Advice on starting with Home Automation - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 138 Old 03-03-2014, 01:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi,

I'm new to the Home Automation forum, but not AVSForum. I spend most of my time in the HTPC Linux forum. I'm looking to get into home automation. I'm new to it - if you don't can't various timers, motion sensor lights, my EtherRain sprinkler controller, my Visonic PowerMax security system, Zoneminder video surveillance system, and various jobs I have my HTPCs and servers do at home. I'm looking do a few things to start and then be inspired and learn and expand over time. Some of the things I know I want to be able to do:
  • Report when garage doors are open at times they shouldn't be
  • Sense when my wife arrives in the garage and flash a particular set of lights in the house (So I know to change the channel if I'm watching something I don't let my little ones watch).
  • Control a door lock
  • Cut power to a portable heater and measure it's power usage when it's on
  • Cut power to a couple of other outlets
  • Be able to remotely control some lights in the house
  • Monitor temperature, smoke, carbon monoxide levels
  • Totally optional, but integration with my irrigation system and security system would be nice.

There are a lot of options out there. I've looked through this forum and other places and have settled on Z-wave because of it's pervasiveness, support, and # of sensors available. I am looking at 2 different approaches to getting started (controller approaches):

1. Get a veralite or Hometroller Zee. I'm not interested in controllers than can only be controlled from a smartphone or via a cloud service otherwise I'd probably be leaning towards SmartThings
2. Run an controller on one of my servers using the Aeon Z-stick or some equivalent. Been leaning towards trying out Homegenie.

I don't want to spend a ton of time in maintenance but I'm fine with investigating and exploring setup and taking time to learn how to use things (I don't have much free time in a day, but I'm not in a hurry so I'll take the time I need). I'm pretty technically inclined. But since I'm more experimenting a lower budget to entry would be good so that's why I look at option 2 (plus I'm used to running many things on my servers).

Any advice on choosing between to the two options or another option/controller I should consider? At this point I'm leaning towards trying out 2 to start with. If someone has experience with Homegenie or some other Linux compatible controller software I'd love to hear it.

Thanks for any help you can give.
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post #2 of 138 Old 03-04-2014, 07:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Looking more into it, I've ruled out HomeGenie. Has a nice UI and some other desirable features, but it appears to be maintained by one person so I'll pass. I will look for another software solution that I like for Linux. Until then I'm leaning toward Veralite or Hometroller Zee. Any thoughts?
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post #3 of 138 Old 03-06-2014, 07:24 AM - Thread Starter
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My research and requirements have led me to probably purchase the veralite. It doesn't seem to support any presence sensors but their are apparently ways around that with an RFID device or using your cell phone. Now I'm on to picking some preliminary sensors, finding the best starting bundle and then making a purchase and getting started.

As I haven't made my purchase yet, any advice is still appreciated.
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post #4 of 138 Old 03-07-2014, 04:50 AM
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I think you're on the right track given your requirements. Have you looked into Open Remote? I don't know much about it but seems like it would cover a few of your points... Good luck!
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post #5 of 138 Old 03-07-2014, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth_J View Post

I think you're on the right track given your requirements. Have you looked into Open Remote? I don't know much about it but seems like it would cover a few of your points... Good luck!

I had come across it, but perhaps I didn't look into it enough. I thought it might require a lot more work to be useful than other solutions... But I will look into it again more closely before making a final decision.

Thanks!
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post #6 of 138 Old 03-09-2014, 10:06 PM
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I'm not up on DIY home automation but I know a lot of people like Vera (getvera.com).

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URC Total Control  -  Vantage  -  Monitor Audio  -  Autonomic  -  Fusion Research  -  TiVo

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post #7 of 138 Old 03-10-2014, 08:52 AM - Thread Starter
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I looked into openremote and once you get past 10 devices it looks like you need to pay and although it looked like it had great flexibility I decided to go with a veralite controller. I can use openremote with vera in the future if I want, but for now I start with vera. I just purchased the vera and a 3 devices to test it out and gain familiarity. I will build out from there. Thanks!
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post #8 of 138 Old 03-10-2014, 09:02 AM
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Ok. Good luck. Feel free to report back.

