Shh! don't tell everyone, stock is hard enough to find at the moment as it is
Reg reader Ben Lamb was so impressed with how his recent Lightwave RF installation turned out, he put pinkie to keyboard to share his experiences with us. In his own words, here's how he got on. Until recently, home automation solutions were a kludge. Unless you were starting from scratch you'd have to place devices in-line …
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 05:14 GMT Sorry that handle is already taken.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 06:13 GMT Suricou Raven
I kept things simpler.
I got a little RF-controlled relay box from ebay, and a couple of plain old relays. Installed it in the loft. The RF-box is a remote-toggleable relay, and two plain relays form an XOR gate in relay logic. Add a little power supply and patch it inline with the light switch, and now I can turn my light on and off with a remote kept beside the bed.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 12:27 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: I kept things simpler.
Yes and no - for a one-off that is OK, but as soon as you have a few rooms you really need some structure in what you're doing or you'll end up with a headache. I've been remoting lights for years, but with more expensive kit. As I'm about to move to my new place I will investigate this, although I will first do a couple of tests with LED lights because I don't anticipate fitting anything else..
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 07:10 GMT madmalc
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 07:48 GMT Simulacra75
My own experience
I've had a Vera 2 setup for a couple of years (Z-Wave based automation) and have found it to be pretty hit-and-miss in terms of connectivity between the Vera unit and the remote Z-Wave devices (plugs and relay switches). About a year ago i found that i could buy an RFXtrx433 transceiver (£80 approx) that would plug directly into my Vera unit and this could control Lightwave RF devices.
Haven't looked back since then. Lightwave RF devices are generally cheaper than their Z-Wave equivalents and they are a piece of piss to setup with little or no faffing about. I've also found them to be 100% reliable in use, i.e., when you turn something on, it actually comes on. My Z-Wave devices were not as reliable at all (Fibraro relay switch been the only exception). Using the Home Buddy app on my BB Z10 I can control all of the devices on my network from anywhere. Personally I would recommend Lightwave RF to anyone wanting to dabble in this(do not work for, nor am I affiliated with them in any way).
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 07:50 GMT jake
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 08:22 GMT Anonymous Coward
Is it an internet thing? That otherwise quite sensible people do this, I mean?
I think it's great that you've been using X10 kit to do this since the 80's. Please write an article about it so we can all see how. That'd be really adding value and improving people's lives.
However, posting "whatever" isn't doing that, really. It's just being a curmudgeon for no apparent reason. What's pretty clear to me (and probably to you) is that this article on how to start automating your home wasn't for you, because you've already automated your home.
It's not limited to home automation. Is that an article on a possible iWatch? Cue seventy-four people with nothing better to do than tell us that it'll fail because they don't wear watches so obviously nobody does. Could that be an article on Windows 8 Update? Why don't a million commentards all say "lol still not ever going to use it ever" because that's really helpful for all those who are using it? Oh wait, they already did.
If an article is clearly not for you (for example, an article on Ubuntu is not for TheVogon and an article on Windows Phone is not for Bob Vistakin or wouldn't be if he ever posted about anything else) then... let it go. Just let it go.
Is that so hard?
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 08:38 GMT jake
@ambiguous coward (was: Re: Whatever.)
Home automation ain't exactly news, which was my point.
I know it's a red-top, but it's also supposedly a tech site. I am responding to ElReg, not the commantards of the world. Seems to me that I'm allowed. If I wasn't, ElReg would have booted me years ago. Don't like that concept? Pardon me while I giggle :-)
 Seriously, ElReg, fix the time-stamp. Which AC am I answering, exactly?
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 10:49 GMT I ain't Spartacus
Re: @ambiguous coward (was: Whatever.)
Home automation ain't exactly news, which was my point.
Of course home automation is news. That's like saying that "the honking-great-database-and-transactions problem was solved 50 years ago - so why are you still reporting on this market?".
If someone comes along and does something better, then that's news. Better can mean many things. It can mean technically better - although home automation is mostly technically simple. It can also mean cheaper or easier to use.
