Two Lakes Lodge

Home Automation Overview

 

 


By Larry Gomes

Phone: 508-366-1172

Email: larry@twolakeslodge.com

 

 


May 21, 2003


 

1.   Background

In 1999, home automation research was conducted in anticipation of building a new vacation house in New Hampshire.  Having rented seasonal vacation properties for over 10 years, we never knew what to expect when we arrived on Friday night.  We wanted to be sure there would be no surprises when we arrived at our new vacation home.

After conducting months of research, we found there were two extremes in the home automation industry.  At the high end, there were proprietary systems costing up to $150K and at the low end, there were do-it-yourself systems using off-the-shelf components.

With an extensive programming background, we decided to build a system from off-the-shelf components using custom programming to get the features of a high-end proprietary system.  The overall goals for the system were:


2.   Methodology

Before deciding on the components to be used in the system, thorough research was conducted using the Internet and phone/email conversations with manufacturers and distributors.  Each candidate product was rated on its pros and cons.  When final product selections were made, then sample items were purchased and tested in a laboratory environment to insure they worked the way they were expected to.

Final components selected included:

·        Leviton X10 switches, plugs, filters and bridges

·        Home Vision automation controller

·        Residential Control Systems (RSC) Automated Thermostat

·        CADDX Network X security system

·        Russound CAV 6.6 Audio Controller/Amplifier

·        Turtle Beach Audiotron MP3 Player

·        International Electronics Incorporate (IEI) weatherproof keypad/door entry system

·        CR Magnetics electro magnet

·        ELK relays

·        Mcdonnell Miller FS6 flow switch

·        Honeywell VB30 water shutoff valve

·        ASCO gas shutoff valve

With the component selection information in hand, a comprehensive wiring plan was drawn up for the vacation house.  This plan covered all wiring including lighting, outlets, security, motion sensors, current sensors, thermostats, phone, audio, video and LAN.  In addition, conduits for future wiring were put in place in case new wiring technology became available in the future.

Due to the amount of wire that had to be installed, two computer-room style wiring trays were installed the entire length of the house.  One tray held high-voltage wiring and the other held low-voltage wiring.  The cost of these trays was repaid many times over by the labor savings of not having to individually fasten each of the wires with wire clips.

A master X10 numbering scheme was developed with each room or area being assigned its own letter and X10 devices within that room/area being numbered from 1 to 16.  This wiring and numbering plan allowed installation, programming and testing to be done in parallel reducing overall installation time.

3.   Sub-System Goals

Automation goals have been established for each of the functional sub-systems within the Lodge.  While many of these goals were achieved during the initial home automation installation, there are many that remain incomplete, mainly due to the lack of available off-the-shelf technology to accomplish that goal.  The following sections will overview each of the automation goals by function and the current status for each of the goals.

3.1.            Door and Garage Access

This area covers all access to and from the Lodge.  The goal is to provide unfettered access without the use of keys (which can be easily duplicated) or remote controls (which can be easily lost or damaged).

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Keyless door entry

H

Allow entry to Lodge via electronic keypad

Completed

 

H

Allow remote entry of codes

Completed

 

H

Allow codes to be pre-entered for activation and deactivation at specific dates/times.

Completed

Keyless garage entry

M

Allow entry to 2 garage doors via single electronic keypad.  Problem: need easy way to choose which door to open using a single keypad (rocker switch?).

Research

 

M

Need to be able to allow owners to open garage doors using secure remote controls.

Research

 

M

Security system must disable when garage door opens.  Problem: How to communicate with garage door opener?

Research

 

M

Automatically turn on garage lights at night when garage door is opened via remote or electronic keypad.

Code after remote interface is done

 

L

Automatically close garage door after period of no activity.  Problem: How to tap into infrared beam to detect obstruction before issuing command to close garage door?

Research

 

 

3.2.            Security Monitoring

This area covers building security including window detection, door detection, motion detection and video surveillance.  It also details response actions to be taken for each of the detection events.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Arm security system

H

Automatically arm security system when leaving Lodge by entering code 9999 on keypad.

