Category Archives: home automation
This blog entry covers the Loxone kit that has been installed in the newer part of the property. You will find a separate blog entry here for the Loxone kit in the older part of the house.
The main distribution board for the property is on the left. The electricity meter is just on the other side of this wall. The three distribution boxes house the Loxone kit. These are the same Hagar units that we used in the other part of the house.
The top distribution board has a Loxone Relay extension in it. This has no switch inputs, but has a number of switched outputs. This is required as there are so many lighting circuits in this part of the house (the kitchen alone has 7 lighting circuits). The next module is an 8V 1A Friedland door bell transformer which is used to operate the door latch release on the back door. This is activated using a key fob, fob reader and One Wire Loxone extender. Although the Loxone Extension units can output 10V, there is not enough current to operate a door latch. Lastly, in this top distribution board, there are a number of breakers that would not fit into the main distribution board.
The middle distribution board houses the TDK 24v power supply for the Loxone kit, a single Loxone Extension and a Loxone Dimmer. The dimmer will centrally dim up to 4 separate lighting circuits.
The bottom distribution board houses another 2 Loxone Extensions as well as a DMX controller and a One Wire Extension.
At the very top of the unit, is the receiver for the Owl Intuition smart meter. This connects wirelessly to the transmitter on the other side of the wall (connected to the electric meter) and is this connect to the Internet via out network. This posts up data on our electricity usage every 15-20 seconds. You will find more about this here or on the Owl Intuition website.
A couple of people have asked what the Loxone installation actually looks like and I realised that I hadn’t posted any photos since the installation had been completed.
The Loxone kit operates as two “stars” that are linked together. One of the stars is in the older part of the building and one of the stars is in the new extension. The main electricity feed comes into the new part of the building, but this then feeds a distribution board in the older part of the building. While it sounds complex, it is actually straightforward.
To make things a little easier to understand, I will go through the set up of each of the node separately. Let’s start with the node in the older part of the property. You will find Part 2 of this subject here that covers the newer part of the house.
The Loxone kit is house in two Hagar cabinets. While they are a little expensive, they fitted in the space that I had and will comply with building and electrical regulations. The top unit houses a TDK 24v supply, the Loxone miniserver and an extension. The bottom unit houses another extension, a dimmer unit and an RS-232 module (to connect to the burglar alarm).
The TDK power supply is feed by a switched fuse spur and the power to the Loxone kit is fed by two further switched fuse spurs. This means that all the Loxone kit can be power up, but the 240v power supplied to the mini-server, extension units and dimmer can be switched off separately.
We are using Cat5 cabling for all of the light switches. All of the cables from the light switches terminate in a Cat5 patch panel. It is then a simple case of making up a “fly lead” to go from the patch panel and connect it to the relevant Loxone unit. The cable at the light switch is terminated using a standard RJ-45 plug. This means that it is a straight connection from the plug at the light switch through to the patch panel. This makes it very easy to test and also means that we can easily change the switches at a later date by just making up a new fly lead to connect to the Loxone kit.
All of the network connections are terminated in one of two patch panels. There is one on top and one below the Netgear switch. The TP link router connects to the switch and then patch leads are used to connect the relevant network ports to the Netgear switch. We are using Schneider switches through the property and the stainless steel covers are a push fit. If you lift the plate off, there is a label on the inside that indicates which port in the patch panel it connects to.
There is a telephone panel underneath. This takes the incoming telephone line and splits it into 4 outgoing RJ-45 connections. It is a simple task to connect a network port in one of the rooms to a spare telephone port. You need an adapter at the telephone end to convert the Rj-45 socket into something you can plug a UK telephone into. This makes it very easy to more the telephone points around.
Or rather why we aren’t controlling the ground source heat pump!
A ground source heat pump extracts heat out of the ground to heat the house. It works most effectively once the house has reached it’s target temperature. At this point, the heat pump just trickles heat into the building to ensure that it stays at the set temperature. In fact, it will often use additional energy from an immersion heater to get the house to it’s set temperature.
It can take a long time for the fabric of the house to warm up – in our case, it took a couple of weeks from a standing start. However, I still suspect that the fabric of the house is warming up and drying out. Let’s not forget that only a few months ago this building was open to the elements.
