tell me where to go

Brand-spankin' newbie here. I only recently discovered Arduino. The possibilities are endless! We just signed a contract to build a new house, and I am picking out exterior lights and had been figuring the home automation and security systems I want to implement can be sorted out later. But, I hear stories of folks that have a hodge-podge of systems in their home - I want to avoid that, or at least avoid going far down a road with a platform, only to find out it is on its way out or it can't do what I, later, come to wish it could do!

I have one or two easy questions for you, but let me first share my background and then my wish list for the system.

I'm 51, so I'm sure I'm past the learning curve for much of this, but I do have an electronics background (US Army Reserve avionics) and I was a technician in the fire alarm and security systems industry for 10 years. I've forgotten 80% of that, but I understand low-voltage electronics, logic and components and I know what a soldering iron is. For reference, I've never built a PC, but I've certainly upgraded memory, harddrives and replaced more than my share of power supplies, and I always love doing that.

I don't know if most of you real coders would call this coding, but my hobby is to create and customize Outlook and Excel apps, using Visual Basic, for my use at work. I've got probably 40,000 lines of code into the apps I use. I know my way around Visual Studio. My next goal was to create iOS apps for some of these (I think that will be taking a backseat to this!)

I am still in the alarm business (project engineer/manager & sales), so I have access to wholesale level pricing for many devices, power supplies, wiring, lighting, anything electrical, Cat 6 cables, etc. etc. and even have access to the occasional IP camera "falling off a truck" as well as, I guess, entire home security systems.

Here is my wish list for the new house.

A web browser GUI for access to the home automation and security system devices (control and/or status)

Graphical floorplan maps of the house, with icons for devices

Intrusion/access control/panic:

I think I want the (Bosch or Honeywell) intrusion/access control panel to be interconnected to this system but not be dependent on this system. In other words, I'm not wiring door contacts into the Arduino. But, I can have the intrusion system send door position status to it by contact closure. The Arduino would accept the following outputs from this system:

(3) perimeter doors
(2) garage doors
(3) indoor motions
(2) outdoor motions
(1) panic alarm output
(1) upper level smoke detection
(1) lower level smoke detection
(1) carbon monoxide alarm
(1) system trouble (on) / all clear (off)
(1) armed (on) / disarmed (off)

and give it the following inputs:

(1) arm/disarm toggle
(1) siren activation (panic)
(1) cycle or disengage front door strike
(1) open garage door

(The Bosch/Honeywell system will mostly be wireless, but 8-point relay boards on the system will send respective contact-closure outputs to the Arduino)

(2) interior IP cams
(2 or 3) exterior IP cams

HVAC & appliances:

(1) smart thermostat (brand/model TBD)
(1) non-smart gas fireplace (need to look into turning it off/on and possibly tying it to a thermostat)
(1) non-smart hottub (need to research this. we just ordered one, but couldn't afford one with connectivity; may need some hacking)

other than that, there's not a lot of interest in controlling appliances, other than perhaps a coffee maker. I am interested in supervising power monitors for the larger appliances though. I might like to use a power monitor to signal when my non-smart laundry machines are finished.

Miscellaneous

(1) Sump pump running
(1) Sump float switch (high water)
(1) Basement water leak
(1) Yard water hose solenoid (on/off)
(1) Lawn sprinkler system (future)
(1) Fish tank pump
(1) Fish tank lights
(?) Assorted receptacles (fans, noise machines, non-smart lights)
(4) Ceiling fans (brand/model TBD... I am not seeing a big selection of smart fans, but I am assuming I can splice into a control switch?)

Lighting:

(?) Assorted indoor lights. A lot of them are can lights, ready for any standard size lightbulb
(1) Floodlight, front of house &
(1) Associated motion sensor (or I may utilize outdoor burg system motion signal)
(2) Floodlights, back yard &
(1) Associated motion sensor (or I may utilize outdoor burg system motion signal)
(1) String lights for back yard patio
(5) Soffit lights on the front of the house, dimmable
(?) if the budget allows, some more soffit lights on the back of the house (back yard/patio, etc.)
(1) light sensor, exterior

At this time, all of the lights are figured to be wired for standard 120V electric, but I would not rule out low-voltage for the exterior lights. I don't know much about this, but digital low-voltage LEDs might be just what the doctor ordered for my soffit lights.

Lighting is where I need some pointers. I'd like to be able to remotely set the level of the soffit lights, for nighttime "ambiance" lighting, and possibly ramp them to max, or flash them on burg/panic alarm.

Question #1 is: what do you suggest for those soffit lights? Please give me some links so I can quickly educate myself.
#2: how do you deal with controlling a light that is also controlled by two 3-way switches?
#3: approximately how many man hours to implement this wish list?

I know I'm suppose to ask about the price. Believe me, we are not wealthy, but I figure once I get the foundation of the system in place, I can do this in phases, as the money and the free time on the weekends allows!

thank you for reading this, and thank you in advance for your advice!

I started arranging my home automation - lights in particular - something like 28 years ago.

Haven't got far! Did have garden watering to start with but plants mostly survived on their own and garden watering is presently illegal. :roll_eyes:

Just saying! :astonished:

Question #1 is: what do you suggest for those soffit lights? Please give me some links so I can quickly educate myself.

I can't answer that, but you can control almost any lights.

#2: how do you deal with controlling a light that is also controlled by two 3-way switches?

