The home automation system of my house (the controller or brain of the house)

Smart home controller

Written by Mariete

Feb 21, 2018

Updated: May 21, 2020 @ 14:39

I have been involved in home automation for more than 20 years, designing, manufacturing, installing, testing, configuring and integrating different technologies. Throughout these years I have been assembling a quite complete and complex home automation system, using various technologies. Today I am going to present it to you from a bird's eye view, to give you an idea, going into depth in other articles dedicated to each subsystem.

Broadly speaking, my home automation system includes the following main elements (I'm sure I forgot some, because there are many):

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As the main home control software I use the HomeSeer software on a small, dedicated, low-power PC with no fans. This software (really complete) is in charge of the main automations, schedules, scenes, voice synthesis, etc. He is also in charge of communications with the ZWave devices installed in the house (switches, light regulators, interior door sensors, temperature, humidity and lighting sensors, etc, etc).

 

 

 

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Node-RED is one of the most useful IBM software and I use it mainly to integrate different technologies, as a middleware. We could say that it is the "communications concentrate" of the different systems in the house. It is like a protocol translator and is also in charge of storing the information in databases to later, for example, create graphs with that data. For example, when HomeSeer detects that the alarm has been triggered, apart from performing different actions on devices that have to do with security and notifications through voice synthesis (depending on the type of alarm in question, the time at which that has jumped, the people who are at home at that time, etc.) gives the order to Node-RED to send us a message by Telegram with all the details of what has happened.

 

 

Node-RED is also responsible for receiving the data via radio frequency from some of the sensors installed in the house, through a special receiver connected to one of its usb ports, and communicating this data to HomeSeer or sending it via MQTT. Many sensors, such as those for electricity and gas consumption, temperatures, bluetooth sniffers, etc. They send their data to Node-RED to process them and send the information where it comes from (HomeSeer, databases, other devices, etc.).

 

A very important advantage of Nodered is that it needs very few resources to function. I have it installed on a Raspberry PI 3, which it shares with the MQTT server, and some other services, and it has power to spare.

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Mosquitto is the MQTT server of the house and it is installed on a Raspberry PI 3, which it shares with Node-RED. It receives MQTT messages from all devices in the house and forwards them to those who subscribe to them.

There is little more to say about it. He does his important work in silence and does not give problems or ask for food.

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It is the main database, where long-term data from all sensors and systems are stored. It is installed on a Raspberry PI 2 and works great.

 

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WeeWX is the weather station software (a Davis Vantage Pro 2 connected to one of the Raspberry PI 2 usb ports it is installed on) and is responsible for storing, processing and consolidating weather data and sending it to the web server (a VPS hosted by the Strato company) where the station's weather website resides. With the help of the Meteotemplate package, create the beautiful pages that you can see in the Meteo section of this website.

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Grafana is the program in charge of creating the graphics and data panels of the home automation system. It is installed in a Docker container on one of the NAS (a Synology).

 

It is the perfect complement for the visualization of the data stored in the InfluxDB database of all sensors and systems.

OpenTherm gateway (OTGW)

OpenTherm gateway (OTGW) is the device connected to the gas boiler that provides heating and hot water to the home. It allows access to the boiler data, programming, status, usage statistics, and perform actions such as changing the desired temperature from the home automation system based on needs, house occupancy, weather data, etc. always trying to save on the gas bill by providing an adequate comfort level to the inhabitants of the house.

Sharing the PC with HomeSeer, there is software that communicates with the boiler and sends its data through MQTT to the rest of the systems. It is also capable of receiving orders, through MQTT, for boiler control.

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OpenSprinkler is a programmer and controller of eight irrigation zones, controlled by HomeSeer, which is in charge of controlling the irrigation of outdoor plants, calculating their needs based on meteorological data, always trying to save water and maintain an optimal level of health of the plants. It is 100% automated so that it is even able to use the weather forecast to decide to cancel watering if it is going to rain in the next few hours and the plant is going to hold up.

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Blue Iris: Running in a VMWare virtual machine on the main PC, this video surveillance software receives the images from all the cameras installed in the house, processes and stores them, detecting, for example, movement in the images, which it communicates to HomeSeer, to perform certain actions related to comprehensive security, combining the data with that provided by the alarm and other sensors.

 

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Among the elements that make up the electrical energy management of the home, this system, part of the OpenEnergyMonitor project, is responsible for reading the data on electricity consumption, directly on the electrical panel of the four main circuits of the home (Total, air conditioning , kitchen power, and power plugs) and communicate them to Nodered, which in turn sends them to the database for storage and to the rest of the system for intelligent use (for example, if the power consumption is very high, You can turn off the air conditioning or other elements of the high consumption house to prevent the limiter from jumping.)

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The home alarm is a Visonic Powermax Pro, wireless, autonomous and independent system, which works without depending on the rest of the home automation system. On the HomeSeer PC, and sharing it with him, a small software called Visonic Driver, communicates with it and provides data on its status, detections, alarms, etc. to the rest of the system sending them through MQTT. Furthermore, the system can arm the alarm, disarm it, etc. In this way, we can also access information, arm and disarm the alarm from control panels, mobiles and tablets (and even from home TVs), etc.

Summary

This has been a small presentation of the "brain" of the house. Of course, in addition to these smart elements, there is an army of sensors and actuators providing information and executing orders. In another post I will talk about some of them.

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