Home Automation  -- pages are in very early draft form

I've been using X10 modules in one form or another since the early to mid-80s.  Back then it was just a clock/timer and an appliance or two modules from Radio Shack.  In the early 90's I added a Frankenstein programmable controller, another table-top controller, and some security modules and an alarm (some were Schlage items--not X10 compatible).  I used one of my Amiga 2000s to control the modules.  When I got married and moved to our current residence and my dad no longer wanting anything to do with these oddities (did he ever really?), I packed 'em up and brought them along.

They languished in the basement for a few years.  Then we had a minor flood and I ended out just tossing most of it en masse.

But I was re-enamored with the idea of home automation.  Plus, with the boys getting to the age (4 & 5) such that we could actually go on extended vacations, I immediately thought "security."  My wife liked the idea but wanted something simple.  So, simple it would be.

With our first vacation to Oglebay upon us, I bought a controller + two modules kit from RS.  We could now leave for the week and have the house look somewhat lived-in.

But that wasn't enough.....for me.  I've got to challenge the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).

Upon returning from vacation I decided to expand the system and did a search on the net.  I came across and liked the idea of the graphical interface used in Active Home Pro (AHP), and thought that would be ideal.  Their prices looked reasonable, so I purchased a package for $99.  I then bought some more modules from e-bay.

Noise and Communication Issues

Neither of my neighbors, especially the one who shares a lateral transformer with us, uses X10.  This spurious noise on the lines is reflected as "other devices" in the code space or, worse yet, as random ON/OFF signaling of devices.  Although I have filtered all of the typically-noisy loads (TVs, computers, A/V gear, printers, etc.) in my house, the noise persists.  I also installed an active coupler/repeater across the legs of the distribution panel.  No amount of troubleshooting has led me to determine why sometimes modules will not respond--especially when the signal is being coupled by a Active Phase Coupler/Amplifier and verified by the Testerlinc 4819.

Smart Macros

Well, it's smart.  But definitely not smart enough.  The logic doesn't work properly, no matter what I did.  Here's a typical scenario, which many have encountered and solved by various means (see the X10 forums): It's late at night and your hit with the urge.  No, not that urge.  Oh, and not that one, either.  I'm talking about quenching your thirst.  So up you get, walk down the stairs in the dark (you don't want to wake the kids) and enter a dark kitchen.  Wouldn't it be nice if there were minimal lighting, automatically turn-on at a dim level and then shut-off for you?

Here's what I did. I placed a motion sensor in the 1st-floor hallway/foyer and aimed it up the stairwell.  This sensor is placed to sense someone coming down the steps and walking through the first floor hallway.  A second sensor is in the kitchen.  What I wanted was for the hall and kitchen lights to come on at 25%.  The hall lights should shut-off after 1 minute of being triggered, and the kitchen lights should shut-off after two minutes of my exiting the kitchen.  (While movement is sensed in the kitchen, the timer should be continuously reset by the movement to a 2-minute countdown.)  

I programmed the smart macros using Phantom Modules and Flags, which have a timer to turn them OFF at 10:30PM and ON at 6:30AM everyday.  Initially I attempted all of the following logic (though somewhat differently) in one multi-conditional macro.  Eventually I broke it out into the three macros, as defined below.

The first macro is triggered when Sensor 1 detects activity (ON) in the hallway
Macro 1 -- triggered by hallway/stairwell motion sensor 
if Flag A OFF and Hall Phantom OFF
Flag A ON
Hall Phantom ON
Hallway Light ON and DIM to 25% --turn on the lights in the foyer and 1st floor hallway.  both have the same HC/UC
delay 1 minute -- it takes 30seconds or less to make it from the top of the steps, through the hall and into the kitchen
Hallway Light OFF

Macro 2 -- triggered by kitchen motion sensor
IF time is between 11PM and 6AM then
IF Flag A ON and Hall Phantom ON -- this is the first time someone has entered the kitchen
Kitchen Light ON and DIM to 25%
Hall Phantom OFF

Macro 3 -- triggered by kitchen motion sensor
IF time is between 11PM and 6AM then
IF Flag A ON and Hall Phantom OFF then -- continuous movement by someone who's already entered the kitchen from the hallway
delay 2 minutes -- reset delay
Kitchen Light OFF 
Flag A OFF --  kitchen is ready to be re-triggered on new entry by macro 2, and macro 1 can be triggered to light the hall/stairwell

What I got were dancing lights!  First, because I was using dimmable wall switches, I knew that they would come on at full brightness then dim to 25%.  No biggy.  However, it seems that the macros were  ignoring the redundant conditionals and bringing the light up to 100% and back down to 25% whenever movement was sensed.  Inexplicably, it also was timing out after the initial triggering: that is, if I continued to walk around in the kitchen, the lights would undulate and, after 2 minutes, would turn OFF!

Corrective actions to Smart macros misbehavior

As I added modules and controllers, I began to buy either Levitron and X10 Pro modules.   The dancing lights led me to buy Insteon Togglelinc switches, which have programmable initial-On brightness levels and dimming rates.  (Another bonus is the boosterlinc which I do not use, since I have the amplified coupler/repeater at the distribution panel.)

Wireless cameras

  Questions, comments, concerns?  e-mail me.