Home Automation

  When we built the house (in 1999), I gave some thought to putting in some home automation technology. Why didn't I? I didn't know what it was. I figured it was computer controlled lights and thermostats. Not only would I have to run low voltage to the the switches, I had no idea where they should be run. What would they control? What would control them? Why control them? Well, 11 years later, I feel exactly the same way. But it's cold outside and the ground is frozen. So why not? OutcropCam

  Click for Enhanced Viewing I'm still not exactly sure what to do with Home Automation. First, I know that it becomes a necessary component of our overall Home Technology environment. Second, I think the built-in switches and keypads from Insteon look cool. Third, all this stuff integrates pretty well with other networking, audio, telephony, intercom, and security gear. The switch to the left is a SwitchLinc dimmer. The column of LEDs shows the dim level - in this case, it's off. The little button under the on/off paddle is the linking button. Insteon works by passing control signals over the home AC power wiring. Once linked, when you press a switch, it controls the load directly and passes signals to another switch. This makes it very easy to reposition control of inconvenient switches in much more convenient locations. We needed to do lots of that since our original electrician provided little in the way of advice. So we are using Insteon to gain convenient control of lights whose switches are on the wrong side of doors, wrong side of rooms, and behind refridgerators. And to help us all understand all these actions (literally), we have Daisy.

  Here in the US, with 120V distributed around the house, a circuit is made up by one of two 120V hot wires and a neutral wire. Some circuits are on one of the 120V legs and the other circuits are on the other. For Insteon to work well, those two 120V legs need to be connected. Insteon does this either via wireless bridging using a couple of $50 access points or capacitive bridging by installing a $25 box on a 240V circuit. Of course, I did both. Here, I am installing the $25 bridge called a SignaLinc 2406. The SignaLinc uses a 240V 15amp circuit breaker and is installed in a separate box. I'm putting it into our second panel that has lots of room. The breaker is at the bottom right. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing So after several months of spending money, learning to wire, adding another toolbox, and configuring automation programs, here is what I've done with the outside. I have a bunch of lights that are interconnected to various scenes which I then program to come on during various scenarios (like Funky Patio Groove, Garage Hammerfest, Outdoor Snoozing, etc.). This pic shows some of the string lights that are over the patio. The string lights are on cables that are connected to outlets which are connected to InLineLinc dimmers. These are little Insteon modules that go into boxes with no switches. Then we control those little modules with other Insteon switches or programs.

  This is one of the controlled plugs that the string lights above plug into. This is cut into the soffit of the garage. The InLineLinc is mounted in the upstairs of the atic in the unfinished space. The stainless steel hook and chain link connect the cable from one building to the other. There is a turnbuckle on this side and a spring on the other. The spring takes up the slack during earthquakes and continental shift. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing This is an eight button KeyPadLinc. This thing can control eight lights, scenes, or groups. The local load is controlled from its Main switch. All others are managed via signals over the wire. In this one, the Main switch is not hooked up to a local load. But, I use that button to control another light (who's switch is way back under a cabinet - what were we thinking!!). Button B controls some lights on the back stairs. Button E covers something in another building. Button G opens the garage door and H indicates whether the door is open or closed. Why not just use G's light to determine if the door is open? Well, I do that too. However, when I used the original SmartLinc, if the door is locked and you push G, that button's light reacted to the button push, turning the button light on or off regardless of door status. So I had to waste button H for its button light. Very confusing. But with the new ISY-99i Pro controller, no such problems. I can control the state of the buttons based on event, regardless of button state. Now, if the door is locked and the open button is pushed, the ISY recognizes that the door did not change states and turns the light off. Excellente' (as the Italians say)!!

  This was my first automation system - a SmartLinc controller. The back page is the home page with the front page being a test page. Note the web camera on the test page so we can see what's happening. The Test Lamp is off as noted by the little grey background on the OFF. The Test Chime activates an X10 electronic chime that I bought for $10 for S&Gs. This thing had some timers, but no event programmability. I had to have event programmability. So the SmartLinc gets a chance to star on its own eBay page. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing This is a screen my new controller - an ISY-99i Pro from Universal Devices. This thing is (as Tony says) GREAT! It has event programmability, of course. But it also has fantastically flexible (and accurate) timers as well as the ability to generate network events (to control cameras and other IP based stuff). The tech support is fantastic on the UDI Forum, especially by a guy name Michel, who responds between 3 seconds and five minutes from leaving a question. And he is generally right. Then, about three other experts chime in with other opinions and experiences. This page shows one of the programs (to control events) used to manage the garage doors. Note that there are five KeyPadLincs that can manage the doors.

