This is the second home we have automated. We moved in on August 2nd 2000 and as most Home Automation projects are, the task is never ending. If you would like to see how things USED to be, use The OLD House link at left.
Yes the house is different... that's what we like about it. The four foot entry door opens into a sunken large living area including a huge living room and open dining area. The Kitchen is large with a counter top wrapping around it's perimeter ending in a small bar area. The sleeping area can be closed off with pocket doors (just waiting to be automated) if desired and has zoned HVAC. The Master bedroom is large with a large Master bathroom, whirlpool tub and large walk in closet. The remaining area is pretty standard with two additional bedrooms, a full bath and a small office area (the porthole window).
12/18/2016 - Added WiFi based ESP8266 Temp and Humidity Loggers
12/2016 - Added Alexa / Echo Controls to the house
Finally got around to purchasing an Echo Dot for the house. Never really was sure how I could integrate it into the home automation but once I figured it out I'm disappointed I hadn't already done this. We can now ask Alexa "Alexa ask the house to turn on the fireplace" and we have fake fire! Or "Alexa say good morning to the house" and we have lights, coffee maker on and current temperature and weather information.
2/2015 - Using Arduino Pro-Mini for Controls
Using a ProMini to capture more temperatures and humidity values around the house. Currently have DHT11 devices which are not that accurate. Have DHT22's to replace them with soon.
Also have been using a ProMini for some time to drive standard RC servos for pan and/or pan/tilt features of some webcams. It does require three wires to the location but is handled easily via cat 5 anywhere.
Wrote a VBScript to handle inbound caller ID, call blocking, etc replacing the old CallSoft product. It worked fine but was lost in a system upgrade/name change and figured I could do it myself. It speaks the name or number and advises us to not answer if it's a blocked called or the API to some Internet sites says this is a spam caller.
Added BTraced to the services so my iOS devices can push back lat/lon/etc data back to my log files for the fun of it. Interesting to see how accurate it really can be. An ASP page captures and logs the data and a VBScript writes a KML file every five minutes for visualization when I want to view it.
01/13/2010 - The house now TWEETS
The house now Tweets certain updates - follow it here: http://Twitter.com/NolenHouse
01/10/2010 - Long Time No Updates... but now:
iPhone / mobile phone pages designed and working
New dryer integrated back into the system
Motion sensors updated, wiring cleaned up,
04/02/2002 - starCOM Server now
available for TC/TC+/SG
I participated (slightly) in the beta for this product and it is used on my http://house.ProtoWrxs.com website. It provides complete interfacing abilities with a PC and your TC/TC+/SG unit for a fantastic solution to Home Automation.
02/04/2002 - Added Rain Gauge to System
09/28/2001 - Added TOUCHSCREEN System (Audrey)
09/18/2001 - Started using CallSoft Voice Mail System
05/24/2001 - Changed some product link information and pics. Nothing new HA wise added.
03/31/2001 - Added X10 Cameras for front door and back door. Couldn't resist getting the three cameras, wireless link, controller and an extra slim X10 wall switch for under $100. - Added some other pictures
03/30/2001 - JDS IRXP2 Added
I picked up an IR-XP2 two way IR controller for a good price and am now in the process of replacing the old IR controller with the IR-XP. I have had some issue with the IR-XP not driving the emitters I had hard enough and it looks like I need to get some stick on units for each device.
03/20/2001 - Added Several
Picked up more decora wall switches for control. Added hallways (3), other bedrooms (2) and living area (3).
The house is automated using a JDS Time Command Plus (TC+) from JDS Technologies with a dedicated Home Automation Server PC. The TC+ takes care of all X10 duties and scheduling as well as analog or digital input tracking and most digital output control. The dedicated PC is utilized for data logging, text to speech output, caller ID announcements, call logging, Internet integration, web and security camera use and local Intranet services. The TC+ integrates with the PC and the existing alarm system providing alarm activity tracking and remote notification. Client PC's can issue commands by the integrated web server pages using any of the internal PC's or the Touchscreen system..
