TheSa|nt's Blog

Tag: Tutorial

Build Your Own Affordable Home Automation System Using Z-Wave

by on Apr.01, 2013, under General, Reviews, Tutorials

SmartHomeThis is something I have had a lot of fun with and since I took the time to really it break down for a good friend of mine who was interested in doing this as well, I figured I could share the content with everyone.

Currently if you hire a company to come to your house and build out an automation system in your home…it will run you about $5000 to $20,000+ depending on how crazy you want to get with it. That doesn’t have to be the case though. If you are a fan of tech, you could easily build our your own system without even having to run wires through the walls. Best of all, it could only cost you about $500 to $1500 on average with NO monthly costs.

The same goes for security companies. You can hire a company to come to your house and build out an expensive alarm system that they claim to monitor and make life easier for you, which of course you have to pay monthly for…forever. If something happens, they usually study the situation…call in a car to drive by your home (of course they aren’t allowed to enter or intervene), make a decision on if there is a problem and then finally call you to ask if you want to contact the police (meanwhile 30+ minutes have gone by). Or, you can build your own, manage it yourself with intel shot directly to your phone via txt or emails with the ability to respond instantly by calling the police or rushing home (to take care of the problem yourself heh). Once again, no monthly costs.

How do you do it? Z-Wave! Z-Wave is an open-source born approach to wifi/ip based devices that allows you to interconnect all of the devices in your home wirelessly via your home network. It can be used to simply control lighting, a simple alarm system or a full out automated home automation system. Your options are endless (or at least through time grow closer and closer to endless as new devices and approaches are discovered).

All of your devices can be used to communicate with each other to help control security, lighting, energy conservation, disaster awareness (ie flooding/leaks) and more. You can control your home theaters, living rooms or audio setups even (depending on your setup).

Here is a detailed break down of some of the products available to you and your options (prices based on the time I post this article, and may change over time although most likely would go down in price as new devices reach the market):

