smart home controls

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  #1  
Old 09-22-02, 09:47 PM
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smart home controls

I may decide to go all out and buy/build a home automation system. Are there kits for this? I'd like to build from as close to scratch as possible so that I can fully customize it. I've been wondering a few things, though:

Are the central computers usually pre-built and configured devices, or can one run an application on a PC workstation or server to control everything? (it would need a UPS, of course)

What kind of control units are in each room? Are they just a bunch of buttons? Do they have LCD displays? What kind of cable is run to them?

Thanks, once again!
 
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  #2  
Old 09-23-02, 09:25 AM
Zathrus
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Look at www.smarthome.com and search on Google for "smart house", "home automation", and "X10".

Personal opinion - avoid X10.com like the plague. They're one of the leading pop-over/under advertisers, spammers, and have a history of selling software with their systems that does ugly things to Windows systems.

X10 systems run the gamut for control systems, user interfaces, etc. - you can run an X10 system without a computer at all, in which case it's all controlled by a control center with buttons or an LCD panel. You can hook up a PC and run X10 software on it too, in which case you can (optionally) do time-based actions, internet control, etc.

As for cable - it couldn't be more simple. All you need is someplace to plug things into. The signals are sent over your power lines inside the house.
 
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Old 09-25-02, 11:13 AM
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Huh...I didn't know X10 was a standard. I thought it was just the name of that spy camera company. I say spy because it's clear that they market their equiment for peeping rather than monitoring. I think there was a law suit of some sort that made them use less suggestive photos in their ads.

Maybe I'm making things hard for myself, but I don't like the idea of sending anything but power over my NM cabling. I don't like those electrical circuit-based home networking kits either. Maybe what I don't like about it is the receiver box on each outlet or device. I'd prefer a relay switch in the wall next to the electrical box that responds to the signal from the control unit and turns the AC on or off for that recepticle/appliance/light.

Not that anyone would go to this much trouble in my neighborhood, but one could concievably tap into my power supply at the pole and turn off my security system from outside the house. If I have a hardwired, independent system, no one could do this. And what keeps your neighbor's X10 system from controlling yours? There's continuity between his breaker box and yours. Is the signal just not strong enough?

Finally, does anyone know of a way to automate traditional windows (as opposed to casements with a motorized crank)? I need new windows anyway, so I thought I might see if I could get piston- or screw-driven windows for a somewhat reasonable price.
 
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Old 09-27-02, 12:12 PM
Zathrus
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X10 is a tried and true home automation format - X10.com is owned and operated by "X-10 Incorporated" and they own the trademark to "X-10". To my knowledge they did not invent the X10 protocol though.

It is NOT possible for a neighbor to control your system from their house - it can only operate over single phase systems and the lines between houses are three phase. If someone actually went through the trouble to access the grid from the pole, well, you can install a filter to ignore line noise from outside your breaker box. And they can break through the door faster anyway.

Here's a pretty good FAQ: http://www.nomad.ee/micros/x10faq.html

You can decide not to use X10, but then you're pretty much SOL. There really is no other standard for home automation out there right now.

Oh, and I'm not a fan of powerline networking either, but the amount of data being sent here is so little and at such a low data rate it's really not an issue. And yes, I have done automation programming of industrial equipment (computer chip manufacturing equipment) in the past.
 
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Old 12-13-02, 12:53 PM
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I use X-10 all over my house and love it. I have the computer program that downloads to a module that plugs into the wall, which then allows me to turn off the PC.

This technology was invented for the exact reason that you are talking about with separate relays & dedicated wires...it prevents the need for the rewiring.

If you don't like the plug-in modules, they have plenty of other options:
-X-10 outlets that replace existing where one or both sockets are controlled by X-10
-light switches that replace existing switches, operate in the same way, but can be turned on/off remotely
-etc.

It's really fun stuff, is quite affordable and works well.
 
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Old 12-14-02, 07:57 AM
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now that is interesting. I do like the idea of X10 recepticles that put the brains inside the wall instead of in a device that sits on the outside.

I've bought myself some time by undertaking other projects first. I just pulled down the drop ceiling in my basement (it was old and ugly) so that I can run data, phone, and CATV to every room. This exposed the first several yards of the eletrical wiring in the house, too. Will greatly assist the home automation efforts down the road.

Thanks for the additional info!
 
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Old 12-16-02, 08:29 AM
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If you are redoing phone cable, one thing that you might want to consider is setting it up for a future monitored alarm system. This would entail running the entire house to one point (at the very least the entry point to the house will suffice), redirecting this whole-house feed to a closet that would house the alarm panel and then running the wire right back to the house-entry box outside. This way, your alarm sits between all of the phones in your house and the outside line...it gets precedence. This gives you a little more security. I did this on my house.
 
