Looks like I was a little optimistic about the WiFi in the house reaching the greenhouse! Although my iPhone was showing 1 bar on the house WiFi, the Ubibot sensor could only hold onto the signal for about an hour or so. Clearly, the WiFi from the house was at it’s limit. Time to invest in an outdoor WiFi access point!
I updated our internal WiFi access points (we have 3) in the house last year to TP-Link EAP225. There are three of them in different parts of the house. These were installed about a year ago and we have been pleased with the performance. See here. However, they do need to be rebooted every 2-3 months. After this period, they don’t appear to be able to hold a connection for any significant period of time. I have the latest firmware installed on them, but this hasn’t fixed the problem. Rebooting them does the trick! Maybe a future update will fix this issue.
I decided to use the outdoor version of the new WiFi access points that we are using inside the house. The first unit arrived quickly from Amazon. Unfortunately, it was DOA and had to be returned – the green light on the POE injector went out every time that the EAP was plugged in. Not good. I tried different cables. I even tried different POE injectors. Same result. Like a flat tyre that I put on three different wheels. It was still flat!
The replacement unit arrived next day.
I think longer term the right place to install this unit is actually in the greenhouse itself. This will keep it out of the worst of the weather and I have a conduit installed to the greenhouse. It should be straightforward to run an Ethernet cable out to the unit and power it using POE. But for now, I am just going to install it temporarily to see how well it performs.
Well, with the Corona Virus lockdown in full swing, it is time to get on with those jobs that have been hanging around for a while.
Next up: New WiFi access points.
While trying to fix an issue with a laptop on our wired network yesterday, I spotted that a number of devices connected to our network switch were connected at 100M rather than 1000M. In fact, this was the problem with the laptop connection – for some reason it was connecting at the slower speed. Anyway, while fixing that problem, I noticed that there were a number of other devices connected at 100M.
The Loxone mini server was one. No great drama there as the throughput is going to be low. But the WiFi access points were also showing up as connecting on 100M rather than 1000M (gigabit connection). Well, a quick look at the specs for the access points (TPLink 801N) did indeed confirm that they only support 100M.
When we moved into the property, we were on a slow broadband connection (just about 8Mb/s download) so the WAPs connecting at 100M wasn’t really a problem. However, in 2018 BT’ Infinity became available and our connection suddenly stepped up to around 60Mb/s download and 15Mb/s upload.
Time for some new ones! The existing WAPs have been installed since 2014. You can still buy them for around £30, but after 6 years I don’t think they really owe me anything.
In terms of replacement, I was looking for something with a gigabit connection to the network. Plus something that looked half decent. I settled for a TPLink AC1350. I have been happy with the original TPLink, so I decided on a simple upgrade for a faster, better looking unit.
I have bought one unit which arrives tomorrow. If it works ok, we will need a second one. But let’s just try one to start.
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.
The sensor is positioned high up on the small gable end in the extension. This is away from any light from street lighting or from the security light at the front of the building.
Inside the lux sensor. Orange and orange/white used to supply 24v and green and green/white for data. It then simply supplies a 0-10v signal to the Loxone kit based on the amount of light outside. The dip switches can be used to adjust it’s sensitivity.
There are wired Ethernet sockets in all of the rooms throughout the property. The home network is provided by two Netgear Gigabit switches (one in the old part of the property and one in the plant room in the new extension connected via a CAT6 cable). These are then connected to the Internet via a BT Home Hub 4. Longer term, we will probably replace this with something more sophisticated. Since we are in a rural area our broadband is not the fast – 13Mbps download and around 1Mbps upload. It works fine for us – just as well since there isn’t much we can do about it.
Additionally, the BT Home Hub 4 provides WiFi access (both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) in the older part of the property. However, this quickly drops off once you get to the new extension.
The answer is to install a second WiFi access point in the new part of the building and to use a wired connection to connect the access point to the internal network. If you set up a second access point with the same SSID and password (and security settings), client devices (e.g. iPads, laptops, etc) will connect to the home network using whichever access point is providing the strongest signal. Furthermore, if you connect via one access point and then move to a part of the building where the signal from another access point is better, the client device should change access points (and without dropping the connection). To test this out, I stream BBC2 to my iPad in the old part of the property (using the BT Home Hub WiFi) and then walked to the furthest part of the new extension. The iPad swapped from one access point to the other and didn’t drop a single frame. There is a good article here that summarises how this works.
