In the Pirkinning (if you don't get
don't blame me for lost time)
Home Automation has always been a curious craving of mine. Having the
ability to have lights turn on and off, blinds open and close, home theater
come to life, and more all at the press of a button has become more of a
reality than ever. Granted I don't have all those items described working or
have the parts to do so but I've finally begun to get somewhere with it.
Prior to the fire I had an ISY controlling a single Insteon device and a WeMo Switch. This time around I mistakenly ordered the Insteon 2413U PLM to get started and realized it wasn't the model that paired with the ISY.
Since I hadn't ordered the ISY yet I began looking for alternatives. I tried
several software platforms trying to stick with free, ideally open source,
options whenever possible.
Fast forward to near present day
By late 2014 I had gotten the INSTEON 2413U working with iSmartenIt on a Raspberry Pi. I used the Pi and
software with the ZBPLM as well which allowed the use of a Zigbee bulb I had
picked up. During the first six months I got to make a few discoveries (some
of which I had already known) about various devices I had in my collection.
By this point I had a fair investment into Insteon devices but kept my
options open. Affordability is always a concern but I want reliability,
relative security, and flexibility so nothing terribly proprietary. This
also moved me away from the Pi as my host for the software. For tinkering
the Pi is great but for power, speed, and performance you can't beat a NUC
or other small form factor PC. Even a modern Celeron will easily outpace the
Pi since it'll support 4GB or more RAM (4GB is *plenty* typically) and a
real SSD of some sort, not a flash card which often have far fewer write
cycles than a typical SSD.
A couple mistakes along the way
I won't say the ZBPLM was a mistake because it allowed to me try Zigbee
while working with Insteon but it turns out the ZBPLM is powerline only and
not dual band (with RF) like other Insteon devices (though the Zigbee part
is RF). More of a mistake was getting an Insteon ToggleLinc (I'm getting
closer to yanking it out). I wanted a dimmer switch that looked like a
normal switch. Well, ToggleLinc is powerline only too! Makes connectivity a
pain in the ass but I have a fairly solid work around. The last hardware
mistake was getting the Insteon Hub 2245-222. Talk about a piece of crap!
Fortunately I got it at the beginning of the year at an introductory price.
That particular Hub pretty much *requires* cloud connectivity which isn't
ideal for controlling your home AT home. Some automation software can talk
to that hub but the hassle is not worth the time.
Fast forward through most of 2015
For the most part I was content with iSmartenIt on the Raspberry Pi. It
worked with my Insteon devices. It supported pairing which is great because
the normal pairing prodedure is dumber than it needs to be and it allowed to
schedule device actions and create custom sequences. The most limiting
factor was it really only supported Insteon (and Zigbee with the ZBPLM).
During the time I used the software I made repeated attempts to use other
software either on the Pi or on another Linux machine. I went back and forth
trying to get OpenHAB 1.7.1 and 2.0 (alpha, beta, whatever) going. Tried
HomeGenie with pretty much every beta and posted in the forums. Insteon
never worked with it. OpenRemote hadn't seen an update in forever so it was
scrapped from the project table. HomeSeer runs on Linux but support for
various protocols required non free plugins and the interface was a kludge.
Now the end of 2015
Through persistence and IRC I had already been camping in #openhab and for
humor's sake tried /join #insteon. Lo and behold the channel had been
created by "swiss" and we chatted. Managed to turn him on to OpenHAB which
he had working rather promptly. Color me jealous but he then helped me out
and I discovered through his help the absolute simplest of mistakes! All the
information *after* a statement in the main config file had to be deleted.
That was it! (This issue was resolved in the 1.8 series) I was on my way
with OpenHAB. Kept iSmartenIt running for another week or longer while I
played with OH and finally swapped the PLM and am now on my way to a
virtually limitless home automation! So if you're new to home automation or
Insteon start with a 2413U PLM and OpenHAB. Once you've configured everything
you'll find nothing compares. If you have questoins hop onto
irc.freenode.net and join #openhab and #insteon. People will be happy to
2016 and keep moving forward!
I haven't had the money to add more Insteon stuff yet but I have added a Particle Photon with a DHT11 running MQTT and played a bit more with MQTT. It is a great
protocol for getting things done on the cheap and while the DHT11 aren't the
most accurate you can get several for less than $5. Get one of the better
ESP8266 Boards (coming soon!) and whatever sensors you like. The sky is the
limit with OpenHAB. In
addition I have integrated a few devices of my choice with the Amazon Echo.
The ability to give limited control to my devices is far more secure than
most cloud based options. Usually all or nothing. On top of all that I have
started using OpenHAB at work as well! Being able to remotely turn on the
air compressor and monitor the temperature in the store is handy. At least
until we get a real thermostat of some sort. My future plans are to have
automated switches at work as well to create scenes for entry and exit. To
infinity and beyond! (That's not trademarked right?)
