Home Automation

Running the gauntlet

A simple start

In December of 2012, we began proceedings to buy our first home in Washington state. Shortly after we moved in I started finding areas where I could make common tasks in the home easier. As I recall, while my wife was out of town, I added a calendar based timer to the front lights and occupancy switches with fan timers to the bathrooms. These had smarts, but they were not smart. My first truly smart device was a Nest thermostat… and it was only the beginning.

Family expansion

In subsequent years, our family has grown and I’ve found many areas to employ some new tricks and devices. To aid in midnight nursing sessions, I added an accelerometer to my wife’s rocking chair that automatically turned on or off a custom lamp as needed. As we approach the glorious escape that is bedtime each night, motion in the kids hallways automatically turns on white noise or lullabies in their rooms and turns on the lights. Many lights around the house now turn on when they are needed and off when they are forgotten. The house also automatically locks up if needed when everyone leaves. While this may seem trivial, it has nearly destroyed years of anxiety built up from break-ins when I was young.

Parlor tricks

A few simple devices have really taken the whole experience to the next level for me. I used a left-over z-wave relay to add remote control to my fireplace. Adding Amazon Echo to the mix allowed me to invoke both the fire and my patio lights on a whim from anywhere in the house. Most of the time, thanks to both Alexa and Logitech, I’m also able to grant and revoke TV privileges by voice from anywhere in the house.

If you can’t buy it, build it

One area where I simply could not find a product that fit the bill was my media cabinet. I wanted discreet device storage and charging, with an adequately-cooled and power-conditioned rack. After a lot of research, I built my own over a couple weeks during Christmas break. Everything but the hardware was designed and built from scratch. I actually used Sketch to create the designs and measurements because I knew I could trust the snapping. In the end, I built a 16U unit with 3 cooling units, high-speed charging for 8 devices, 12 conditioned power ports, dedicated Xbox controller cradles, a built-in unmanaged switch, console, Tivo, receiver, ample storage and meticulous wire routing for maximum airflow.

Where I stand

The path to this point has not been easy. With Smartthings as the primary hub in my house, at one point I had to un-pair and re-pair around 40 devices without instructions. I’ve manually soldered bell wire to my garage controller just to get it to open when I arrive home. I’ve also had to scour the community forums to get code snippets that do exactly what I want. This is something I would never ask my friends to do without help. I hope to find something to pour all this passion into and pave the way for a smarter, simpler future.

  • 17 Sensors
  • 15 Smart switches
  • 10 Smart speakers
  • 9 Smart plugs
  • 5 Smart bulbs
  • 1 Smart lock
  • 1 Smart remote
  • and more…

My Contribution to this home automation project

This was a personal project. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience and one of the most enjoyable of my adult life.

  • Project owner and manager
  • Home automation planning
  • Device installation & troubleshooting
  • Hardware build-out and modification
  • Endless revision