Phillyman

Anyone Else Getting into Home Automation?

9 posts in this topic

Back in November 2015 when my daughter was born, I started looking into ways to control items remotely. Due to the fact that I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, our daughters crib is in the room with us. Anyone who has kids knows, when they are sleeping....you want them to stay sleeping :lol:. So I went out and bought a IP based webcam so that we could monitor her from our Iphones/Ipads without constantly opening the bedroom door and risking waking her up. Well sometimes we would put her down to sleep, and forget to turn on the white noise machine, or turn off a lamp in the bedroom. I remembered these types of devices existed....

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005MMSTNG/

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But these are very limited, they work great for something like Christmas lights that should come on at the same time each day and turn off at a certain time. I needed something that could be controlled via an App, so it could be turned on and off at will.  So I came across these devices.....

 

https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-Required-Control-Anywhere-HS100/dp/B0178IC734/

SmartPlug.jpg

Very simple device, where you connect it to your home wifi, and then you can set a schedule for devices to turn on and off. You can also manually turn them on and off thru an app on the Iphone/Ipad. So I originally got two of these, but unfortunately the noise machine when powered back on from power loss goes to a heart beat, rather than just white noise. So I put one of these on the lamp in the bedroom, and another on our box fan. This way if I lay down on my bed for a few moments and fall asleep....the lamp in the bedroom will turn off at midnight and the fan will turn on to drown out any outside noise. When Xmas rolled around, I bought a third one and had our Christmas lights turn on at 5PM and off at Midnight. Everything was great....

Then those damn commercials for Amazon Echo started playing, and I was like.....Yeah, I need a little hockey puck in my living room to answer random questions for me! So I bought one of them and set it up.....

https://www.amazon.com/All-New-Amazon-Echo-Dot-Add-Alexa-To-Any-Room/dp/B01DFKC2SO/

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You could ask Alexa fun things, like to tell you the news for the day, or what the current weather is. Then I realized that Alexa could integrate with the Smart Plugs above. Oh that is when everything changed.....Now rather than looking for my phone and opening up the App, I could simply say "Alexa, turn off the bedroom light" and poof it happened. Before I knew it I had 2 more Amazon Echo's for the bedroom and bathroom. Now I had full coverage of the Apartment and could state a command in each room and one of the three Echo's would respond. I then went further down the rabbit hole, and started looking into more of the TP-Link line up.

I came across the TP-Smart Switches, now I am not an electrician, but they were pretty easy to install.....

https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-Required-Fixtures-Anywhere-HS200/dp/B01EZV35QU/

SmartSwitch.jpg

I ended up buying two of these and installing them in the dinning room and kitchen. Again they integrated with the Amazon Echo and worked just like the plugs. Now I could control the dinning room and kitchen lights with voice commands. This also came in handy because of how dark my apartment is when I come home at night. I was frequently stepping on items Olivia had left out, all while trying to reach the dinning room light. Now I could schedule the lights in my home to turn on at 5:30, right before I get home each day.

Well I didn't stop there, I kept researching the TP-Link products.....and I found that they had wifi enabled bulbs!

https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-Dimmable-Tunable-Equivalent-LB120/dp/B01HXM8XHO/r

SmartBulb.jpgSmartBulb2.jpg

Now your asking, but you already have the lights being controlled by smart switches and the lamps by smart plugs.....why these? Well I ended up taking the smart plug off of the bedroom light and changing it to work off of a smart bulb. Going back to my daughter being in the same room, it was just too bright when the lamp would come on. So the above bulbs can still be scheduled to come on and off at specific times, however you can also control their brightness from 1-100. The bulb with the blue bottom has dimming and also changes the color of the light depending on the time of day. In the mornings the light is yellow, and as the day goes to night, the light turns more bluish to help promote sleep. This really helps with getting Olivia down at bed time, as we don't have a 60W bulb at full blast while reading books to her. We have the light set to be dim and blue at night so we can get her down more quickly :)

Now the green bottom bulb, doesn't do the yellow/blue light settings, but still does the dimming and scheduling. So I bought one of those for the bathroom and now when I wake up for work in the morning, I have a nice soft light to get ready with, rather than a retina burning regular bulb in the bathroom. The best part of all this, is you can create groups. So I have a group called "All Lights" and when I say "Alexa, Turn off All lights".....the two smart switches turn off, the two smart bulbs kick off, an the smart plug for the Xmas lights turn off.