Internal and external motion sensors control the lighting and alarm activities as well as provide video recording triggered by motion for the various monitoring cameras. Intranet and Internet access is provided to the multiple PC's throughout the house using a Ethernet network. A WiFi network is available for all wireless enabled devices to connect internally and externally to the world. The wired network provides connections as well at higher speeds and includes connections for the TIVO DirectTV box, Internet connected Blue-Ray DVD player, PS3 and Xbox Devices, etc.
Infrared integration is provided by an IRXP2 Infrared expander providing remote control of the primary entertainment system. This includes the TV monitor, Audio/Video receiver, VCR, etc as well as the primary bedroom TV. The washing machine and clothes dryer are integrated into the system via digital inputs and announced through the house's built in speaker system. The speakers are driven out of the dedicated PC's sound card which can also serve up MP3 files if desired. The sound card's line input will be used to transfer entertainment system sound (from the line out of the A/V receiver) into the built in speakers as well.
An outline of the point by point implementation can be found below. I will attempt to update each step with more detail and photos as each item is implemented. Meanwhile if you're interested, see how things USED TO BE at the Nolen home.
Internet | Network
TC+ | HApc | X10 | Touchscreen
Audio | Appliances | HVAC | Infrared | Weather | Cameras
Phone/VoiceMail | Alarm | Motion | Scenes |Web Control
Computer Network Wiring
The home network consists of Cat5 based wiring including a central ethernet hub located in the automation closet, a secondary 8 port hub located in the living room allowing multiple system connections without extra wire runs. Multi-port wall plates are used through out the house to provide customized jacks. Generally there is a telephone jack, Cat5 RJ45 Ethernet jack, and a RG6 coax jack in each location with some locations having multiple cable or computer connections. There are computer ports in the living room, bedrooms, kitchen, computer room and garage for use as needed.
The local domain is controlled by an Windows 2000 server which provides local network security, file and print services. Additionally this system provides the vast majority of the file storage required for our network. It is also the primary Home Automation control PC providing the link to the JDS TC+ for text to speech, data logging, etc.
JDS TimeCommander Plus
We have a variety of PC systems running in the house at this time which include the desktops, laptops, iPads, iPhones, and Andoid devices..
Home Automation PC
The HA PC is the second major component of the HA system as it provides the web pages you see at http://House.Protowrxs.com in addition to other services such as;
Using a custom VBScript to read a $3 USB Modem for caller ID announcements and call blocking features. The script does Internet API calls to find out if a number is likely a spam caller and adjust accordingly.
All the pages served up at http://House.Protowrxs.com are served by this machine. Active Server Pages (.asp) are coded to hook to databases, log files or whatever else I need to gather the information that is displayed on the various pages.
WinEVM runs here and is hooked to the web server through a kludge app that fakes keystrokes to WinEVM thus getting the data or commands into the TC+ system. This really needs to be replaced with a true TC+ or Stargate control front end once someone develops one.
UPDATE 10/2001 - I now have the StarCOM application in hand for some beta testing and am in the process of getting it to work with my configuration. Once implemented, talking directly to the TC+ will be MUCH simpler and much more accurate.
Another ACE function, this app monitors a file and emails information to my pager such as doorbell, alarm, motion, mailbox, and phone activity depending upon the detail level I have selected.
Using ASPEmail for mail services via VBS Scripts for Text.vbs and email.vbs functions.
09/28/2001 - Added an 3Com Ergo Audrey as a touch screen interface for internal system access. The Audrey provides a nice 8.5" LCD touch screen, email client, address book all for under $130. The device is an out of production product by 3Com that is open to hacking. For more Audrey Specific information see HackingAudrey.com. The goal of the touch screen is to make the overall system easier to use by all. With the touch screen and the web interface, items such as view/playing voicemail, setting system modes, temperatures, etc is so much easier. Since the Audrey has built in WAV file playing ability through the browser, one simple 'clicks' or touches the voice mail to be played.
No longer used as it doesn't like PNG files and iPhone spares are easier to come by.
More SMART stuff for YOUR home
X10 Control Units
Obviously the house is peppered with X10 units controlling lights and appliances. I am slowly replacing all the wall switches with X10 controller units to allow better scheduling and control of the house. This will be slow process as time and money allow. I have planned all the numbering schemes for the switches as they are installed.
