What is Home Automation?
Literally it is the automation of the home, or more specifically the devices in your home.
This can include centrally managing your lighting, heating and ventilation, appliances, security systems, and any other application that provides improved convenience.
Some of the key drivers for automating buildings are:
- Energy Efficiency: By controlling devices centrally you can get an overall picutre of your energy usage and can adjust when and how appliances and lights are used.
- Security: Linking lighting systems to motion detectors and being able to make your home feel like it is lived in when you are away.
- Ease of Use: Automatic lights to come on when your hands are full with the shopping, or have the house know your coming home and turn on the heat pump, these are some of the thousands of things you can easily do with a good home automation solution
Historically Home Automation has been restricted by it's expensive price tag and has required a house to be pre-wired or setup to support the technology. It has been difficult to integrate all aspects of the home while still having the choice of appliances or systems within the home.
With the advent of wireless communications and the Z-Wave protocol, it is now possible to easily retrofit your home or building with these solutions. In most cases it can be acomplished without any electrical or building changes being needed. Manufactures have also started working towards better interoperability and finding new ways to get your old appliances to be supported. A good example is the TKBHome Z-Wave to IR Airconditioning controller, this allows an old heat pump to be connected up and advanced scheduling to be added.
On this website you will find a number of different devices that make up a Home Automation network.
- Controllers: The home controller is like the brain. It has a central interface where you can see all of the devices, and where you tell the devices what they should do. The controller also does important functions like health checks on all of the devices, it checks battery levels, and confirms that they are working.
- Sensors: Different sensors can be connected to the controller to provide information that can be used to make things happen. These can range from temperature, motion detection, light levels, and humidity.
- Actuators: These are devices that control other devices, for example turning on a lightswitch or starting a motor on a gate.
- IR Senders: An IR sender interperites a remote controls InfraRed signal and allows the home automation system to send these signals to the device. Useful to automatically turn on the TV, Sterio, or Airconditioning.
- Plugs/Outlets: A plug is a device that connects into the power point and then allows appliances or lamps to be plugged into it, enabling them to be automatically controlled. These devices are a type of actuator.
In a Home Automation system we refer to the process of automating as a Scene or a Task. Through the controllers interface you can select an input or trigger and based on this you can make things happen.
There is an almost unlimited number of things you can do, and mostly it is limited by the number and type of devices you have. When planning/designing your Home Automation setup it is important to spend time thinking through some of the ways it will work for you.
Below are some of the more common Scenes:
- Lighting: This could be as simple as turing a light on when it gets dark, or using a motion sensor in a bathroom to turn on the light when someone enters. You can link this in with your security system, or just schedule lights to turn off to save power.
- Heating: Basic control of the Heatpump when temperature goes below 18c, or schedule the heaters to come on every morning in winter for an hour before you get up. With the right devices you could also open and close windows or shut the blinds.
- Security: A security systems integrated into your Home Automation can provide a number of additional capabilitites, it can also replace most basic home security systems. Connecting motion sensors to lighting and camera's could allow you to send emails with images or watch video's of your home while away. You may just want to know if you left the back door open?
- Audio Visual: Linking in your sound system provides the capability to controll the mood of a room, maybe you have a button for "romantic setting" that dims the lights, turns on Barry White, and closes the blinds? If only it would open and pour the wine...well that might be coming!
- Appliance control: Anything from turning on the pool pump, to boiling your kettle is possible