Completed

 

M

Automatically arm security system after no activity has been detected in Lodge for n hours.

Research

Disarm security system

H

Automatically disarm security system when valid door code is entered.

Completed

 

M

Automatically disarm security system when garage door is opened via keypad or secure remote control.  Problem: How to know when garage was opened by remote control.  Also how to give command to garage door opener when keypad code has been entered.

Research

Re-arm security system

M

Automatically clear alarm status and rearm system by entering code 9999 on keypad.

Research

Auxiliary Alarm Trigger

M

Trigger alarm if motion is detected in Lodge by interior lighting motion sensors and security system is armed.

Completed

Video Monitoring

H

When security system is armed, use outside motion detectors to record activity and store on server.  Allow access to stored images from Internet.

Completed

 


 

3.3.            Fire Monitoring and Control

This area covers smoke detection, heat detection, CO2 detection and gas detection.  It also details response actions to be taken for each of the detection events.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Detect Fire

H

When fire alarm is triggered by smoke or heat detector, sound local alarms and contact alarm company and owner.  Also notify Home automation system that a fire alarm has been triggered.

Completed

 

H

When fire alarm is triggered, open water valve to sprinkler system.

Completed

 

H

When fire alarm is triggered, close main gas valve to Lodge.

Completed

 

M

When fire alarm is triggered, turn on all corridor, bedroom and entrance lights if nighttime.

Needs to be coded

Detect CO2

H

When fire alarm is triggered by CO2 detector, sound local alarms and contact alarm company and owner.  Also notify Home automation system that a CO2 alarm has been triggered.

Completed

 

H

When CO2 alarm is triggered, close main gas valve to Lodge.  (Do not open sprinkler valve).

Completed

 

M

Need a way to tell alarm company and local occupants at Lodge that a CO2 alarm has been triggered vs. a fire alarm

Research

Detect Gas Leak

H

When fire alarm is triggered by a gas detector, sound local alarms and contact alarm company and owner.  Also notify Home automation system that a gas alarm has been triggered.

Completed

 

H

When gas alarm is triggered, close main gas valve to Lodge.  (Do not open sprinkler valve).

Completed

 

M

Need a way to tell alarm company and local occupants at Lodge that a gas alarm has been triggered vs. a fire alarm

Research

Reset after fire alarm

M

Reset fire variable on automation system, which turns gas valve back on and shuts off water to sprinkler system. Manually reset heating systems by powering them off and on (power off and on), Manually drain sprinkler system.

Completed

 

M

Make reset process more streamlined by allowing a fire reset code of 8888 to be typed into the entry keypad.  Install easily accessible shutoff switches and label them so anyone can reset heating systems.  Label drain valves for sprinkler system so anyone can drain system.

Coding, labeling and new switches need to be installed

Monitor sprinkler system

L

Monitor water flow through sprinkler system.  If sprinkler system water valve is turned on and water is flowing, then there is an active fire in the house.

Flow valve installed – coding needed

 

L

Monitor sprinkler system during non-alarm systems by pressurizing system with air.  If there is a drop in air pressure, then it means a sprinkler head has been damaged.  Turn off airflow to sprinkler system and alert owner.

Need to troubleshoot air leaks in sprinkler system.

 


 

3.4.            Flood Monitoring and Control

This area covers detection of water flooding within the building and details a response action for each of the events. 

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Detect leak in hot water tank

H

Install valve that detects leak in hot water tank and turns off water supply to tank.

Completed

 

L

Notify home automation system that hot water tank leak detector has been triggered. Problem: Need to interface to leak detector.

Research

Detect Leak in washing machine

H

Install valve that detects leak in washing machine and automatically turns off water supply and power to washer.

Completed

 

L

Notify home automation system that hot water tank leak detector has been triggered. Problem: Need to interface to leak detector.

Research

Detect Leak in domestic water system

H

Install flow valve that detects water flow in domestic water system.

Completed

 

M

If water flow is detected when security alarm is active, turn off domestic water supply and notify owner.  Problem: What if someone turns on outside water tap? What if boiler uses some water?  How much water usage should trigger alarm condition? How do you reset the alarm condition?

