Home Automation


I enjoy home automation projects but I try to be careful to not rely too much on things until I've had time to test it out thoroughly. I like X-10 lighting controls but I didn't want to invest any more in it until I had some kind of whole house surge supressor installed. Now that I have that taken care of, I went ahead and installed an X-10 phase couper. Like most people, I've had my share of flakey experiences with X-10. Since I've installed the phase coupler I've not had any problems (although my X-10 components were working fine at the time I installed it). I am aware of Insteon and the fact it has better reliablity, but I didn't want to invest in that just yet.

Monitoring via Home Heartbeat sensors

I picked up some clearenced out monitoring gear called Home Heartbeat by Eaton. It's a ZigBee sensor network tied to a base station which can dial a central server for text message notifications. The dial-home service has been discontinued by Eaton, however the base station has a USB port which provides access to the sensor network. I found some very good documentation on the format of the data the base station outputs here. I have been working on a perl script which generates a human-readable version of the data. Now I have a simple HTML page which gives me the status of the sensors I can check from my phone. The sensors provided by Home Heartbeat are an open/close sensor, motion sensor, water sensor, tilt sensor, along with various interactive modules. The interactive modules include a water-shutoff controller and a strange "notify" module. There is also a power monitoring sensor however it only has the ability to verify if the connected appliance is on or off, no current values are supplied.

Future monitoring plans

I am very interested in monitoring my utility usage (electric, gas, and water). The easy thing to start with is power use. Eventually I'd like to see current usage on every circuit, but I'll start with just the main two phases into the breaker box for now. One silly issue is that I have been unable to find current sensors with a large enough diameter to fit the mains coming into my breaker box. Once I can find suitable current sensors I should be in business.

In addition, I'd like to begin monitoring temps on each floor. Currently I'm testing an Arduino temp sensor solution which has a lot of promise. I am using a RHT03 temp+humidity sensor along with a handful of Dallas 1-wire temp sensors. I'd like to have temp monitoring for ground level, basement, upstairs, and the attic. A bonus would also be the floor register air temp from the furnace.

I'm also interested in somehow tying into my motion sensor flood lamps on the exterior of the house, however that is a larger project than I have time for. Doubling up with the motion sensors provided by the Home Heartbeat system will suffice for now.