Monday, December 05, 2005

Home Automation 101

For my automation projects I'm using X10

X10 is an industry standard for communication among devices used for automation. It primarily uses powerline wiring for signalling and control, where signals involve short radio frequency bursts representing digital information. A radio-based transport is also defined.

Automation Controller
Misterhouse (Free) -
  • Perl Based Automation Program.
  • Runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX and Windows
  • Serial CM11A Adapter... sends signals from the computer over the powerline
  • W800RF32A X10 RF receiver. It receives:

    * All 256 house/unit code addresses
    * All regular X10 RF commands (on, off, dim, brighten, etc.)
    * Extended 32 bit RF commands, such as those transmitted by X10's “Entertainment Anywhere” remotes and X10 security modules such as the DS10.

    Activehome Pro ($49.99) -
  • Windows Based Automation Controller
  • Controls modules based on time, date ,and state of other modules
  • USB X10 CM15A Power adapter.. sends signals from the computer over the power line
  • Monitors cameras.. records video when motion is detected, pictures are snapped and sent to my cell and email

    Automation Server
  • Pentium 4 3.0 GHz Server, with 1GB of Ram, 300 GB hard drive with additional 1TB of storage using NFS and Samba with other hard drives on the network and more with the card slot readers on the computer
  • Case
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Hard Drive
  • Dual Layer CD/DVD Burner
  • Redhat Fedora 9 OS
  • PVR Form Factor
  • Digium X100P FXO Card interfaces the voip line with the Asterisk PBX
  • Win TV PVR350 Capture Card to record television. Outputs to it's own unused cable channel
  • HDHomeRun - Networked Digital HDTV Tuner. I can watch/record unencrypted digital and hdtv content using mythtv and/or VLC.
  • Mythtv to coordinate television recordings and scheduling. I used another computer with a cheaper capture card to record programming on another channel when the PVR 350 is in use.
  • Misterhouse Home Automation Program
  • Provides: DHCP, Firewall, DNS, File/Music/Movie Shares, VPN, Web Server, Email, Database


    I've wired most of the jacks in my house for telephone, ethernet, and cable tv. This was accomplished by using what is called bundled cable or speedwrap. In a 1" diameter cable contains 2 coax cables and 2 cat5e networking cables. I'm only using one of the coax cable connections but I was only going to wire the entire house once so why not prepare for the future. One of the cat5e cables is used for data and the other is used for telephone. All the cable collect at a structured wiring media cabinet. The Leviton company makes these neat telephone and ethernet connectors where you just lie the exposed ends of the cable, punch them in and insert them into the wall outlet.

    Automation Modules
    I can't get into all of them but I have modules that turn on an off and dim lights. Make my thermostat think that it's hotter than it is in winter or summer to turn on and off based on certain conditions. Say in the winter.. fool it to think that it's hotter than it is during the day and stay off for energy savings while I'm away and then turn off 30 minutes to an hour before I get home and the heat will turn on. In the summer it makes the thermostat think that it's hotter than it is to make sure it's cool inside when I come home.
    Other modules turn on/off the my ceiling fan motors and dim the lights. That rocks and I can use them year round. I just have to flip the switch on the fan to reverse the spin. And motion detectors to turn off lights that I've left on after I leave the room.

    I want a relay switch connected to my hot water heater to turn off while I'm sleeping and at work and an override for days I'm working for home or have guests over.

  • I use ATT Callvantage VOIP for home phone service. I can make free calls to the US, US Territories, and Canada. And very low rates for international calls

  • Inside I use the Asterisk PBX for handling calls based on time of day, caller id information, and making calls from home when I'm not at home.

  • Skype for calls to friends and family who use skype. I'm in the process of purchasing a Skypebox. It's a box that lets you use skype over your existing home phone telephone wiring. It plugs into my home automation server that is running skype 24/7 and another end connects to the phone line. You need to dial special commands like #*# and then a preset speed dial to dial out using skype and calls coming in ring normally on your phones with skype caller id.

  • Free World Dialup (FWD) Another Voip product. All my FWD calls are sent thru Asterisk and ring normally on my home phones. Also I have numbers from arround the world that ring to my FWD number and then get forwarded to Asterisk. I have a number setup in Washington State 360-488-0822 and one in the United Kingdom +44-871-3093242. My FWD Number is 668650. Feel free to call me

  • The phone punchdown will be converted to a leviton cat5 punchdown where I will terminate each telephone jack to an FXS port on a Xia 308. This way each telephone can be using a different line out to dial and I can finally have my fax on it's own extension and automatically answer on the first ring because it will always be a fax going to that extension.

    I use a simple central video distribution panel where all my inputs and outputs are in one place. One neat thing that I have in place is a channel modulator. I have security and recorder and live tv from my PVR broadcasted on two unused cable channels. Ring the doorbell and I turn the channel to see who's at the door.

  • Bi-directional Amplifier For My Cableboxes

  • 1 in 2 out RF Splitter/Combiner

  • Two-Channel Modulator

  • Data
    Cat5e wiring to a 110 Punchdown going to a 100Mb Switch. Crossover cable from 100Mb Switch to a Gigabit Switch that's 1000Mb. From Gigabit switch Cat6 server that has a Gigabit Ethernet card inside. Technically Cat5e is rated at gigabit speeds but I just wanted to max it out while I could afford it.


    • Cheap Whole House FM transmitter broadcasts music and announcements from the server to FM radios on my own radio frequency. It solved a $1000 speaker nightmare.
    • Logitech Squeezebox Duet This was my first foray into the world of Networked Streamed Music Players. So far so good.
    • JVC UX-N1W Micro Component Audio System I have 3 of these playing music and speech announcements sent over the audio output on my server via a fm transmitter.
    • MPD or the Music Player Daemon. Not only does mpd allow me to play music controlled via my home automation, but It's also streams the output as well to my icecast server so I can listen to my music that is at home.. while I'm at work. The output is also networked via Pulse Audio so I now have multi-sourced, multi-roomed whole house audio

    Can't tell you everything, but there are cameras, motion detectors, and other sensors and they all integrate with my security system and home automation system.

    Biometric Door Locks
    Complete X10 HVAC
    Individual Room Temp Monitoring.. to turn fans and/or heat based on occupancy and season with iButtons
    More Security Stuff
    Energy Monitoring
    Irrigation Control
    Plant Watering