So what did we use for the second WiFi access point? I have been looking for attractive looking access points, but haven’t had a lot of success. So in the interim, I decided to buy a TP-Link TL-WA801ND. The reviews looked good and at under £30 it doesn’t matter if we replace it with something more attractive later.
The TP-Link access point is a reasonable piece of kit, particularly for the price. However, the process for setting it up is a bit convoluted. It defaults to an IP address of 192.168.0.254. This isn’t really too much of an issue, except that the BT Home Hub defaults to setting up a 192.168.1.* network. So none of my devices that were connected to the BT Home Hub could connect to the TP-Link device at the same time.
To get it to work:
I turned off the BT Home Hub. You could alternatively turn off the WiFi on the Home Hub;
I then connected to the TP-link access point using the 192.168.0.254 IP address;
I logged in and set up the device as an access point. This involves entering the SSID, password, and security settings so that they were the same as the Home Hub (you might want to write these down before starting this process);
Do not reboot the device until you have changed it’s IP address to something in the 192.168.1.* range. This means that it can be seen at the same time as the Home Hub. In my case, I changed it to 192.168.1.252. My Home Hub is set up for 192.168.1.254 (the default).
I left all the other settings on the network tab the same. DHCP needs to be turned off on the Access Point, but this is the default anyway.
Save and reboot the access point. You are done. You should be able to access the TP-Link device using 192.168.1.252 (or whatever IP address you entered). This will then provide you with the login page. You can access your Home Hub via 192.168.1.254.
If you leave the TP-Link device on the default IP address and set up the access point with the same SSID/password, you will get a DNS error when a device logs into the access point – it will connect to the WiFi network, but will not connect to the Internet.
From the outset we decided to use LED bulbs throughout the property. Their longevity combined with lower power consumption made them a no brainer. We have used the same bulbs inside and out.
We also decided to standardise on the same fitting (GU10) and the same colour (warm white) as well as the same wattage (5W). This will hopefully mean that we don’t end up with a drawer full of light bulbs, but never the one that you want.
We have already installed around 20 LED bulbs and yesterday we purchased another 30. At around £10 each, this mounts up. I never thought that we were spend £500 on bulbs!
On a positive note, the 5W bulbs are very bright and in some of the rooms, particularly the bathrooms, they are probably a bit too bright. We picked a brand that had a decent guaranteed lifetime and standardised on them. These are also available locally.
These were purchased locally for around £10 each. To be honest, even at 5W some of them are a bit bright, particularly when in smaller rooms. Unfortunately, they don’t make a 1W version. Shame.
Six months ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that there was anything interesting to say about gutters. But here we are!
We decided to go with cast iron gutters for a number of reasons. Firstly, because they fit in with the age of the property, but secondly, because the foundry is 2 miles away in Holmfirth. Although the property had aluminum gutters when we bought it, it probably did have cast iron gutters at some point (there are existing cast iron down pipes). There cast iron gutters would have most likely come from the same foundry that we are now using to supply the replacements.
It turned out that the gutters specificed by the architect were probably a little too small for the size of roof, so we had to look into putting up larger gutters. The choice of gutters runs into tens, if not hundreds. It isn’t like going to B&Q!
I went down to the foundry today and narrowed in on what I thought were the two most likely choices. It isn’t easy to tell which is the right one unless you look at it in place on the roof. The chaps at the foundry kindly let me two lengths which the builders held in position, so we could see what they look like!
The choice: 6″ x 4″ No.46 gutters.
The number “46” refers to the fact that this was the 46th pattern of gutter that they ever made!
Two 6ft lengths of cast iron gutters. The one on the left is 6″ x 4″ No. 46 and the one on the right 5″ x 4″ No. 46. And the winner is……the one of the left.
I have been suffering recently with cold feet. The weather has turned wintery and standing building a wall doesn’t help with the circulation to the feet. I tried wearing thicker socks. I tried wearing more socks. No luck. The solution was a new pair of wellies! Yep, I couldn’t believe it either. I came across Muck Boots in a shoe shop in Huddersfield. They are neoprene with a rubber outsole around the foot area. The neoprene seems to cover the whole of the inside of the boot. Boy, they are warm. Very warm. On the second day, I decided that I didn’t need such thick socks. They are exceptionally comfortable and I have been working in them all day without any problems. They don’t have a reinforced toe cap, but they are fairly solid.
Derwent Muck Boots
More information on the website here. Seems that everyone knows about these (except me). Always the last to know!