What do YOU do with your home automation


Staff member
Since we have many new members (and several people lately have been asking me what good HA can do), we should start a thread which shows what we are doing with our home automation, and why! You don't have to list everything (such as the very basic lighting control), but try to focus on things which are more unique/useful). For the obvious reasons, don't reveal too many details about your security setup :)
  • Medication reminder: the system will remind me when the next medication has to be taken. It is set to remind me every 5 hours, and only remind me if there is motion once past the minimum 5 hours (in case I fell asleep or I am not home). It will keep reminding me every 15 minutes until I reset the timer. I use a big red button remote (KR15A), hit it once to announce how much time remaining until next dose, hit it again within 5 seconds to reset the timer. Works great!
  • Monitor garage door status: issue reminders every 15 minutes when the door is open, send out an email when the door has been open for more than 15 minutes AND the car is not in the garage.
  • Monitor Freezer doors: announce when a door has been open for longer than 60 seconds, using DS10A wireless door/window sensors (still being tuned).
  • IR control: mute all audio equipment and TV's when the phone rings, so the Caller-ID announcement can be heard. Turn on PiP/Twin View when there is motion outside, or the garage door opens, showing a live camera feed. Also mute all audio systems if there is a high priority announcement (such as as the medication reminder), unmute once the announcement has been made.
  • Monitor Water Softener: I tend to forget to refill the tank with salt, so this system will remind me that I am almost out, and need to purchase more. It eventually will become part of the 'shopping list generator' project.
  • Monitor washer & dryer: Since the appliances are in the basement, it is hard to hear the buzzer. So the system will announce when the washer/dryer starts (sometimes, I forget to turn the dryer on after switching a load), and when they are done. Very WAF friendly! Check this how-to if you are interested in learning more about this setup.
  • Kitchen cabinet lights: Turn on the kitchen cabinet lights whenever someone is in the kitchen. I use a combination of pressure sensors and motion sensors, works pretty well.
  • Car starter: I built a cradle for my remote keyfob, so my system can control the remote starter by activating a solenoid. My system will start the car every morning after I wake up (using time restrictions and motion detectors), so it is all nice and warm when I am ready to leave for work. I am planning on adding the outside temperature as a condition so it can decide if it should start the car a few minutes before I leave (summer) or if it should start it 15-20 minutes in advance (winter).
  • System announcements: Medication reminder, CNN breaking news, weather alerts, amber alert, caller ID, appliance status, garage door status, event reminders, good morning function, good night function, mouse activity and trap activation, driveway motion detected, etc.
  • Closet lighting: Automatically turn on the lights on/off whenever entering a walk-in closet, using DS10A door/window sensors.
  • Car status: Using a motion sensor in my car, the house will know when the car is parked in the garage or when I am on the road. This allows the system to trigger certain events when I arrive home, including announcing "honey, I'm home" to make sure I don't scare the wife when I arrive home from work a little earlier than expected. I am going to switch to the palm pad based system soon (details posted in BSR's latest how-to).
  • Garage door control: Using my Ocelot and a SECU-16 module, I can control my garage door, allowing me to open it remotely (i.e. web, cell phone, etc.), or close it automatically if it is after midnight and I forgot to close it (and somehow missed the security announcements).
  • Battery recharger: My system monitors how much time I spend in my shop, and based on that starts a recharging cycle for my all my battery powered equipment once I leave the area.
Of course, there is much more, but this is what I consider the most important stuff and makes a big difference. Don't be shy, even if you are using Active Home Pro, or a hardware controller, I want to hear about it, we have to inspire people!
I may be forgetting a lot, but, here is what I can recall right now...

Turn on light [in laundry room | over kitchen sink | in foyer | in master bedroom] when there is motion.

Announce reminders for:

Picking up kids from practice.
Taking the trash out.
A kitchen timer implemented with a table-top controller that has buttons labeled for various time values (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 45, 60 minutes).

Wake me up for work (not on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays) by speaking a wake up announcement, then, after motion is detected in the master bedroom, announce the temperature and the weather forecast.

Turning on essential lights and A/V equipment when someone returns home, announce how many calls were received while people were gone, and what the last persons CID info was. I also have my system send my mobile phone text messages that contain CID info as calls come in when no one is home. I also get messages if motion detectors or door/window switches are activated.

When someone is home and a phone call comes in, any playing audio is paused and the CID info is spoken.

Close blinds, if open, at sunset.

Turn on porch light at sunset and off at sunrise.

Turn on table lamp in living room at sunset so pets can see if no one is home. :)

Custom doorbell sounds (also implemented a system so that the bell can't be triggered more than once every 30 seconds :( ).