I use the rocker style or decora switches on all the new units since they are easier for human beings to use (you have flicked the light switch up since you were 3 years old, the old push on/ push off wall switches just aren't natural enough). Additionally the coffee pot, air compressor, laser printer, electric fireplace (the house never had the fireplace added) and a few other minor items are X10 controlled.
One handy controlled location for me is the attic which has lighting it's full length. The switch for the lighting is IN the attic across from the attic access making it difficult to turn on/off in the dark. I replaced the switch with an old push on/off X10 switch and have a controller in the garage for controlling garage items and to turn the attic light on/off. Additionally the nightly schedule makes sure the light is off each evening when goodnight mode is used.
The Front Porch lights are controlled through a 1000W Leviton wall switch (There are 8x60watt plus an addition 100w bulb at the entry way for a total of 580 watts which overloads a standard 500w unit). The lights come on dimmed down at sunset and brighten up to 100% on any 'trigger motion' which is determined by the system. After a timeout the lights dim back down to the preset setting.
Although X10 does have reliability issues in some installations, the addition of a Leviton X10 Signal Amplifier/Repeater in my electrical point of service has all but eliminated most reliability issues in our house.
Currently I have a house code setup specifically for holiday lighting and have numbers assigned to the outside, living room, and other room decoration lighting. The JDS schedule turns these on based on time or day and occupancy allowing easy holiday lighting changes. We use some lighted decorations for Christmas, Halloween, Easter and other holidays so all I have to do is reuse the holiday modules for the lights without schedule changes.
In addition to the X10 based motion light in the driveway, the house has non X10 based motion sensing lights at four additional points around the house. Basically you can walk around the house after dark and have a light come on to light up your path completely around. Eventually I'll replace the non-X10 units with X10 capable units for notification and control.
House Audio System
Used for MP3 music and text to speech notifications. Currently this is built using small speakers in the computer room, utility room and living room. I will be installing simple ceiling mounted speaker system driven from the HA PC system in the near future. I will also be adding outdoor speakers that can be routed from the entertainment system or the HA system on the patio if enabled through a TC+ relay control.
Washing Machine and Dryer Connection
The washing machine and dryer have digital outputs that are tracked by the TC+ system. this allows text to speech announcements for washing cycles (when to put in the fabric softener if needed) and dryer finished notices ("Dryer is finished, press #1 to clear this notice"). Since the dryer does not have a buzzer, this has been a very handy feature. Plus it reminds you every five minutes until you clear it making it harder to forget the clothes are wrinkling in the dryer.
Hot Water Heater Integration (Future)
Really just a logging system in which I plan on using a CDS cell inside of a glass tube to determine if the gas powered water heater is running or not. I believe I can set the trigger level of a 555 timer for pulse extension to come on only when the burner is fully lit and off when it is just the pilot burning.
Dish Washer (Future)
When we replace the dish washer I will install a dry contact to track when the unit is running. I might add an X10 module to control when the unit can run if that is possible depending on which unit we purchase
Central Vac System
The house has a full central vac system that logs when it runs. Kind of sad when you see how little we actually vacuum. A simple PowerFlash module notifies the TC+ when it turns on/off which is then logged to a data file.
The garage air compressor is controlled by a 220v X10 module to insure it is off when I forget to turn it off after working in the garage. Additionally I log this activity for run time and activity viewing.
Update: HVAC System is Offline - Replacing the two units required us to move to a humidistat that has no easy way to integrate into the HA system. Currently the system just logs On/Off activity for reference and maintenance purposes.
Sleeping Zone - RCS X10 Bi-Directional Thermostat
The sleeping area has an RCS X10 bi-directional thermostat controlling this unit. Although somewhat tricky to program in the TC+ and with a 6 degree setup command (way too much for nightly setbacks) the unit does provide the desired control and reporting for this zone. I am still working on getting the schedule/control to fit the way I want the temps to track and still keeps things comfortable.
