Jump to content
Mac Dude

Home Automation - Anyone in to this?

Recommended Posts

some automation systems come with a "button" device, that you can assign a function (or functions) to, such as click to turn on and off, or click and hold or spin a dial to dim, etc. Then you just stick this next to your chair, your door, your beside table etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just an update, as a part of replacing our current ducted heating and aircon, we will be installing a 'smart thermostat' to provide an additional level of automation.

The advantages over the standard programmable thermostats is that :

  • They learn how long it takes to heat and cool your home and can take into consideration external data points like the weather
  • While they have scheduling capability, they can automatically override the schedule if they detect that, for example, the heater is on but nobody is home or visa versa
  • Provides a range of setback and set forward temps. What this does is keep your house 'around' your desired temp when people are away temporarily. This makes sense as it takes less power to maintain or top up a temp than to let your house get really cold only to heat it up again
  • Works with multi-stage heating and cooling and uses less power to maintain temps

Overall the added smarts should mean that your house spends more time at your desired temp while saving money. Even if the crazy claims of savings are exaggerated by a factor of 3 or 4, the cost differential between a programmable thermostat and a smart thermostat is small enough to make the payback period 12 months or less.

 

The big question mark is reliability. The fallback is to have a cheap thermostat I can swap in if the smart one fails.

 

Anyway, I'll keep this updated as to how the install goes...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maintaining "near temp" - I suspect that it's not the case of being more efficient if the absence is more than a few hours.

Imagine the kettle vs url scenario. An urn is on probably a 20% duty cycle to keep the water near boiling vs a kettle that's 100% for a minute or two each time it's needed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maintaining "near temp" - I suspect that it's not the case of being more efficient if the absence is more than a few hours.

Imagine the kettle vs url scenario. An urn is on probably a 20% duty cycle to keep the water near boiling vs a kettle that's 100% for a minute or two each time it's needed.

 

The longer the absence the more you save...

 

Take the scenario where I go down to the local supermarket to do some shopping but leave the ducted on 21C. Your regular tstat will happily maintain 21C keeping nobody warm. A smart tstat will see that nobody is home and do one of two things -

(1) if nobody is home AND someone is normally home at that time it will assume that someone will be back soon and it will let the temp drop but stay within the 'near temp' range, let's say plus or minus 5 degrees. In this case it will let the house drop to 16C until it detects you're on your way home and it will start heating again. With all the smart tstats you can define the 'near temp' range which you would adjust based on the output of your heater and the size of the house.

(2) If nobody is home AND it's at a time when someone is normally not home it will shut the heater off until it either detects someone approaching the home or there is a pre-programmed scheduled event like turn the heater on at 4pm.

 

In both cases you save money.

 

You're right though, if you leave the home and turn the heater off it's better than leaving in the 'near temp' range.

Edited by Mac Dude

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Suppose it comes down to convenience vs efficiency.

 

Outside conditions and insulation can make a huge difference. I've found sometimes I'll go out for 3-4 hours and get back and the temp has barely dropped 3-4 degrees. But if it's windy with the attached chill-factor it'll be worse than that in under half an hour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

my experience with our heating / cooling : we got a reverse cycle aircon for the first time ever a year or so ago, and our house is well positioned and has good insulation and eaves (but shitty seals on the doors, and bare wooden floors that leak air)

 

cooling - dunno - used it maybe half a dozen times as the house is good in heat, but when it was on and ambient was 40c outside, it was set to 27c indoors and felt great with no humidity - i have no understanding why 24c is even a thing for thermostats in obscene heat

 

heating - way better than the previous freestanding unflued gas heater (and no more carbon monoxide poisoning...), at 23c the living area is comfy in under 5 minutes, and 22c maintenance is perfect

 

 

i think the biggest issue with heating and cooling is people aim for some totally artifical number (24c) for all conditions, and i suspect that's a leftover from the days when climate control was to make it bearable to wear a suit indoors all year round - fucking crazy (both the waste of energy, and wearing a suit)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Suppose it comes down to convenience vs efficiency.