Oh so recently Amazon had a CRAZY good deal on a 4 pack of Insteon 2477D paddle style dimmers so I got those
added in to my system. Only quirk that is easy to overcome is making sure
the switch is on at full load (not dimmed or off) when adding to the system
and they'll work flawlessly. Being dual band means I don't have to do any
trickery like that cursed ToggleLinc mentioned above.
Beyond that, I'm looking forward to adding in some Insteon Micro Modules soon. They're small enough to fit behind existing
switches and just a few bucks less than a full blown switch. Not to mention
the preferred switches are paddle style and you can't aesthetically put one
Some more goodies for anyone passing by: I'm more than
happy to share what I've learned to better things for the good of man even
if I get nothing in return but thank you to anyone using the Amazon links or
allowing my few hopefully not annoying ads.
When the page is ready I'll have links to my items
and descriptions in OpenHAB as well as a putting up my Arduino
examples here and there.
Fall 2017 - the Zwave experience
Okay, so I finally took the plunge and got some Zwave devices. And when comparing to Insteon with the PLM.... well, what a joke! Many Insteon users have the crappy hub or possibly an ISY controller with the serial PLM and that can leave a bad impression. The USB (technically USB to serial) PLM on a modern PC with OpenHAB blows those out of the water. So what's wrong with Zwave? RF only. Many Insteon devices are dual band meaning they use powerlines AND RF to talk to each other and repeat signals. Zwave is only RF and in my house we use rock wool insulation which butchers RF and hampers the range on Zwave. At 40 feet line of sight I couldn't connect to the GE switches I had bought. The plug in module in the same room as the USB Zwave adapter picked up but couldn't be moved further away. I moved the home automation system to the attached garage where the switches were and after power cycling them several times I was able to get them both detected. Not even *close* to Insteon ease of linking. Oh, and these are ALL Zwave Plus devices so they're better right? Nope!
So beyond that I've finally migrated to OpenHAB 2.* and it wasn't without a fight. I had to run (and still do) snapshots rather than official release to get everything to run stable. And we're closing in on 2018. I should divide this into another page or two because there's so much! Oh, did you want to hear about the WiFi fan? You probably don't. Trust me. That piece of crap is going back.
Spring 2018 - the Zwave experience continued
Is Zwave with OpenHAB maturing?! I added a Zwave switch that would work with normal face plates instead of needing paddle covers. Still using the aforementioned snapshot and waiting for the 2.3 release before upgrading. But this time around adding the switch was easy. Maybe it helped to have a couple established devices. The only trivial concern is the hum from the lights when I turn them on or off but that is gone within a few seconds. Turns out the LED light I was hoping to be able to dim is in fact not dimmable so I setup the dimmer as a switch instead. Needless to say I may actually add more Zwave devices in the future. For now though I have a ton of extra Insteon stuff I'm trying to use.
Closing out 2018
There's just no killing off my Insteon stuff. Added six more switches and an outdoor plug in module and they all work flawlessly. Also picked up a pair of the new Wemo outlet plugs to take care of some holiday lighting needs which just reinforced why I hate RF and Wifi only devices. Zwave is probably okay if you have a ton of devices to communicate with each other but dual band Insteon just works so damned well. Why aren't others using the tech?! Maybe a licensing issue. Just sad to see such limited availability and not enough information for new users to setup outside the pushed cloud only crappy hub. There was at one time a networked PLM if I'm not mistaken. Why not produce a "pro" hub? Something with true local control. Keep your house out of the cloud and fully in your control with or without an Internet connection!!
Did somebody mention 2019?
We are now into March of 2019 and the fun never stops! Getting started on the offgrid greenhouse project. I have a few solar panels, charge controller, some LifePo4 batteries and other toys all setup. And yes, it's automated! To a degree at least. The charge controller speaks MODBUS, an ancient yet common protocol, which allows me to connect with a USB to RS485 adapter (for now) and collect data via a Raspberry Pi 3. The data is acquired via Python script and submitted to my OpenHAB box over MQTT. From there I've been able to display the data in a chart and monitor in OH. This allows me to trigger events based on battery level or charging output. Also hooked up a Wemos D1 Mini with a relay and waterproof temp sensor also using MQTT to send/receive from OH making everything just work together. Can't beat that with 30 different systems. The fun part was needing to crawl under the house and put an AP within better range of the greenhouse area to improve the signal. Thankfully the Ubiquiti UAP series comes with their own PoE injector. Running a single cable beats the crap out of needing to find a way to run power too!
All the Amazon links for stuff I use and recommend
Zwave USB controller - disregard the reviews. Stupid easy to use, no license required.
Zwave toggle with dimming
Insteon 2413U PLM - a must have for full control without a cloud connection.
Insteon Micro Modules
Insteon 2477D - the all important dual band switches I use everywhere!.
Wemo outlet - these new ones are decent with the slim form factor.
Wemo Insight - these are great if you want to monitor the power consumption.
Ubiquiti AP - great AP for cost effective and easy deployment.