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Old 12-19-02, 10:43 AM
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Interesting...I'm surprised to hear that putting the alarm system downstream matters. I have friends with security systems and they were installed on whatever line was closest. I assumed the alarm flashed the line to drop any calls in progress before dialing the police or alarm company. If this is not true, I'd be interested to hear how it really works so I can build for it as you suggest.

I am actually in the process of getting the phone company to install a NIB (network interface box) on my incoming line. Currently the wire comes from the pole, to an anchor on the brick, and then right into the brick, disappearing above a drywall ceiling. I tried to get them to just sell me the NIB so I could install it myself, but that's not kosher with them.

Anyway, I'm going to run the phone line (actually, 3 to make room for expansion) to a punch-down block. I'll then connect the punch-down block to a patch bay. A CAT5 line from each room will terminate at the patch bay. Two more CAT5 lines from each room will terminate at a rack-mounted hub. If I want to switch a data port to a phone port, I'll just take it out of the hub and plug it into the patch bay.

So, to get back to the point, there will be a single line coming out of the punch-down block. I could run that to a security system if I were to install one. Right now, I have just ADT stickers on my doors...at least it will keep out the dumb burglars. On the other hand, it might cause me unnecessary expense because a smart burglar would cut my phone line outside before breaking in...thus requiring phone line repair for a measure he took to circumvent a security system that didn't exist.

thanks for the additional info!
 
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Old 12-20-02, 07:19 AM
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It sounds like you've got a nice setup in the works. Yep, I always wondered about protecting the phone line outside. Mine is fairly vulnerable at the pole by the street. I was wondering about getting some armored cable jacket or even some of that square conduit that you can use on wall surfaces.

Of course, some (many?) alarms also monitor the phone line and will sound (just at the house, of course) if the phone line is cut.

ADT stickers? LOL Great idea. Where did you get those? I always thought that these and a yard sign would probably be enough.
 
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Old 12-20-02, 08:43 AM
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A friend with a security system got more stickers with the installation than was necessary. I just used the extras and put them right next to the handles of my storm doors. There weren't any extra yard signs, though I do know that you can buy fake yard security signs...maybe even at Home Depot. A good thief would just learn the names of the fake security systems, though.

I'm thinking of using metal conduit that's empty and left over from a former power supply cable that the previous owner replaced. It runs up the corner of the house a good 10-15 feet. Then the phone line could run from the pole to the top of the conduit, and stay protected while it's within reach of a bad guy. I'll probably leave a pull-cord in it so that the Verizon guy can easily thread the new phone line through the conduit.

Not sure what I'll do between the conduit and the NIB, and then between the NIB and the wall. I'll see what I have to work with once the NIB is on.

Anyone know if NIBs have holes for screwing in conduit? That would be convenient.
 
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Old 12-20-02, 12:31 PM
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Ok, first of all, let's back up. You DO NOT need to run all your phone lines to one point to get Line Seizure on the line. All that is required is to run 1 - 4-conductor line to the interface from the system. This allows an incoming (feed) line and an outgoing (house) line. Now, I realize you are using a wire closet intentionally, but for future reference, you DO NOT have to have a centralized wiring hub for phones to achieve Line Seizure.

Now, as far as protecting the phone lines from bad guys: there is no protection for the line. Even if you were to protect it outside the house, what are you gonna do for the line down the road at the network? You just can't keep someone away from your phone lines. Forget about that. If you want a backup - use cellular backup. It's available for all security systems and somewhat inexpensive too. There is an additional charge for monitoring cellular backup. As Karen says, most systems will monitor the phone line and sound an alarm if it is cut, if not, this can always be hard-wired into the system.

As for conduit at the interface? Yes, it can be done. There are actually protection boxes that can be installed at the interface, but again, it's pointless.
 
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Old 12-20-02, 01:53 PM
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Thanks for the clarification about line seizure.

There's nothing so special about my house that someone would climb a pole or find my connection to the main network in order to break in. If the guy's MO is to cut the phone wire and enter the house, he'd encounter the conduit and say, "screw this house, let's try the neighbors." Also, he may want to cut the phone line so that he can keep the occupants from calling 911, not just to prevent the alarm from calling the authorities

I do know that relatively low-tech thieves habitually cut phone lines before breaking in...especially now that Dateline advertised this technique to any bonehead watching that night. I just want to make my phone line fairly uninviting.

When I'm rich or wanted by the Mob, I'll consider higher tech solutions than my lying ADT stickers.

Thanks for the info, though! I do appreciate learning about the cellular solutions and the way line seizure works.
 
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Old 12-20-02, 02:01 PM
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There are several products available for cellular backup, take a look at a couple of these links for more info:

http://www.telguard.com
http://www.uplink.com
http://www.alarmnet.com
 
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