Needs testing and possible shutoff valves on outside water taps.

 


 

3.5.            Indoor Lighting

This area covers control of indoor lights by individual lighting controls, scene lighting controls and automatic lighting triggered by motion or door access.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Automatically turn on Entrance lights

H

Turn on entry area lighting when valid keypad entry code has been entered.

Completed

Automatically turn on common area lights

H

Automatically turn on lights when motion is detected in common areas such as hallways, stairways and bathrooms.  If a “scene” has been set in an adjacent room, then match the brightness level of that room. If after 11pm and no scene is set, then turn lights at 50% brightness.

Completed

Link adjacent circuits

H

Link adjacent lighting circuits together that are normally used together.  For example, if a hallway leads to a garage, then turn on the garage lights when the hallway lights are turned on.  Also if the garage lights are turned on, then turn on the hallway lights to the garage.

Completed

Implement scene switches

H

Implement scene switches to control multiple lights in living room, dining room and game room.  When scenes are set, use a 1 hour timer.

Completed

Reset brightness level

H

If you are turning lights on during the day, then reset brightness level to full.  Otherwise, they will come on at the previous level, which could have been dimmed from use during the night before.

Completed

Reset timer

H

Whenever activity is detected in an area, check to see if there is a light timer on for that area.  If so, then reset the timer to start again.  For hallways and stairways, use a 5 minute timer.  For all other areas use a 15 minute timer.  If a scene is turned on, use a 1 hour timer.

Completed

Automatic light shutoff

H

When any light is turned on manually or by the automation system, automatically shut it off after no activity has been detected in the immediate area for “n” minutes.

Completed

 


 

3.6.            Outdoor Lighting

This area covers control of outdoor lights by individual lighting controls, scene lighting controls, automatic lighting triggered by motion.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Automatically turn on front entrance lights

H

When motion is detected in driveway or walkway area, turn on outside entrance lights.

Completed

Manual spotlight on

H

All spotlights are controlled by scene switches.  When a spot light scene switch is turned on, then the nearest two spotlights to that location are turned on.

Completed

Manual deck and patio lights on

H

All deck and patio lights are controlled by local switches and scene switches.  Scene switches allow multiple deck/patio lights to be turned on.

Completed

Manual soffit lights on

H

Soffit lights are 12-volt lights that wash the front and back of the Lodge in a soft glow.  The lights are controlled through an X10 outlet that turns power on/off to a transformer.  There are two transformers – one controls the front lights and the other controls the back lights.  They can be turned on/off from multiple locations in the Lodge via scene switches.

Completed

Automatic spotlight on

M

All spotlights have motion detectors that send motion information via x10 messages to the automation system. Ideally we want to automatically turn on the spotlights at night when the security system is engaged.  However testing in various weather conditions such has high winds, rain and snow shows there are lots of false motion readings.  Will probably have to tie into local weather station so sensor readings during inclement weather can be ignored to reduce false alarms.  Automatically turning on spotlights when Lodge is occupied has been ruled out since there are many times you want the lights out to see the night sky.

Completed

Christmas lights

H

Several X10 plugs have been designated for Christmas lights.  Some are located in the roof soffits, others are on the porches and decks, and others are located under windows for window lights.  These are automatically turned on at dark and turned off at 11pm each day from December 15 to January 3rd.  From November 15 to December 15 and from January 4th to February 15, they are turned on only on weekends.  There is also a plug-in X10 tabletop controller that allows manual control of these lights.

Completed

Reset timer

H

Whenever activity is detected in an outdoor area, check to see if there is a light timer on for that area.  If so, then reset the timer to start again.  For deck and spotlights use a 30 minute timer.  For soffit lights, use a 1 hour timer and do not turn the soffit lights off if any of the deck or patio lights are on.  The soffit lights should be the last lights off.

Completed

Automatic light shutoff

H

When any outdoor spotlight, patio light, deck light or soffit light is turned on manually or by the automation system, automatically shut it off after no activity has been detected in the immediate area for “n” minutes.

