The journey so far…

I have been attempting to automate my home for some time and I have only just decided to blog about it.  So where am I at the moment and what have I achieved so far?

My heating is controlled by a collection of what I will call FHT devices.  These appear to be available under a couple of different brand names.  The first I bought was from HouseTech and branded HouseHeat.  Later I discovered that you could buy the same kit from a German company called Conrad Electronic who have an English website.  The first one I bought from there had an ELV logo on it (who I think manufacture the system) and later ones are branded Conrad.

This system consists of a battery operated programmer and separate battery operated actuator which replaces the traditional thermostatic bit on a standard thermostatic radiator valve.  I will write more on how this system works later.

Lighting consists of a mix of different types including mains and low voltage Halogens, compact florescent’s (CLF’s or Energy Saving Bulbs) and traditional incandescent light bulbs.  Control is via a mix of electronic dimmers and switches.  In the case of dimmers, I have a mix of Varilight touch dimmers, a couple of HomeEasy dimmers and my recent foray – LightwaveRF dimmers.  Again, I will write more about this journey soon.

Its probably sensible to talk about the computing power available to me.  I have a ‘node zero’ in the loft which consists of a wall mounted rack, a couple of wired Ethernet switches, a rack mountable server (not currently rack mounted) and a wireless bridge to connect it to the Wireless network.  The server runs VMWare VSphere 5 with a mix of virtual machines including a number running Linux, a token Windows XP installation and a FreeNAS box providing file store.  ’Client side’ computing devices consist of a Macbook Pro laptop, a Mac Pro workstation, an iPhone4, an original iPad and the Mrs’ work laptop running Windows 7… oh, and a Nintendo Wii!  Internet is provided by a Virgin Media cable connection terminated downstairs and connected to the rest of the infrastructure via WiFi.

Music and Video is served from a home built media server running Plex for visual media to the various Mac and iDevices and Logitech Squeezebox Server to a Logitech Squeezebox Classic.

About the Author

chrisChris works as an IT Security Specialist for a large FTSE 100 company. He is a geek at heart and loves nothing more than trying to automate his home. The problem is, his wife simply doesn't get it and can't understand why they can't have 'normal' lights like everyone else! Chris is dedicated therefore to implementing automation in a family friendly way.View all posts by chris →

  1. andyandy12-29-2011

    Hello,

    I found a link to your blog on the Lightwave forums, and I wondered if you could help with some questions/feedback on the conrad heating control that you’ve installed.

    I’m currently considering the system from conrad to provide individual room temperature control, as well as controlling the main boiler. What are your thoughts on the conrad system quality/reliability wise ? I understand you’ve linked the system to a PC – which interface did you use to provide this link (I’ve been investigating the CUL USB device http://culfw.de/culfw.html which supports the FS20 protocol) ? Any other hints/tips that would help me on this journey would be much appreciated.

    Andy

    • chrischris01-17-2012

      Hi Andy. Thanks for visiting my Blog. The Condrad system itself seems completely stable. I have connected it to my PC using the official FHZ1300PC interface although I have read about using the CUL device. I have it connected to a linux installation running FHEM and this works most of the time. If I have any problems at all, it is due to FHEM not getting readings (for some reason the programmers seem to stop sending them after a while). This seems to be fixed at the moment by sending daily resets to the programmers – I can give more details if required. The key point here though is that the system itself runs completely independently of the computer control and keeps on running even if the computer goes down – a key requirement to keep the wife happy!

      Take care, Chris

  2. JohnJohn10-03-2012

    Chris

    I am leaving this for two reasons – first to thank you for your response to my question on the Automated Home Forum where I asked about Conrad wireless heating controls, and second to see if you can give me a little more information.

    It seems that I can set up a zone with a zone controller (Conrad FHT 80BTF), add more zones using a similar setup, and then use a central controller that will control all roms centrally as well (FHZ 1000). I would like to use the boiler control (FHT 8W) but I am not sure that that will work with that set-up – the documentation does not make that clear.. Your blog indicates that you are using a PC interface – is it the the Conrad FHZ 1300 Radio Home Centre WLAN or the Conrad FHZ 1300 Radio Home Centre PC. If so, what software do you suggest (PC based) if you have a view?

    Is the above about what you are running with?

    I did find a similar product on the Conrad web site (HomeMatic EQ-768-06 Radio-controlled Room Thermostat and Valve Drive etc) that looks like it uses the same radiator actuator.

    This may also be of interest: http://www.syxthsense.com/wireless_radiator_valve_thermostats.php

    • chrischris10-04-2012

      Hi John.

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, the configuration you suggest would work (as far as I know). I don’t have the FHZ1000 as I only have five zones (one of which is the spare bedroom which is off most of the time anyway). I guess the FHZ1000 would be useful if you had more zones as it allows central control of all the zones at the same time. Walking around four zones to set holidays etc only takes perhaps 3 minutes so it isn’t too painful.

      I am using the FHT8W in exactly this configuration. When any zone/programmer requests heat (and opens the actuators), the FHT8W ‘hears’ the request and switches the boiler on. Likewise switches it back off again when all zones are warm enough.

      I have the FHZ1300PC, the non WLAN one. If I recall correctly, the reason for this is that the software I am using (FHEM on Linux) won’t work with the WLAN version – it is encrypted WLAN only and the software just expects to communicate with it via a serial port. This may have changed – I’ve had it some years. If I recall correctly, the device came with some Windows software – I ditched it fairly quickly because it didn’t really offer anything I needed. I think it was mostly for instant control and monitoring rather than doing more advanced programming (which FHEM could potentially do by directly requesting set points on a completely programmed regime).

      I did read somewhere that the programmers could only communicate with one ‘master’ and both the FHZ1000 and FHZ1300PC implement this. Consequently, I think you can only use one or the other, but not both at the same time.

      The Homematic ones look similar. I don’t believe they are compatible, but the programmers look slightly more powerful with the backlight and the staggering 24 set points per day! In my house I have observed the heating taking about an hour to raise from setback to comfort anyway (although this is more likely a limitation with the wet heating system we run rather than the programmers), so with 24 programmes, you’d just get to the desired temperature and the programme would change! What isn’t clear from the Conrad website is whether there are any other accessories available like the equivalent of the FHT8W etc. The Syxth Sense stuff looks interesting. Seems to run on the same frequency (although probably not compatible), but it does look quite a bit more expensive. I’d be wary of actuators which just open or close the TRVs. The Conrad ones we are talking about here adjust the openings by 1% increments so should have the capability of controlling the heat output much better than some that just open and close the TRV. I believe the current LightwaveRF ones just open and close.

      HTH
      Chris

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