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Home automation system fully integrated into home

Nov 2011 Smart Homes | Comments Off on Home automation system fully integrated into home
Home automation system fully integrated into home
 

When Howard and Wendy Davis considered adding automation to their newly extended house, they were looking for a system that could manage as many aspects of household operation as possible. They wanted more than simply managing lights and heating; their automated home would need to incorporate security, lighting and heating, as well as multi-room entertainment. Kevin Sheldrake reports.

In 2008, Howard and Wendy Davis began a major refurbishment plan for their home. This involved building a two-storey extension and garage, along with a major re-design of the existing house. The project proved the ideal opportunity to automate as much of the house as possible, and to make the house smarter as well as bigger.

Howard Davis approached several installers directly, but none could offer the one-stop solution he wanted. However, after seeking advice from industrial automation and smart-house manufacturer Carlo Gavazzi, he chose West Midlands-based Unique Buildings, one of the company’s preferred installation partners.

His brief contained two crucial aspects: strengthening the home’s security and integrating the entertainment systems – audio in particular.

The planning

The model for the plans was a project undertaken by Unique Buildings at Highclere, a £8.75m home in Surrey. That award-winning project incorporated the latest in building technologies and home automation, spanning heating, lighting, security and home entertainment.

Such a wide remit could be challenging for some home automation systems, but proved well within the capacity of the Smart-house system. The Smart-house bus technology is borrowed from Carlo Gavazzi’s industrial standard installation bus system called Dupline, which has a well-proven track record in industrial applications going back over 30 years.

Smart-house is a decentralised system that controls and monitors lighting, roller blinds, heating, air-conditioning and security. The system opens up new opportunities, the company says, to reduce energy consumption and increase the comfort and safety of homes. Operation, service and maintenance are simplified, with complete status overview, anytime and anywhere.

As with the Highclere project the Davis’ project was to be based around the same Smart-house home automation system. The two-wire bus handles communication between components and also supplies them with power, so the installation and design process was significantly easier and quicker than many comparative systems.

Smart-House has become Unique Buildings’ standard home automation offering, as it provides a good all round solution for the homeowner, and is straightforward to install. Featuring a completely free topology, this provides the freedom to configure the bus network as a line, ring, star or a combination of these. This makes planning easy and provides a high degree of flexibility for last minute changes and future expansions.

Installation and operation

This smart-house solution was installed in stages, extending the two-wire bus and CAT5/6 cabling from area to area within the house as dictated by the builders’ schedule. It took approximately a year from start to finish.

The installation used Smart-house products where appropriate, such as light switch keypads, movement detectors, light intensity sensors, dimmers, relays and temperature displays. The Smart-house controller has further integration and connectivity possibilities with third party products via a Modbus interface, over a serial or Ethernet connection.

Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies for local area networks (LANs). Standardised in IEEE 802.3, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies within the business and industrial sectors. To date, it’s use in homes is far less common, but growing.

At the house, the controller links with a Cytech security system featuring door access control. The security system can also send SMS or voice messages when an alarm is triggered.

The lighting system uses a third party touch panel interface, which also controls the heating (via Smart-house relays and temperature sensors), audio and video. Special drivers were used to enable the smart-house to communicate with the Opus audio touch screen controller, whilst smart-house protocol is used to switch on lights according to inputs from PIR and motion sensors.

Routine scheduled on off sequences are augmented by the use of external sensors to switch internal lights on at dusk. Also a holiday mode was implemented, where activity of certain lighting circuits is recorded and replayed when the homeowner is away, this is set when the alarm system is armed. Furthermore, the house lights can flash if a smoke detector alarm occurs, in addition to an audible signal. Water leak detectors were also installed; also linked to the house lights.

Smart-house’s two-wire bus also controls the new under floor heating along with a heat recovery system. Heating is controlled per floor and can be set back at night or when the home is unoccupied. Optimising control of the heat recovery system helps to maximise cost savings as well as reducing environmental impact.

The result

A computer based software package gives the Davis family the ability to change parameters of the smart-house system from a computer anywhere in the house, via a Wi-Fi or CAT5/6 wired Ethernet connection. This means full two-way communication to control everything the system can do from changing the heating times to switching on the lights in the garden.

A web server has recently been added to the Smart-house controller. Installed, this allows the client the ability to manage and interrogate the system over the Internet from a browser anywhere in the world.

And finally…

The two-wire bus system made planning easy and provided high flexibility for last minute changes and future expansions. The fully integrated system provides constant security and streamlines the home utilities, with monitoring and control available even when the Davis family are out or away on holiday.

While they are at home, there is instant access to the integrated multi-room home entertainment systems just by touching a button or two.

In addition, there is plenty of room for further expansion, with virtually every possible future development catered for in the existing installation.