Completed

 


 

3.7.            Fan Control

This area covers control of all fans within the building. (attic, bathroom, paddle, humidity control, heat equalization).

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Automatically turn on attic fan when attic heats up

H

Turn on an attic venting fan when temp exceeds 90 degrees in the attic. (Note: this is controlled locally by a sensor in the fan switch and not currently connected to the home automation system). 

Completed

Automatically turn on bathroom fan if excess humidity

H

Automatically turn on the bathroom fan when excess humidity is detected due to use of a shower or Jacuzzi.  If the fan is turned off when humidity is still high, then turn fan back on again.  Allow override by turning fan off 3 times within one minute.

Completed

Automatically turn off bathroom fan

H

Turn off the bathroom fan after 5 minutes if humidity level is within acceptable range and if bathroom lights are off.  Otherwise keep fan on.

Completed

Automatically turn on paddle fans

H

The paddle fans are required in the winter to circulate heat in the great room (cathedral ceiling).  From October to April, make sure fans are on.  If fan is turned off, then turn fan back on again.  Allow override by turning fan off 3 times within one minute.

Completed

Humidity control

L

The heating system has a humidifier attached to it.  This normally keeps humidity levels between 20% - 30%.  However in extremely dry periods, humidity can drop below 20%.  During these periods, the upper level heating fan should automatically turn on to circulate the air so the humidifier can add moisture to the air.

Need to install interior humidity sensor or use weather station humidity sensor

 


 

3.8.            Heating, Air Conditioning, Hot Water

This area covers control of all heating systems, air conditioning systems and hot water systems.

 

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Monitor and correct lower level heating system

H

The lower level heating system controls a radiant slab heat system.  This system is always on year-around with a slab temperature range of 66-68 degrees in the summer and 68-70 degrees in the winter.  If the thermostat control is turned off or the temperature is set out of these ranges, then the automation system will automatically set it back into range.

Completed

Monitor and correct upper level HVAC system

H

The upper HVAC system controls a hot air heating and cooling system.   In cold weather, this system is usually on the heat mode with a range of 67-72 degrees. In hot weather, the system is usually set on the cool setting with a range of 70-74 degrees.  If the control is turned off in the winter or the temperature is set out of range, then the automation system will automatically set it to heat and put the temperature back into an acceptable range.  In the spring, summer and fall, it is possible to use both heat and AC within the same day (due to cool mountain nights).  The ideal solution would utilize outside temperature in combination with inside temperature to make decisions about how to set mode and temperature ranges for the thermostat.  When the Lodge security system is on, minimum winter temp should be 60 degrees and maximum summer temp should be 74 degrees. 

Winter logic completed. Spring, summer and fall logic needs outside thermometer readings and more coding.

Open window/door warning

L

If any windows or doors are left open for extended periods of time while the heat or AC is on, there should be some warning given.  This should be possible by examining information from the security system.

Research

Shutdown hot water tank

L

When Lodge is in secure mode and no guests are scheduled to come in, turn off hot water tank.  Problem: X10 switch burned out after a few months of use and had to be bypassed.  Need heavy duty X10 switch.

New X10 switch needed

Shutdown hot water circulator

L

Currently a circulator runs all the time giving instant hot water at all locations in the Lodge.  This circulator should be shutdown at night and when the Lodge is unoccupied to save energy.

Code needed

Install temperature sensors

L

Monitor the temperature in the upper/lower levels of the Lodge, the garage areas, the attic areas, outside air temperature, and lake water temperature.  Use this temperature information to make decisions about HVAC setting and also to alert owner if temps get out of range.  Can also post air and lake water temps on web site.

Temp sensors need to be installed and code needed

 


 

3.9.            Telephone

This area covers telephone functionality.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Multi-line phone

H

Install commercial grade, multi-line phone system with 5 handsets.

Completed

Laptop support

H

Allow laptops to be plugged into any handset for dialup access to Internet.

Completed

Track outgoing calls

H

Track length of outgoing calls for bill-back to guests.

Completed

Incoming messages

M

Install integrated messaging system, which allows access to messages via local or remote playback. 