With this in mind, the NIBE engineer has told me to set the heat pump going and not to change it according to a schedule, or even when we go away on holidays. If we were away for a few days, there would be little point in turning the heating off – it would take 3-4 days to cool down and then 3-4 days to warm up. And we would probably use more energy in the process than we would if we just left it on all the time. Let’s not forget with no one here, the windows and doors stay shut and the house is well insulated. So heat loss would be a minimum.
It does, however, make sense to turn the hot water off. It only takes around an hour to generate a full tank of hot water and that is from a standing start. If the tank was full of hot water when it was turned off, it might only take 30 minutes to warm up depending on how long it had been turned off for. I need to investigate how we can achieve this. More updates later.
In terms of the other controls, we may control the secondary hot water pump (this pumps the hot water around the property to ensure that you get hot water out of the tap within a couple of seconds) and the valves for the towel rail circuits (there are two – one of the old part of the property and one for the new). It will be very straightforward to control these using the Loxone kit. We can set up schedules, over ride buttons as well as being able to access the controls remotely.
But other than that, there is little to control on the heat pump. We have installed the latest software on the heat pump and this is automatically control the flow rates of the pumps to the underfloor heating and ground loops. There are thermostats in all of the rooms that control the zone heating. It would be straightforward to replace these with temperature sensors and actuators controlled by the Loxone kit, but it would have little benefit over what is already installed (re-badged Heat Miser units from NuHeat).
We have most of the Loxone kit now in place. Our original intention was to purely use the Loxone kit to control the lighting. Since we were re-wiring the property from scratch, this was a great opportunity to do things differently. All of the lights switches are wired back to a central computer that then controls the lights. Unlike most houses in the UK, there is no direct connection between the light switch and the light – this is achieved by programming the computer. So changing what light switches do is just a case of reprogramming – no rewiring required.
We currently have around 47 lighting circuits (excluding LED strips) controlled via 27 switches (plus iPads, iPhone and laptops). Each lighting circuit may have more than one light, but all the lights are controlled together. This seems like a large number of lights, but there are 6 circuits alone in the hall (dimmable downlights, LED staircase lights, LED parapet wall lights, dimmable feature light that hangs between the porch and the hall, a set of LEDs along the foot of the stairs, and finally, a lighting circuit in a floor box that controls a lamp on the hall table). There are 4 circuits in the lounge and another 5 in the kitchen. If that sounds complicated, it gets a lot easier as one switch can be programmed to control more than one lighting circuit – you could have one switch that turns on all 6 circuits in the hall on at the same time.
In addition, there are a further 5 circuits to control the each of the extractor fans in each of the bathrooms. This means that we can set the time that the fan runs for after the light has been switched off. The timing could even be changed depending on the time of day (e.g. maybe you don’t want the extractor to come on after midnight).
There are another 6 circuits that are then used to open and close three banks of rooflights (2 in the lounge and 1 in the kitchen). These could be linked to a rain sensor or a wind sensor. In our case, the rooflights are closed when the alarm is set.
At the moment, we have all the lighting (and extractor fans) plus the rooflights controlled via the Loxone kit.
When we set out on this renovation, I thought if we could achieve the above, we would be happy. In fact, we have achieved more than I thought. So I am more than happy.
But now we have the kit in place, we try some further experiments. These include:
- Integration with a Texecom alarm (e.g. using the PIR sensors to turn on lights, closing rooflights when the alarm is set);
- Using outdoor proximity sensors to turn out outside floodlights (or even lighting in the house if no one is home);
- Controlling access to the house using key fobs and an electronic latch release;
- Controlling some elements of the heating system. We have a ground source heat pump, so there is little point controlling the output, but we can control some of the hot water pumps (we have a secondary hot water pump for part of the building).
We have managed to get this far fairly easily. There has been a little trial and error in terms of the programming, but we have got there. It is interesting to watch how visitors react to the technology – it is one of the features of the property that seems to have people talking. It will be interesting to see what happens as we add more features.
The key to all of this is keeping it simple. Any fool can make things complicated. It is much harder to make things simple. I suspect that this is where many home automation projects go wrong – they become too hard to use (except by the person that built it!). Please don’t let me fall into that trap!
There are 3 sets of rooflights in the extension (in addition to the Veluxes in the bathrooms). There is one set of rooflights in the kitchen and two sets in the lounge. Each set has 5 panes – 2 of which open. Because of the height of the ceilings, these need to be electrically controlled.
