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Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

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Kasey Chang
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Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Kasey Chang »

For grins, I bought myself two "wifi plugs" as an experiment. There are some plugs at home I don't want to reach around and I'd like the idea of turning them off automatically when I'm not home or such. Or even by voice command.

Bought two "VeSync" wifi plugs from Etekcity off Amazon. They were 2 for $20, which was a pretty good deal considering that the Amazon's own Smart Plug was $25 and about 2 times the size.

(NOTE: they can also be bought 4 for $30, but I don't have 4 places that needed WiFi plugs...)

Downloaded the matching VeSync app, which requires you to register an account with them. Okay, no big deal. Once registered, I held the "sync" button on the plug (after plugging it in, of course), for 10 seconds, and it goes into setup mode. Ran the VySync app, which prompts you to link to a WiFi hotspot that corresponds to device name. The App then prompted you for your network name and password, and quickly uploaded it to the plug. Voila, that's it.

Once that's done, I have a choice to integrate it with IFTTT, Google Home, or Alexa. I chose Google Home, which means downloading the Google Home app. Added the device, picked VeSync from "Works with Google" manufacturer list, and the plug was detected very quickly. Renamed it "Bedroom Window Fan" as that's what it's controlling. Set it to Bedroom, as Google Home asked.

Now I can control the fan via Google Assistant commands like "Hey Google, turn on the fan". And the fan started.

And I still have a plug I can use on... something. :)
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Zitterbacke »

Recently a German company offering smart door locks went bankrupt. The locks (cloud based) will seize to work on 18. of October...
Whatever you do (you as in you all) use something with a local server (eg. MQTT).
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Kasey Chang
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Kasey Chang »

I've read lists of "what to use smart plugs for" and I honestly can't find any more use-cases in my room. The window fan is the only real use I have for it. other stuff I don't really care for or need. My overhead main light is not on a plug I can control, I have no other fan to control (or need to control) by voice. And other than the PC itself there's really no other electronics to control *sigh*.
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Blackhawk »

I've looked. I'd love to be able to have the 'home of the future', but it just wouldn't be all that useful for me. Most of the things I'd like to be able to control remotely require the manual pressing of buttons (for example, I could power my teapot up from bed, or the PC, or wherever, but it won't make hot water unless I press a temperature and 'start.') Most of the other suggestions I've seen sound like automation for automation's sake ('turn ceiling fans off and on based on your sleep schedule." Or just flip the damned switch on the way out of the room...)
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Kasey Chang »

Blackhawk wrote:
Sat Oct 05, 2019 1:11 am
I've looked. I'd love to be able to have the 'home of the future', but it just wouldn't be all that useful for me. Most of the things I'd like to be able to control remotely require the manual pressing of buttons (for example, I could power my teapot up from bed, or the PC, or wherever, but it won't make hot water unless I press a temperature and 'start.') Most of the other suggestions I've seen sound like automation for automation's sake ('turn ceiling fans off and on based on your sleep schedule." Or just flip the damned switch on the way out of the room...)
Yeah, some times, the newer appliances are just TOO smart to be unable to be automated, yet not smart enough by itself to matter. :D

The Asian solution to the hot water problem is a hot water dispenser. :) You can call it "hybrid water boiler" if you want. But basically, feed it water until full. It'll automatically boil it and keep it warm so you can dispense it when you need it at push of a button.
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Blackhawk »

My teapot keeps it hot for a set period, but it is made to support different types of tea (black, green, white, oolong - all are brewed at different water temperatures.) As such, you have to interact with it manually to specify what you want to make.
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by TheMix »

We have a couple that I set up when we go on vacation so that there will be some lights on in the house in the evenings. When they work...
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by hitbyambulance »

Blackhawk wrote:
Sat Oct 05, 2019 1:11 am
automation for automation's sake
basically, that

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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by The Meal »

WiFi plugs typically go well with fans and lights.

I use wifi plugs (mostly for their scheduling properties, I like TP-Link Kasa devices) to keep the garden gear and home improvement devices' batteries from constantly charging. For instance I schedule the weed whacker battery to charge for 4 hours each night leading into Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (so that it'd always be charged were it to be in use that day). Since they're WiFi plugs, if I notice they're on when I know I'm not using them the next day I "manually" (flip the bit in the app) turn them off.