Currently using basic message recorder.  Need to research alternatives.

 


 

3.10.        Audio

This area covers audio selection, distribution and control.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Load CD collection

M

Rip CD collection into MP3 files, store on central database server and automatically collect title and song information on CD’s from CDDB database on Internet.  Assign each song a mood rating using the Mood Logic database.

Completed

Playback CD Music

M

Build an interface to playback the CD collection using Turtle Beach Audiotron.  Playback selections should include album, specific artist, song title or genre.  Also should be able to select a song and then find all songs in the database similar to the mood of the selected song and then put these songs into a play list and play them back randomly.

Completed

Multi-zone control

M

Allow playback and volume level control to speaker pairs setup in 12 separate zones.  Allow selection of one or more zones for a single source.  Also incorporate a party mode that controls all zones centrally and locks out local control.

Completed

Multi-source audio control

M

Allow selection of other sources for audio input including satellite TV/music channels, AM/FM/XM radio or local CD player plugged into audio input jack.

Completed

Phone and doorbell volume adjust

L

Automatically adjust volume level down when phone or doorbell is ringing.

Programming complete for Doorbell.  Need more programming for telephone to mute volume.

Paging Feature

L

Allow paging to individual room, floor or entire building speakers from phone system.

Research

 

3.11.        Video

This area covers video selection, distribution and control.

Item

Priority

Description

Status

Load DVD collection

M

Load DVD collection into jukebox and store critical information such as title, production year, main stars and rating.  Possible hardware: Kenwood DV5900M, Pioneer DVF07, Sony CX870D

Research

Playback DVD movie

M

Build an interface to search DVD collection from any TV using remote. Features should include title search, star search, year search and rating search. Possible software: Currently limited to what is offered by DVD manufacturers since external control of jukebox is limited.

Research

Multi-source control

M

Allow selection and control of centralized DVD jukebox, satellite receivers, TV broadcast signal or security cameras from multiple TV sets.

Research

Phone and doorbell volume adjust

L

Automatically adjust TV volume level down when phone or doorbell is ringing.

Research

Caller ID feature

L

Display caller ID on TV screen when phone rings.  Possible solution: Home Vision CID

Research

 


 

4.   Conclusions

The automation project at Two Lakes Lodge has been both rewarding and frustrating at the same time.  Many of the sub-system manufacturers do not have adequate interfaces to allow external control of their equipment.  This is especially true for audio and video equipment.  To get external control, you have to resort to infrared controls, which are difficult to program, slow and not always reliable.

In the X10 area, the biggest missing link is the ability to know when a device has been turned on or off.  This lack of technology has forced us to use electromagnets and low voltage wiring to monitor determine if devices are off or on, adding cost and complexity to the installation process.  Some newer technology called Insteon uses RF signals along with line signals to insure the desired device command gets through, but this is still being tested at this time.

An ideal solution would be a screw in module (for lights) that sends a wireless signal when the light is turned on or turned off.  For plug-in devices, you need a module that detects a voltage increase or voltage drop and then sends a wireless signal to indicate the state change (you cannot use off/on logic here since many devices like TV sets draw some voltage when they are on).

The motion sensor technology is also primitive.  Most motion sensors are powered by 12 or 24 volts and require low voltage wiring.  In addition, motion sensors must be carefully placed so they do not see activity in adjacent areas and falsely report this activity.  The installation process requires the motion sensor to be temporarily taped up to the ceiling or wall and tested before final wiring and installation is done.

A better solution would be motion sensors that are self-powering through solar cells, and are capable of sending a wireless signal back to the automation system with a sensitivity level.  Example: A sensitivity level of 1 means far away motion was detected and a level of 10 means close motion was detected.  This would allow you to fine tune the response based on the level of motion detected and would reduce the need to move the detector all around a room to get it to act the way that you want it.

Given the state of current technology, it has been a difficult process to get a system working that does what you expect, when you expect it.  The good news is that we have accomplished most of our goals in lighting, fan control and audio control.  Our next challenge is automating our video library.  Hopefully advances in technology will make this job easier as time goes on.