Ridiculously Complicated Home Automation Made Simple

[Eric T] wrote up his insanely-comprehensive home automation setup. What started out as a method to notify him when his dog barked grew into a whole-house, Arduino-powered sensor extravaganza. We’ve previously looked at two different steps from this mammoth article. One automated his dog, the other focused on the Wink hub to bridge with commercial hardware like smart lightbulbs. Now let’s look at the project as a whole.

The basic backbone of the project is actually quite straightforward. He made a radio gateway base station out of an Arduino, a RFM69 radio unit, and an Ethernet shield that connects to a Raspberry Pi to serve up a GUI interface. The open-source home automation project OpenHAB makes it all available through browser or smartphone.

Next, he made additional sensor nodes from Arduino and RMF69 radios. These sensor nodes can all be separate from each other, which has enabled [Eric] to expand his system incrementally over time.

Modules of particular interest are the Uber Sensor and the Washer-Dryer module. For the Uber Sensor, [Eric] basically threw every sensor he could at an Arduino; it sends noise levels, light levels, motion, temperature, humidity, and presence of smoke, flame, or flammable gas. Some of these conditions trigger e-mail alerts, while others are simply stored for future perusal.

On the simpler end of the spectrum, he uses a noise-level detector to detect the end of a laundry cycle and then trigger a notification. The clever bit is that the message is automatically cleared when an attached motion detector triggers, presumably because someone’s gone to the basement to empty the dryer. Very neat.

16All of this is basically made practical and affordable by the presence of simple Arduino libraries and cheap hardware modules purchasable over Ebay. If you’re at all interested in a DIY home automation project, this offering is worth a look for inspiration and a great overview.

29 thoughts on “Ridiculously Complicated Home Automation Made Simple

  1. You can pick up small 433mhz door/window reed switches and PIR sensors with great battery life on ebay for a few bucks. This is much easier than DIY.. I managed to modify the reed switches to send a different code if the door was open vs closed with just a couple of passive components. Can also use them and replace the reed switch with whatever switch you need for other purposes. I would like to fit one out with an ESP wifi chip at one point if I could get the power consumption way down.

        1. To mod the door sensors: they use a cheap HS 1527 chip – it has 4 address pins and only one is used. There is a logic IC that is wired to trigger the 1527 when the reed switch is open. If you use a multimeter you can find a pin go high on the logic IC when the reed is closed – using a small capacitor and a couple of transistors you wire this to one of the spare address pins and it will transmit another code briefly when the reed switch closes.

    1. it works with any hardware if you get access to the protocol. i use it to control the lightning, heating, garden pond pump and even xbmc. my washing machine is monitored via a wifi plug with inbuild power monitoring and FHEM sends a push message to my handy and the tv when its finished washing. When FHEM recognises the presence of my wifes handy it will automatically turn on the heating of the bed in the evening (just on her side). the garden lights are automatically turned on depending on the current time of sunset (fetched from the internet). just a few examples what you can do and it has a huuuuge community.

      1. Hmm, OpenHAB, does all of that too. I have mine calculate the time of sunset, but it gets the weather information from the internet. I’ve set mine up to turn the lights on if I’m home when it’s dark, and then turn them off again either when I leave or when it’s no longer dark.

      2. I’ve done quite a bit of research on open home automation packages and never heard of FHEM. It looks like a good package, however I’m guessing any project that used FHEM, someone could simply say ‘Why reinvent the wheel, just use OpenHab’.

        This same system was posted on Lifehacker a while ago, and actually inspired my to change to an OpenHab system. Used his gateway code as a base for bunch of remote sensors seems to work OK.

        Don’t have anything attached to my dog yet…

  2. I won’t read further. If you needed to be notified that you were responsible for making noise that covers 9 to 16 blocks of city landscape because of a dog you need a notification from the police. That’s the way it is here. Any animal trainer would know who/what is being programed here. And it’s not a ‘duino, but it should be the dog.
    I never understand the need to be notified on the end of something that is noisy. My microwave beeper got a swatch of tape when I opened it up. Dryers are so quiet compared to most appliances. Progress!
    Laundry? Try doing it by hand, then sit back and enjoy not worrying now long…I can’t wait!
    Thermostats? How old.
    As I said yesterday, wake up to replacing everything in such a setup when nature strikes, yet alone the unthinkable. If fused they’ll be shut off otherwise they’ll run on till you pull the plug or breaker. Oh, and solar panels are great collectors of EMP. The grid ain’t the only way to get zapped.

    1. My neighbor had 2 dogs and every day he would get up and go to work. HIs dogs would start barking as soon as he left and wouldn’t stop until they heard his truck pull up after work. It took me weeks to convince him that it was his dogs that were barking because he had never heard them bark. Finally one day he parked his truck at the end of the street, snuck in and caught them.

      Besides, how cool is instrumenting your dog?

  3. I like his setup, he achieved a lot with simple things.
    I have been playing with home automation for a long time, back when getting a few I/Os from the parallel port was the thing. It seems that home automation is a strange subject….and after attempts at gateways, nodes, wireless and wired, ethernets and internets and improvements and tear downs and restarts…. i still think the best automation is the simplest solution that brings you the result.
    I mean, why would you put a light sensor that is read by a node that sends it through radio to a gateway that sends it over internet to your smart phone to tell you that you left the light on in the garage? What is wrong with a PIR sensor that turns on the light when there is someone there? This is just an example, I am not saying that everything can be done as simple as that.

    1. I think it’s important to remember this point. I have a bunch of Wave switches, a bunch of homegrown controllers and was having trouble getting my office lights automated due to lack of a neutral wire for the zWave switches. I remembered i had an old X10 switch motion sensor and RF Gateway. My office light is now automated, although separate from the rest of the HA system as I don’t currently have an X10 interface that connects with the computer.

  4. I think it’s funny that most people don’t like the idea of being tracked by a mobile telephone or being spied on but wouldn’t think twice about doing it to their own pets.
    Animals don’t deserve any privacy?

  5. I just went to HD and bought the last one of their Wink hubs. Following instructions for rooting, win8.1 and win7 wifi will not connect. It sees the Wink but hen after a while it says it cannot connect.
    I don’t use wifi via the router and it is physically turned off. The Wink has not yet connected to the Internet as I had the router RJ45 disconnected.

    Does this mean the ability to root has been blocked? Where can I go to get some help with this?


  6. This brings up a question. I wonder if you simply place sensitive microphones in various zones of the house, you could train a micro-controller to determine what’s happening simply by listening. Hell, outside you could setup triangulation with mics to determine who’s walking around or where the dog squatted.

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