Snap a picture of the person ringing the doorbell, and, send a text message to mobile phone if no one is home.
all the automation information is great..

If its not a lot to ask for..

I think all the newbies like me will apreciate if you describe your home automation equipment (hardware, software, wired, wireless) and how you got to do all the automation your are explaining.

thanks for all your help and ideas

This info will also helpfull to have an estimate on home automation budgets and costs.
Yeah E where are the how-to's for each of your bullit points? Just kidding... many of those ideas are explained in the various threads as well as the Homeseer forums.

As for me I use my Now Playing graphical front end that was created using Netremote to control my 5 zone whole house audio system capable of playing independent tracks to all zones at the same time. I have now migrated from Homeseer to Girder 5 which handles all my automation functions now. From Girder 5 I control all the audio equipment with an IR controller called Slink-e. The Slink-e interface supports 8 independant IR zones as well as the Sony slink serial interface. Now Playing runs on Fujitsu 3400 Touch Screen Pen Tablet PC's as well as my Dell Axim PPC and the desktop PC's throughout the house. I have a total of 1300 watts RMS of power that rocks the house. My 850 CD library is stored on a Maxor 250GB harddrive using a lossless format called APE and are organized with J River's Media Center which is directly supported by Netremote. The zones are muted when a call comes in and soon will be un-muted when the phone is hung up.

I also control my home theatre system with Girder 5 and the Slink-e. I prefer a tactile button remote for movie watching but I do have macros within my MX-500 remote that will setup all the equipment for a DVD to watch as well as turn down the lighting via an X10 signal to a IR. I use the IR543 interface to send the IR command to Girder 5 via X10.

For X10 control I use a Powerlinc USB interface (faster and more reliable than the CM11A I used to have).

I also use some X10 RF from motion sensors, DS10's and Palmpads. I use the W800 Reciever for this (way superior to the MR26 interface that I had in range and speed as well as supporting the DS10's). Several lights in the basement and laundry room are automated to turn off after a period of inactivity but are still turned on manually. Only a couple turn on when you enter the room. We found this a good compromise in certain cases.

For Caller ID I use the NetcallerID box ($12 shipped) and the NetcallerID Girder plugin. The caller ID information is announced using the Text To Speak with the voice of 'Paul'. It also gets sent to my desktop via the YAC program and lastly it wakes up the Fujitsu monitor, pops up a caller ID log panel within the Netrmote Now Playing screens and displays the call as well as the scrollable call log.

I also have my dryer finished routine announce that the clothes are dry (nice WAF project). I am almost done with my 'voice activated switch' washing 'the machine is done' project. For the dryer I use a CR Magnetics current sensor and X10 Powerflash to monitor the running current of the dryer. The washing machine is a bit tuffer as the current is harder to detect as it goes on and off with the wash cycle. My machine also has no lights to monitor but it does have a buzzer. So with a sound activated switch circuit I will detect the loud buzz and use a digital input via the joystick port to trigger the announcment.

I use the Hobbyboard 1 wire hub and modules to read temp around the house.

Well thats a few of my projects. I also have some of the ideas the others have posted as well like the reminder to take the trash out. I need to hook it up to a shock collar for my son to wear for it to do any good though... hahahaha

First, thanks to all on this board for all the information
and inspiration. I learn something here every day.

I started the HA project in a newly purchased home so I had
some time to prepare things before moving in. I installed a structured
wiring backbone and it's made all my HA efforts a real pleasure.
Setting up new components and more importantly, making changes, is a
breeze. Each drop has 3 Cat 5E's, 3 RG6 quad shield (coax), one
4/14 audio cable, and one multimode fiber (Yes, I doubt the fiber
will ever get used but it didn't add much to the cost).

I'm currently using Homeseer 1.7. I love the product but I'm a
bit concerned about the direction of the product line. I've heard the
new version has an almost 100% thin client (browser based) UI, which I
see as a big step backwards.

The applications I have running so far are:

- Whole house audio

Caller ID and reminders are running so far. I'll add on music
as soon I decide on how I want to do the front end. My guess at this
point is it will involve MainLobby, which looks like a really
great product.

- Security system

I'm currently using activeeye motion sensors along with D10A
door/window sensors. These talk to the HA computer via a WGL800

At some point, I intend to replace the wireless sensors with a wired
setup for better reliability. I'm trying to decide between the HA Omni
and the Elk M1 Gold panels.

- House lighting

Using the wireless sensors and a combination of smarthome and
leviton X10 equipment the house is setup where most lights turn on
and off automatically.

- Appliance monitor

Using powerflash modules and some CR Magnetics devices,
announcements trigger when the washer and dryer have completed their
cycle. I got the details on how to do this from the outstanding
"how-to" document on this site. Thanks!

