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Author Topic: Automating a (Distant) Second Home  (Read 14426 times)

glacier991

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Automating a (Distant) Second Home
« on: November 27, 2011, 09:06:45 PM »

I'll add to this thread later, with some more detailed info, but wanted to chime in on an X-10 installation that is working well, and talk about some plans and ideas I have come up with to solve some of my problems. I hope others can pick up some ideas here.

Here is the problem needing a solution. I have a 2nd vacation home some 90 miles away in the Sierra mountains. (You can see it at www.donnersummitcabin.com). It can get cold up there at 7000 feet and my wife isn't keen on arriving to a cold house which can take 24 hours to really warm up. I rent the home as well, and want it warm when renters arrive and want to be able to turn off unnecessary power eaters (lots of baseboard heat in the house) when it is not needed or the renters have left.

I have a pretty robust X-10 system here at home along with BVC, and it works well for me. I decided to add X-10 control to my mountain house.

As noted, the house is heated by baseboard heaters throughout the house (it is a 3 story house) but the top 2 floors can be more or less fully heated by the Pellet Stove (which is cheap heat, and mine can auto start and run for about 40 hours without refilling with pellets.)

First thing was to pay attention to my powerline. I added an X-10 XPCR repeater-amplifier at the circuit breaker panel, and then filtered the obvious noise makers - refrigerators, TV's UPS and computers, etc using plug in filters. For flourescents and LED fixtures ( I am slowly experimenting with them) I used the wire in small cylindrical filters of which I picked up a bunch on E-bay for about $5 each. The power lines seem pretty clean.

I picked up an XP computer from Geeks for about $100, and dedicated it to the X-10 system. I also picked up some relatively rare XPFM-2 240 volt fixture modules. I have incorporated one in each baseboard heater, and can now directly control each one. I also added a Pro applicance module to my Pellet stove... giving me more or less full control over my main heating sources.

I have some tracklights and other multiple lights on dimmers, and for now that pretty much means incandescent... power eaters. I have these all on X-10 and Insteon dimmer switches.

I have installed motion detectors throughout the house as well. With these I now run macros that will start when someone turns on a power eater light, and after a pre set period of no motion activity in the room, they will automatically turn off and the macro resets. In some rooms (bathrooms) I have designed it so that feature will not operate from dusk til midnight, so no kids in the tub could find themselves in a darkened bathroom. (I avoided using the auto turn on functions, I'd rather let humans turn lights ON, just use my X-10 system to turn them OFF).

I have added 7 non X-10 IR LED cameras and a DVR to my home there, and two of the cameras rest on Ninja X-10 mounts (the only good camera product by X-10 IMHO - the cameras I used are as cheap or cheaper than the X-10 line, have IR, and overall were a much better choice and had higher image quality - 520 lines v. 340 and higher light range.) It runs standalone apart from the AHP.

For good measure I added a WGL V572A all code receiver with an extermally mounted antenna (mounted high on the gable end outside of this 3 story house) and can pick up signals from about half a block in any direction reliably, further sometimes - maybe a city block. I can trigger a pre-set lighting combo when I arrive, and with my heater turn on X-10 devices triggered from home before hand the house is lit (and warm) when I arrive.

I use LogMeIn for remote access and love it.

Current stats: AHP 3.236 running on a 1.8 Mhz XP HP Celeron system using a CM-15 for powerline interface. AHP is set up into 24 "rooms" (some ficticious just to give me a one-stop shop for heater control for example) 79* modules currently, and 29 macros. (mostly turn off series which use several, some translation macros).

I have a separate temperature sensing system which is in its infancy (www.pcsensor.com) so I can monitor house temperature. I am working on an idea to use an IC sensor which changes state at a predetermined temperature hooked up to a DS-10 to provide a rudimentary power switching system for heat - over or under temp. (e.g. turn off a heater when the room hits 70 degrees.)

For those who say X-10 is unreliable, I say, fix/clean your power line first and then add amp/repeaters or better yet Jeff Volp's device, and filter your noise and you will discover that it works great. The WGL V572A receiver is simply awesome - highly recommended.

Friends marvel that I can log into my computer up there, control everything using X-10 and also view what is going on around the house via my cameras, even at night.

Before I leave the mountain house to come home, I refill fill the pellet stove (as full as I can get it), turn off the module controlling it, and set the thermostat for it at 70 degrees. I also set the baseboards to pre determined set points, and leave them all off in AHP as well. Then, approximately 36 hours before my planned arrival I turn on the Pellet stove and before I leave home on my way back up there I then turn on certain baseboards on the first floor. When I arrive, the house is warm. If it is dark I turn on the lights from the car as I approach.

