Help Getting Into Smart Home / Home Automation

Discussion in 'Home Automation' started by DavidDavid, Jun 6, 2017.

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  1. DavidDavid

    DavidDavid Pulling my weight

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    I’d like to experiment a bit with some home automation but would like a little help to get started. I’m not so concerned right now about actually controlling much, I really just want to gather data at this point, but I’m hoping I can get some advice before I go spending any money. Currently I have a Raspberry PI with Raspbian that we primarily use for media streaming. I installed Domoticz onto the PI when I got my cameras set up and have them connected, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

    What I’d like to do right now:

    1) Install temperature sensors in a few locations to track the current and past temperature.
    - Chest freezer in my basement
    - Chicken coop behind the shed
    - Pond (I’d really like something a foot below the surface and since I’m there, maybe 10 feet below surface. This is probably a stretch though)

    2) Install a switch on my mailbox so that I can get an alert whenever it is opened.

    3) Install a light sensor outside (probably on the shed) to have it turn some outdoor lights on and off automatically at dusk/dawn.

    I’ve seen on this forum that some of you use these really cheap temperature sensors (Amazon.com: WINOMO DS18B20 Digital Thermometer Temperature Sensor IC, Pack of 10: Home Improvement) but how are they wired into your network? Would I need a Raspberry PI relatively close to each location that I needed one of these sensors?

    For the other sensors (light/mailbox) I think Z Wave would be my best bet. I see some Z Wave temperature sensors but at around $30 each that’s way out of my price range for the simple things I want to watch (might be worthwhile to put on in the chest freezer though). From what I have read I will need some sort of controller to connect my devices (multiple temperature sensors, mailbox sensor, ect) to my network so that Domotocz can listen to them and alert me. What I think will work for me would be the Aeon Labs Z Wave USB Stick ( Amazon.com: Aeotec by Aeon Labs ZW090 Z Stick, Small, White: Home Improvement ). It’s only $45 and I could plug it into my PI which is roughly in the middle of my house on the 1st floor or in my router which is on the second floor, just above the PI.
    My concern is that the Aeon USB stick says it has a range of 100ft which will not be nearly enough to reach all of the buildings on my property. My biggest question right now is, how do I get all these devices connected to my network so that Domoticz can listen to them? Will I need a 2nd and 3rd PI and Aeon USB stick at each location (shed and barn) and just hope that the one in the house can see the sensor at the mailbox 150ft away? I have network access in the shed and barn so that helps. I feel like I have an idea of what I want to do, but it just isn’t quite clicking on exactly what I need to do to get there.

    Any help pointing me in the right direction would be appreciated! I'm pretty good at making things work for me if I know what im trying to do is possible in the first place. Does what I'm trying to do seem possible? Reasonable?

    IMG_20170606_105725498.jpg
     
  2. logbuilder

    logbuilder Getting the hang of it

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    David,

    In terms of home automation and hooking all the parts together, you have proposed a uniquely difficult situation. First, you have locations that are 100+ feet from your house. To do this, you need two things. First is power, the second is communications. Just take the mailbox. Do you have power down there? 150 feet is quite a ways for a wireless device such as a z-wave door/window sensor. I assume you have power in the shed. But how to get comms there? And the pond, you would want to attach temp probe sensors to some type of sender unit in the shed. But 100 feet away, that would be wire. And the barn, 200+ feet is a real long way for wifi.

    Think about and focus on the power and connectivity. Figure out how to connect those dots and the rest is doable.
     
  3. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    I agree. As this is IP Cam Talk the obvious suggestion would be to run ethernet to the shed and barn and of course add a few cameras.

    This makes more sense than the bare IC Amazon.com: Vktech DS18b20 Waterproof Temperature Sensors Temperature Transmitter (5pcs): Home Improvement
    1-wire can go pretty far but I don't remember off the top of my head.
    You could run wire a decent distance or hook a pi zero or esp8266 near the sensor.
    Note "waterproof" above doesn't mean it's adequate for submersion in water as you describe. I'm sure there are products that would do the job though.

    freezers may block the signal most of the time, a remote probe inside may be required.