I also use the WiFi plugs for my desktop PC (which I've taken to turning off when I know I'm leaving it behind) and associated devices that can be a bit of energy vampires. Monitors and speakers, for instance. My PC has been having heat-related shutdowns, so I've also got three external fans (two blowing into openings in the case, one blowing out—all with equivalent airflow). As it stands, there are five "switches" necessary to turn on my PC, but I was able to group them together to make one master switch. When the desktop is on with no load it draws 170 W (the original reason for using the WiFi plugs was to act as a Kill-O-Watt and see exactly what they draw). Leaving it off for 10 hours a day (say) see us save 1.7 kWh each day. That's not much savings at 13¢/kWh, but a buck-a-week isn't nothing. And Windows 10 machines with SSDs boot quickly enough that there's no associated inconvenience.

A recent installation of a 9 kW PV solar system on our roof has be a bit more attuned to energy draw within the house.

I've thought about putting smart plugs on larger known energy vampires (such as our smart TV), but haven't yet bothered.

We've got them on repurposed electric blankets (which live in our living room), but that's purely out of convenience as the wires run inconveniently behind the couch away from where we'd be able to flip the switches.

All said, we've got 18 or 20 Kasa devices (3 smart switches on light switches that control multiple bulbs -- much cheaper to install a smart switch rather than swap out all bulbs) and 15-17 smart plugs (2 of which are for outdoor use for electricity-draining seasonal props).

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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Isgrimnur »

My app outlet controls the LED white Christmas lights that line my deck roof. Beats one giant bulb.

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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by jztemple2 »

I'm not a big fan of automation, although the irony is there because one of my primary jobs early in my career was writing software to perform automated propellant loading for the Space Shuttle. Even back then I could see that folks who used the automation were losing their knowledge of why and how things were done they way they were. After a few years the newer engineers didn't know what certain actions were done by the program, they just assumed there were reasons for them happening.

I'm 66 now and I'm also concerned about my mind atrophying due to lack of use. So I try to do things myself rather than letting a machine make the decisions and actions. I don't use the automated functions for my thermostat for instance, I tweak the settings a few times each day, but then that way I can also understand the temperature cycle of the house and I'll notice if there is a change in what is expected versus what is happening. I also tweak the pool timer and the outside light timer all during the year rather than use any kind of smart timer.

And I'm very resistant to using any kind of smart app which would have access to my home systems. No Alexa for me :D
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Kasey Chang »

For shits and giggles (the excuse was to get a screen for the Blink XT camera system I'm putting in) I bought a refurb Amazon Echo Show (original, not the new 5 or 8 or whatever), basically an Echo with a screen refurb for $50. And so far, I'm somewhat impressed. It was able to see my existing VeSync wifi plug (that Google assistant already does) so Alexa was able to control it without further setup (Alexa, turn on Window fan) Setup is a bit of PITA as some had to be done from the Alexa phone app, not on the device itself. But the idea of adding new "skills" is the interesting thing about Alexa that Google hasn't cracked. Speaker quality is actually quite good for a single device. Not Bose quality, but still good. And it's nice that the player autoplays the lyrics too if you want to sing along. ;) Voice recog is very accurate so far.

Once I got the camera setup, the Echo Show will become a camera display, mostly. ;)
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Kasey Chang
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Kasey Chang »

Okay, I am going to recommend everybody to NEVER Buy the Amazon Blink camera system.

While it works, there is no "guest view" system to allow someone else to view the cameras. It ONLY has ONE level of access: admin.

And people have asked for this feature for TWO PLUS YEARS.

It works fine if you live alone, or only has kids who don't need access to the cameras. But if you have roommates or relatives who need to view but not control the cameras, forget it.

I am retiring the BLINK system and replacing it with a refurb Netgear Arlo 3 system. I can keep the BLINK cameras for deployment upstairs in the private area.
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by LawBeefaroni »

I have no need for guest access so they work fine for me. Honestly, if I can't trust someone with admin I don't want them viewing my home camera system anyway.
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Re: Home Automation: It *is* easier nowadays...

Post by Kasey Chang »

LawBeefaroni wrote:
Sun Dec 22, 2019 10:45 pm
I have no need for guest access so they work fine for me. Honestly, if I can't trust someone with admin I don't want them viewing my home camera system anyway.
It's not that. It's more like I'm afraid of morons who'll change my settings. I have guests at my house all the time (downstairs only) and while I trust them, but only so much. They are total noobs when it comes to tech.
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