I'll post more, with some videos and more about the DS-10 temperature sensor system as I develop it. (and post a list of devices installed etc as well in the format suggested by Tuiceman)

Chris Swanberg (Glacier991)

* I noticed that seemed high, and then realized  that 78 modules was what was reported by AHP in the Report section, and likely includes double counted repeat modules where I may place multiple iterations of the same module in different "rooms" (e.g. I put a baseboard heater both in the room where it physically exists and also in the "Controlled heat" room as well - so it gets reported twice.) I'll update with a realistic number, likely half that.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2012, 07:23:20 PM by glacier991 »
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Brian H

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2011, 06:26:50 AM »

Thank you for sharing your Automation Project with us.
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Noam

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2011, 11:06:47 AM »

* I noticed that seemed high, and then realized  that 68 modules was what was reported by AHP in the Report section, and likely includes double counted repeat modules where I may place multiple iterations of the same module in different "rooms" (e.g. I put a baseboard heater both in the room where it physically exists and also in the "Controlled heat" room as well - so it gets reported twice.) I'll update with a realistic number, likely half that.

I think AHP might also count "dummy" modules (if you use them in any macros), as well as (possibly) the macros themselves.

dhouston

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2011, 01:33:44 PM »

For good measure I added a WGL V572A all code receiver with an extermally mounted antenna (mounted high on the gable end outside of this 3 story house)...
A very bad idea without adding a lightning arrestor.
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glacier991

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2011, 07:54:24 PM »

A point well taken. There is a simple little coax connector device, mainly a barrel connector on a wall mount with a lug for a grounding wire - a simple grounding lug if you will... I use it on any outdoor coax antenna runs, including this one.

Thanks for bringing up that point.

(and actually the house has a steel roof with a sizeable gable overhang, and the antenna sits under that, since upward reception is unnecessary...I suspect that it is probably pretty immune from a strike... but since we do have some big summertime lightning storms up there  I added a grounding block as a matter of habit. I picked up about a dozen on e-bay once and keep them in my TV/coax/ethernet tool box.

NOAM: Yes I use dummy modules throughout the system so I bet they count too. On that subject I had had issue with AHP and dusk/dawn timers working reliably in Macros etc... so I have found that what works most reliably for me is to have a dummy switch on the monitored house code and using the simple timer function for the switch to turn it on and off at dusk and dawn, and use it as a condition in a macro... it works reliably and well for me. I also duplicate all turn off macro commands in case of Powerline interference or collisions too.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2011, 12:02:05 AM by glacier991 »
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HA Dave

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2011, 09:27:24 PM »

Awesome setup Chris! Thanks for posting. I really like your Web Site too.
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glacier991

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2011, 12:03:06 AM »

Thanks Dave. Kind words, and appreciated from an old hand like yourself.
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Noam

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2011, 09:33:27 AM »

NOAM: Yes I use dummy modules throughout the system so I bet they count too. On that subject I had had issue with AHP and dusk/dawn timers working reliably in Macros etc... so I have found that what works most reliably for me is to have a dummy switch on the monitored house code and using the simple timer function for the switch to turn it on and off at dusk and dawn, and use it as a condition in a macro... it works reliably and well for me. I also duplicate all turn off macro commands in case of Powerline interference or collisions too.

I'm going to guess that those time-condition macros are being run from the PC (and not from the CM15A).
There was a bug in AHP that reversed the logic of time-based conditions in macros run from the PC.
The bug was fixed in version 3.315 (released 6/9/2011).
From the description of your system, it looks like you are running 3.236. That might explain why time-based conditional macros don't work for you.

If you decide to upgrade, keep in mind that older (pre-2008, or so) Lamp modules (to include wall switches) that are NON SoftStart will need to be re-defined using the "Old Lamps - no SoftStart" category in AHP.

If you're curious about other AHP bugs, you can see the revision history here:
http://www.x10.com/support/rev_ahp.htm

and you can see the current user-maintained "Bug List" here:
http://forums.x10.com/index.php?topic=22373.0

glacier991

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2011, 02:16:57 PM »

Ok, starting to work on my DS-10 based temperature system and thought I would share where I am currently with you all.

To recap from before, I have found some IC's that will change state from open to closed based on a temperature setpoint (available in 32 degrees, 40 degrees, 50 degrees  and 70 degrees - and also 140 degrees). Hooking these to a DS-10 would give me a relatively simple way to trigger a macro based on the temperature passing the IC design temperature - either up or down.

I purchased each of the temperature points above (well, except the 140). I will note that these are small IC packages and somewhat pricey - about $25 each (prices vary slightly by temperature). They are made by George Risk Industries and their website is www.grisk.com. I purchased them thru an online seller (google GRI T8070 for example and the seller should pop up.)

I meanwhile found a single temp sensor set for 39 degrees at Smarthome (http://www.smarthome.com/7020/Remote-Temperature-Sensor-for-Sensaphone/p.aspx) for $13 on sale - $19 reg price.) It looks very much like a magnetic sensor normally attached to a DS-10, and larger than the GRI sensors, but half the price. Only that one temperature is available though.