Living Zone - Standard Setback
Current the living area uses a standard scheduled setback thermostat providing roll backs during non occupied or night times. The old unit was a manual item that was way out of calibration. This unit should provide some immediate cost savings.
Infrared Extensions for Entertainment System Control
Update: The IR-XP2 unit never really worked well and is now offline.
Looking for a replacement or may just try to make the old URC4000 work
A JDS IR-XP2 Infrared Expander is used for two way infrared controls. The IR-XP provides 250 or 500 (with the memory chip installed) learned IR commands and can generate these commands from the TC+ by schedule, conditions, etc. Additionally the IR-XP can take commands from any IR remote and the schedule can act accordingly.
The IR-XP also has the ability to have digital inputs (or 'Power Sensors') for on/off status of devices it can control (or otherwise) through optional device probes (or home made ones as my case will be) to allow the controlling schedule to know that it truly has turned a device on or off. I previously did this with a 120VAC relay and a universal X10 module but will be pulling the universal module and using the dry contacts on the relay for inputs to the IRXP.
I previously used a URC4000 One-For-All remote unit that was modified specifically for use with the TC+/Stargate systems. This unit is no longer in production and cannot be found from my experiences. It was supposed to be 'upgradeable' but I never tried that route. It controlled everything I had up until the new Motorola digital cable box was installed and I couldn't find a code for it. However, the unit worked great for a couple of years before being replaced by the IR-XP2.
Temperature and Humidity Sensors
One temperature / humidity sensor provide outdoor weather information at this time. The unit is wired with Cat3 wiring to the edge of the house allowing weather info to be displayed on the web site as well as announced through Text to Speech. Indoor temperature information in the sleeping area is reported by the X10 Thermostat and another Temp/Humidity sensor is planned for the living area in the future. I'd really like to implement a full weather station and dump the results to the house's web page... maybe someday.
Rain Gauge (02/04/2002)
Added a standard tipping bucket rain gauge that I caught on sale from SmartHome.com. It is a standard wired .01" unit that trips a reed relay to signal the rainfall. I had to add a 555 circuit to extend the pulse out to a little over 1/5 second since the TC+ was not seeing the tips without it. Currently I am simply logging the last hour's rainfall in a variable and then dumping that variable on an hourly basis. The House Weather Web Page then totals this up by today, this month and this year for viewing. A MRTG graph is also generated to try and show the hourly amounts.
There are several cameras either installed or planned to be installed providing security or curiosity in and around the house. Currently two (2) NTSC B&W and (2) color web cams are in use in addition to three (3) X10 color wireless cameras. I have a Snappy Video capture device I plan on using soon to capture the video from the NTSC cameras and make them available on the house's web page. The web cams are hosted on a couple regular systems and used when desired. I plan on putting an RF X10 controlled switch in place that allows the other TV's (Kitchen/bedroom) to see the camera on demand or on motion sensing.
A standard B&W video/audio camera monitors the driveway 24 hours a day which can be viewed on the main TV through a video input. The camera drives through about 60' of coax and then another 30' of Cat5 twisted pair to the main TV. The video is also fed to a secondary VCR that is switched on via the IR control when motion is detected in the driveway for review later.
Front Door Camera - Added 03/31/2001
A simple color X10 wireless camera is mounted at the front door for viewing and recording front door activity. A motion detector is located in this area and when motion is detected the system turns on that camera via X10 commands and starts the monitoring VCR that has the video feed looped to it. The VCR records for a preset period based on a timer which can be reset if motion continues. Since the color (and cheap X10) cameras do not have good low light performance, the porch light about the camera is a spot light that is triggered if it's after sunset for recording purposes.
Back Door Camera - Added 03/31/2001
Another color X10 wireless camera is mounted at the back door for viewing and recording and functions the same as the front door camera. This camera has a view of the patio area and the back yard close to the house.
Web Cam Front South
This web cam is mounted in the computer room and can be access locally or remotely as desired. It is mainly an experimental item and is not used often. This camera can be viewed through our online house in the CAMERA AREA. It is pointed out the 'porthole' window in the computer room/office. This camera works with the one below for image capture on front yard motion.