Easy to use is a good thing, even for people well versed in the technology. There's no merit in going with something that's hard to use just because you understand it. That's just childishly showing-off your technical skills. Unless the harder to use tech is better in some way.
Plus things don't have to be new to go in there. Home automation is something I've not thought about for a couple of years - so it was interesting to see what's available. I don't personally see the point of controlling lights. But I do see the point with heating. Which is something I'd like to investigate for my Mum's house - the heating in my place is irredeemably craptastic sadly.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 12:06 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: @ambiguous coward (was: Whatever.)
"Home automation ain't exactly news, which was my point."
IPv6 isn't exactly news. Let's not write anything about that either.
Cloud computing isn't exactly news. That's the end of those articles.
Tablets aren't exactly news. Nothing more about them.
Heartbleed isn't exactly news any more. No more articles on that.
I love that jake's been controlling his X10 system from his phone since the 80s, but not everyone's as technically ahead of the game as jake. And let's face it, he hates EVERYTHING, so why anyone's even slightly surprised that he dislikes this article is as hard to fathom as why he wastes his time reading this site at all, when 100% of the content is beneath him,
Lovely guy, sure he's great fun in real life too.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 12:06 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: @ambiguous coward (was: Whatever.)
This was never posted as a "news" story. It was a diary piece of one person's conversion to simple home automation using a home built solution. This included using off the shelf gear, arduino gear and a custom app - all quite interesting.
That doesn't make it any less relevant to the community, having an article showing how to set up a simple SQL cluster with replication to the cloud may not be new but it may appeal to some people who are looking at a simple redundant system without hiring in a DBA.
In any case, there is unlikely to be any news story that you would not have done something similar in the past or done something better using kit knocked up in your back yard, jake. You're just one of those guys - some might say fantasist, others may use stronger language but looking at some of your post and how technically inept they are I would be tempted to go with the latter.
PS. If you want to know which AC you are replying to just hit the reply button under their post. You then get a handy arrow back to their post - not too hard is it?
Tuesday 6th May 2014 20:11 GMT Alan Brown
Is X10 sill limited to 256 devices or whatever it was last time I looked?
(16 channels, 16 devices per channel, intended to be used one channel per home. Every single X10 installation I saw in the USA was using at least 40 devices thanks to individually controlled lights and wall outlets.
The downside at the time was that 230V kit was 5-10 times the price of 110V stuff and all the contemporary rivals required running a separate data wire to every control point.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 07:57 GMT Anonymous Coward
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 11:03 GMT I ain't Spartacus
Re: Child Labour
The problems with children, over radio controlled solid state devices are many. You've already covered expense and reliability. But we also have to consider that children have higher power requirements, are considerably noisier in operation, and much more easily lost even than the most wayward of remote controls. Even the remote for my speakers, which I keep finding in my pocket when I'm at work...
So far children only win out on fun during manufacturing - although I think you may have forgotten the remainder of the 9 month construction period, not to mention the at least 5 years of installation before they're tall enough to reach the switch. Pus the fact that you can eat them if you're feeling peckish...
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 08:35 GMT Robin Bradshaw
Do what with an unauthenticated protocol
Its all well and good until some cock uses an arduino/rtlsdr/cc430 etc to sniff the remote ID and and them make your house look like close encounters of the third kind turning everything on and off randomly.
Seriously would some form of security really have killed them?
If anyone had this near me I would be that cock just for the lulz :)
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 10:31 GMT Irongut
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 16:43 GMT Mpeler
Re: Do what with an unauthenticated protocol
Great idea...then again, there's always the Homewrecker Virus...
(From LA Times back in 1993 - heyyyyy, wasn't X10 around then?)
The thing is, now that home automation equipment prices have come down (partially) from stratospheric levels, we might see something like this, or someone doing card stunts using people's garage doors
(How does UCLA get its students? Westwood Su-ks them in....)....
Don't even want to think about (not-so) smart meters being interfaced into all that....
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 08:50 GMT Lui-g
..and soon will do heating control too!
I coincidently only discovered LightwaveRF just one week ago, and I've already scattered wall sockets & remote units, throughout the house. It just seems to work, which is more than can be said for most tech. Even the wife approves!
