My interest in automating things in my home started in the 80th when I was studying electronics. I read an article in a magazine about a guy that had a pressure sensor under his front door mat and when ever someone stepped onto it, a sign lit up with the text “Your presence have been noted”. He also had his awnings automated with light sensors and an automatic cat feeder. All this was very exciting and I immediately saw this as a solution to helping me get out of bed in the mornings 🙂 I hacked my clock radio and attached a few relays to it. One starting my record player, playing Toto’s Africa, every morning thereafter for a year… Another relay started the egg boiler and coffee machine, a third relay started a small motor that withdraw the curtains. I don’t like hard boiled eggs, so I did get up most mornings that year 🙂
We did an extensive remodelling of our house in 2014-15, most of the inside of the house were ripped out and replaced, and I took the opportunity to rewire allot to allow for automation.
The IOT scene at the time where sparse, the only technology that could cover my needs and fit the budget, where 433 Mhz devices from Nexa.
Zwave, Zigbee, BT and some WiFi devices where available but at 4-5 times the price of Nexa or would not fit my use-case. I knew that the Nexas would have to be replaced sooner rather that later, but in waiting for the other technologies to mature and come down in price, I went with Nexa 433 Mhz devices and built them into the house. A while later I got my first Zwave devices and found them (initially) to be most of what I had hoped for when I some 10 years earlier had read about the technology. From then on I only installed Zwave when expanding the system. In the mean time I bought a sample of every new WiFi device that turned up, convinced that WiFi would eventually come out on top of all the rest. I thought, and still do, that WiFi is the best HA technology; Most of us already have WiFi and want to have great coverage, devices can be “always online”, every device can have its on web server for configurations. The only downside is it’s power consumption, but I can live with powered devices, I’m building it into the infrastructure of my house anyways. For the places where I would prefer battery, I don’t mind if the device is big enough to house an 18650 battery 🙂 besides, WiFi technologies are coming that will solve this 🙂
While waiting for the right WiFi devices to enter the market, I rebuild some Nexa devices to WiFi with USR chips, and later with ESP, but I don’t want critical parts of the infrastructure of my house to be that bespoke, I need of the shelf parts, and a few years ago I found the right shelf 🙂 It’s called Shelly.
I am getting fed up with Zwave and its crappy coverage and having to re include devices ever so often when they just disappear or is unreachable.
(And yes, I have repeaters and always on devices with repeat functionality)
Zigbee is not much better, imo, I have a few but are replacing them with WiFi as soon as Shelly comes up with a replacement device. 433 Mhz is obviously worse, it’s an old “one way” technology with no security and limited precision, that is, they might work, or another light happened to turn on instead of the one you wanted. Back when all my outdoor lights where all 433 Mhz, my HA hub had to send on or off message to all lights every minute for 15 min to make sure all got the message. Even though I had a proper ground plane antenna for the 70 cm band. Needless to say, these are quickly being replaced by Shellys 🙂
Shelly (Allterco Robotics) are constantly innovating and iterating, releasing some 10-15 new products every year. At the time of writing this (summer 2020) the only thing missing for me to be able to replace everything with Shellys, are a PIR or radar sensor, a true light sensor with UV, a soil RH sensor and some whether sensors.
They are about to release a mains smart on/off relay that don’t require a neutral wire. They, and others, have dimmers that don’t require neutrals, but an on/off switch is a bit trickier and I don’t think it’s been done before. It will be interesting to see how they choose to solve it. The easiest way would be to use a solid state relay. But if they are going for a dry relay contact solution, I suppose it should work using a bi-stable relay if you have a big enough energy reservoir to set/reset it every few seconds.
Every serious Home Automation system needs some sort of hub where you can set rules and automation flows. This hub can be a cloud service or a hardware device you install at home. Shelly have a cloud service with an excellent app, but I have always preferred to host my own. I started out with Telldus but when renovating our house, I checked out and tested what was then available and settled for Domoticz. On the plus side, Domoticz is extremely configurable and can take most types of devices you can find as long as you have a transceiver for them. I used RFXcom for 433 Mhz. I hosted Domoticz on a Raspberry Pi and later installed a Zwave transeiver HAT. The downside of Domoticz, and a lot of similar solutions, is that there WAF is very low.
A few years ago I replaced it with a Homey. Homey does most of what I need and have a fairly large community. It supports most of the big IOT brands out there and if not, there’s someone in the community that develops an app for it. (Thank you Jelger). Homeys WAF is rather high, maybe not for mine, but I still have hope 🙂
I’ve made my own Windows application for Shelly in WPF C#
(See screen shots further down the page) I use it to get an overview of all devices and to automatically adopt new ones. Plan is to develop this into a dashboard solution I can use though out the house, my UX is my Wife 🙂
I have Google Home devices in most rooms of the house and Homey integrates perfectly so I can control stuff with voice commands. One nice thing about having Google Homes in every room is that it knows what room it is in and what other devices and there types are in that room, so I can say things like: -“Turn off the lights” while in the living room, and the GH in the living room turns off all lights in the living room.