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post #9 of 138 Old 03-13-2014, 08:50 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm a couple days into this now, but I thought I'd give an update in case anyone cares. I unwrapped my vera and plugged it in and followed the insructions that came with it, that lead me to upgrading the UI all the way to UI6. Looking at the forums (which are a pain to register for and post to - almost like hazing smile.gif, I hope it becomes easier as I post more) going to UI6 was probably a bad idea and not even intended by Vera? Well that's unfortunate because their instructions lead you that way. So I'm in a state of not know which plugins do and don't work with Vera, but I'm not really that advanced yet. The UI is clunky - UI6 seems to be a mix of a newer cleaner UI that drops you into the old UI for anything close to advanced functionality. Also, for some reason I can't get the remote access for UI6 working - it always wants me to go to the local UI IP, which obviously doesn't work off my network. Not a big deal as I can remotelly connect to my home network anyway.

It looks like I'll have a good learning curve, but I'm not to worried about that. So far I've added a garage door opening sensor, a power meter/switch (monitor how much juice some equipment is running and turn it off when I want to) and a light switch. Adding all of them to Vera was simple as was controlling them. I've only setup one test scene (when garage door opens text me and turn on a light) and that was pretty easy. I want to do some more advanced scene with that scenario (when the garage door opens if my wife's phone is on the network [presence], flash the light). I don't know how to do that yet, but I'll figure that out. Meanwhile, I have a couple of more energy monitors on the way, and I'm trying to find out if this system can integrate with my security system (no one has said the plugin that integrates with my security system works in the UI6 yet, and I don't want to buy the things I need to buy to connect them without knowing if it will work - the plugin developer doesn't use the new UI and thus doesn't know). I also want to figure out how to setup an Apache reverse proxy with vera so I can securely forward the web server out through my aready secure SSL connection.

All in all, it's been rough around the edges, but I think as I learn (and as the UI improves) this will be a good experience. I'll keep updating as I learn more and have time in case others are interested.
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post #10 of 138 Old 03-15-2014, 08:17 AM
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Thanks for the update.  I am interested in your progress, please keep us posted.  I am about to embark on something similar and your information is helpful.  Will you be creating a list of the sensors and switches you have found compatible?  Perhaps another list like you have of your A/V Gear?

 

Cheers!

 

Jim

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post #11 of 138 Old 03-15-2014, 11:38 AM
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I am curious about your progress with this product going forward as well. Thanks for the update.

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post #12 of 138 Old 03-15-2014, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shocksystems View Post

Thanks for the update.  I am interested in your progress, please keep us posted.  I am about to embark on something similar and your information is helpful.  Will you be creating a list of the sensors and switches you have found compatible?  Perhaps another list like you have of your A/V Gear?

Cheers!

Jim

good idea, Jim. I added a list. It includes a lot of stuff I consider automation that isn't tied to my veralite. Before I thought to use veralite (z-wave) I was using various timers and occupancy/vacancy sensors for some automation. They work well and i don't plan on replacing them anytime soon. I'll work through the house.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joe277 View Post

I am curious about your progress with this product going forward as well. Thanks for the update.

So far it's okay. Plan on writing my first lua code to toggle the light switch when the garage door opens during certain times of day (and send me a text/email). Then i plan on setting up a scene that sends me a notification if the garage is open during business hours during the week.

I'll keep updating as I get more equipment and do more configs.
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post #13 of 138 Old 03-18-2014, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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So I thought I'd give another update. I finally wrote a couple of snippets of Lua code that conditionally notify me that the garage is open and/or flash a light in my house when the garage is open, based on time of day and a few other factors. It took a while to get the code right, but it was a good exercise that taught me a lot. Now I've found their are plugins that make conditional logic a lot easier (and don't require code) and I've found tutorials and sample code snippets for a lot of common things. So far so good. I went and ordered some more z-wave equipment (more energy meters, another garage door sensor for my other garage door, a flood/temp sensor for my basement). We'll see how setting that all goes.

I'm going to investigate plugins a bit more and see what they can offer me. I'm also investigating which switches I want to standardize on (leaning towards leviton even though they are pricier than GE/Jasco - but they offer more features and longer warranties). I also want to install a z-wave compatible deadbolt lock in my garage. Many projects to keep me busy this year. Piece by piece. So far, I think I made the right decision going with Vera, but it definitely is a fairly steep learning curve and I'm at the bottom.
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post #14 of 138 Old 03-25-2014, 06:54 AM
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I left Vera to go to the mac based indigo system. It has a great support and developer community and supports zwave/insteon. One issue is lock support but that isn't an issue for me. You might want to check it out!


