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post #1 of 8 Old 04-06-2012, 02:30 PM - Thread Starter
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I am starting research on adding home automation. I'm looking for some advice on the best platform to base things on.

Here is what I want to accomplish, in order of priority:
  • Lighting Control (4 bedroom 2800 sqf, mostly halogen & florescent lighting)
  • Door open/closed detection (3 doors and 2 sliders)
  • Cameras (indoor & outdoor)
  • Thermostat (already have a honeywell that is programmed, but would be nice to have more control)
  • A/V (I stream from a Mac Pro to an AppleTV -> 65" panny for most things)

Some selection criteria:
  • I want to do it myself
  • I am a mac/unix & iPhone user
  • I want to avoid running wires to every switch

My background:

I am a software developer, so programming everything will be part of the fun for me. It is important for me to have as much control as possible, complexity isn't a big issue. I would be nice to be able to have a basic setup without much hassle, but not required.

My House:

It was build ~2006 and is a modern/minimalist home. Every room has ethernet (cat5) and cable in at least one place, usually 2 or 3 (22 ethernet ports total). It also has phone lines to every room which aren't being used at all. There are some custom pushbutton light switches that can't be swapped. So one key question: is there a way to control a switch w/o replacing the switch itself?

Here is an image of 5 such switches:



From what I've read it seems for DIY retrofit type solutions, Insteon is a very flexible choice. Z-Wave seems to be newer tech and also has a lot of support, but might not be quite a customizable? Are there toggle switches available that are indistinguishable from standard switches?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. I want to start small and if it proves useful will expand things.
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post #2 of 8 Old 04-07-2012, 08:59 AM
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Using those momentary switches as inputs to a lighting control system would be very cool. Regardless of how they are setup now, you could configure them as a momentary dry contact closure, and program the system to respond however you wish upon pressing.

RF dimmers would be installed where the line voltage connections are, and any control circuit would most likely be abandoned, unless dimming is not a requirement.

See if you can post some photos of the back room equipment where the wiring from those switches ties into the line voltage wiring.
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post #3 of 8 Old 04-07-2012, 09:59 AM
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Nice switches.

Check out LinuxMCE. I don't know much about it, but I see it being discussed at cocoontech forums.

Even though it's Windows-based, you might want to consider CQC. Read through the CQC forums.

A newcomer, Clare Controls is 'dealer only', but you may be able to become a dealer or strike a bargain with a local dealer to give you access after the install. It's Apple stuff, or somehow Apple related.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -Buddha

Give a monkey a brain and he'll swear he's the center of the universe. -Fishbone
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post #4 of 8 Old 04-07-2012, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradKas View Post

Using those momentary switches as inputs to a lighting control system would be very cool. Regardless of how they are setup now, you could configure them as a momentary dry contact closure, and program the system to respond however you wish upon pressing.

RF dimmers would be installed where the line voltage connections are, and any control circuit would most likely be abandoned, unless dimming is not a requirement.

See if you can post some photos of the back room equipment where the wiring from those switches ties into the line voltage wiring.

The switches aren't actually momentary switches. They stay pressed when "on". 2 of them are in a 3-way configuration with regular toggle switches.

Here is the back side of the 5. It is the first time I've seen it, and it looks like a mess! There are a number of other rooms with these switches, though unfortunately they aren't very accessible/serviceable.

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post #5 of 8 Old 04-08-2012, 10:00 AM
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Interesting - it appears they are switching the line voltage. How do they 3 ways work with the press on, press off switches? Do you just change it's state and the lights turn on or off?

This makes it more difficult to incorporate lighting control. Does the wiring head directly to the lights/loads or to a (or multiple) central junction box(s)? Usually those push buttons do not have a high current rating so it seems odd they would be rated for line voltage switching.

If this is getting out of your comfort zone you may want to bring in a pro for some consultation on the hardware side of things.
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post #6 of 8 Old 04-08-2012, 04:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradKas View Post

Interesting - it appears they are switching the line voltage. How do they 3 ways work with the press on, press off switches? Do you just change it's state and the lights turn on or off?

Correct, just change the state. So it is possible for the button to be "up" and the lights to be on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BradKas View Post

This makes it more difficult to incorporate lighting control. Does the wiring head directly to the lights/loads or to a (or multiple) central junction box(s)? Usually those push buttons do not have a high current rating so it seems odd they would be rated for line voltage switching.

All indications are that they are wired directly to the lights. I have these in a few room and they appear to be in place like a normal switch. I have a request to the architect for the make/model of the switch. If I don't hear from him, I'll take one out and try to figure out exactly what it is.

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Originally Posted by BradKas View Post

If this is getting out of your comfort zone you may want to bring in a pro for some consultation on the hardware side of things.

Nah, so far this is fun!

I am still undecided on what technology and controller are my best choices. It seems like homeseer is quite versatile and has a plugin SDK. The downside is that it is windows based, but they sell a stand-along box with embedded windows that might be a good choice.

Insteon seemed like the best bet for me, but the more I read the more it seems z wave is more mainstream. I guess there is nothing to prevent me from doing both if I have a central controller that aggregates the devices.

I'm getting a little anxious to get things started...
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post #7 of 8 Old 04-09-2012, 07:01 AM
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OK, well the best way to incorporate these switches will be to get the make & model and replace them with momentary on when pressed. Then use the power and switch legs in the cavity to wire to wall box RF dimmers. These will be completely removed from the switches.

Use a contact closure input interface from your automation or lighting system and create dry triggers with the switches. These will be programmed to call up lighting scenes, or anything else tied into the system within the programming.

I am not very familiar with DIY hardware so I cannot lend advice on what direction to head on that.
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post #8 of 8 Old 04-20-2012, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
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For those who were asking, those push button switches are made by Allen Bradley. The closest I find on their site is here:

http://www.ab.com/en/epub/catalogs/1...roduction.html

I don't have the exact model number, but if I figure it out I'll post it.

I ordered a couple of these to try out behind the switches:

http://www.asihome.com/ASIshop/produ...oducts_id=4815

I think it is going to take a couple of weeks to get them, but I'll post the results when I try it out.
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