Mind you, not super cheap, as the prices quickly add up, but between the "Siemmens" range at B& Q, and the lightwave RF at Amazon & Maplin, you can get some good deals.
Most interesting is that very soon (supposedly May/June '14) they are adding radiator valves, remote boiler switches & remote thermostatic switches! This makes it all much more interesting. So ONE system could control the lot: lights, plugs & heating.
In my limited experience, the official App (Android/iOS) is OK so far, but there's room for improvement - unusually, the Android App is almost exactly the same as its iOS counterpart.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 09:12 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: ..and soon will do heating control too!
"So ONE system could control the lot: lights, plugs & heating."
This has been feasible for a while. But lets be clear that this is about some fairly minimal convenience issues, not saving either money or the planet. Real cash benefits are pretty low if you've taken the sensible step of insulating your house, you're running an optimal mix of energy efficient lighting and appliances, and you manage your heating sensibly with a cheap-enough timer and programmeable thermostat.
Zoning the heating probably has the biggest impact, but even then a medium sized detached house would typically be costing around £500 for hot water and heating per year. £100 is water heating, so the zoning reduces the heat losses only of the £400 (and with a small offset if the HW tank is upstairs and you're zoning that off). At times of peak heat demand most people would typically want the whole house heating (if not, they'd probably be better off moving to an appropriate sized house). So chances are that installing power operated radiator valves will save only about 10-15% of the space heat demand, say £60 a year. Buy them and fit them yourself and you'd have a three year payback (assuming you hack your own controls rather than buy an expensive proprietary hub), but if you use a plumber to fit them then you're looking at ten years or more to payback, possibly never.
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 15:50 GMT Cynic_999
Re: ..and soon will do heating control too!
Automated heating opens a fair number of possibilities for saving cost, mainly by making it easier to tell the system when the house will be unoccupied and by what time it needs to be warm again, allowing a program to work out when the boiler can be switched off and when it needs to be activated to achieve that. A control panel by the front door or on a phone app, for example, could be used to tell the system "We're all going out now, we expect to return at X time" or "Leaving now, will send a message from my phone 30 minutes before we get back". Few people would bother reprogramming their heating timer if going out for a few hours, and won't switch the heating off because it will mean returning to a cold house, but if they could hit a couple of buttons on the way out the door, would probably do so.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 09:17 GMT Blacklight
Sponsored by Virgin Media....
I say that as the heating controls have been "coming soon" for quite some time.
I've got LWRF for some devices (couple of lights and a relay to override the central heating system) - but have a variety of gadgets now running in the house on various protocols, and used OpenRemote to tie them all together - have a look (www.openremote.com for the commercial app, and www.openremote.org for the opensource variant). Note that it's a command interface/state tracker, not an actual controller, but it can talk to almost anything you throw at it - and they can sell you a box to run it on (I have mine on an HP microserver).
I started out with HomeEasy kit for lights, and now have Philips Hue, LightwaveRF, Globalcache iTach and other IP enabled kit all talking to it happily :)
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 09:30 GMT John Brown (no body)
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 10:05 GMT Steve Foster
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 10:20 GMT BristolBachelor
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 23:22 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: A blue LED indicates the light is on
"However, since the "switch" is only connected by 2-wires, it is in series with the bulb. If the bulb is dead, there will be no circuit, and therefore the switch will also be dead with no LEDs."
Excuse my ignorance, but if a working bulb is off meaning no completion of circuit how would the LED be lit? If everything is working ok and the light is switched off then surely there is no circuit then either?
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 13:06 GMT Swarthy
Re: A blue LED indicates the light is on (@BristolBachelor)
Why does two wires imply series? If that were the case than ALL of the power to the bulb would be going through that poor LED (unless the LED was on the 'return side, in which case it could be feasible) if done in parallel, however, the circuit could be maintained when the bulb is blown, or even switched off.
