR motion sensor
Everspring water/flood sensor
GE wall light switch (leftmost switch)
Intermatic wall receptacle (at left,
next to our solar/wind renewable
energy receptacle)
GE plug-in lamp module
Intermatic screw-in lamp module/
AenLabs in-line switch/meter
TED5000 eletcric energy monitoring controller
GE plug-in lamp module
Intermatic screw-in lamp module
with LED light (LEDs are used
exclusively in our home)
AeonLabs in-line switch/electric meter
TED5000 electric energy
consumption monitor
Motorized window blind
iTach WiFi2IR IR blaster
Siren&Strobe Alarm
Siren&Strobe Alarm
Motorized window blind
Wireless iTach WiFi2IR blaster
with attached IR emitter
Kidde Smoke Alarm interfaced to
Everspring Z-wave Door/Window sensor
FortrezZ Siren & Strobe Alarm
Room-to-Room fans
Room-to-Room controlled fans

Also visit our web page Our Experiment with Renewable Energy: Solar and Wind
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Last updated: 2 July 2015 by Bernd