Introduction to home automation systems (Part I)

What is home automation?

The term home automation comes from the union of the words “home” and “automation” (‘that works by itself’). It means a whole group of systems capable of automating a home, providing energy management services, security, welfare and communication, and can be integrated through networks of communication inside and outside, wired or wireless, and whose control has certain ubiquity, from inside and outside the home.

In a more informal way could be defined as the integration of technology into the home in order to achieve greater safety and comfort.

Home automation applications.

In addition to security and comfort already mentioned, there are other applications that can be performed with a home automation system and these clearly depend on the imagination of the person who set up the system as well as the number of applications is increasing, but to summarize some categories could say that the most common are:

– Energy saving

– Comfort

– Security

Energy saving: With a home automation system can better manage the energy we use, or zoning the HVAC system is one example to save power, also manage electrical loads will allow us to have contracted a lower electricity rate and therefore pay less in our bill. Schedule automatic on and off or dim the lights at times also help us reduce consumption. Therefore the efficiency of the heating / air conditioning, electrical management and use of renewable energy are some of the alternatives for energy savings.

Comfort: Perhaps the aspect of comfort is the one we call the attention of a home automation system, power control of blinds or lights from a remote is something that no one denies. If we add that in a programmable automation system can assign tasks to perform at a certain time or perform various actions with the push of a button, for even greater comfort.

We described the meaning of home automation like automatic house and actually is in this sense that we can get more out of the system. Automating tasks is essential in a home automation system to look like this. Besides the use of automation we can also make energy savings, for instance imagine the typical light illuminating the entrance to a house, if we program this light to only turn on when comes dusk and turn off at a certain time or once dawn arrived, we can save energy. But if we want to further optimize, we can use a motion detector so the light comes on only when the motion detector detects the proximity of a person during the time giving.

But there are many more applications, for example in winter schedule for blinds that are fully open during daylight hours which the sun’s intensity is greater, we also provide energy savings because the heating system has to work less to heat the house.

What else can be done in the comfort?, Because the list of things you can do is great, but to give examples, make a general off all the lights in the house to leave, automation light points, plugs, curtains, blinds, etc., light level control based on ambient light, video intercom integration with TV, integration with a sound distribution system, set up macros to perform multiple tasks with a single command or control remote system are some examples of comfort applications.

Security: This is one of the points which should be integrated into an automated system, because once it can control some elements may also adapt an emergency operation or security alarm. For instance, if we have a motion detector within the housing to automate lights, we can also use it to let us know in case of intrusion, for it only have to distinguish between an inhabited or armed mode to prevent raising the alarm when we get home.

Also in the field of security with automated systems can also simulate presence activating lights and blinds in a certain time or also by flood sensors, gas detection, and so we cut the supply to be detected one of these conditions for safety reasons. All this plus the fact that it is also possible to instruct the system to send an alarm to us through a SMS message to our mobile or it can be accessed from a camera installed in our home, giving us complete control of the home automation system and getting information from home at any time from everywhere.

Types of devices.

Within any home automation systems there are different types of devices that we can find, these generally can be classified into:

– Sensors

– Actuators

– Controllers

– Specific devices

Normally with this classification covers all devices that can be part of a home automation system. Let’s talk about each of them to know better:

Sensors

We call sensor to any device that measure or give us some kind of parameter, so you could say they are “input” devices. For example, sensors are motion detectors, flood detectors, fire detectors, CO2 detectors, etc but also are examples the switches or buttons that serve to order light a lamp or activate a particular scene.

In a conventional system, no automation, a switch is an actuator, but in home automation systems often the switch modules only send a signal into the home automation system indicating that a switch or button has been changed and this signal causes the switch module directly or through a controller to change the state of the actuator.

Also, for example a weather station or a thermostat also be considered as a sensor, because it will provide an input to our system parameters, in this case for example the current temperature.

Actuators

We talked about when we refer to actuator devices that perform some action and therefore devices can be considered “out” devices. An actuator will translate an order in an action, such as a lamp module to take care of a lamp on or off depending on the order you are told (on, off, dim, etc).

Are actuators for example, lamp modules, appliance modules, blind modules, etc.

Controllers

Apart of the sensors or actuators, other types of devices that are responsible for processing the signals of the automation system are the controllers, usually are running some kind of programming, for example to up or down blinds with sunrise or twilight, ordering different actions when a scene is required, etc..

Specific devices

In some automated systems, especially in more complex systems in addition to these three types of device can also be other such as signal repeaters, gateways, etc. Here it should be noted that this type of devices are system dependent, so in some systems may be required for certain devices that are not needed or do not exist in other systems.

To give an example, in X10 home automation systems, in which information is transmitted through the power line, one of the specific devices may be the signal blocker that prevents exit X10 signal outside the home, this device does not exist for such wireless system such as z-wave.