  • The Brain! (Vera Lite Controller) – This is one of the more affordable hubs that creates a control center for all of the devices (about 50-60 total). currently at $179 (sometimes falls on sale to $150-160)
    • You can also get the upgraded unit (The Vera3) which can control a greater number of devices and has it’s own wifi network so that you can have a sub network within your network that is dedicated just to your z-wave devices.
  • Foscam HD 720p IP/Wifi Cam – They come in black and white and are currently only $80-85 each usually depending on color (down from $159)
    • They also make a new HD/960p version of the cameras as well that runs about $105-120 range.
  • Honeywell Thermostate – Connects your thermostat to the network. Currently $123 (sometimes falls on sale to $103-109)
    • Allows you to view and control it remotely from vera’s control screen, or from an app on your phone or tablet, as well as for it to speak back and forth with other devices if you want to get creative (ie I have ceiling fans on z-wave switches that can be triggered on and off whenever the AC is turned on/off. I also have global scenes that control the power to all of these). Or you can also control the status of your A/C or heater based on the weather outside.
    • They also make more advanced z-wave thermostats that are more pricey but offer more features such as smart learning.
      • Example: Nest is a very popular one although I have never tried it out. It offers a futuristic interface and rocks a lot of advanced features (did I mention it looks cool?)
  • Kwikset Deadbolt – Connects your door lock to the network, comes in chrome, brass or bronze and also has other shapes/models (different locks for different people). Currently $188 (averages about $179-199 usually)
    • Other forms by kwikset: contemporary deadbolt, lever/handle (if you have a storage room, specialty room, etc you want to limit access to),
    • Yale also makes a super cool looking touch screen lock. It’s a little more expensive though but it at least has fallen in price compared to it’s original $400 price tag. Currently $235 (now avg price range of $220-240)
  • Outlet/Receptacle – Turn one of your wall outlets into a z-wave controlled outlet. Currently $29 and GE also makes one for about $40 (avg price).
  • Light Switch – Turn one of your light switches into a z-wave switch. GE also makes one as well that’s a little more. Currently $44 (averages about $38+)
    • Note: There are also 3-way kits (for lights with multiple switches) as well as dimmers. Some companies are working on stylish ones as well such as touch controlled switches and the like (these should be on the market later this year hopefully).
  • Plug Module – For when you don’t want to swap out the receptacle itself but want something that can move around to other plugs or be removed at any time. It just plugs into any outlet and turns it into a z-wave controlled outlet. Currently I use these and the receptacles to shut power to major devices that consume larger amounts of power during standby while away from home. Currently $32 (avg price is $29-39).
    • Let’s say you have a handful of devices throughout the houses such as amps, receivers, TVs, fans, blenders and cookware and other things that consume a power on standby (when they are turned off but still plugged in). Let’s say….in-all, it consumes about 100-150 watts of electricity and only 2 or 3 of these modules and/or receptacles could control them all…within a year or a little more you will make back what you spent buying these to control them and then start saving money from that point on. Sweet!
    • Extra tip: If you need to know how much power these devices are consuming on standby, buy this extremely affordable outlet monitor and plug it in the wall, plug your device (or power strip) into it and make sure the device is turned off. Then click on the “watts” button and see how much power it is still consuming to see if it’s worth controlling. If it’s 10 watts or 40-60+ watts…the 1-watt (usually) it costs to have one of these modules or outlets in use…outweighs the cost well (it pays for itself within 0.5 to 3 years and the rest is savings).
  • Strobe and Siren – So you can have a visual/audible alarm. Currently $40 (avg price $40-50)
  • Door/Window sensor – Can be used on virtually any door or window (some people even use it on their garage door as a way to tell if it’s shut). Currently $52 (avg price is $49-60)
  • Motion Detector – This is a 4-1 detector which has become popular. These sensors can be used where you don’t have camera or you want a different angle for motion detection than you want for the camera’s capture/view. They offer motion, lighting temperature and humidity sensor data which can be each be used in your scenes/triggers to control/trigger other devices with. Currently $60 (avg price $59-65)

They also make z-wave controllable plug/power strips, smart meter readers, moisture detectors (ie for garage floor near your water heater) as well as water shut off valves, light bulbs, light bulb sockets, pool/pump/sprinkler controls, relays, in wall switch converters and so much more. There are also a HANDFUL of tech devices coming out this year and in the future that will support z-wave. For example you can see here on one of the manufacturer’s websites, they have a list of everything they make and all of the things they are working on making possible shortly (including smart film/privacy film for windows and doors). Some of the upcoming devices (as long as they actually do come out and are affordable) can or will change the way we save energy, live or brag about our high tech homes and toys. Garage door control is still fresh territory so hopefully by summer more companies will finally come out with a rock solid solutions (at the moment most of your options are DIY and require your McGuyver skills).

There are also many ways to control other wifi based devices such as receivers (ie Yamaha’s RX series and I think Pioneer’s connected receivers as well), media players and radios, computers (ie remote boot, shut down, opening of applications, playlist control of media players, etc), etc…etc…etc. Some of these options are driven by plugins you can download from the vera lite controller’s app store which are all free but they do require some user interaction, and some other options are driven by custom code. These options of course are optional and would fall into the advanced usage category of z-wave networks but at least act as an example of the crazy things you can accomplish. For example, you can add wifi-based radio that can play back sound files in a playlist so the house can have a voice for certain things (ie, door or window opened, door left unlocked, certain door code users, temperature changes…the options are endless. You just record whatever sound or voice you want for *any* event you want. If you want it to call your roommate a dingle berry every time he turns on a specific light….it can be done. So far the radios I have heard that work best are: Logitech Smart Radio and Sonos devices such as this one.

All of the devices, scenes and triggers can be setup within the controller’s (brain) built-in web based admin center. They can be controlled from there, an app on your phone or various physical controllers like hand remotes (example 1, example 2) (works best for lights on/off as they don’t play nice when it comes to advanced scenes) and wall remotes (example 1).

