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Getting started with Home Automation

Posted by Craig Atkins on

So, you're thinking about home automation?

Well, it's a pretty daunting subject when you're just getting started. We're sure you have a few questions, so we've tried to answer the common ones below.

If we've missed anything, or you need a bit more help, give us a shout on Facebooktweet us, or use the more 'old fashioned' contact methods here!

OK, let's get started...

Which home automation technology should I choose?

Great question, and there is a good choice of technologies available.

We'd ask you - what do you want to achieve?

If you just want to do some simple device control, such as remote control of an appliance or light - or turning devices on when motion is detected, then you should have a look at either Home Easy or Homewizard.

Both of these technologies use wireless communication between their modules. Homewizard has the added benefit of a dedicated system controller (called the Homewizard Controller) which allows you to have remote control via the web/tablet/phone and gives you a much 'smarter' home automation system.

You can read more about Smartwares Homewizard here.

If you're looking for more advanced control and monitoring, we'd recommend looking at Z-wave. This is another wireless system, but uses a more advanced mesh network (meaning each mains powered Z-wave device extends the range of the network, and makes it more resilient to wireless noise/drop-outs). As it's a well supported protocol, products are made by many different manufacturers and you'll find lots of different Z-wave enabled devices. We recommend, if you're just getting started, to look at the Fibaro range of modules. They offer 2 different system controllers, depending on your requirement and budget, and a very good range of modules which can achieve most home automation tasks including lighting control, blind/curtain control, appliance control, RGB mood lighting, temperature sensing, motion and movement sensing, flood, fire and door/window open sensors!

What about X10 or Insteon?

Both X10 and Insteon use the power line as their primary method of transmission. This is useful for when you can't get the range required with a wireless solution like Homewizard. Insteon has the added benefit of also transmitting its control signals wirelessly, therefore adding an additional level of reliabilty.

X10 is a well established home automation protocol, but does suffer from not being very quick at switching multiple modules (so if you want to do scene lighting then X10 isn't ideal). It's also a one-way protocol, meaning you can't query a module to see if it's switched on or not (Z-wave is a two-way protocol - so if the module supports being queried then you can ask it if it's turned off or on). This may not sound like a big deal, but when you have local switching of modules (such as using a light switch to turn on a device) then it's useful to be able to log this (or trigger another action with your home automation controller).

Insteon is an American system that only reached the UK in 2013. However, it's proved to be less useful than Z-wave so we only offer the modules for users who wish to expand their existing systems and we don't recommend it for new starters.

You can read more about X10 on our guide here.

Do you sell starter kits?

Yes, we do!

You can find Z-Wave kits here:

We also have a Homewizard kit:

Using X10 for lighting control

Update - Sept 2015: When we wrote this blog post a few years ago, X10 was still the simplest and cheapest way to control your home lighting. If you're looking for a reliable entry-level control of home lighting, we recommend HomeEasy and HomeWizard by SmartWares (which are both compatible with each other). However, X10 is [...]

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Using X10 for Home Automation

Disclaimer This article has been modified from it's original form by UK Automation with permission from Kevin Boone. We have provided links to relevant products in our shop where they are mentioned by Kevin Boone. Kevin Boone does not in any way endorse or recommend our products. To view the article in it's original [...]

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