DIY Home Automation

Home Automation

For Christmas, my generous brother-in-law gave me a Vera3, a device from MiCasaVerde that sets up a base station from which to control a Z-Wave/Wifi network. For anyone who doesn't know, Z-Wave is one of many different standards for home automation networks. I am super excited to get my hands dirty replacing wall switches, plug receptacles, etc. in order to have the whole house fully enabled for lighting scenes, time/weather based actions, etc. I am especially excited to integrate the system with Siri as has become a popular demonstration tool these days. How cool will it be to just say to my phone, "We have guests coming!", and suddenly have the perfect mood lighting come on?

The Standards

There are a variety of DIY automation standards, each with their advantages and disadvantages. To my knowledge, these are the main players:

  • X-10: The grandfather of home automation, it uses the power lines to create a network between its various devices. It is still used today, however it has issues with degradation in quality as more devices are added, and only recently has it gained the ability of 2-way communication (the ability to not only control it but to also check its status).
  • Insteon: The spiritual successor to X-10 (and the only one that is officially backwards-compatible with it), Insteon uses the same power line connection in such a way as to increase the quality of the network as more devices are added instead of the opposite. It is the least expensive of the current generation, for the most part.
  • UPB: A direct competitor to Insteon, it carries many of the same features with various advantages and setbacks. It is not backwards-compatible with X-10 natively, it is considerably more expensive than Insteon, and and it lacks RF functionality, but it also runs at a higher voltage for better reliability and it has auto-discovery of new devices (instead of having to manually add each to the network hub).
  • Z-wave: The closest to a wireless standard, this has been adopted by many big players including ADT Security and General Electric. While it initially may not have the reliability of a power line network such as Insteon, it creates a wireless RF mesh as more devices are added, increasing its strength as it expands.
  • Zigbee: SImilar to Z-wave, but without as widespread of an adoption amongst manufacturers. It uses a wireless network that improves with the number of devices, just like Z-Wave.
  • Others?: These are the main ones that I know about, but there may be more out there!

My (Planned) Setup

I am very excited to get this process started; while I currently only have 4 switch sets and 3 plug-in modules, I will be expanding it as much as I can (I have 20+ switches that will ideally be automated eventually). The Vera system which I was given will allow massive amounts of customization, and partnered with either the iVera or SQ Remote iOS app, I will be able to check and control my home from anywhere. Using SiriProxy, I intend to integrate Siri into it as well so I can turn out the lights just by asking.

Eventually (in an ideal world where money grows on trees), I hope to add the SQ Blaster or SQ Blaster Pro so that on top of maintaining my lights, I can control my substantial home theater setup as well. This would also allow me to control my fireplace, which has an IR remote to manage it. I could eventually add even more components to control the garage door, manage my irrigation, lock and unlock my doors, and even automate my blinds. Someday, hopefully, maybe - many thousands of dollars down the road!

What About You?

Has anyone else here created their own automated network, or even had one professionally installed such as Creston or Control4? If so, I would love to hear about what standard you're using, how much you've hooked up, and what experiences you've had bringing your home into the 21st century!