- Oven monitor

Using 1-wire sensors to monitor my smokers.

Applications in progress are:

- CCTV integration

Exterior door security cameras will trigger on doorbell or motion
sensors. The trigger will turn on VCR/PVR record and/or switch the TV to
the relevant camera source.

I also want to used zoned IR here so that not all TV's (actually, set top
boxes) will switch when the doorbell rings (my wife hates the idea).
I plan on using xantech for the IR backbone, USB-UIRT for PC->IR interface,
and channel vision modulators.

- Better analog sensors

Since the 1-wire thermos are only good up to about 250 F I
need to replace them with thermocouples. I'd also like to add
in humidity monitoring for use in meat and cheese curing.

Thanks again for the great board.
Well, I'm running Homeseer and other stuff here. I use HA for a lot of similar duties as above, but there are a few that no one has mentioned.

The requisit lighting controls, of course, have been taken a step further. My front walk and garage lights are on HS control. I should mention that my garage lighting is a length of rope lights tucked behind the fascia up over the garage door. They give off enough light to be a gentle glow and it looks great from the street, as you don't see the rope lights.

At dusk they are turned on, off at 11:30pm or whatever I program. However, they are activated when motion is detected, and further, if the front door is then unlocked and opened, the inside foyer light is turned on as well, assuming we are coming in late. Big WAF points!!

HS runs my sprinklers. I have an Oregon Scientific weather station that uses a rain guage. Based on rain over the last three days, HS determines if there has been enough rain nightly and scheudles the sprinklers or not. When the sprinklers run, since i have a racheting valve (one of six zones at a time), I have HS run an event that turns the sprinklers on and off six times, to rachet through all zones. This is handled all automatically in the early hours of the morning, so we don't have to worry about getting caught during the day!

Of course, HS announces all kinds of things, like when my son has to be ready for work (he works retail). He works different hours based on a changing weekly schedule. If he inputs something other than the "normal" schedule, he'll get announcements at different times.

The Jetson's doorbell is played when someone comes up the walk. They don't have to touch the doorbell button.

HS handles the IR via an Ocelot for all my A/V gear - three stacks in different rooms. I feed the IR out over the house RF cable system, and peel off the emitters in each room. This allows use of my custom web pages, IR, HS events, HSTV, and Touchpad inputs for the A/V gear management and control.

Garage door auto closure is a good thing... though I rarely leave the garage door open, HS watchdogs it for me. I have switches set up so HS cannot open the door - it has to be opened by an RF garage door unit or the internal button. But once open, HS can close the door. When the door opens, HS announces to the house that, "Someone is opening the garage door." It then says the garage door is open every minute or so the door is open. When the door is closed, it also announces that. And if the door is open too long, say more than an hour, HS announces it is closing it, rings a warning buzzer in the garage and closed the door.

If the door doesn't close, HS keep strying. If the door isn't closed after 5 attempts, HS sends an SMS or email out to my cell phone or work email accounts. I also have some functions allowing me to disable the announcements (as well as the motion detector "Garage Motion" announcements) when I'm working out there, for higher WAF.

I have Ninja tilt-pan bases for my cameras that are controlled through the web and HS for some of my webcams. I'm working on getting those all online now. HS also grabs captured stills from some cameras when motion is detected, saving about two minutes' worth of snapshots to show who and what triggered the motion detectors. Great for who's at the front door pop-ups.

CallerID announcements, complete with picture pop-ups for known callers, willuse NetCallerID box when I get that working, and sends pics to Audreys in the house. It also announces the callers.

HS also integrates with my alarm system for zone status and triggers. I use that for lighting as well as door and window triggers for HS events.

Not HS related, I use a CyberGenie for my phone system at the moment. It takes messages for each user in the house and automatically forwards them to their email box on an internal server as a wav file.

And I finally got my cell phone interface working again, where HS has it's own cell phone for SMS in- and outbound interactive messaging, but the software seems to slow HS down so that's back ont he drawing board. If I can get the source code, maybe I can fix it.

More to come!!
OK huggy I can't get in my mind how you have that rope light situated in your garage. Do you have a picture. I use that rope light above my cabinets and I really like that look.
I actually did that for Christmas, it does look great, and it helps big time when using a night cam as that little bit of light will be enough to light the area up. I was thinking about installing it permanently as well, they are cheap to run, and easy to install (behind the siding connecting to the trim around the garage door opening), I just wasn't sure if it would look strange without any other christmas lighting ;)
Ah ha. On the outside duh! I had in my mind set on the inside of the garage for some reason. I have 3 extra ropes I bought at Sam's. I wish I had an exterior plug near that area. As a matter of fact this might look good all the way around the house. Mounted under the fascia and near the overhang you wouldn't be able to see the rope at all.
My own system is still in development and is about 75% "complete". I use an Ocelot as my main controller with add on modules for input and output to do things like stop the central vacuum and ring the doorbell again if someone rang it while the vacuum was running. I also control lighting including a simulation routine when we're absent and the alarm is armed. Other more mundane tasks include controlling the pool filter, outside lighting, etc. automatically.

