gc100

(wired) Home automation market is a bit cr*p

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Posted (edited)

So I've been looking at this for a while now trying to figure out what to do. I *really* wanted a solution whereby all my sockets, lights, switches and devices are all hardwired back in a radial fashion back to a central cabinet, so I could put whatever home automation solution/relays/etc in there in one central location. Thus being future proof as I can just swap it out. However it seems that for domestic there are not really any modern hardwired solutions without going installer only (Control4, Lutron, Loxone, etc)

 

Thus it seems in the DIY/Domestic market you only really have wireless solutions (Wifi/IP, Z-Wave, Zigbee, etc). Insteon seems to support both wired and wireless but there are not many devices compared to the others.

 

I really wanted to have simple push/click swiches rather than 'smart' switches which would be cheap to replace and cheap to buy - these could easly be used to send events to a central controller to operate whatever I saw fit. Going with the wireless solutions, I have to run 240v to all locations, and then really on mesh networks, and I can see it really adding up all these mini-standalone devices.

 

I really didn't want to add lots and lots of EMFs within my house, given like phones they are still listed a possible carcinogenic. The wifi is enough and that gets turned off at night.

 

Is there really no solution for home automated without paying the very high wired installer only solutions or except a wireless setup??

 

My only other route would be to DiY a solution using Home Assistant on a PI or computer and lots and lots of relays... But if I wasn't around and it goes wrong, it would be hard to fix.

 

To be honest I'm very surprised in 2020 there is so little choice. 

 

 

 

Edited by gc100

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I think there is little choice as there is little demand.

 

Only a tiny fraction of new builds in UK are self build and many of those are turnkey commissioned by clients. The volume builders have zero interest in proper automation, maybe a few niche high end players.

 

I expect the majority of automation demand will be from the retro-fit and based on WiFi and BT vs wired ethernet in the wall so that's where the supply focus and innovation will be.

 

Even though me & the missus are both grad electronic engineers and work in technology industry, neither of us were persuaded to do any automation in our new build as the first fix cabling was an irreversible  commitment either way (trad radial vs hub & spoke) and we could only see issues with extra cost, vendor obsolescence, sparing for h/w failures etc. 

 

I'd also worry about potential resell issues in the future if your setup is seen as too 'funky'.

 

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Personally I don't see much point in radially wiring mains sockets purely for automation. I'm putting double sockets most places, and chances I'd want both to turn on and off together is very low. I'm ok using plug-in automation for those where I do want it (sonoff, tuya etc). I'll still use radial circuits rather than ring final, just for preference reasons.

 

Lighting is more of a pain - I hear you. I'm planning to self installing loxone. It is still possible to DIY loxone, although they're actively pushing enthusiasts away and trying to refocus themselves as another control4 competitor. So it's not something I'd strongly recommend.

Radially wiring each light fitting does mean it's quite possible to convert to a dumb control system, although some rooms it would leave secondary lighting rather orphaned (switch boxes not large enough for the number of circuits needing control).

 

In theory KNX is the true standards based wired solution. Some countries even call for it in their building code. But it's inexplicably expensive parts, and infuriatingly obscure to programme, so very much a high end luxury option right now. 

 

Rako is a DIY friendly wired lighting system with open price list you might look at. Main drawback is their automation API is antiquated and lacking in key functionality (basically it's write-only, no way to read back the current brightness of a dimmer)

 

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Posted (edited)

All true from what I've seen too. I have been looking at home automation things too, and there is nothing on the market that I think I want. (BTW my degree is in electrical and electronics too, but I've mostly worked as a radar systems engineer). Vendor support and obsolescence are big worries for me given standard interfaces haven't been widely adopted yet, and the available products seem very biased towards selling things and collecting data. They actually do very little for my own requirements.

 

I don't need an internet enabled kettle. I don't need an internet enabled fridge that tries to order milk from Tesco direct when it thinks I've run out.

What I do need is say a dish washer that can be told to run a programme when there's an excess of power from the solar panels, and if there isn't then make sure it is done by 5pm...

 

Joth's reply overtook mine... I too looked at Loxone, but I can't see their DIY support improving so they've ruled themselves out of the running for me. I was thinking a Loxone DMX interface for dimming lights, but now I think I will need to look at other things to control it. At least it's a known standard.

I agree that there is little point in automated socket switching. It's the devices that are plugged in that I want to tell to do things.

Edited by dnb

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I think given the state of the market, I will do the following:

 

  • radial wiring of lights and switches back to central area, so LED drivers etc can be replaced in a single location.
  • Ring wire (per room) the sockets.
  • Cat6 to some major switching points (entrance, kitchen/living room, master bedroom) (and normal sockets in most rooms).
  • Accept that the best route will probably be IP/TCP/IP type devices as is the area all the giants are working towards and the majority will be wireless.
  • Just automate the things now I really wanted automated, either using z-wave/zigbee/wifi/MQTT enable devices or using relay switching via the central location.
  • Accept that as things move forward its going to be a every changing set of protocols and devices so make sure I'm happy to keep them all working together or be able to swap out for basic switches if I get bored/had enough.

