in Home Automation

A picture is worth… two thousand pounds?

Michele was keen to understand more of the detail around the kit I have configured in the house. As I described the various systems and their interactions he was mentally totting up what he’d need to spend in his house. This should probably make Giovanna nervous.

We realised after a while that it was easy to lose track of what device interfaced with which system, and what you needed to buy separately vs what came in the box. So to help a bit I promised to draw a diagram of the major components and how they talk to each other. Here I present, in awesome high-fidelity Durdle-vision, a rough idea of the scope of my devices and how they interact!

To recap:

  • Heating System
    Honeywell (or probably Tado if I were to start now)
    Has a network connected hub that will talk to the heating system via RF.
    Usually has a web based API and associated smartphone app.
    Somewhere around a grand, depending on size of house.
  • Samsung SmartThings
    Starter Kit for about 200 quid gives you hub, socket, motion sensor, presence sensor and door sensor.
    It talks to devices via Z-Wave and Zigbee, as well as to cloud APIs and local networked devices.
    It monitors your phones to tell who is home to change behaviour accordingly.
    Additional motion sensors are 30 quid, sockets are 15 for on/off, 30 for dimmers.
    I use custom code on this to talk to the LightwaveRF devices via the Raspberry Pi.
  • LightwaveRF
    The easiest retrofit lightswitches to install, but so far not a great experience with their hub or web API.
    They look good, but cost around 30 quid per “gang” in your switches.
    Instead of their hub, I’m using…
  • Raspberry Pi with RFXCOM Transceiver
    Running Domoticz, take instructions via API and send RF commands to LightwaveRF devices.
    About 60 quid all in for the hardware. Considerably more of your time to configure!
    If you want to avoid this, and find light switches you like, you could install…
  • Z-Wave modules behind your switches
    These clever bits of kit slot into the existing backboxes and provide wireless control.
    They can turn existing on/off switches into “toggle” switches, so you don’t need to change the switches.
    About fifty quid a pop.
  • Z-Wave sockets for your lamps
    The easy way to turn lamps on/off. About 15 quid a go when bought in packs of 10.
    Direct integration with SmartThings.
  • Sonos
    About 170 quid a pop for the Play:1, more for the larger speakers or kit with optical out for existing amps.
    Can be controlled via SmartThings, with more granular control from the Pi via an API.
    True Alexa integration is promised “in 2017”.
  • Alexa
    Cheapest way to get Alexa in the house is via the 50 quid Echo Dot.
    Anything that SmartThings can control, you can control via voice with Alexa.
    Most of the heating systems – including Honeywell – have direct integration with Alexa too.
  • Blinky RGB LEDs
    Who doesn’t want blinky LEDs in multiple colours all over the house?!
    A bit of electronics know-how and about 60 quid on Amazon can have Z-Wave controlled blinkenlights!

Michele and I concluded, by the end of today’s walk, that for around two thousand pounds you can integrate heating, lighting, smart phone control, presence detection and Alexa voice control in the average sized house. That’s including the cost of a plumber to do the fiddly bits of engineering for you.

We’re living in the future: go out and get automating!