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How and what now!? Getting smarter in 3 easy steps

Posted by LiveHouse Automation on

So you've finally caught up to all the rage that is Home Automation and stumbled across our page via Google in your thirst for all things smart! Well you've come to the right place! Sort of. However, we can try satiate that void and at least point you in the right direction. We're assuming you know a little about the technologies available or have read our Z-wave Introduction

Step 1: What's the problem?

The most important step to most things in life is understanding exactly what you need or what problem you're trying to fix. What do you want? Do you want to just be able to turn your lights off from your phone so you can show off to your friends and prove to them how clever you are? Or do you want your lights to turn on and off based on motion or to partially dim during your mid morning toilet run so you're not blinded by your down lights? Home Automation can do both. In fact Home Automation can do anything you can imagine!

So a good start would be to identify a problem. For the purpose of this exercise lets say you have mould on your bathroom ceilings caused by condensation during long showers. The problem is your kids/wife/you always forgetting to turn the exhaust fan on! Congratulations! You have yourself a problem and have completed step 1. Now what!?

If you're bathroom ceiling looks like this you may need more than an automated ceiling fan!

Step 2: What have you already got?

Unless you're in the planning stages of building a house or have unlimited funds you will likely have to work with what you've already got. This usually includes your existing light switches, that lamp you want to control or that gate motor you wish to automate. The trick is to select the products that will be compatible with your stuff. Choosing a dimmer module that plugs in between the light and the power plug may work well for lamps but won't ideally work for your fancy Edison bulbs sitting above your dining table. 

So back to our bathroom mould problem. What have you already got? Well you have an exhaust fan and a switch that turns on the fan. You'll need something to turn the fan switch on/off automatically based on some sort of trigger or event. That event being someone having a shower. So how can Home Automation help? Head over to Step 3 for the solution. 

Step 3: The solution

The solution is where you can really get creative. There are over 1000 Z-wave devices so it really depends how you wish to approach the problem. At a minimum you will require a Z-wave gateway or controller that will receive inputs from your Z-wave devices and send commands to your Z-wave switches and relays. You can think of the Z-wave gateway is the brains of the system. Like a conductor to an orchestra. 

A great Z-wave controller is the Vera Edge. It's capable yet affordable. 

To turn the fan on and off we'll need a Z-wave switch like the Fibaro Single Switch Relay. The relay will allow the Z-wave controller to remotely turn the exhaust fan on or off. 

Now we need some way of knowing when to turn the fan on and off. A simple approach could rely on a motion sensor to trigger the fan. If motion is detected then the fan turns on. After 5 minutes, if no motion is detected then turn the fan off. Simple! You will get the fan turning on whenever it detects motion so not just for showers but for everyone who enters the bathroom. Not necessarily a bad thing but a more elegant solution is to use a sensor that can detect humidity. Humidity would increase in the bathroom as steam collects in the ceiling space. Aeon Labs have a new 6-in-1 sensor which detects motion, light, UV, vibration and humidity so this sensor would be perfect for this scenario. 


We then simply configure our Vera 3 using the in-built scene editor in the Vera UI to turn the Fibaro single switch relay on or off based on humidity readings from the sensor. 

That's it! You're done! You have just solved the problem of your kids forgetting to turn on the exhaust fan when in the bathroom so no more mouldy ceilings. Now onto the next problem! Laundry moisture and kitty litter smell problem?

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