 

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In a concession to automation, I bought a Tapo plug (from TP-Link) this week to 'persuade' the teenager's basement TV to go off and a sensible time. 

 

Quite pleased with how easy it was to setup - BT from app to plug and then put plug on wifi network, set up schedule etc.

 

Plug is hidden in a media cabinet that has a single mains connection so this scheme is predicated that he does't try and figure out how the magic is happening :) 

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27 minutes ago, gc100 said:

LED drivers etc can be replaced in a single location.

Just one comment, depends exactly what sort of LED driver you mean, but many (most?) are 12V constant voltage drivers and these may not work well over long cable runs (high loss result in voltage and hence dimmer output). Also,  I'd feel dirty putting 12V down T&E.

 

Constant current drivers may work better over a longer run. Centralised mains level dimmers can also work, with all the usual caveats about mains level dimming.

 

I think you can broaden the topic title to include the wired lighting market is a bit cr*p too.

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11 minutes ago, joth said:

I'd feel dirty putting 12V down T&E.

 

Why?

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, joth said:

12V constant voltage drivers and these may not work well over long cable runs

 

Hmmm yes  - a quick look at a calculator gives quite a drop (23%) with a 40 meter length (12v, 5a, 3mm2 cable) which is probably my longest run by the time it gets there.

Might have to have more 'local' cabinet areas.

Edited by gc100

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We have quite a lot of LED strip, drivers are tucked away in ceiling voids (easily slide out of a 70mm downlighter hole) or fixed in crawl spaces. We've had one or two fail since moving in 4 years ago so want them to be easy to get to. However, would not put them in a cabinet  - really don't see what that would achieve.

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Just now, Bitpipe said:

We have quite a lot of LED strip, drivers are tucked away in ceiling voids (easily slide out of a 70mm downlighter hole) or fixed in crawl spaces. We've had one or two fail since moving in 4 years ago so want them to be easy to get to. However, would not put them in a cabinet  - really don't see what that would achieve.

 

I have no crawl space due to how are build is (vaulted ceilings) . Most of the lighting will come from LED strips rather than downlighting, so finding easy to access homes for the drivers is a bit of an issue for me.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, gc100 said:

Ring wire (per room) the sockets

 

If you're wiring per room, then I'm pretty certain you can use 2.5mm T&E radial wiring with a 20A MCB to serve up to 50m², which is probably enough except in a kitchen or utility room.

Edited by Mike

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We were faced with the same dilemma regarding automation. In the end we decided to use conventional ring main for power on the grounds that most of the stuff/appliances that we may want to control have wifi built in.

For the lighting we have two 2.5mm T&E run to a central enclosure and radial wires to all the lights using 1.5mm T&E. This makes any future changes a lot easier, so when something good comes along we hopefully implement it with the minimum of rework. Initially we thought all our lights would be low voltage, but we already have three lights that are mains! all LED but with their own transformers built in, so using T&E for the low voltage was a fortunate choice. I agree is seems a little unnatural to use T&E for low voltage.

We have no wired light switches but have used wireless switches. The ones we are using have glass front and capacitive switches, nice and minimal looking and not a culture shock for visitors. It's proved an acceptable low cost interim solution. Not sure about long term reliability, but we ordered some spares just in case.

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32950917924.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.368a4c4dU28BGr

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I am intrigued with this conversation, seems to centre around lighting.  How necessary is it to remotely control lighting?  This is not the same as suitably designed lighting.

 

I think dnb says it best.

16 hours ago, dnb said:

I don't need an internet enabled kettle. I don't need an internet enabled fridge that tries to order milk from Tesco direct when it thinks I've run out.

What I do need is say a dish washer that can be told to run a programme when there's an excess of power from the solar panels, and if there isn't then make sure it is done by 5pm...

There is a simple solution to this, 2 kWh battery storage charged by your PV.  Has the advantage that it can also be charged at any time when energy is cheap, even if the washing machine is running.

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3 hours ago, SteamyTea said:

How necessary is it to remotely control lighting? 

In terms of the pyramid of human needs, it's totally unnecessary.

In terms of the topic of conversation here, namely automating the home, it's fairly fundamental. Some of the most basic automations are:

1/ "turn off all the lights when I go to bed / leave the house"

2/ "turn on lights when I enter this room"

3/ "adjust light brightness/temperature depending on time of day (and if I'm watching a movie/cooking/...)".


you can achieve some of these with one-off hard-wired solutions (put the lighting circuits on a contactor for #1; use a mains-switching PIR for #2) but that's really missing the point that folks increasing want to define, integrate & tune their automations using software not hardware.