Energy management is also a main function, controlling loads like the water heater if the electricity is at the high price rate. Full HVAC activity logging is also done.

I have a self built alarm system that communicates over X10 with the Ocelot and other X10 devices. I can trigger X10 macros from the alarm panel.

I also have a self built phone system that communicates directly with the Ocelot as if it were a slave controller. The phone system supports Caller ID, extension to extension calls, a full IVR scripting language to create a voice mail system that can send emails, attach messages, control any Ocelot controlled device or, in return, verbalize data. Also supported are ADSI phones (ie: Vista 350 display phones) where I can create user text menus to do things like schedule PVR recordings, display temperatures, etc.

There is a self built TV display system that appears on it own channel to display information.

Among future projects is an Ocelot to RCS thermostat interface where the Ocelot can send Text messages to the TR-40.
I forgot to mention that I run Winamp for audio and use the Browseamp plugin for it to control it from anywhere in the house/world.

I also have a touch screen in my front hall that runs everything (including the music), and I use a PocketPC to control it on-the-go. The touch screen was a freeby from a friend; I just had to pick up another PC to run it ($100).

Here is my equipment list...

PowerHome Control Software, $70
CM11A Interface, $50? (got it in a starter kit)
X-10 Light Switches, $13 ea.
X-10 Lamp Modules, $13 ea.
X-10 Appliance Modules, $13 ea.

USB-UIRT USB IR Controller, $50
X-10 IR Powermids, $40 + $20 for additional senders

WGL W800RF32 RF Receiver, $75
X-10 DS10A Door/Window Sensors, $10 ea. (just got 4 or 6 for $20 at x10.com)
X-10 PalmPads, $20 ea. (just got 4 or 6 for $20 at x10.com)
X-10 Stick-a-Switches, $20 ea. (just got 4 or 6 for $20 at x10.com)
X-10 Motion Sensors, $15 ea.

Radio Shack Phoneline Audio/Video Distribution System, $100

Security Cameras
Philips Magnavox PM61760 (wired), $29 each
4-channel video switcher (home made), $40
Generic USB video input device, $70

Cepia PowerEase Blind Controllers, $8-15 each
CID modem, $50 (I bought this before I knew about the cheaper methods!)

My system will never be considered complete! ;)
same here, I also would like to know if it is really beneficial to turn the water heater off i.e. at night, since it has to work pretty hard to get it back up to normal temperature once you turn it back on.
BSR, In our province, we have a special electricity rate plan available for people with dual fuel heating systems where your main source is electric and your alternate is non-electric. My main heat source is a heat pump, with an oil furnace as the non-electric source. With that plan, they install a special meter with two sets of registers and a temperature probe. As long as the outside temperature is above -12 C (about +10 F) you pay a lower electricity rate then regular customers (in US$, thats about 3 cents/kWh vs about 5 cents/kWh). And that's for all your electricity, year round. But...when the outside temp falls below -12, the other set of dials on the meter are used and the rate jumps up to about 12 cents/kWh! The meter also provides a 24Vac output that automatically switches your heating over to the non-electric source and an indicator light comes on to show you that you are at the high rate. The whole idea behind this is to get those cusotmers to deliberately cut down on high energy usage when the cost of electricity production becomes higher due to peak demand. I find this system to be very comprehensive and well thought out.

Now for the HA angle: I also have that 24 Vac signal power another small relay thats connected to a SECU16 input so that my Ocelot "knows" that the high rate is on. Aside from displaying the information and turning off certain outside lights earlier, I also cut off power to the (electric) water heater if the time is past 8 PM and the high rate is on. The idea is that there is enough hot water in the tank for that evening's use, and I'll let it recover only in the morning after 10 AM when the temperature is usually high enough again (or the sun has come around and is shining on the meter probe...) or whenever the high rate goes off during the night. I also let it heat water for a half hour or until a temperature probe against the tank (also going to a SECU16 input) shows that there is enough hot water for that early morning's use. This is timed to happen in the half hour before we get up. This still saves money since recovering a full 60 US gal water heater takes about 3 hours.
Guy might have an energy plan like I do - certain times of day the electricity is cheaper. I haven't taken advantage of that fact, but it raises my interest to think about my current thermostat setback strategy. It might make economic sense to time the raise temp when the electricity is cheaper....another project to research!!!