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post #15 of 138 Old 03-25-2014, 07:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adaminnj View Post

I left Vera to go to the mac based indigo system. It has a great support and developer community and supports zwave/insteon. One issue is lock support but that isn't an issue for me. You might want to check it out!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Why did you leave Vera (and when?). So far I'm okay with Vera so not looking at switching this early. Locks are something I want to do so that is important to me. I no longer have a Mac at home - I think in my scan I thought indigo only ran on Macs - that true?
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post #16 of 138 Old 03-29-2014, 02:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Update - I added a z-wave enabled relay and open/close sensor to my garage and now I can close and open my garage via the home automation. I also added z-wave enabled deadlock for my garage door. So far things are pretty cool.

I also installed the whole home energy monitor and when I get time I'll install and configure the datamine plugin for monitor home energy usage.

I decided to standardize on Aeon micro smart switches for my lighting control. they are a little harder to install, but allow me to keep my same light switches, work in three way settings without having to buy a companion, and report energy usage. They are also less expensive.

Now I can do things like turn all lights on my first floor off, monitor my garage doors and remotely close it if it is left open by someone in the family (and get notified of this), and remotely lock and unlock the garage door entry. When people come home at night the light in the garage entry automatically comes on so people can see when they enter the house, and turns off 5 minutes later in case people forget to turn it off...

Next up, more light switch control, more outlet/energy monitors, configuring data mine, and connecting up my alarm system...
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post #17 of 138 Old 04-07-2014, 11:17 AM
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I'm very interested to see how this progresses for you, my Fiance and I are looking at buying a new home in the next few months and home automation is something I want to start playing with. Something a little more DIY and Inexpensive is likely the route I'm going to take and I already have a handfull of zwave switches so being Vera supports zwave makes it a strong front runner. Are you planning on doing much with Security beyond the garage door monitoring?
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post #18 of 138 Old 04-07-2014, 01:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mklukas View Post

I'm very interested to see how this progresses for you, my Fiance and I are looking at buying a new home in the next few months and home automation is something I want to start playing with. Something a little more DIY and Inexpensive is likely the route I'm going to take and I already have a handfull of zwave switches so being Vera supports zwave makes it a strong front runner. Are you planning on doing much with Security beyond the garage door monitoring?



For security I have the door lock that I've installed in my garage. I'll probably put a z-wave lock on my front door. I already have a security system separate from my z-wave. I have door sensors and motion detectors tied to my Visonic Powermax security system which is monitored by a 3rd party as well as alerts me to various events I specify. I also have security cameras in various locations that I control with Zoneminder. Vera has a plugin for powermax security systems. I need to buy a couple of parts to be able to connect them, and I haven't had time to try it out. This would allow me to use the status from my alarm system sensors in Vera triggers and scenes, as well as I tie triggers and scenes to arming/disarming alarm.
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post #19 of 138 Old 04-07-2014, 02:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Over the weekend I configured the dataMine plugin. Was a little tricky (not well documented) but the result is great - way better than the default energy monitoring plugin. Now I have good data on the power usage of various things, and I'll have more when I get a few more energy monitors. Gives a good idea of what is using energy and has already led to some savings, optimizations and awareness. Although the savings would have to take a while to pay for all the monitors smile.gif = but the monitors have other functions as well...
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post #20 of 138 Old 04-14-2014, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
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I've now integrated my security system with the Vera. I've connected my PowerMax Complete to the Vera via a serial to USB adapter. The Vera plugin allows me to use my security sensors (door sensors, motion sensors, etc.) to trigger scenes and I can arm/disarm my panel via Vera (although I already could monitor my security system and sensors over the Internet, as well as arm/disarm).

I did run into one problem. If you can avoid it, don't install the ERGY plugin. It caused problems and stopped my vera from working properly (everything was slow and delayed or didn;t work). This is a common problem with this plugin, unfortunately it is the default plugin that is installed if you want energy reporting. I use datamine exclusively now.

