Home Automation

The whole concept of home automation and the Internet of Things has been a hot topic in recent years. I find that too much of this is hype and not really something that is useful and justifies the cost. I wavered on setting up a system until I could better understand what I needed to do with this technology. In other words, I wanted real problem statements that I felt justified solutions using this technology. So, over time, I formulated enough of a set of these that I felt justified the investment.

As I considered areas where I could use automation, I started to write down problems that I would really like to solve. Here are some of the most important ones that convinced me to dive into home automation.

  • I want the outside of my home in all areas to be lit at night. I want the time to turn off and turn on to be adjusted for seasons and daylight savings time to be automatically set without manual adjustments.
  • I need to water the lawn and garden. I wish to do that automatically, even if I am traveling. If it has rained the previous night or is likely to rain on a given day, I wish to cancel the watering.
  • When I am not at home, I would like to not tax the HVAC system needlessly. That means increasing the set temperature in summer and decreasing it in winter. This should be done without manual intervention since I cannot alway remember to reset the thermostat.
  • I always seem to forget to turn off my desk lamp. I would like to turn on the lamp when I sit at my desk and turn it off when I leave.
  • When I am not home, I would like to somewhat randomly turn lights on and off so that it looks like someone is at home.
  • On a few occasions, I have come home to find my garage door up due to some glitch or interference from some device. Or I have gone to bed without realizing the garage door is open. I would like to be alerted to that and be able to close the door remotely, even if not home. Additionally, I have had someone needing to get into my house and they do not have a key so remote opening of the garage door would be able to let them in.

This list is an initial set of things that led me to decide to build a home automation system to solve these problems. Additionally, once the initial investment has been made, many other things, even ones that may be just fun, can be added easily.

Perhaps the most important decision is the choice of integration platform that provides the communication between all of the sensors and devices plus the control logic to run the scenarios of automation. Many manufacturers have their own platform, but they too often only work with few devices and do not allow for any custom device control. Because of this, I chose the Home Assistant open source integrator that can interface with over 1000 devices. In addition, packages such as ESPHome allow for the development of custom devices that can be both specific and cost effective. Other pages will detail my own design and setup.