There may be 3-way options but typically, you'd have one "real" remote controlled switch plus one or more [u]remote controllers/transmitters that can look like a regular wall switch[/u]. If you choose a wireless protocol, that "remote" switch might be battery operated, so it can be installed anywhere at any time without re-wiring. (X-10 sends signals over the power lines, but there are wireless transmitters/receivers so you can use wireless controllers.)

#3: approximately how many man hours to implement this wish list?

I have no clue. It looks like a "big project" but you don't have to do everything at once.


Have you talked to your electrician? He's probably a good resource. Your alarm experience should be helpful too.

I've had an X-10 system for probably 30 years, and I've added some Insteon stuff which was X-10 compatible, but it looks like Insteon has dropped the compatibility. I didn't build any of it myself, but I did build a "sunrise dimmer" and "wake-up system" that plugs into a controlled outlet. (There is no clock built into the thing I built. It's turned on automatically in the morning by the home automation system.)

My system is pretty simple - Maybe about 10 controlled lights/outlets, a master timer/controller to turn the lights on a dusk, etc., and a few wired & wireless remote controllers "scattered around". It's not connected to the Internet, Wi-Fi, or the cell phone network, but those things could be added. The master controller is plugged into the computer only when I want to change the programming or re-set it's clock. I have a regular programmable thermostat. It's not connected to the home automation system. Oh, there is one (wireless) motion sensor to turn on one-light when I come-in the back door.

There are several home automation standards/protocols and as far as I can tell nothing is dominating the market. There was an announcement recently of a consortium with Apple, Amazon, Google, etc. so some better standards should be coming, but maybe not in time for you.

I do recommend that you choose one of the standard protocols. Then even if you want to build some of it yourself, I still suggest you buy the controlled switches & outlets. You can buy a [u]dimmer switch[/u] for $25 or $50 that looks good, operates locally or remotely, fits into a regular outlet box, and doesn't require any rewiring or special wiring. That's not an easy thing to build, and you can't built it for the price you can buy it.

If you have nothing specific for the arduino, then you might want to visit the various home automation forums that are available for various products and software. I joined the below forum in 2002 and I can still log in, so it appears to still be up and running. You can see what the current trends are and DIY approaches if desired.

airwreck:
But, I hear stories of folks that have a hodge-podge of systems in their home - I want to avoid that, or at least avoid going far down a road with a platform, only to find out it is on its way out or it can't do what I, later, come to wish it could do!

Good luck with that.

There is simply no one topology or system that can do all you have on your project list.
Ask ten people here what they use and you will get eleven different answers.

My home is running Home Assistant on an Intel NUC, (formerly a Raspberry Pi3 for three years). Most of my lights are Z-wave with a few Sonoff WiFi devices. I also have various sensors, mostly running on ESP8266 boards (The Wemos D1 Mini is my favorite). My go-to device for 3-way switches has been Z-Wave, but I recently discovered the Sonoff Mini, so I will be experimenting with that as soon as my order arrives.

My point is that home control is mostly a hobby for the experimenter, precisely because no off-the-shelf system can do it all.

In the present political climate make sure that your house can function adequately when there is no electricity.

...R

I think I would divide the system up and use individual Arduino for each task - eg one monitoring alarms, one for heating etc , so if you get a fault the whole house doesn’t stop working. You can also then get each bit working in stages .

At this stage just think about the routing of cables and sensors to your “ control room” .

airwreck:
how do you deal with controlling a light that is also controlled by two 3-way switches?

Now that is the easy bit!

The beauty of electronic control is that you use a relay (easiest approach) to control the light with the microcontroller, then use the two "3-way switches" as inputs to the microcontroller allowing you to toggle the relay at will or lock it out.

There may be some temptation to just use a relay (DPDT or "reversing") as an extra "3-way switch" but this complicates matters (both wiring and logic) unnecessarily as you still have to determine whether the other two switches have put the light on or off. Simply sensing the switches allows the logic to make decisions, and you can even re-interpret what they do if you "flash" them.

@Paul__B and @DVDDoug thank you. I think I'm leaning towards a conventionally-wired setup, but with smart 3-way (dimmer) switches. I can have the electrician add low-voltage lights, but the builder will probably push back on LV switches and it would probably not pass the electrical inspection. I just need to choose compatible switches.

Have you talked to your electrician? He's probably a good resource.

That's been a joke, unfortunately. Most electricians I rub elbows with are more the KISS method about this stuff. They are not knowledgeable of much outside of the standard wiring.

@hammy - wise decision. I'm already thinking of the flak I will get from the wife should everything goes down. Similarly, that's why I don't want to build an Arduino-based intrusion detection system. If the network goes down or is compromised by a crafty would-be intruder, my burg system, independent, supervised and on battery back-up, with a cellular communicator, will still be protecting us and our home.

@zoomkat thank you. This helps, as I have so much to learn!

Uh-oh! I’ve discovered something for a future phase! (Maybe 2021). Presence-sensing, through wi-fi and bluetooth:

Interesting videos from Andreas Spiess:

It makes me ponder:

Lighting and HVAC settings adjusted based on if anyone’s at home (of course; standard stuff)

Disarming the alarm when you arrive home, before you even get out of the car

Email notifications of kids getting home from school (in addition to other sequences, like burg system being disarmed) or not getting home by a certain time

Sending an email alert or triggering a warning or full alarm response when a foreign device is detected while the system is armed and/or no one is home

very interesting!

Disarming the alarm when you arrive home, before you even get out of the car
It sounds like the key system that unlocks the car when You get in the neighbourhood. Bad guys lowes those systems. Just pick up the code for desarming the system by listening to the signals when You use it.