The 3 sets of rooflights cost around £6,000. They came with very cheap plastic rocker switches – a bit disappointing given the cost of the windows. We have replaced these and decided to control them using the Loxone kitchen. This means that they can be controlled via switches in the house or remotely via an iPad/iPhone/PC. This gives us the opportunity to automate the opening/closing of the rooflights – e.g. opening when a set temperature inside the property is reached or closing the rooflights when the burglar alarm is set.
Interestingly, the attention was for the Loxone kit to only control the lights, but since we have installed it we have found a number of other uses for it.
We now have a light sensor connected to the lighting computer. This means that we can programme the lights so that they come on after dark and turn off during the day.
It is another relatively cost effective piece of kit from Loxone. The main issue was climbing on the roof to fix it in position. We have sited it on the small apex at the rear of the property (away from any street lighting or security floodlights).
It is connected to the Loxone kit using Cat5e cable. One pair of wires is used to supply it with 24v. Another pair of wires send back data on the light level (as a 0-10v signal). This is then connected to one of the Loxone’s analogue inputs.
We now have lights in the older part of the property. We have had them for a week or so, but now we have light switches to turn them on! Previously, we had to revert to using an iPad to turn the lights on and off. Bizarrely, I could turn the lights on and off anywhere in the world – except (apparently) the room that I was in as there was no light switch. It doesn’t take long for the novelty of having to use an iPad all the time to wear off. And before you ask, yes, you can use an iPhone too! See previous post for information on the web interface.
In this part of the building alone, there are around 20 lighting circuits (a lighting circuit is a group of lights controlled by a switch) and about the same number of light switches.
Today we have installed all of the light switches and, after a bit of messing about, the switches do seem to control the right lights (most of the time). Since the mapping between lights and switches is done in software, we can always modify the arrangement later on (unlike in a conventional system). We had to reprogram a few of the switches, but all in all, it went pretty well. We have removed the stainless steel front plates from the switches. This allows the rooms to be decorated without getting paint on the switches (and still being able to turn the lights on and off). For more information, see previous post on light switches.
As well as the lights, the bathroom extractor fans are also controlled by the lighting computer. This means that we can configure the system so that the extractor fans do not come on after midnight (say) as this might disturb others in the house.
In the upstairs bathroom, there are two lighting circuits. One controls that main lights (and turns on the fan). The other controls the LED lights in the shelf and along the plinth for the bath. This circuit does not turn the fan on. This means that you can have a bath and just turn the LED lights on without having the fan running.
Yep, we managed to turn our first set of lights on today. We have installed around 25 lighting circuits in the older part of the property and today we managed to use the Loxone kit to power up the lights.
It was right at the end of a long day, so we only had 10-15 minutes to try it out. But we had 80% of the lighting circuits working in our first attempt! We haven’t got any of the light switches installed, so we were using an iPad to wander around the building turning the different lights on and off. I know it sounds trivial, but this is a major step forward!
Tomorrow we will try to get the rest of the lights working in this part of the building.
Well, we have the Loxone system installed. There is power to the units in the older part of the building. This will be only half of the system as the other half will be installed in the plant room in the new extension. But with this half of the system powered up, we can get the system configured.
The configuration was done over the weekend. The electrician has connected each of the lighting circuits to the Loxone system. I then mapped all of the lighting circuits against the rooms in which there are installed. The lighting circuits do not have any power to them and the light switches haven’t been installed. However, we can use the interface on the iPad to turn the lighting circuits on and off. Although there is no power to the circuits, you can hear the relays (the electronic switches) clicking on and off.
Using the interface on the iPad helps to confirm that the configuration is correct. It also helps highlight any lighting circuits that haven’t been assigned to a room.
The next stage is to connect the light fittings and then we will be able to turn lights on and off using the iPad. Then we can get the light switches installed.
While work is progressing on the first fix electrics in the extension, we are starting to terminate the cables for the lighting switches. All of the cables of the lighting and data will terminate in patch panel. This allows us to easily test all of the connectivity as well as being able to reconfigure the cabling at a later data.
There are 19 lighting switches in the older part of the building. The cables will terminate in a single 24 port patch panel. Patch leads will then connect the relevant port to the correct connection on the lighting computer.
The data connections will terminate in two 24 port patch panels since there are more than 24 data connections in this part of the building. These will be connected to a Netgear network switch that will be connected to the broadband route to provide wired Internet access into each of the rooms. There will be a second Netgear switch in the extension and the two switches will be connected together.
It will probably take a few days to get all of this connectivity working!