Seeing as how there is some nifty networking gear there to turn on the light, I am going to assume that the Electrical Engineers that designed it have a good idea about wiring up a light switch; that includes wiring in parallel.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 11:35 GMT MaXimaN
LWRF vs Z-Wave
Like @Simulacra75, I have a Vera Lite and a plethora (or phalanx, or whatever the plural is for Z-Wave devices) of Z-Wave devices - all of which work flawlessly, except for a couple of Fibaro Dimmer modules in 2-wire mode. Those with a 3-wire configuration work well. A tip to anyone having connectivity/reliability problems with Z-Wave: do run a network "heal" whenever you add a new device, especially battery-powered devices like sensors.
I have the RfxTrx433 USB module that supports 433MHz protocols such as LWRF and currently use that to receive data from three Oregon Scientific temperature sensors and an OWL CM119 energy meter.
I also use it to randomly switch a neighbour's LWRF light on and off whenever I feel like it. Which is often.
And there's the rub with LWRF - no security. I can control *any* LWRF devices in range, including those that are not in my house. And although the LWRF protocol has two-way capability, many of the cheaper devices don't utilise this in order to keep costs down. So while you can switch something on and off, you can't tell what its current status is.
Despite being pricier (sometimes double the price of LWRF devices) I'd recommend going down the Z-Wave route, and getting an RfxTrx433 for cheap sensors and controlling non-critical features that don't require security. The range of devices for Z-Wave is on a par with that for LWRF including radiator valves, boiler control, etc. but with one exception: light switches and plug sockets. There are a few retrofit switches and dimmers but no retrofit UK plug sockets yet. You can still control these using Z-Wave switching modules, but these need to be put inside the pattress box behind the faceplate - which is a problem if you only have 15mm boxes (the most common depth in UK house builds). So breakout the hammer drill and Dremel, or fit the module in the attic for upstairs rooms.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 13:18 GMT Anonymous Coward
Great, made it more accessible
I've often thought about doing this, but never really got round to it. Your article about using an arduino and a £3 quid RF transmitter (link supplied) made me make the jump!
Quick question, when you press on one of the dimmer switch buttons, does it transmit the id code? Along with say a value for the dimness?
Then to change it, you just send that back with altered values (in specific format as per arduino lightwave api)?
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 16:29 GMT MaXimaN
Re: Great, made it more accessible
LWRF (and the cheaper 433MHz variant) dimmer switches will not transmit anything - they only receive. So the Arduino code can only send a new value each time and hope the switch received it. If someone physically switches the light off then when the Arduino transmits a dimmer value it should switch on the light and dim it to that value.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 14:01 GMT Fink-Nottle
I had been considering LightwaveRF sockets recently. However, I was disappointed to see from Amazon.uk reviews that the sockets have a high failure rate - perhaps related to the quality of the socket components.
I'd be interested in any commentard's long-term experience with these sockets.
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 16:36 GMT LordHighFixer
and pretty with the little indicator LEDs.
I however have also been using X10 since before the dawn of time. Have the scripts run out of cron on the central server. In the morning the coffee starts before the lights gently raise to full brightness, then the alarm clock starts. If for some reason the alarm hasn't roused me from my dreams of vulture central the lights start flashing. Buts look great for the neighbors at 5 am. In the evening at dusk the lights in the house start on their pre-programmed routine, moving from room to room going on and off and finally warning me by doing a big blinkey dance that it is time for sleep. Motion detectors, day light detectors, light switches, dimmers, high and low power relays. It is all in there.
But I would fancy some nice shiny chrome plated wall plates ;)
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 19:53 GMT Mattrbailey25
Light Wave RF Voice controlled
I've had Lightwave RF for about a year now and never looked back. I had a look at all the other options and then walked into B&Q, with lightwave on the shelf and the possibility to return them if they didn't work, I couldn't say no.
JSJS forums are also great and they actively encourage hacks and out of the box ideas. New products are always in the pipeline, but can be slow to come to market.