 

Outside conditions and insulation can make a huge difference. I've found sometimes I'll go out for 3-4 hours and get back and the temp has barely dropped 3-4 degrees. But if it's windy with the attached chill-factor it'll be worse than that in under half an hour.

 

 

Yeah, the heating is only one factor. When we built our house 18 years ago we used a form of blown insulation. That was fine for a while but unlike batts it settles and that reduces it's effectiveness. So, I'll be putting batts on top of the existing insulation in the next little while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

cooling - dunno - used it maybe half a dozen times as the house is good in heat, but when it was on and ambient was 40c outside, it was set to 27c indoors and felt great with no humidity - i have no understanding why 24c is even a thing for thermostats in obscene heat

Chocolate isn't really workable at 27. I mean, 24 is pushing it, too.

 

 

I like 24 as a general setting tho' tbh. It's t-shirt weather. Colder than that in summer and it's time to find a jumper or blanket. (I just spent a summer trying to ninja change the thermostat from 60-70 up to 75-80, because even 80 is cool compared to 115, but I find 27 isn't that cool compared to mid 30s).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

cooling - dunno - used it maybe half a dozen times as the house is good in heat, but when it was on and ambient was 40c outside, it was set to 27c indoors and felt great with no humidity - i have no understanding why 24c is even a thing for thermostats in obscene heat

Chocolate isn't really workable at 27. I mean, 24 is pushing it, too.

 

 

I like 24 as a general setting tho' tbh. It's t-shirt weather. Colder than that in summer and it's time to find a jumper or blanket. (I just spent a summer trying to ninja change the thermostat from 60-70 up to 75-80, because even 80 is cool compared to 115, but I find 27 isn't that cool compared to mid 30s).

 

 

nah, but it's heller cool compared to the low 40's

 

and mid 30's outside means our house isn't actually very hot unless it goes for a few days running - helps that my attire in summer is a sarong i guess

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I admit to being curious about home automation, even though I likely won't financially be in situ to consider it. How ever guys like the bloke in WA that's built his home in a tunnel rather than just digging into the ground 'mine style' ... http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-15/quindalup-man-builds-hobbit-house-to-save-on-energy/8711758 - he has daylight coming in via both ends of his abode - I must say this seems like a very cool way of going about things. I guess he can still do automation for the other areas of his home, but heating and cooling don't have to be a part of that. Even a wuss like me could and would learn to wear enough clothing in the cooler times . The summer would be bliss; cool enough to eat and sleep properly, thereby giving one the best hope of living healthily. I give this place my sign of approval :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, two steps forward, one step back...

 

So last week our new heating and A/C units were being installed. The way it was supposed to work was that the installers come out and decommission the old units and position/connect up the new units. At a point during the day a sparky would drop by to hook up the 3 phase power to the A/C and run the wiring to the new smart thermostat.

 

Since this was a smart thermostat I was supplying I sent the wiring requirements to the company doing the install two weeks prior to the install. All sweet.

 

So the dudes rock up, pull out the dead units and install the new ones no problem. Half way through the morning they spring the bad news - the sparky has called in sick. :(

 

The good news is that since the heating unit is just a plug into an existing 220V powerpoint it doesn't require a sparky so at least we get heating. The installers take my thermostat, install the mount and start doing the 24V wiring. I'm looking over their shoulder of course and start pointing out where they are doing it wrong. 'But that's how we always do it', I get told.

 

:/

 

I explain that the thermostat I've provided is two stage capable and they had wired it up as a single stage unit. So it gets rewired and plugged in. Nothing.

 

At this point I'm not sure if it's their dodgy wiring or if my thermostat is DOA. They suggest hooking up a 'dumb' thermostat to see if it works, and it does. However, it's not apples for apples - the dumb thermostat has batteries and will function even if it can't draw power via the Common wire from the heater. The smart thermostat requires power via the Common wire.