Web Cam Front North - 01/20/2010
Added this camera so I can catch both North and South views of the front yard and activity. This and the front South work together to provide that view. These also get captured on front motion as noted above.
Web Cam Two
This camera is on the main PC system and used for playing with video conferencing, etc. If the software is left running, a capture of the picture can be accessed through the house website and is password controlled.
RADCam - Added 03/31/2001
The RAD Cam is the other wireless X10 camera that came in the package and is currently mounted on top of the hacked RAD toy robot (see Stephen's Robotics Page or the RAD Hack Page for more info) and if used purely for fun. It's is rather interesting to drive the robot around the house or even outside with the camera on it's top while sitting in the living room watching the TV or camera monitor.
Phone and Voicemail
Phone Control System installed/working
The DTMF phone controller will be put back into service. It really isn't used much at this point but I hope to make things easier to access through the phone in the future. One thing I do like about the unit is it reports an X10 code when the phone rings which I need to trigger the CID email feature.
Voice Mail System
09/18/2001 Have installed CallSoft voice mail system and am happy with it so far. I had looked at it before but didn't know how to automate the playing of messages from the TC+. A re-visit to the problem ended up with a Visual Basic Script (VBS) file that can play back the wav files CallSoft creates for today or previous days with a parameter. Additionally CallSoft allows personalized greetings for those in it's phone book, the ability to block or re-direct calls from callers with no Caller ID data (or those with CID you don't like) to a different greeting and direct to voicemail, Email and pager notification support is included with controls on when to notify you, and built in customizable CID voice notification. It can also handle inbound faxes automatically and allow outbound faxes to be sent from the hosting machine. For more information on CallSoft, visit the TOSC Web site at ( http://www.toscintl.com/callsoft/index.html ).
It really fits the bill in every manner except the ability to generate an HTML file for received mail such as NCH Swift Sound's IVM product does. But with ASP that is overcome to some degree allowing me to generate a table of the wav files on the Phone Web Page providing the ability to play the files from any sound equipped PC that can get to the web.
10/01/2001 - Replaced ACE CID announcements with CallSoft. I had two modems in the machine with one being the voicemail and the other CID announcements. Apparently they were stepping on each causing missed CID information. After turning off the ACE CID side, CallSoft is now catching the CID data properly. Additionally CallSoft dumps a call log that can be displayed on the home's website. For $29, Callsoft is really a pretty good deal.
Alarm System Integration
The alarm system is a monitored system and is integrated into the HA system for controls and notifications. I have hacked an alarm keypad to allow the JDS TC+ to arm/disarm the system. By using some relay outputs and letting these 'push' the keys I can arm or disarm the system. Additionally the system status LED, Loop LED and alarm mode LED's have been looped into the digital inputs to allow system status.
Additionally the fire and burglar alarm siren outputs feed digital inputs to allow notifications (page, email and cel phone) for any activity that occurs.
Internal and External Motion Sensors
The Internal motion sensors are placed in strategic locations to provide both security and convenience. The goal is for the sensors to provide automatic lighting control when the house is occupied and automatic alarm conditions otherwise. When the house is in HOME MODE the results from sensor activity will be quite different than when in AWAY MODE. The External sensors have similar functions depending upon the current house status. I have units working in the living room, south end of hallway, middle of hallway, north of hallway, computer room and master bedroom. Currently I am watching for patterns and working on motion activated options.
Remote Mailbox Notification
A low dollar 'remote doorbell' kit and a small custom circuit will be used since the mailbox is a few hundred feet from the house. I plan on implementing a 'newspaper notification' too using a micro switch in the bottom of the newspaper box so I'll know when/if the paper is here.
Front Door / Garage Door Intercom
Current plans call for using the 'DoorBell Fon' Product to handle this and installing an outdoor station at the front door and at the North garage doors. By using this along with the Front Door Cam and Driveway Cam, we should be able to have video/audio contact with visitors to the house without opening a door. I figure I can save family and friends a walk to the front door in the rain by automatically opening the garage door with the touch tone commands after see who is at that end of the house. At least until we can afford a circle driveway out front.