 

 

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47 minutes ago, joth said:

but that's really missing the point that folks increasing want to define, integrate & tune their automations using software not hardware.

Is it now, or is there some technology that is looking for a solution.

I suspect that part of the reason that there is not a decent, reasonably priced system that is readily available is because there is no market.

It is such a niche product, that needs to have infinite customisation, that the only solution is a home built one.

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8 hours ago, SteamyTea said:

There is a simple solution to this, 2 kWh battery storage charged by your PV.

And when batteries are priced sensibly with a decent lifetime, I will implement it that way. Right now, this will cost more than just using grid electricity... Hence the need for an "interim" solution of using local excess energy on demand. If it were implemented in a mass produced product it would cost pence. Way cheaper than batteries all ways up, but it does require a standard interface for doing it - and this is where the sticking point is... (And it will be more efficient than battery charging)

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7 minutes ago, dnb said:

And when batteries are priced sensibly with a decent lifetime, I will implement it that way. Right now, this will cost more than just using grid electricity... Hence the need for an "interim" solution of using local excess energy on demand. If it were implemented in a mass produced product it would cost pence. Way cheaper than batteries all ways up, but it does require a standard interface for doing it - and this is where the sticking point is... (And it will be more efficient than battery charging)

Did not think price was important. Ask @pocster how much his stuff cost when he charges himself 50p an hour.

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Posted (edited)

Agree Loxone is less open now than it used to be but if you are decided on i) automation ii) wired and want to avoid the complexity of KNX i would still personally consider Loxone:

- Not impossible to get components as their partner program is based on how much equipment they buy, so there is a mutual benefit in partners reselling to self-builders.

- Still a lot of information on forums/wiki's (lot is in German, but google translate helps)

- You can wire Loxone to not be tied into Loxone.

 

Only other wired altneratives I can think of are doing doing raspberry pi based.  Maybe look at https://www.unipi.technology/ which uses node-red for designing automation.  At a lower level there is MQTT, CAN-bus, TCP/IP, but I don't see a wide range of sensors/actuators based on these protocols.

Edited by Dan Feist

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4 hours ago, joth said:

In terms of the pyramid of human needs, it's totally unnecessary.

In terms of the topic of conversation here, namely automating the home, it's fairly fundamental. Some of the most basic automations are:

1/ "turn off all the lights when I go to bed / leave the house"

2/ "turn on lights when I enter this room"

3/ "adjust light brightness/temperature depending on time of day (and if I'm watching a movie/cooking/...)".


you can achieve some of these with one-off hard-wired solutions (put the lighting circuits on a contactor for #1; use a mains-switching PIR for #2) but that's really missing the point that folks increasing want to define, integrate & tune their automations using software not hardware.

 

I really like the master on/off function and would be great to do that from bedside (especially when teenagers finally come to bed and a passing 747 mistakes our house for LHR T5). Aside from that (and maybe it's just me) I've never really felt the need to tune lighting scenes that much.

 

We tend to have three states in our living area - lights off (daylight), soft lights on (watching TV), big lights on (something has been dropped on floor and needs found).

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29 minutes ago, SteamyTea said:

Did not think price was important.

Price is really important to me. Anything built in to the house generally has to be cost effective since I'm a badly paid engineer. ;)

 

Unless one of the following applies:

The job is a fun one.

I want to learn about the technology or thing in question

Someone has told me that I can't do it.

 

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5 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:

 

 

We tend to have three states in our living area - lights off (daylight), soft lights on (watching TV), big lights on (something has been dropped on floor and needs found).

 

 

spot the Ulsterism- "turn the big light on"...

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I have wired radial for lighting and mains just so it’s easier for me to isolate problems . Any device ( say a heater in a bathroom ) goes radial back to a z wave din . Whilst you may be against more EM z wave is your friend ( though I power everything poe - forget batteries ) .

Unlike some states in the US we do seem adverse to home automation. Raspberry pi / Mac are all good . 
I think why it’s not fine here is most people can’t think of more than a motion sensor turns a light on - that’s the extent of HA for them . The restriction is your imagination ( and money and patience ) 

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26 minutes ago, pocster said:

I have wired radial for lighting and mains just so it’s easier for me to isolate problems . Any device ( say a heater in a bathroom ) goes radial back to a z wave din . Whilst you may be against more EM z wave is your friend ( though I power everything poe - forget batteries ) .

Unlike some states in the US we do seem adverse to home automation. Raspberry pi / Mac are all good . 
I think why it’s not fine here is most people can’t think of more than a motion sensor turns a light on - that’s the extent of HA for them . The restriction is your imagination ( and money and patience ) 

 

Yes, it seems I will be going with Z-Wave or Zigbee as its really the only option at the moment :-/

 

Regarding the above conversation - yes lights are the main element for HA for me as well.

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