More Home Automation

Submitted by Brad Tombaugh on 11 December 2014 - 12:39am

After moving into our new house at the end of September, for my birthday in October I invested in some "Home Automation" stuff. I had been doing some research periodically over the past year or so, and had been following some of the INSTEON and Z-Wave news. I had decided that Indigo looked like the best option for Macintosh-based home automation, and it supported interfaces for X-10, INSTEON and Z-Wave, so it had lots of flexibility. I had been planning to go with INSTEON, but our new house came with a Schalge lock with a keypad entry that is Z-Wave enabled, so I went with Z-Wave devices instead.

I ordered a copy of Indigo Pro 6, along with an Aeon Labs Z-Wave USB stick interface, an Evolve plug-in lamp dimmer module and two GE/Jasco Z-Wave On/Off wall switches to get started. The Schalge/Nexia starter kit that came with the lockset included a Z-Wave lamp dimmer module as well, so I have two of them to work with now.

After my friend Jerry Nieman helped me install the wall switches to replace the front porch and patio light switches, I was able to install the Indigo software and drivers for the Aeon Labs USB stick on my MacMini server, and start up Indigo as a server process so that its always running. I can connect to Indigo from my MacBook Pro using a "client" installation of Indigo or from my iPad Air using their Indigo Touch app.

Once I had Indigo setup, I linked with each of the Z-Wave switches and modules, so that i could control them through the software. Initially I setup three schedules. The first turns the front porch and garage lights on 30 minutes before sunset. I setup Indigo's preferences with my actual latitude and longitude from a GPS app on my Droid, so its able to calculate the precise sunrise and sunset times for location of my house. The next schedule turns the porch lights off at 11pm, which I figured was late enough. I also created a schedule to turn the porch lights off 15 minutes after sunrise, so if we happen to turn them on in the morning, they will go off automatically after it is light enough outside.

After we got the fence put in around the back yard, I added another set of schedules for the patio light to do the same thing as the front lights. This basic setup works very nicely, especially after the end of Daylight Saving Time, so that the front lights are already on when we get home from work in the dark.

This week, I ordered a GE Z-Wave outdoor module so that I could control the outside Christmas lights. After dinner, I opened the package, and took the module out to the outside outlet on the front porch. I grabbed a 3-way plug block from the garage, as I had two cords to plug in. I also pulled out the Aeon Z-Wave USB stick from the MacMini Server. Once I plugged in the new module, I pressed the link button on the Aeon, then pressed the button on the module to link it.

I came back inside and plugged the Aeon back into the MacMini, and fired up Indigo on my MacBook Pro. I was able to add the new module, which I tested from my iPad Air using Indigo Touch. It let me turn the module on and off while walking around in the house. This let me control the outside Christmas lights through Indigo.

Next, I pulled out the Evolve lamp module out from the outlet behind my recliner that controlled my light. I plugged my lamp into the switched outlet for now, so that I could use the lamp module for some indoor Christmas lights. I took the lamp module to the front bedroom, and plugged it in for the snowflake lights in the front window.

Back at my MacBook Pro, I created a new “action group” in Indigo for “Front Lights Off” and added the light switch for the porch lights, the outdoor module, and my lamp module (temporarily). Then I defined the actions for each module to turn off. I duplicated the action group, renamed it for “On” and changed the actions to turn on each of the lights.

Once the action groups were created, I changed the schedule that turned the porch lights on and off to use the action groups instead of just the one light switch.This will now turn on all of the outside lights 30 minutes before sunset, and turn them off at 11pm. It will also turn them off 15 minutes after sunrise if we happen to have turned them on manually in the morning.

Now that I fixed the schedules, I also created a couple of “trigger” events in Indigo, using the state of the porch light switch. When the wall switch for the front porch lights is turned on, it calls the action group to turn all of the front lights on, and when the porch light switch is turned off, it turns off all of the front lights. There is a momentary delay, so I might need to adjust the polling interval for the switch… This setup lets me turn the Christmas lights on and off manually with the porch light switch!

I'm definitely going to be asking Santa for more Z-Wave switches for Christmas, so that i can automate more things throughout the house...