My X10 Setup

8 Mar

Ok, so being a bit of a g33k still, and now owning a house, the natural progression was to automate it, partly because I liked the idea, partly because I want to be lazy and partly because it should make the house more secure (i.e., if it looks like somebody is home, you’re less likely to get burgled, right?)

So what did I want to achieve? Well, I wanted a system where by I could still control light switches as normal switches in most rooms. I also wanted to be able to turn all the lights and heating on and off remotely and set quite advanced schedules. I didn’t want to spend a fortune and I didn’t want to have to rewire the entire house. I wanted PIR sensors to control lights and I also wanted to be able to easily turn off the entire TV system downstairs for example, along with the cable box, media centre extender, amplifier etc, so it wasn’t left on standby all night.

The solution I opted for, X10. (you can find more information on X10 here)

Anyway, I have a PC running Harmony 2007 and this in effect is the hub of the system, running all the timed events etc.

I fitted a new plug socket right off the main fuse board (off the downstairs sockets ring, dead easy to do, just remember to turn the power off first) and plugged the CM11 into this and then ran a serial cable to the loft where the automation server is, this way the X10 signals had more even coverage all over the house. Previously, with the CM11 plugged in upstairs, I could not control the appliance module in the lounge, moving the CM11 right next to the fuse board fixed all the house coverage issues.

Update: I’m now running a network cable down to the garage and am using a couple of RJ45 – Serial converters at each end. The Network cable was a lot easier to run than the serial cable.

I then have a TM13U (X10 transceiver module) which allows me to use remote controls to control various X10 devices. The TM13U is plugged into the CM11, this way I found that the status of the virtual devices on the server are updated much more quickly when the buttons on the remote are pressed.

I have 2 KR22’s (Key chain remote controls) which are very small and work well. They are limited by the fact that you can program the first button to a certain house and unit code combination, but then buttons 2, 3 and 4 are then the next in sequence (see here for more info) To get around this, I set the buttons to control virtual devices on the system (just items with an on/off state) then I run a series of events when the states of these virtual devices change. This allows me to run all sorts of programmed events from the remote.

I then have some MS13 (Hawkeye PIR’s) which allow me to have lights turned on and off in certain rooms, I currently have this setup in the hall, kitchen, bathrooms and other rooms where you generally are not staying still for a long time. So generally, once you have left the hall, bathroom or kitchen, the lights go off by themselves. The MS13’s control LM15 (socket rocket modules) in the hall and bathroom and then in the kitchen and utility room, I use modified LM12’s (Lamp modules, see here for my guide on modifying LM12’s) to control the halogen lights.

I use an AW10’s (X10 Switch modules) to control the hot water and heating, and also the under unit lights and hob extractor fan in the kitchen. I had a bit of trouble with the heating and hot water, as our heating system only allows either hot water, or hot water and heating, i.e., you cant have the heating on without the hot water. When I originally ran 2 AW10’s, one for heating and one for heating and hot water, I found the switches were failing regularly, the reason being because live current was being passed into the load out on the heating and hot water AW10 when the hot water AW10 was on. This caused weird clicking noises and ultimately the switch to fail. In the end I’m effectively turning the power to the boiler on and off with one AW10 and then I have a manual switch to switch between heating and then heating and hot water. In the summer I switch it to hot water only and then in the winter I switch it back. Not the best solution, but I only have to change it twice a year so its not a big problem. Down the line I will fit a relay to do this via another AW10.

In the bedrooms, study and dining room I have Domia HDM1 micro modules (I think these are just rebranded LW12’s) behind some momentary switches. Right now I’m just using cheap white plastic switches, but once we’ve decided what look we’re going for in the house, I’ll get some nice silver or chrome ones, that all match. With these micro modules, you can turn the lights on and off, and also dim them by holding in the momentary switch, but I can also control the module with X10 commands.

I then have a few AM12’s (X10 Appliance modules) which are used for the upstairs and downstairs TV systems and accessories. I can then turn the whole system off when I leave to room and it saves on the old electric bill a little.

All this automation means I can do some pretty cool stuff, such as setting dimming modes with the lighting, turn all the lights on/off with one button press, setting various lights to come on at dusk/dawn for security, setting event to take place when im not there to simulate somebody being in the house. The possibilities are endless!
Future plans include electric blinds and curtains and linking in an X10 alarm. But I’ve ran out of money for the moment!

As I have DMA2100 media centre extenders all round the house, I can then also use the Harmony 2007 MCE interface to control the whole automation system from my remote control when I’m next to any of the TV’s. I also have dial in VPN on my m0n0wall, so if I wish, I can dial into my home network and use the Harmony 2007 Client GUI to control everything from my netbook, no matter where I am in the world. I can also keep tabs on everything using the webGUI for ZoneMinder (my CCTV system) I think I mentioned at the start of the entry that I’m still a bit of a g33k!