Bill’s 100 Year-Old Smart Home

[Bill]  purchased a house in Central Florida, and like any good hacker, he started renovating, pulling Ethernet cables, and automating things. Lucky for us, he decided to write up his experiences and lessons learned. He found a few problems along the way, like old renovations that compromised the structure of the pool house. After getting the structural problems sorted, he started installing Insteon smart switches. If automated lighting is of interest, and you don’t want to wire up relays yourself, Insteon might be the way to go.

He linked the buildings together with a wireless bridge, and then worked out how to automatically reset the PoE switch when the wireless bridge hangs, automating that recovery process. For your viewing pleasure, he even has one of the security cameras streaming 24/7 online.

His blog looks like a good resource to keep an eye on, and we wouldn’t be surprised to have more of his work show up here on Hackaday. For more home automation goodness, check out some of our previous articles on the subject.

30 thoughts on “Bill’s 100 Year-Old Smart Home

    1. Probably since to the average USian a 100 year old building is really special and “part of history”. To most of the rest of the world it’s just old (whether rightly so or not).

      1. That is largely because the US hasn’t been around but about 230 years (counting from 1787 when the current constitution was signed into effect) old. That’s significantly younger than most of those countries who consider 100 years to be a drop in the bucket.

        1. There’s been settlements in the US since waaay before that though and there’s no reason to limit to when the constitution was signed. If we do the same for German it’s only 204, 147, 100, or 73 depending on when you start counting the government as the modern German state (maybe as far back as the 1650s as the Holy Roman Empire since it was largely the same area as the modern state?). Florida is actually the location of the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement which was started in 1536.

      1. This. The snarky responses surprise me, given how difficult it is to add modern technology to a home built a century or more ago. Wiring of any kind is an expensive challenge (just getting to it, let alone getting new wire vertically through crazy, irregular, and often overbuilt partitions). Even my home, built in 1960 (pre-national-code days), has 2×4 cross-braces (often two per stud bay) in every wall, with the electrical wiring stapled to the studs with zero slack. That makes it hard/impractical to run new wire with fish tape OR to use existing wires to pull new. This means cutting access holes in thicker-than-modern-standard sheetrock, then patching it up and repainting. I can only imagine how “creative” you’d have to get on an even older home.

        1. I feel you, my house was built in 1954, and pretty much never updated. Has the original galvanized water pipes and the original fuse box with thread-in fuses (both are slated to be replaced once I have enough equity), and to top it off the walls are all lath and plaster so if I had to run any new wires or anything I’d be pretty much boned on making it look right. Good news is the wiring is in great shape, and the attic and crawlspace are easily accessible so running stuff under the house won’t be difficult.

        2. Heh, our house was built in 1832. The walls are three courses of brick thick, with plaster applied directly to it. Luckily we can get into the attic, and the basement, so running cable wasn’t too terrible, if you don’t mind the surface mounted wire chases upstairs.

    1. “It’s practically a new build here in the UK.”

      Well, sort of… Only 35% of UK housing stock was built prior to 1919*, which is still quite a lot when you think about it. Presumably a far greater percentage than in the USA. Regardless of where old houses are most prevalent, I’d wager that the issues involved in re-wiring etc. will be similar though.

      *https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/724359/Stock_condition.pdf

    2. I agree, in Europe, buildings 100 years old are nothing special…

      Only yesterday I bought beer from a brewery that claims to have been around since 1040, ok, not the same company, but the brewery in that place… So if that’s true, they were already brewing beer there for 452 years when Columbus set sail in 1492. Even if that’s not quite true, they know their stuff, the beer is high quality. :)

      1. [Urban Legend?]
        Or the Scandinavian metal company that submitted a bid for a U.S. Government project…
        They were called and asked if they won the contract, would they be around to complete it.
        Their reply was to the effect, “We’re 3 times older than your Government, will you be around to receive it?”

    1. That “outdoor” installation on the boat dock though… exposing a wifi switch, among other electronics, to the elements like that? Had me cringing (although maybe the climate over there is always dry and never frosty..?)

      1. I wonder why he didn’t use a toughswitch? I would have at least mounted up a little higher in the trusses. As long as it doesn’t get rained on, it should be fine. I’ve had switches running in unconditioned outdoor spaces for years with no issues.

  1. I must be really tired – I honestly assumed it’s about Bill Gates sharing his experience of building a smart home XD
    … maybe because the house appeared to be a huge mansion at first glance…

  2. I’ve had Insteon (and X10), not in love with power line communications (though Insteon does have wireless communication also). The major issues were that the modules died with the drop-of-a-hat. I’ve since switched to ZigBee, ZWave and WiFi devices. Interesting thing is that I can pickup the ZigBee and ZWave at the local Home Depot and Lowes.

    1. I have had a number of X-10 modules die, but often find replacements at 2nd hand stores for cheap.
      And although I haven’t repaired any failed modules, yet, AIUI, it often a simple repair.
      I might have to put one of those capacitive bridges in my mains panel someday.

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