Oh and the Alexa Echo's pair up with Bluetooth speakers, so the one in the living room is hooked up to our Bose speakers, and the one in the bathroom is hooked up to this.....

https://www.amazon.com/VicTsing-Wireless-Waterproof-Hands-Free-Speakerphone/dp/B00MYYCGKW/

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Yeah I bought a waterproof Bluetooth speaker for the shower. So I can hop into the shower and ask Alexa to play music. Awesome little device, and you can either ask Alexa to skip to the next song or turn up the volume......or you can use the buttons on the side of the unit to do the same thing.

Now I am starting to do research into the Logitech Harmony Remotes, which also tie into the Amazon Echo, and should allow me to change the TV channels by just requesting them :P

 

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I would love to, but it can be pretty expensive, and I would constantly hear my wife complaining about more gadgets, how we don't need it, and that it's just something else to break. I would love to have a Nest or Honeywell WiFi thermostat, but we apparently "don't need that". :lol:

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23 minutes ago, E-Day said:

I would love to, but it can be pretty expensive, and I would constantly hear my wife complaining about more gadgets, how we don't need it, and that it's just something else to break. I would love to have a Nest or Honeywell WiFi thermostat, but we apparently "don't need that". :lol:

See that is where we differ, you ask for permission.....I beg for forgiveness :P

 

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I'm still trying to wrap my head around how you can fit all those thousands of magazines you own into a one-bedroom apartment.  I've come to the conclusion that your "furniture" such as chairs, couch, and table must actually be constructed of stacks of old Nintendo Powers and the like.  Am I close? :P

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4 hours ago, kitsunebi77 said:

I'm still trying to wrap my head around how you can fit all those thousands of magazines you own into a one-bedroom apartment.  I've come to the conclusion that your "furniture" such as chairs, couch, and table must actually be constructed of stacks of old Nintendo Powers and the like.  Am I close? :P

Outside of my apartment is a utility room with a heavy duty shelving unit inside, the vast majority of magazines are in there, then my car has about 300-400 magazines in the trunk, then there are a few hundered magazines inside of my home, mostly stacked up between my desk and wall. I keep swearing that I am going to sell off all the duplicates and scan and dump the rest :P

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At the very least, getting those mags out of your trunk will increase your mileage.  300-400 magazines are heavy cargo.

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I went a different route for the home automation.

There are multiple brands of remote RF outlets available.  I chose the Etekcity programmable 5-packs on Amazon.  They're pretty cheap, usually under $30 US.

Next I tried the Hook, a 2015 Kickstarter now available on Amazon.  I ordered one from the crowd funding before they were available at retail.  The Hook provides the RF outlets with a web interface (computers, phones, tablets), IFTTT, and Alexa.  However, mine didn't last long.  It had far less range than advertised, was cheaply constructed, overall buggy, and died after 5 months.

Since then I've been using the Broadlink RM Pro (about $30-35 depending on source, mine came from eBay).  It is much more reliable with better range.  I've been happy with it.

There's a way to bridge Alexa with the Broadlink, but I don't care enough to bother.  Using Alexa to turn things on and off was cute for a few weeks, but after that it ended up as a "party trick" to amuse guests.

Alexa didn't quite work out for us as I had hoped.  These days it's mostly used as a voice activated alarm clock and timer, which is still pretty cool, but far less than expected.  The music playback features are far too limiting for me and it rarely has the answers to the questions I ask.

But as things are, I'm OK not using Alexa for home automation.  The scheduled events for lights and devices take care of most of our needs and pressing a button on my phone to turn something on or off is still great.

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It sounds like a lucrative field to get into.  It's like a blend of Carpentry, Computer know how and hooking up you're hi-fi.  I don't have much need for automation although I do use Teamviewer to log in to my Windows computer at home from my cellular data at work.  I sometimes let a song with a lot of bass play with all speakers faded out except the sub.  People look out on the street cause they think it's a car trunk.:)

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It sounds like it could be useful but I don't need anything like that. Besides, I couldn't control it since I never bought a cell phone. Then there's always that bit of paranoia that these devices are collecting information without your consent.

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