Several "scenes" or modes have been established including, "home", "away", "goodnight", "entertainment", and "vacation".
The AWAY mode is triggered by X10 sequences OR by smart control by the system through the motion activity in the house. For example, if we forget to start the AWAY mode code (via dedicated house coded mini-controllers in the garage and living room) during the week and no motion has been detected throughout the house for one hour in the morning, the AWAY mode is automatically set. The system then insures that all lights and unneeded controlled appliances are off, outdoor lights are off, garage door is closed, alarm system is active, etc. When we return home and set the HOME mode, the system welcomes us home and tell us how many times the doorbell has rung today and tells us how many calls we have received and who they are from. Note that the beige controller faceplate needs to be replaced since this house has white faceplates/switches everywhere.
GOODNIGHT mode is trigger either by a command or by time of night. This mode insures that outdoor lighting is indeed on, all interior lights not used are off, and the house is secure for the evening. It also is used to change the behavior of motion detected INSIDE and OUTSIDE of the house to help provide lighting for those moving about. Motion detected outside triggers a routine that turns on various exterior and interior lights in timed intervals to provide that "I see someone is outside" appearance. Motion inside the house brightens the affected area enough for those moving around to see where they're going and then darkens the room again after timing out. Since I use several 16 unit wireless controllers, the X10 sequences look for UNIT# - ON sequences AND UNIT# only sequences.
GOOD MORNING mode is trigger by an X10 sequence when I get up and is not triggered automatically. (We are not THAT consistent in the times that we get up, especially on the weekends). This mode lights up the house as programmed and then reads any special reports or statistics as required.
ENTERTAINMENT mode is trigger by an X10 sequence command and is used to dim certain lights and set the correct 'mood' for watching a moving on the entertainment system. The system will also power up the entertainment system if it's not already online and start the movie that's in the VCR, set the main and surround sound volume and turn off any secondary TV's or monitors that are on in the entertainment area. In addition the system says "I hope you enjoy the show" when everything is ready just for the fun of it. I am lucky in that six (6) of the blinds have a nice header to hide the motors in.
(06/15/2001) We are currently in the process of automating eleven (11) mini blinds throughout the house. I've looked at several canned automation options including the ones available from Smarthome.com, but I have not finalized on a product or solution yet. My current homebrew plans call for using a small 15 to 40 rpm gear head motor to drive the tilt on the blinds with limit switches controlling the stopping points. Since my main concern is tilt control these motors would serve the purpose well and fully tilt the blinds within 10-15 seconds. The other option is using the Infrared controlled commercial tilt units but I have heard of noise issues and the appearance is of some concern. I am lucky in some ways in that six (6) of the blinds have a nice header to hide the motors in (see pic at right). Current plans would use a universal X10 module that would use a 'fail safe' mode that would drive the blinds open when on and close them when off. More updates later.
Many functions of the system can be controlled through the Home Automation Web Server and web pages of the house at http://House.Protowrxs.com. The web server is running Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS). The house was placed online in January 1999 using the Microsoft Personal Web Server (PWS) but has since been moved to a dedicated NT server running IIS. At that time, there were few choices for putting a house on the web and as such I developed my own way of doing things. Today there are several different ways of accomplishing this feat including HomeSeer from KEWare for under $100.
The control is accomplished in a few different ways depending on the desired result. MS IIS supports the Visual Basic Script (VBScript) language which allows you to 'program' the web pages instead of just creating static HTML. As such the page can query databases, read and write text files, display system variables, and with an extra free component, you can run executable programs on the server from a web page. Note that the commands are only active when you are 'authorized' which is accomplished through a hidden login page which then requires a username/password to authenticate.
Lights and Appliances
The lights and appliances can be controlled by interfacing the web page(s) with the ACE Server program that is running on web server. The ACE Server allows control of various HA systems. However, my JDS TC+ is not controlled by ACE. I have an old CP290 X10 unit on the system that ACE controls for X10 transmits. ACE Server allows a 'command file' option where it monitors a text file for commands, executes the commands and then removes the file. By using the File Scripting option of IIS, the web page writes the command file which ACE then runs. This allows control of all 255 X10 units.
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