I also added a few more micro switches and now all my main floor lights can be controlled and monitored by Vera. So can most of my basement.
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post #21 of 138 Old 04-14-2014, 09:03 PM
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great stuff man...keep the updates coming
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post #22 of 138 Old 04-16-2014, 09:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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great stuff man...keep the updates coming

I'm glad someone is finding this interesting. Thanks.

I have since added a few more energy monitors and now I have a great picture of how and when my house uses electricity. There are a couple of things for me to investigate, but now for some appliances and other things that "vampire" power I can shut down the outlet when no one is home and it doesn't hurt the convenience factor when someone is home as the outlet will be enabled. I also have added another plugin called "multi-switch" that allows me to keep some state variables that help with my programming and scene creation. It is quite useful. I sitll struggle a bit with Luup code, but only because the environment is a little difficult to debug and I haven't written much (haven't had to). I could probably get away with less if I ever learned how to use the PLEG plugin, which supposed allows for a lot of flexible conditional logic without writing LUUP code. There is also a day/night plugin that keeps state of whether it is night or day, which also helps in scene logic.

I'm consider replacing my front door deadbolt lock with a z-wave lock similar (or the same) as the one I installed in my garage. Then when I go running (just getting back into running, only treadmill for now but outdoors will come) I don't even need to take keys with me (I can open the garage and garage entry door without keys, but my preferred running time is early in the morning, and the garage sometimes wakes the kids). Z-wave control might be a little difficult. My front door is much farther away from my veralite than my garage entry door is. Although z-wave creates a mesh network, very few devices support the encryption protocols required to relay messages from a door lock. From what I've read this has caused a lot of the responsiveness issues people have had with door locks and vera and other z-wave controllers. I believe I have one such device that supports relaying encrypted messages between my door and the veralite. Not sure if that would be enough, but it's part of the thought process. I also may have to manually tune the route that device takes to talk to the vera to specifically include the device that can relay encrypted messages. We'll see if I ever go that route.

Now that I've got a healthy start, I only plan on buying at most a couple of devices a month.
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post #23 of 138 Old 04-20-2014, 10:05 AM
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Thanks for the continuing updates. I'm purchasing a new home and have been wanting to automate this new home so your progress has been very helpful to watch. I'm a bit nervous about the discussion of programming and wondering if that'll be over my head (likely). But Vera does seem to be the way to go.
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post #24 of 138 Old 04-21-2014, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fyyzer View Post

Thanks for the continuing updates. I'm purchasing a new home and have been wanting to automate this new home so your progress has been very helpful to watch. I'm a bit nervous about the discussion of programming and wondering if that'll be over my head (likely). But Vera does seem to be the way to go.

I think the program can get really complicated for some, but whether or not you need to do any of it just depends on what you are trying to do. Most of what I have done with this system (which is control as opposed to automation) doesn't require any programming. The programming I have done has been mostly modifying code already out there, so not too hard, just a little quirky at first. I would bet almost everything I've done with code could be done without code with the PLEG plugin. Just haven't gotten around to learning that plugin because I haven't needed it. If you plan on doing a lot of automation it is probably best to learn how that plugin works from the beginning. I took the opposite track, learn the code and if I get annoyed then find other ways, but I've got a lot history of tinkering with code for various reasons over the years, so I was far from intimidated. The forums are plenty helpful once you get past the barriers they put on you registration and posting for the first 5 or so posts. Good luck.

What kinds of automation are you planning on doing?
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post #25 of 138 Old 05-11-2014, 04:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Just another update. I extended my PowerMax security system by buying an Aeon labs multi-sensor (motion/light/humidity/temp). I added a scene that "arms" this z-wave motion detector when my arm is alarmed in a way that arms my PowerMax Motion sensors (armed away). I don't have it trigger my alarm (yet) because I need to test the sensitivity. I do have it text and email me when armed and motion is detected. Nice way to extend my security system and get info about humidity and temp. The motion sensors for z-wave are less than the powermax sensors... I'll probably add another one since I've already got it set up to work with my Vera to extend my security system.
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post #26 of 138 Old 05-18-2014, 11:22 AM
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Thanks for the reply and the continued updates. I just got into the house so I'm still gauging what I want to accomplish without trying to bite off more than I can chew right now as well. Some key items I want to control are:
  • Security System - I've always used DSC and Envisalink but would like to tie into overall home automation/control system so will likely go with the Elk M1 Gold as it seems that's what most use.
  • Irrigation - I travel a lot so want to have this be automated. But I don't have the irrigation system in yet so I'll have to research what controller to use, etc. This is for down the road a bit.
  • HVAC - I've got a BayWeb controller I could use but a Nest or something else might be better long term to integrate into Vera
  • Lighting - Some basic exterior/interior lighting control would be nice to make it look lived in when I'm gone.
  • Cameras - I want to put up 3-4 cameras around the house just in case people are casing the home. Would like to have that recorded locally or to the cloud when motion is detected. Again, this is a lesser priority though.