    As you add wired devices to a zwave network range improves. it's a mesh network, but battery powered sensors don't relay messages as much obviously.
     
  4. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    if you have electricity in the shed/barn other options include point to point wifi back to the house and homeplug av2 adapters
     
  5. DavidDavid

    DavidDavid Pulling my weight

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    I should probably have been more clear in the first post, i do have power in the shed and barn along with a hard line Ethernet to each location as well. In both the barn and the shed i currently have a dd-wrt router acting as a wireless access point (which includes a few hardline ports) and i also have 1-2 cameras on the shed and barn (with more to come once i pony up money for some poe switches at each location)

    I definitely do not have power at the mailbox, but have see others online that have Wi-Fi devices hooked up to a battery, so that was kind of my plan for the mailbox (although I'm not sure what my wifi signal is like at the mailbox... Probably not good)
     
  6. randytsuch

    randytsuch Getting the hang of it

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    Hey David
    I have a Pi running Domiticz.
    Lately, I have been adding ESP's to my HA system.

    I like the Wemos mini D1 and mini D1 pro, but there are ton's of ESP's out there, and they are pretty inexpensive, especially if you can wait for shipping from aliexpress/china.

    I then install ESP Easy on the ESP card. Configure it, and then you can use the ESP IO pins.
    ESP Easy supports quite a few sensors natively, so you just have to connect them to power and an IO pin, and configure and you're off and running. I have a DS18b20 connected to one,
    and it measures my spa water temperature. For others, I use magnetic reed switches to tell if the garage or gate is open, or if someone didn't close the garage freezer.
    I also use relays to close the garage door, and control my spa.
    The ESP cards have built in wifi, so you just have to power them, and they connect to your wifi network as long as you have coverage.
    I have one in my backyard, it controls my spa, and it connects fine.
    The d1 pro version has a better antenna, and provisions for an external antenna if coverage is a concern. You could stick an antenna out of the back of your mailbox if you had to.

    If you do go with ESP, I recommend the mega beta version, instead of the stable 120 version. I just made something work by going beta from 120.

    I should caveat this by saying I'm a Electrical Engineer so the wiring part is pretty easy for me, and ESP Easy makes the SW pretty easy too.
    And I have had some problems, and had to spend some time troubleshooting things. But that seems to be the nature of going this route. I could have spent a LOT more money to buy ready made solutions, but what's the fun in that lol.

    In the end, this has been an inexpensive way to add lots of functionality to my Domoticz system.

    I also created some Lua scripts using DzVents in Domoticz. This adds even more to what you can do.
    I get text messages if garage is open too long, or freezer. Spa pump is on a "timer", and runs every other day for a few mins.

    Randy
     
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  7. logbuilder

    logbuilder Getting the hang of it

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    Like Randy, I also have been working with the ESP8266 nodeMCU version of the Arduino. As we noted earlier, you need power and comms for a remote device. The ESP solves the comms issue without cables but it still needs power. What I really like about this solution is that if I can find a sensor that works with an Arduino, I can add it to a nodeMCU. For home automation, I use HomeSeer ver 3. There is a really nice plugin for HS3 that supports the Arduino and integrates nicely into the trigger and event engine. I currently have 6 nodes working in my 'production' environment doing a variety of functions.
     
  8. randytsuch

    randytsuch Getting the hang of it

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    Didn't mention this before, but power is easy with the Wemos cards. They can run off of 5V. So I have been buying cheap USB power plugs (apple clones), cut the end off an old USB cable, and then use the now exposed red and black wires to power the card.
    Some ESP cards require 3.3V, and then you would need some converter to generate the 3.3V.
    I have one esp-01 card, and I had to wire up a converter for it.