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Author Topic: Remotely manage electrical circuits?  (Read 1375 times)
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Please forgive me if I misuse terminology as I am green to both these topics, but I am a DIYer at heart, and believe that just about anything is possible with some research and hard work.   smiley-wink

I am not sure what the terminology is, but I am aware that the breaker panel in a common household is usually split up into certain sections that distribute power to the house. If you flip one of the switches on the breaker box then the power in the house is killed to whatever is wired to that switch.

I would like to have a piece of hardware sit inbetween the breaker panel and the house. I would like to use this piece of hardware to remotely control power to each section.

Does anything like this exist? If not is there a reason it doesnt exist? I mean is it not practical? Not safe? Not possible? Surely I cant be the only one that thinks this would be useful?

I know smarthome has products that might accomplish this, but from what I can tell the smarthome stuff is external, meaning it involves things that you plugin to the receptacle.

I would like it to be behind the scenes. Like either in or behind the gang box, and not plugged into the receptacle.

Controlling it via ethernet or wireless internet connection is a must.

Any help is appreciated! Thanks!  smiley









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Here is simple diagram of what I had in mind, again if a simpler or more elegant solution exists I am all ears.

My only mandatory requirements are that it must be able to be remotely controlled through inet connection AND it must be behind the scenes IE.. NO plugins.

Thanks Again!

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Surely I cant be the only one that thinks this would be useful?
Yes I think you are, what practical use is there in cutting off power to various parts of a house?
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I apologize I should have left that statement out as its really not relevant to the post. However, the word practical is open for interpretation based on each individual application or user.

Is it practical for the majority of population? Maybe not... Is it practical for myself? Maybe not...

The point then? It is an interesting problem... It is something that I desire to do... And I am seeking help from the vast resources of friendly and knowledgeable people in this community.

I am aware that their are many different ways to skin a cat. So please do not focus on the other aspects of post.

I would like to control multiple outlets with one piece of hardware... If thats not possible than one outlet at a time.

I know that products already exist to do this remotely, BUT do products exist that do this behind the scenes? If not can existing products be hacked to work that way for instance can a plugin receptacle be modified to be a hardwired receptacle instead of a plugin.

Ideas appreciated, but critics, trolls, and ego maniacs please check your baggage at the door.   smiley-wink

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Of course it is possible, but whether or not it is legal/sensible/affordable.
As usual, if you have to ask the question...
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To add to RC' many points, you might keep in mind:

Some of the circuits in service panel will feed 240 volt circuits, like for the electric oven, clothes dryer, electric water heater, etc. These can be a little trickier and expensive to switch on and off compared to single phase 120ac circuits.

You would think that good logic was used to lay out the individual circuits throughout a house. Far from it, you might very well find out the bedroom one and half of bedroom 2 are one one circuit. Or a garage outlet circuit might also feed a near by bathroom.

Depending on the age of the house, the country of course, you may find a weird combination of circuits that use GFI (ground fault interrupters). These can also be tricky to control with them tripping off and only a human manually resetting them will one be able to turn the circuit back on. Some times the GFI protection is built into the panels individual circuit breakers, other times out on the circuit installed in the first outlet box of the circuit run. Sometimes these are only required for bathrooms and home exterior outlets, other times all circuits need gfi protection. Again it depends on local code laws and age of the home.

Lastly if you have to ask too many questions and are not experienced with AC power installation and operation, then you should get professional help in the design and especially installation of any kind of home automation system that touches AC power control.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

Lefty
« Last Edit: January 17, 2011, 01:28:45 pm by retrolefty » Logged

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Richard,

Thanks for the rational reply! I am not looking to spend 1000's of dollars, quite the opposite.

One of the reasons I thought it might just be easier to control each "branch" circuit would be to eliminate the need for hardware at each outlet or gang box in the home.

Usage on my part could vary, but one practical application in my mind would have been to kill power to rooms not in use for energy consumption purposes.

It sounds like there is a better way than what I was initially thinking so lets change focus.

Goal, control one outlet, requirements, control hardware must be out of view and be able to be controlled remotely.   smiley-wink
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Goal, control one outlet, requirements, control hardware must be out of view and be able to be controlled remotely.  

X10 power controls have been around for decades and are pretty inexpensive for basic outlet and lighting circuit control. Check them out:

http://www.x10.com/promotions/auto_expansion_store_n.html

Lefty
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Thanks retrolefty! I will check out the X10's. I noticed they had inline modules that look like they were designed for my intended use.
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Guht- I like the elegance of your simple, get to the heart of it, approach... but I fear I side with the others in thinking...

a) it wouldn't really work very well in practice
b) would be expensive to implement

and you really DO need to build a BIG margin for safety into any work with 110v AC. "Little" booboos can easily kill. And that's kind of hard to "feel", so I'll add that they can also invalidate insurance policies or entail lawbreaking.

But! I still have similar projects running, and have fun with them!!

My suggestion:

Split your energies and questions into these two parts...

1) What is the input to my system going to be?
2) What is the output to my system going to be?

To clarify that:

At the simplest level, the following "does" what you want to do... it at least has the skeleton!...

1) A push button switch, feeding an Arduino
2) An LED (and resistor) connected to the output of an Arduino

Bear with me! That REALLY is what you're talking about!

Eventually, you may get as far as directly switching a whole branch in your home, instead of the little LED... but whatever circuit switches the branch will, ultimately, trace back to the same output that you switch the LED with in the above.

Until you are sure you can do the first part, the input, in a way that meets your wishes, the second part is moot. And solving the first part isn't going to be as expensive. If there is no satisfactory solution to your wishes for what makes "things" happen, there's no need to solve the output side of the project.

A quick, easy, safe, reasonable-cost-for-what-it delivers answer to switching 110v is....

http://powerswitchtail.com/default.aspx

(There's a thread about it at...

http://www.arduino.cc/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1292089882/all

...)

===
One last thing....

Energy saving....

Rather than try to switch off whole branches, which will include the clock radio on the sideboard, and the answering machine in the den, try to identify the worst erg-eaters, and control them.

Heating and air conditioning are probably the biggest culprits, depending on where you live. And decent roof insulation is boring... but makes more difference than turning off a hundred TVs in a well designed standby.

I haven't started on all the fun and options for putting your "switch" and "LED" places other than next to the Arduino!! Those two "halves" deserve their own threads, and each can be subdivided many ways...
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