  Speaking of cameras, here are a few of the cameras keeping an eye on the Acres. Note the bee checking one of them out - its disquised as a giant flower, naturally positioned on the side of the building. Note another camera captures a picture of the FedEx truck coming by the Acres to collect more of the valuable product we ship out to you every day (or maybe drop off more stuff that I don't really need but gives me things to write about on this page). The others capture Junior figuring out how many doors can be opened at one time on the F250 while simultaneously moving into the garage. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing This was the first Outcrop Acres control page for managing lights, scenes, and other aspects of the Acres. Its all written in Javascript over the 2010 holiday break, on a 9-5 schedule (9:00pm to 5:00am). The page has separate sections for devices and scenes. It sends commands via the SmartLinc. I started with devices, since I could control dim levels and on/off speed directly. But device control does not affect KeyPadLinc button status, since that's done with Scene commands. That's why I started with Scene controls for the garage. Note the cool Decimal to Hex to Binary conversion so I can formulate commands based on hex commands and bit positions. This page, dear readers, is unfortunately unavailable outside the internal confines of Outcrop Acres. I'd prefer that excited fans not turn the lights on and off, morse coding great ideas for more content and inquiries as to where the Donations page is.

  The current (June 2011) version of the Outcrop Acres controller page. Also written with Javascript, but capable of managing many more devices (though without the cool sliders). It can show up to five simultaneous camera views and control a couple at the same time. There are other modes for controlling various controllable controls. Very handy for checking in on the Acres should one of the sensors tell me there is activity. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing Speaking of sensors, this is one of the motion sensors that triggers security alerts. These sensors work along with the controller and another security system to alert both the alarm people through the conventional security system as well as me and several friends and family by cell, text and email. The cameras also snap pictures of any perps that trigger the sensors.

  So do I just track motion? Can't be so limited - what if the house springs a leak? In the bathroom? In the basement? In the powder room? What happens if the disposal unit in the kitchen sink sends some spoon shrapnel through its body without our knowledge and then flings wet 25 day old green beans and curdled milk into the cabinet? That's when these Ooze Sensors activate. They also send texts, emails, and phone calls to anyone willing to come up with rubber gloves and clean up. This one happens to be under a clean toilet. This sensor uses a $10 water sensor with some home made copper electrodes wired into the sensor inputs of a TriggerLinc sensor. Note the Outcrop Acres signature green finish. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing This is an IOLinc 2450. It has a relay which has several modes so it can control the activation of lots of different devices. It also has a sensor input to determine the state of something, like water sensors, timers, motion sensors, telephones, security systems or other sensors. It works with KeyPadLinc and the SmartLinc to control those devices and show the status on the buttons and via the computer network.

  Here is one of the garage door sensors that ties into the IOLinc. It uses a special scientific technology to determine the proximity of the door to the sensor. It then takes this input along with that of others located elsewhere. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing This is another KPL, this time controlling outside lights. It replaced four switches, two of which were arranged vertically on the left where the KPL is. How? Well, I abandoned one switch since it was a 3-Way now being controlled by a ToggleLinc dimmer located in a second location. Using the magic of Insteon, I can control the same light using one of the KPL buttons.

  Here is the major challenge in Home Automation - sorting out the wiring in these crowded wire boxes. This is the one from above. I have already hooked up the conventional 3-Way on the right. Then, I am tidying up the hot and switch wires so that the wires can go back in the box as neat as possible, with much less crimping and crowding. All the temporary scotch tape labels came off before the wires are put away. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing This is a five gang switch in the garage. So I can control the exterior lights from the computer or other KeyPadLincs, I have installed a ToggleLinc switch in this bank of switches. The ToggleLinc is the second from the right, called EXT LGHT. This switch was a 3-Way. Since any switch can be controlled from any other, there is no need for physical 3-Way wiring. Therefore, there is no way to do it. So I disconnected the other 3-Way.

  This is a popular Home Automation technology called X10. X10 also uses power line signaling. But unlike Insteon, there is no repetition on the line. So if the device doesn't get the signal the first time, then it fails. But even Insteon isn't perfectly reliable. That's why I believe and I'm right that all control systems need Closed Loop Feedback. In fact all systems, human or automated need clossed loop feedback. That's why there are performance reviews and the concept of being fired. Click for Enhanced Viewing

  Click for Enhanced Viewing These are some of the plug in LampLinc modules. The one on the right is a three wire dimmer with a pass through. I have a few of these. The one on the left is also a LampLinc, but is a two wire and doubles as an Insteon Wireless bridge (I have two so they can bridge to one another). One runs a lamp, one simply reports status on some of the IOLinc sensors.

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