Last year, after we moved, I grew tired of having to hunt for all of the various remotes every time we wanted to watch one of the two main TVs in our home. Our toddler had a habit of tossing the remotes under the couch, beds or various nooks and crannies. Finally, I decided to consolidate by researching the current Logitech universal remote systems.
After some basic research I determined that the Logitech Harmony Companion would be a good fit for our needs. I would have preferred to get a Logitech universal remote with an embedded touch screen but those were well outside of our price range. The retail price of about $140 is still a bit pricy but the features made it appealing to me.
It’s capable of controlling up to eight entertainment devices; the TV with the most devices in our home has no more than five connected (including the soundbar). The system is composed of a hub (controller) and a Logitech remote. It also provides a remote IR blaster and a mobile app. The app is required to configure and update the system so you need to have a compatible phone to manage it. The mobile app also functions as a universal remote, which can be handy when our toddler has managed to hide the Logitech remote as well (or on very lazy days when you’re tired of getting up for the hundredth time and the remote itself is way, way over there on the kitchen counter).
A while back I decided to purchase a Kwikset 910 Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Touchpad Deadbolt for one of our properties so I could remotely lock and unlock one of the doors there, which is very useful when you’re trying to sell a house or if Terminix decides to just schedule a day for an inspection without actually confirming that you can be at the property on that day. The 910 currently retails for about $130 though you can find less expensive ones, typically used, on eBay (make sure that it includes the Z-Wave radio module).
Normally I would first provide a post with general information about a product like this before diving straight into a tip or modification but I seem to be missing some photos so here it is…
It is possible to use a Kwikset 910 Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Touchpad Deadbolt without the keypad and provided lock and instead use it with almost any standard deadbolt lock. You will obviously lose the use of the keypad but the lock actuator mechanism and the Z-Wave interface are all located on the part of the lock system that is mounted to the inside part of the door.
A while back I decided that it would be nice to have our son’s bedroom lamp, white noise machine and humidifier all plugged into Z-Wave automation switches. But I no longer had any free modules and this meant that I’d need to purchase three Z-Wave plug-in modules. That’s not a small cost and would require more room than was available at the outlet or involve a very ugly set of power cables.
To resolve this problem, and also reduce cost, I decided to purchase an Aeotec DSC11 Smart Power Strip. This power strip provides six power outlets with four of them controllable using Z-Wave. The four can also be controlled as a single unit to turn all of them on or off.
This turned out to work well. I have it connected to my Indigo software and also an Aeon Labs Minimote. On the Minimote one button controls only the lamp and another controlls the noise machine and humidifier as a group.
Back in 2013 I moved from using a very good Windows program called mControl for home automation control over to Indigo for Mac OS. mControl worked great for my needs then but I didn’t want to dedicate an additional computer to the home automation and video recording tasks since I usually left my iMac running anyway.
Indigo looked like an excellent choice and over the years and it has indeed proven to be a great software package for home automation control from a Mac. I realized that even though I’ve blogged about some of the things that I’ve done with Indigo I haven’t really mentioned my overall experience with the software.
It’s now on version 7 and though the cost has risen this is largely due to improved software support and the inclusion of the required licensed technology needed to control Z-Wave compatible door locks. Indigo is very extensible; one can find a number of community-built plugins and it also supports scripting via Python.
I wouldn’t recommend it for someone that isn’t very tech savvy; there are other consumer appliances more suitable for basic home usage, but if you want to do anything more than have a few automated tasks (for example, anything that requires a good bit of logic and virtual devices or variables) you’ll need something like Indigo.
At our house I do use a Wink system and it works fine there but it’s not capable of doing much more than running a few automated tasks; consumer appliances (usually cloud-connected) currently don’t offer very much in this realm. But at the apartment I’m still using Indigo and have moved into some more advanced home automation interactions.
With Indigo I now have several actions that are dependent on the status of other devices, virtual devices and variables. I’m also using some Bluetooth proximity detectors to provide additional enhancements and in the past I’ve done some more interesting things that I currently don’t have setup.
I highly encourage anyone with more than a passing interest in home automation, and a Mac that you’re willing to leave powered on all of the time, to look into Indigo. The initial cost may seem high but when you consider the basic cost just to purchase a consumer appliance hub such as Wink or SmartThings, and then potential issues with any of your existing equipment, you may find that the savings aren’t really there in the long run. Indigo works with X10, Insteaon and Z-Wave devices as well as some other devices that don’t use those protocols.
The unit is a Z-Wave device with two clamps, which is typically intended to be used at a breaker box. It wouldn’t have been able to properly sense current flow if I had just placed the clamps around the power cable for the dryer; the clamps need to be over individual wires that are normally within the cable sheath. However, on my dryer the three wires are individually accessible for a few inches before they enter the main sheath and are then covered.
It was just a matter of placing the clamps around two of these cables. Fortunately, as with the washer, our dryer is low-tech and doesn’t draw any power while not in use so setting up the sensing thresholds in Indigo was relatively easy (actually easier than setting up the washer). Though the washer module is not currently working the dryer notifications still continue to work.
Almost a year ago I purchased a Zubie Key, which is a device that can be used to track the location, and monitor the status, of a vehicle through a vehicle’s OBD-II port. This device has a built-in cellular connection and requires a yearly subscription fee of about $100. My motivation at the time was to integrate it into my home automation setup, which I actually did by connecting it to the IFTTT service combined with text message notifications that my home automation software can receive and process.
A year later I am uncertain whether or not I will continue to pay for the service. Mind you, it is not bad and has lived up to my expectations. But with daycare and various other child-related costs I’m not sure that it’s worth (that suddenly more valuable amount of) $100.