In areas where I am concerned about maintaining a temperature well above freezing I have put DS-10's using the Smarthome 39 degree models. When the temp drops below that level AHP turns on a heater for a specified time (which I am fine tuning) and then turns it off. I decided against simply turning it on and off based on state changes, as that would cause too many cycles. As this progresses I may add some bells and whistles, but for now it's prettymuch on, time expires, off. Lather rinse and repeat.

I have not as yet employed the GRI sensors, but have some plans for them I will try out in January and report back to you with.

Finally, the other, and exciting (to me anyway) find I recently made is a small web based controller than can support 8 temperature sensors at locations throughout the house.

This uses sensors that report the actual temperature and that cost $5 each!

Regrettably, there is no "easy"  way to get those to run X-10 macros, but one could write a software program to do that - were one skilled at such things. [edit: reading their manual I find you CAN program PLC commands into it!] I will report more on this as I get it up and running as well. (The  controller is called Web Control made by CAI industries. I picked one up - for about $35, and think it is a steal... it interfaces directly to the web!)  It's called : Webcontrol Universal Network Enabled Timer Temperature Humidity I/o Controller


So, stay tuned, more to come in January.  :o

« Last Edit: December 20, 2011, 08:59:01 PM by glacier991 »
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HA Dave

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2011, 04:56:57 PM »

Finally, the other, and exciting (to me anyway) find I recently made is a small web based controller than can support 8 temperature sensors at locations throughout the house.

This uses sensors that report the actual temperature and that cost $5 each!

Regrettably, there is no "easy"  way to get those to run X-10 macros, but one could write a software program to do that - were one skilled at such things. I will report more on this as I get it up and running

Your the man!!! I will be looking forward to reading more.... +1 from me.
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Modern automation is much more than turning things on and off.
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glacier991

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2011, 06:26:18 PM »

Thanks Dave.

   And you know I may have spoken too quickly about using the web based controller to run X-10. I downloaded a pretty extensive and well documented users manual and the contoller is programmable to run PLC commands!!    :)%

   
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Noam

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2011, 01:28:52 PM »

Thanks Dave.

   And you know I may have spoken too quickly about using the web based controller to run X-10. I downloaded a pretty extensive and well documented users manual and the contoller is programmable to run PLC commands!!    :)%

   

From what I read about it, it sends X10 RF commands (not PLC), by talking to a hacked keychain remote or CM17A.
I wonder if there is a way to make it talk through a PSC05 or TW523.

glacier991

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2011, 04:37:54 PM »

From what I read about it, it sends X10 RF commands (not PLC), by talking to a hacked keychain remote or CM17A.
I wonder if there is a way to make it talk through a PSC05 or TW523.


I'll freely admit my ignorance, but from reading the online PLC manual it more looks like the output is presented at a set of pins at the device, and online, making me doubt there is any RF Xmit function at all... BUT... the fact there is a physical output at the pins makes me think that it may interface with a PSC05, I dunno. All that is currently beyond my comprehension.
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Noam

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2011, 09:46:54 PM »

From what I read about it, it sends X10 RF commands (not PLC), by talking to a hacked keychain remote or CM17A.
I wonder if there is a way to make it talk through a PSC05 or TW523.


I'll freely admit my ignorance, but from reading the online PLC manual it more looks like the output is presented at a set of pins at the device, and online, making me doubt there is any RF Xmit function at all... BUT... the fact there is a physical output at the pins makes me think that it may interface with a PSC05, I dunno. All that is currently beyond my comprehension.
Yes, the output is output to a set of pins. However, by connecting those to a hacked remote or CM17A, you can use that transmitter to send the output via RF.

glacier991

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Re: Automating a Second Home
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2012, 07:34:46 PM »

UPDATE:  Well I have had a little time to tweak out any bugs and I have to say that the temperature control I discussed above is working perfectly. I close the bathroom doors, and when the temp in that bathroom falls below about 38-39 degrees the heater in the bathroom turns on for a specified time (I have tweaked the times to raise the temp to roughly 42 degrees before turning off, though it is admittedly a crapshoot in terms of real accuracy - but it cycles the heat to prevent freezing conditions.)

I've added a flag to it and a switch to enable/disable, but that was probably maybe in the bored, gilding the lily department a little. I did find though that a flag was necessary in the case of the 70 degree cutout to insure just a single instance of the macro would run.

I've also added the "over-temp" sensors that use the 70 degree GRI sensor which work kind of in reverse... when a bedroom hits 70 degrees I disable the heat for about 20 minutes... so if someone sets the heat at, say 78, and leaves, I won't be paying a big power bill. Of course, now that ALL heat is controlled by X-10 I can turn off heat when no one is there - the 70 degree cutout is for times when the house IS occupied.

The GRI sensors have a 32 degree sensor and I have thought about placing a few of those on DS-10s tied to email on triggerring in case something fails and I have a freezing situation on my hands.

The last step is an ability to monitor actual temps throughout the house. I can monitor the temp in the house in one location using PCsensor, but would be nice to monitor other areas as well... that's the next step.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 09:07:00 PM by glacier991 »
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