Also, stay away from devices by “Schlage” and ” Trane” as they are proprietary and want you to use their custom version of z-wave through Schlage which you have to pay monthly for if you want to take advantage of any of the devices (this makes no sense and it’s an insult to the world of open source and z-wave). Also “Ecobee“…although their thermostats are pretty cool looking, I have no intel on if they will work on z-wave yet). Even though some of these devices can be “forced” onto your network…you are limited in access to the features they offer. This paragraph may be biased as I don’t believe you should have to pay to use the services that all the other companies offer for free through their devices and controllers…but I’ll let you determine the best solution 😉

Your options are endless and trust me when I say…it is addicting to keep expanding it larger and larger.

So there you have it. Have fun with your automated house and the things to come that will support it. Name it Jarvis and indulge in it’s awesomeness. When you leave for the day, feel secure in the fact that locking your door now could do more than just…lock the door…but also arm the house…shut off power to your A/C, lights and outlets…and so much more. Then go to your friends and ask tell them: I can control my entire house from my phone. Can you?

 

Update – Nov 2014: corrected some links and added some new examples.
Update – Dec 2014: updated a few links and added new verbiage to better explain a few things. 

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How to download anything (like anime) using Newsgroups/Usenet (tutorial for beginners)

by on Feb.26, 2011, under Animevortex, General, Tutorials

Newsgroups-Tutorial-Header

Author: TheSa|nt from Animevortex.net and Grauw from abma (alt.binaries.media.anime)

Even if just a $1, If you find my tutorial helpful, please:
🙂

Being an anime-related domain, this site (naturally) gets a LOT of requests on how to find/download fansubs via newsgroups. Also, anime will be the key example in this tutorial due to the legality of other topics. You can replace “anime” in this tutorial with whatever you like (movies, music, etc), but that is your own preference and decision.

Recently I posted on a very quick-tutorial on how to use easynews for newsgroups. However, there are other ways to more thoroughly explore newsgroups via desktop-based applications. A long time ago, Grauw developed a wonderful tutorial on how to do this, but through time a lot of it become outdated. So I have gone through and created a new version of the tutorial to better cover today’s practices, features and additional facts. This will act as the advanced guide on how to dive into the deep end and get crazy with it!

Even though I tried to summarize this as much as possible, the tutorial is still a bit lengthy and might be intimidating when looking at it but trust me when I say “it’s easy!”. It just has to be put into enough words to help even those who have been living under a rock 😉 — Now after reading this, if you are still missing anything, it should be easy to pick it up on your own through messing around. If I went over every possible detail on the usage of newsgroups, this tutorial would literally go on forever.

(continue reading…)

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Easynews Tutorial – How to use news groups

by on Jan.10, 2011, under Animevortex, Games, General, Movies/TV

I have had the question asked so many times….”how do I learn to use news groups”. Well, I can recommend software and the advanced way of finding what you need, but some prefer to keep it simple.

Wikipedia shares: A usenet newsgroup is a repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages posted from many users in different locations. The term may be confusing to some, because it is usually a discussion group. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forums on the World Wide Web. Newsreader software is used to read newsgroups.

Despite the advent of file-sharing technologies such as BitTorrent, as well as the increased use of blogs, formal discussion forums, and social networking sites, coupled with a growing number of service providers blocking access to Usenet, newsgroups continue to be widely used.

Easynews has gone out of their way to create a nice video tutorial that will walk you through the usage of the very user-friendly service. Easynews acts as a one-stop-shop for using news groups, where you can login, search and download everything from one spot (without the need of external applications or bouncing between sites).

Click Here to access the video tutorial!

Visit easynews now and start off with a free trial. Take the time to dabble and see if they are a good fit for you:

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For a more advanced tutorial explaining further access to Newsgroups via desktop application, click here to view my full tutorial.

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