 

Fortunately even though I was supplying the thermostat, as a part of the quote I got them to throw in a low end programmable one as a backup. It's this one that we have been using for the last few days to avoid freezing.

 

Anyway, this morning I finally got around to checking the wiring. I powered off the heater, removed the temporary thermostat and hooked up the smart thermostat. Whacked the power back on and bugger me, the thermostat fired up as it should.

 

*sigh*

 

So now I've verified my thermostat is fine. When the sparky comes on Saturday I'll sit him down with a cup of coffee and the wiring diagram before he touches anything...

 

The moral of the story?

 

Home Automation is not something that any of the heating/cooling companies I spoke to know much about and that they are determined to keep on doing what they have been doing for years. I'm more than happy with the quality of the install in general, but they are very much set in the way they do things.

 

I'll report back once the install is complete.

Edited by Mac Dude
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i feel your pain

 

when we renovated the kitchen amd living room into open space, we installed low voltage downlighting in there, the study, the upstairs bedrooms, for the power saving / heat reduction - all with dimmers (which i really like instead of glaring night time light when it's late)

 

and of course, the bloody things strobe like a fucking disco intermittently due to the carrier current, which th sparky neglectedto warn me about, and then explained that there is little predictability about components behaving - sometimes tyhey are great, and in other houses, it's like they are calling time at the local (not that i've ever actually been in that situation, but i've seen it in the movies)

 

bleeding edge technology is hit and miss, as most tradies aren't that informed on current stuff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some cheaparsed LEDs are just run straight on AC - the problem there that they're only active for half the waveform. Some compensate by reversing polarity on every second LED but it's a crappy solution.

Similarly, there's different types of dimmer circuits - the cheap and nasty ones are just chopper types that clip parts of the waveform which is another way of inducing epilepsy.

 

Even DC can have problems - the common way to do dimming is just use PWM but if not filtered properly can induce similar effects.

Edited by Rybags

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, matching the LED to the dimmer can be hit and miss. I replaced our downlights with Philips LEDs and they don't have a problem with the dimmers I have(I used this site to compare : http://www.ledbenchmark.com/). However, a couple of hanging lights we have strobe if I install dimmable LED globes.

 

As far as home automation and lighting goes, it's pretty expensive for limited functionality as far as I can tell.

 

This may be about to change as Ikea is entering the market - https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2017/03/ikea-launches-smart-lighting-in-australia/

 

Though the article doesn't say, it looks like the Ikea offering will be Zigbee compatible.

Edited by Mac Dude

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of people have mentioned Nest, I'd like to drop this video to remind people of the downside of Nest-style "Google knows best" type automation that's trying to be too clever for it's own good:

 

 

In general I've been very unimpressed with most home automation gear. Quite a lot of it is powered by cloud services that I don't believe will be around in 20 years time, and quite a lot of it has piss poor security. None of this would be a problem, except we're talking about building it into peoples houses.

 

My main advice would be that whatever home automation you invest in, make sure it's peripheral enough that you can pull it out and replace it if need be.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as longevity and technology goes, is anything going to be around in 20 years time :)

 

Security and cloud reliance are really major issues with HA. When choosing the thermostat I wanted something that would give me 90% functionality even when there was no internet or even home WiFi. I'm also making sure it's being wired up in such a way that I can swap in a standard thermostat without any additional wiring, just in case.

 

The thing with HA is that you don't need it.

 

I just like the idea of tinkering with it, setting up a HA server, seeing what can be achieved.

 

It's kind of a ye olde Atomic thing to do :)

 

I'm also curiosity us about how well it learns, if it can save us money and if it reduces the amount of time you dick around with the thermostat because it knows what you want.

 

We do have Alexa in the kitchen, so I'll be able to hook it up,to,that as well.

 

Should be fun.

