Well, this is my first update in a while…but I have not been idle! Over the last 18 months and maybe more, I have been learning, installing, integrating, testing and researching the latest trends in Smart Home technology. The idea in this post is to give you an overview of my experiences and give a little insight into how useful the technology can be if approached in the right way. A Smart Home means something slightly different to each one of us simply because it is so customisable.
Smart Home technology, while very interesting and exciting, can appear very confusing. There are a lot of products out there already using many different technologies. A lot of these products are very good, but not necessarliy designed to work with each other.
There are a number of important things to be aware of when deciding how to start a Smart Home project. The most important of those being compatability between devices if you are looking to control more than one aspect of the home. There are devices to control most areas of the home. For example, smart speakers, lighting, heating, cameras and more. When combined, all these can be very useful.
Let’s get started
Where to start?? At the centre of any smart home, assuming you would like to control more than one device type or technology, is a ‘contol box’ of some kind. The ‘control box’ or Gateway is the unit that takes charge. Everything connects to this unit which in turn is connected to your internet connection allowing control from anywhere via a smartphone/tablet.
The System I have been testing is based around a Fibaro Z-Wave Gateway. The reason for choosing this particular unit was it’s ability to ‘plug in’ other device types and brands. This meant that on top of using the Fibaro lighting control, motion sensors and flood sensors, I could integrate Philips Hue lighting, the Netatmo weather station and even make an automated garden irrigation system.
I started with lighting, both main lights and lamps, then moved onto motion and temperature sensors, door & window sensors and finally some control for garden sprinkers.
Because I have been using the Fibaro gateway I used the Fibaro Dimmer 2 which fits neatly behind existing wall switches. These are easy to set up after they are connected. For the lamps I have used a mixture of Fibaro Relays and Aotec smart plugs. Both of these allow for the power consumption to be monitored but the Aotec wall plug is a lot more staight forward as it is just a plug in device for an existing wall socket.
Once this had been done I was able to create some simple ‘scenes’. This is simply creting a rule for light to act on. For example, I have a couple of lamps which are set to come on at sunset and then go out again later in the evening. I can of course override this and simply switch them on or off when i want but this is good for simulating occupancy and maybe helping deter a burglary. I chose to switch on at sunset as this time obviously moves each day so the lamp does not come on at exactly the same time each day. I could have chosen different times for each day of the week, but so far I have left it as described.
I have just described how a timer event was used to bring on lights. The same lights can also be switched on or off when a door/window sensor is activated in some way. For example, I have a cupboard room where there is a motion sensor and when it detects motion it will switch on the light. If there is no movement for a few minutes then the light switches off. This simple action has been available for some time in lighting but what this system brings is the ability to be very specific about actions and reactions of devices.
Over a number of months I have had a problem in my house with a leaking shower valve. The valve can only be accessed from within a cupboard space. When the valve developed a leak, the first i knew was when i had water coming through the ceiling! At this point I installed the Fibaro Flood Sensor. This came into it’s own when the valve failed again…this time a notification popped up on the phone after the Flood Sensor detected the leak. I was able to turn off the water and stop a minor disaster!
The next stage involved integrating my LILIN CCTV system. As well as a standalone system, I have integrated the cameras into the Fibaro controller so I can use the images when a specific action happens. I now have a snapshot from one camera looking at my shed door when the door sensor detects that the door has been opened. An alert pops up on my phone no matter where I am.
My next projects are to integrate the Doorbell and look at voice activation and heating control.
More updates to follow on my experiences with Doorbird and Nest.