Ah home automation – what an overworked subject. It’s been hot (or not) for 20 years …
Truth is home automation needs to be shelved as a meaningless buzzword encompassing way too many ideas.
As we just bought a new home, I was faced with the challenge of dealing with rewiring it so it matches today’s electrical standards (which is a very versatile concept). Fact is wiring a home is a nightmare. You need to figure out early one which switch connects to which plug and engrave it deeply into you house stone walls… as a consequence it VERY expensive (~ 100>150€ per switch) and totally inflexible.
My initial approach was too remove all switches from the wall and just use phones and remotes – but Stephanie used a veto and let’s face it – switches are a needed convenience.
I spent a huge amount of time researching technologies to support the objectives : no wires, flexibility. To those objectives I had to add security / redundancy since I could not allow a downtime of weeks should the home go down and should I need to repair it . Yes – the concept of a home going down is a bit scary.
The first technology I really liked was Chacon’s DI-O. Direct communication between switches and plugs, no central point of faliure in the architecture… only massive drawback: about 2s lag between the flip of the switch until the light toggles …
After an in-depth market study I naturally landed on z-wave as the most promising technology. Plenty vendors (although you need to watch out about the z-wave frequency – typically EU devices are incompatible with US devices), plenty devices… There isn’t any nice module such as Chacon’s for the wall switches, but since Stephanie didn’t want tech-looking switches I ended up hacking a KFOB2 to connect it to simple brass push-buttons ready to install.
On the power-side, fibaro micro-modules are pretty awesome: small and sleek they do an amazing job. They also have support for some cool sensors – such are pH, K and more for salted water aquariums (another side request for the new home :D).
As for the logics side, since z-wave requires a central controller, I spent a lot of time prototyping solutions… the best consumer solution in my opinion is Smartthings: cheap, efficient, beautiful… but unavailable in EU (remember the incompatibility between EU and US z-wave thing? ). another weird thing is that it’s currently network-dependant. Alex, Smartthings CEO says they’re going to make it offline ready but in the meantime it’s scary to think that a net outage would break home (let’s face it in consumer Internet, outages are a reality).
Second best is Fibaro’s but the only viable option supporting proper scripting is the Home Center 2 (lite has no lua capabilities) retailing at 600€ … which would kind of break the point of getting an ROI option. Moreover I was concerned about potential hardware failures… and how tough it would get to find another working box in 5 years when this happens.
I was feeling more comfortable with raspberry pi solutions where I could bake a backup pi for 50$ and keep it around in case of failures. After testing all solutions I ended up liking Domoticz most. While far from perfect, it’s having a very active community and fast paced iterations which I’m confident will enable me to reach my goals. Great web ui, great Android app Dromotica.
Next step: actually putting the whole thing in the home around q4 Bottom line: I’l be saving with this solution around 60€/switch and I’ll get way better flexibility – and a cool shutdown button and the door to turn off all lights before I leave home