House Hacking Project: Home Automation
An HAI touchscreen panel, and an array of smart switches.
Home automation has existed in many forms over the last few decades, allowing one to control lighting, security, access, surveillance, entertainment and climate control. From simple devices such as The Clapper (…issued US Patent #5493618 on July 9, 1985 and first sold to the public on September 1, 1986.) to full size server racks that cater to every possible need. Plus any possible combination that range in between the two extremes. New technologies allow the blending of communication protocols, so you can easily upgrade controllers and computers while still using in place devices.
The Omni Pro II, HAIs premium controller.
The heart of any automation system is a controller, which can interface all of the devices in a system. Thermostats, security cameras, video panels, light switches, sensors, cell devices, audio controls, computers, door locks, RFID readers, irrigation… The possibility for controls is nearly unlimited, blending wired and wireless access (coax and cat 5e & 6; X10 and wifi) to any manner of sensors, controls and switches. The hard part is determining the scope of control you want to achieve. Do you want certain lights and security features engaged when your kids get home from school? HVAC and ceiling fans to cycle depending on the weather? Lighting to cycle in the event of an alarm trigger? If you can imagine a scenario for hardware to operate, it can be done!
High end systems use intuitive touch panels or tablets to control the system, keeping all of the features at your fingertips. Adjusting lighting and audio zones as you walk around the home and checking on surveillance cameras is one button push away. The ability to check who is at the front door or turn on all outside lights with one button push is very easy to get used to. Let us explore some of the menus!
The lighting menu is simple in its complexity. Each switch can be dimmed and controlled individually, as well as being part of a zone for “mood” lighting. Macro codes can be added to the controller, allowing complete lighting programs to be initiated. If the alarm goes off and it is dark, all lighting is activated. Or the garage door opens, which turns on the front porch, hall and kitchen lights. Going to bed? If you think you left that back porch light on, an “all off” can help save energy.
The security menu allows one touch changes in modes. The number of zones and sensors that can be monitored is staggering, scalable to the largest estate. Key cards and automated locks can be integrated, keeping track of children and service providers without breaking a sweat. You can give the maid access in a small window during the week, and get text messages or emails alerting you to who/when/where! 3G cell devices can provide backup access and communication in the event of phone service interruptions.
The climate control menu features an easy to use, digital thermostat. Pretty self explanatory.
Surveillance cameras can be brought up in their own menu as well. Checking who is at the front door or bump in the night has never been easier.
Tired of listening to satellite radio? Hit the audio button to access the radio or iTunes! Up to a dozen audio zones can have independent audio sources and selections.
In the audio zones, various volume and selection devices are available.
The status menu gives an overview of the system. Notice the sunrise/set data: maintaining accurate control is the name of the game, keeping energy costs as efficient as possible.
What about internet or mobile access you ask? Of course there is an app for that! Not only can you maintain control on the go, but also in between touch screens. This is particularly useful in homes over 5000 sqft.
When pulling wiring, it makes sense to add as much as practical. Above you can see that a camera, speaker and additional light fixture have been added in the same vicinity. Installation costs are a large part of a fully featured system. Smaller homes can make use of wireless tech much better than larger estates, reducing the cost of entry.
We are thankful for this homeowner allowing us to use this system as an example. Seeing a flagship system in action is inspiring for those of us wanting to add these features to our own homes. Going forward, these systems should be the norm, not the exception.