Wednesday 30 November 2016

Goodbye X10 home automation

The time has come to bid farewell to X10 home automation for me. Slowly over the past year the devices have started to malfunction, switch modules stopped responding, transmitted events from my CM11 computer interface got weaker and weaker and the whole X10 alarm system was just a joke from the start.
So it's now time for me to ditch X10 completely, shutdown my heyu software (on linux) and disconnect the old CM11 unit from the serial port on my server.
It's been used for a long time, in this house and my last house, and to be fair it's done a good job over the years as it was a decent system early on in home automation days (10 yrs ago). It's main issue was the way the modules connected to the mains supply and watched for power-line signals to carry the on/off commands. Often those commands were missed due to other electrical noise on the wire (clothing dryer on, hairdryer, etc), and because most of the modules weren't two-way they couldn't tell the sender that the command had worked or not, so you just had to fire the commands blindly.

Now onto the current system, which I'm afraid isn't currently much better, but it has a bit more potential and more importantly has a cheaper cost. I'm using the 433Mhz unbranded RF system. This is available in most high street shops as 'remote plugs' where you get a little 4-channel remote and 2 or 3 plugs. Plug your appliance into them and use the remote to send an ON or OFF signal to them. Again they're not 2-way so fire and forget, but the cost is dramatically reduced when you can buy the pack for around £15 (A single switch module for X10 used to be more like £25 each).

The 433Mhz is common to Arduino and other development boards, so I've coded up a board with transmitter and receiver to do my tasks for me, and although I do sometimes get missed events, it's proving decent. I've not really done much on distance yet but that will come soon.

So the tasks it has to do for me:

  • Front room uplighter - This is on and off on a timer sequence controlled by my linux server to match dusk time (light level from external sensor) and then turn off at predetermined times
  • External garage lighting - Downlighters to illuminate the exterior of the house and garage, again using dusk time and then daylight.
  • Power to wifi AP - to control when the 'guest' wifi network is available.
  • Misc power - Christmas lights probably going to be the next use for this


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