I was wondering if anyone has actually got the SIRI relay working, this allows you to control all your light wave devices from SIRI!! I read plenty of posts saying the SIRI relay was removed, but plenty of youtube videos showing it working. Would be great if someone can confirm
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 07:35 GMT Mattrbailey25
Re: Light Wave RF Voice controlled
On further reading from the RF forums the new thermostats might not run on 443mhz. So the above solution will not be able to control them,
"The current LightwaveRF heating controls, like most of the German components these are based on, use 868Mhz rather than the 433.92Mhz band that most of the LightwaveRF components use. I haven’t seen anything which states categorically that the upcoming heating system uses 868Mhz so I guess we will have to wait and see. Certainly if it does, then the RFXtrx433 will not work with it. As for alternatives? I’m not sure. There are other heating systems available which use 868Mhz and provide PC control (the Conrad FS-20/FHT80b type system that I have for example). Whether this could be repurposed to work with LightwaveRF I don’t know."
It doesn't look like RFXtrx have a 868Mhz Transceiver. See this forum thread for more info;
Tuesday 22nd April 2014 23:18 GMT Dodgy Geezer
...Stumbling into bed in the dark is now a thing of the past – as is reaching over my wife to turn off the bedside light. I went the extra mile and for another £25 purchased an in-line unit that plugs into a wall socket and then plugs the bedside light into that...
In the 1950s my parents' house had twin (or triple) switches by the door for main and bedside lights, and doubles at each side of the bed for dual control of the aforementioned units.
All done with very little computing power indeed...
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 14:18 GMT Gordon 10
Vari-light IR dimmer switches
For simple work it from the sofa tasks - I think Vari-Light IR dimmers are hard to beat as they work with any IR learning remote. John Lewis also sold them as their own brand.
Most of my house is set up with them. Living and Bedroom are controlled from a Harmony and an All-In-One remote respectively. The Harmony is great and its powerful enough to be bounced off 2 walls to reach the switch - the all in one is a one wall/Line of Sight gizmo.
Any of the modern androids with an IR port would also probably work.
In both cases I can control switches that I dont have ideal LOS to.
You get also get a Vari-light remote that can control up to 8 switches but its a bit more feeble and is LOS only.
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 15:21 GMT Nick Ryan
I am far from a luddite (maybe rather closer to a closet tech-geek), but why do the damn interfaces on these things have to be so awful?
It is much nicer to use a push on/off rotating dimmer switch compared to dual function up / down buttons. I hate button re-use with a passion, it makes for some of the worst interfaces. It's not as if switches have to mechanically control the circuit therefore a digital rotating control, perhaps with a mechanical stop, and a push on/off button is not hard. And get rid of the bloody LEDs. I have too many of these things glowing away for no readily useful reason and while a nice subtle LED lighting a switch in a dark room isn't an entirely bad thing, a "burn your eyes out it's so bright" blue LED is what tends to get fitted these days.
And as for the remotes... the cheapest, nastiest, OEM remotes with... wait for it... dual function barely explicably captioned (icon'd) buttons. Gits.
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 17:28 GMT Joefish
"get started for less than £100"
A few years ago, B&Q had a great range where you got a remote and three plug-in sockets for about £25. They still roll out a slightly re-worked pack for around £20 every time the christmas lights go on sale. The original line-up also included doorbells with remote triggers, locks, waterproof outdoor sockets, remote-enabled wall socket and switch faceplates and (my farvourite) a stick-on dual lightswitch that's actually a battery-operated remote. I have one of these on the bed for remotely operating the lights.
Occasionally there are problems, usually if two receivers are right next to each other in a multi-way extension, but other than that they've been great. Also allowed me to use two standing lamps in a lounge with energy-saving bulbs rather than replace the landlord's ridiculous multi-bulb chandeliers.
Sadly they ditched the whole range and only later got in something far, far more expensive. Only recently has the Siemens set-up started to offer something decent at the bottom end, with the pack of 3 basic remote on/off plug-ins down from £40 to £20. But at £35 to replace one wall light switch? Come on, behave.
Thursday 24th April 2014 08:38 GMT nedge2k
Done this myself recently but I opted for a more integrated approach - a NanodeRF (arduino clone) which has built-in RF and Ethernet - so it can accept commands directly without the need for a dedicated computer to relay commands. I literally built it in the first instance to turn the bedroom light into a "sunrise alarm" during the winter but the plan in the future is to have a Harmony-esque control structure - i.e. you assign devices to activites - and have it all configurable on the fly. Long way off though! Here's my code for anyone interested: https://codebender.cc/sketch:27612