 

Thanks for the links, some really good reading especially around security.

Edited by Mac Dude
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's Alive!

 

Having a sparky who spent 5 minutes with me going over the install and wiring diagrams makes all the difference.

 

Linked it to Amazon Alexa, just need to setup the schedule...

 

EDIT : Oh, and a little plaster and paintwork :)

 

 

ecobee3.jpg

Edited by Mac Dude

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

26.5? Do you all parade around in the reg grundies?

 

If I were making a thermostat, that upper bound would be when it turns the cooling on, and the lower bound would be when the heater kicks in - between the two would be where you just let nature do it's thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, I had that impression. Though IMO most times you want no action if the upper limit is passed in winter or lower in summer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

26.5? Do you all parade around in the reg grundies?

 

If I were making a thermostat, that upper bound would be when it turns the cooling on, and the lower bound would be when the heater kicks in - between the two would be where you just let nature do it's thing.

 

 

Correct :)

 

At the top of the screen the icons are snowflake and flame which means the thermostat is controlling both. The fact that the flame is red(not white) means heating is active.

 

As you pointed out the numbers to the right are the boundaries that will trigger heating or cooling.

 

The box with '19.5-26.5 and holding' means that the current temp has been set manually from the thermostat and it will hold that temp until you override it, by touching the box for example.

 

I need to fine tune the boundaries. I've also just changed the setting so any manual setting at the thermostat will stay until the next scheduled event, like going into sleep mode at night. So now the display says '19.5-26.5 until 10:30pm' which is the scheduled time for the Sleep setting.

 

I agree Rybags that there is really no need for a cooling setting in winter. To achieve this i just change the thermostat from Auto to Heat Only in winter and Cool Only in summer.

 

The sparky was impressed, especially since it's no more expensive than a standard WiFi thermostat from any of the regular manufacturers.

 

The integration with my Amazon Alexa means I can ask it what the temp is set too, I can verbally set a specific temp or I can ask it to raise or lower the temp by any amount.

 

However, what I'm really interested in is the ability to view the efficiency of the heater/cooling over time and you can make tweaks to your schedule to reduce costs.

 

That and features like geo-fencing, proximity overrides(so if nobody is home when the unit is on it will turn off or visa versa), intelligent recovery - you set a temp at a specific time and the unit will fire up the heating/cooling in advance because it knows how long it takes to reach the temp you want, anyway it's these features that keep the residents happy :)

Edited by Mac Dude

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, I had that impression. Though IMO most times you want no action if the upper limit is passed in winter or lower in summer.

 

:)

 

I was interrupted when I was playing around with the scheduling. Last night the aircon came on at 11 much to the displeasure of the daughter. Fixed the schedule this morning and set it for heating only...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's part reason I've not much ventured into it... the inbuilt stupidity of so-called smart devices these days makes you wonder why you bother sometimes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's part reason I've not much ventured into it... the inbuilt stupidity of so-called smart devices these days makes you wonder why you bother sometimes.

 

I think it was the inbuilt stupidity of the person programming it :)

 

Sure, added flexibility can mean you can end up with unexpected results, but I see it as a massive positive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We've dipped our toes in, but only so far as purchasing a couple of bulbs and a smart switch. We use a combo of the vendor app, homeassistant, and ifttt recipes to do the basics of what we need:

 

  • Lounge room lights fading in about 30 mins before sunset, then fading out at 2230.
  • Bedside lamp not on a schedule, but remote access allowing for lighting for the pets.
  • Porch light that comes on when we're within 50m of the house.

Outside of that, we've got homeassistant to manipulate the TV (mostly on/off), and a few push notifications for key information - traffic, weather, and shares.

 

So far, so good. Biggest issue i have is that I have yet to configure a workable tablet to be mounted in a key position for full access. Having to grab your laptop/device can be a pain in the arse at times - but nothing that timers and some motion sensors won't resolve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×