I think I'd start with HVAC then security then lighting and the others. Hopefully I can use the more "ready to use" tools within Vera and not have to get into the coding that you've done (since that's beyond me).
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post #27 of 138 Old 05-18-2014, 08:00 PM
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Hi,

I am new here.

 

I saw your post on this forum. For my part, Z wave protocol is a good choice. It is a very specific protocol for domotic system based on wireless network that works well, even it is not perfect. 

 

Here are some propositions:

 

. door locks: have you heard of Goji (http://www.gojiaccess.com) ?  I don’t know if this is what you are looking for.

.remote control for lights: do you know IVEE (http://www.helloivee.com/#lifestyle )? There is based on voice monitoring; you can notably control the thermostat, locks and lights. You might be interested.

 

You can check this out too:  ILUMI ( http://www.ilumi.co/#smartbulbs ), specific for light control.

 

By the way, what do you mean by “irrigation system”?

 

Do you really like Vera? For my part, it is way too ugly and not very convenient to use, especially if you want to re-code it, to improve the software.

 

Anyway, hope you will find what you need.

 

Pierre

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post #28 of 138 Old 05-19-2014, 07:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fyyzer View Post

Thanks for the reply and the continued updates. I just got into the house so I'm still gauging what I want to accomplish without trying to bite off more than I can chew right now as well. Some key items I want to control are:
  • Security System - I've always used DSC and Envisalink but would like to tie into overall home automation/control system so will likely go with the Elk M1 Gold as it seems that's what most use.
  • Irrigation - I travel a lot so want to have this be automated. But I don't have the irrigation system in yet so I'll have to research what controller to use, etc. This is for down the road a bit.
  • HVAC - I've got a BayWeb controller I could use but a Nest or something else might be better long term to integrate into Vera
  • Lighting - Some basic exterior/interior lighting control would be nice to make it look lived in when I'm gone.
  • Cameras - I want to put up 3-4 cameras around the house just in case people are casing the home. Would like to have that recorded locally or to the cloud when motion is detected. Again, this is a lesser priority though.

I think I'd start with HVAC then security then lighting and the others. Hopefully I can use the more "ready to use" tools within Vera and not have to get into the coding that you've done (since that's beyond me).

I've already mentioned my integration with my alarm system, and that I use zoneminder for my security cameras. For HVAC I've chosen not to integrate it because I won't gain much for it. I have 3 zones of radiant (hydronic) heating and it works best if the temperature is kept stable, so there isn't much to automate there. I do have a ductless A/C system that I believe I could purchase a controller for (Redlink) and tie that into an automation system, but I barely ever use my A/C and I would need to get up in the attic to get this to work. Not worth it right now, although I've considered it.

As I mentioned in my first post I use an EtherRain irrigation controller. I haven't looked into tying it into Vera because it is pretty much set it and forget it, and I can already control it via anywhere with Internet access. There are a number of other controllers you can control over IP.

The coding I've done is probably unnecessary with some of the logic plugins. I just haven't bothered to learn them because the I haven't had to do much coding, and the coding I have done is pretty simple. Good luck
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post #29 of 138 Old 05-29-2014, 07:45 AM
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That helps to put things in perspective for me a bit. I need to remember that I don't need to be running everything through Vera if they're already "set it and forget it" type devices. Thanks.
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post #30 of 138 Old 05-29-2014, 02:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fyyzer View Post

That helps to put things in perspective for me a bit. I need to remember that I don't need to be running everything through Vera if they're already "set it and forget it" type devices. Thanks.

I know what you mean. I've had to work at resisting "doing it just because I can" syndrome. I been trying to be thoughtful about what I'm trying to accomplish since this takes some time and I don't have a lot of it. So although I might play with some of the things I haven't integrated lately, it's much lower priority right now.
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