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Smart Home Kit

Discussion in 'Hardware & DIY' started by jameson_uk, 4 Feb 2017.

  1. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    TL;DR Has anyone got any experience of LightWaveRF or Energenie kit?

    Currently I am using the two sockets next to the tank. One has a four gang for heater, air pump, circulation pump and heater and the other socket is for the lights. I have a B&Q timer on the lights and currently have a TP Link smart plug on the four gang meaning I can turn everything off at water change time without having to get down the side of the tank. The shrimp tank has a four gang for everything but again the B&Q timer for the lights sticks out a fair way and stops me hiding it nicely behind the tank (much to the annoyance of the misses...)

    This is all OK and works but it means I loose both sockets to the tank and the timer / smart plug stick out loads making it difficult to get at.

    I received the lovely marketing email from Screwfix yesterday which got me thinking about whether I could automate things a little without going down the whole PLC route (although that does seem very tempting...)

    The original thing that caught my eye was an Energenie double socket that has wifi control built in. You can get three sockets and a wifi controller for £99 and my initial thought was that I could wire three of these up to one socket and create a home made extension lead and then have control over everything and timers on the lights etc. Issue being it looks like the sockets don't support timers (still awaiting confirmation of this from Energenie). They also do have a smart four gang which looks to have individual control over the sockets and support timers (again I am awaiting confirmation) and is only £20; well I say £20 but you actually need a controller unit which is £50 on it's own.

    This then lead me onto the LightWaveRF kit which is more expensive (a double socket is £40 and the controller £90) but this seems to be far more robust and the sockets support timers. The issue here is that the documentation states that each receiver should be at least 20cm away from any other (not ideal what I wanted three of them next to each other).

    I started looking at relay units (both do a 3KW three connection unit) but not sure I want to strip all the plugs and hard wire everything in.

    The one actual use (which is what I would try and sell to the misses) is the lighting out the front. Currently all the lights at the front of the house have all the wiring hidden but she wants the lights to come on via a PIR. I bought a standalone PIR some time ago but she was not having the wires!! I need to figure out the details but it looks like both would allow me to trigger the lights from a wireless PIR which would be nice.

    Anyone got any experience with the Engergenie or LightWaveRF kit (or similar) ???
  2. Zeus.

    Zeus. Member

    Well I was looking at them, but the limitations of them put me off and I am going down the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) How to use a PLC to control your fish tank , which is the route I'm taking (Not Cheap)

    But I did get my son the Energenie Power management system £55, which he is very happy with ATM. Easy to program from PC via USB lead. Four programmable sockets (LondonDragon has one too on his latest setup, but yet to use it :shh:).

    The trouble with the WiFi units if the reception can be hit and miss sometimes from what I read about them, so didnt want to take the risk.

    ian_m has some remote units hes not using in his garage which he doesn't use anymore. ( Its what he use to use before he got his PLC). Might be worth a pm before you commit
  3. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    The power management system looks like an interesting compromise. I got a very non committal short response from Energenie about the other products so have had to ask them to clarify.

    I did come across an electrician talking about why the lightwaverf units might not be great for anything other than lighting (https://www.amazon.co.uk/LightwaveRF-Connected-Power-Double-Socket/product-reviews/B005TI1CY6)

    I now remember why I switched from an electrical engineering degree to one in computer science....

    I do have a couple of places where automatic lighting would be good (front porch via PIR and two cupboards which would be great if lights came on when the door was opened) but this is looking a very (too) expensive solution for that if it won't work with the fish tanks. Perhaps I need to properly automate water changes in order to make anything pay for itself )
  4. Zeus.

    Zeus. Member

    What made me go for the PLC was the Auto dosing control, light dimming, temp control etc etc you have seen ian_m thread.

    Sent from Mountolympus via neural interface
  5. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    Yep I have read the thread. PLC can't be voice controlled via Alexa

    I am coming round to thinking that the smart home technology simply isn't quite ready a d I should put it off for a while. If the Energenie four gang works with timers then this will potentially be a good solution for my shrimp tank where I need some small and compact.

    I am thinking about an Audriano / Raspberry Pi solution might be worth considering. It is on my list to have a play with a Pi and my Seneye and if that works it will add a bit more weight to that solution.
  6. ian_m

    ian_m Global Moderator Staff Member

    I design these type microcontroller things for a living, generally using industrial based STM32 parts (ARM Cortex M4 based) and to do it properly will cost a fortune, especially where mains interfacing is required.

    Though if you insist on a Pi doing it, things like this from Rex controls are the way to do it properly. £89 run time licence & free dev software. This is proper industrial real time OS "big boy proper" PLC control software. Will still need a lot of I/O fiddling to connect to relays, but can be done.

    Biggest issues with all the ARM stuff is getting it all nicely and mains safely in a nice fish tank mountable box and then the programming. My colleague at work spends weeks with Solidworks designing the STM32 boards we use along with other interface/carrier boards getting them all into a box that the customer can use (safely). Programming is generally using the Keil development system, £1500 for the Pro version.

    This is why I went for the industrial PLC. Below nicely mounted under fish tank, mains all kept behind transparent lid.

    Below programming a PLC...4 timer controlled relays. Done.

    And accessible over the web @ 9:42 just now. This has been running 4893 hours now and 2 days 19 hours since last water change.

    jameson_uk likes this.
  7. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    I know this is what makes the most sense and most likely what I will do if I go down this route :)

    When (if I ever) get time it is on my list to have a look at getting my Seneye working with a Pi. I found a Seneye Home in a shop for £30 so figured it was worth a punt (especially as it says the PAR meter is a software thing yet they have provided details of all the API so I reckon this should work using the Pi and might even work as a PAR meter.)

    I still waiting to get a proper answer from Energenie but I have a feeling that their four gang will work with IFTTT and allow each socket to be controlled independently. If this is the case then their Pi transmitter starts to looks promising.... Extension is £18.99 from Homebase, I have a spare Pi and the control board (transmitter) is £9.99 so might be able to have a set of four programmable sockets for <£30 (although I suspect this Pi transmitter only supports the old protocol which isn't used by the new kit).

    From an electrical engineering POV is there a fundamental issue with these wifi switches? I currently have my whole tank on a TP Link switch which works but I have read some bits about inductive / capacative loads not being good for these things ???
  8. Zeus.

    Zeus. Member

    Was chatting with Ian (via pm about my PLC build) and he did inform me that the PLC could be setup to read PAR as well. Not had the chance to look into yet :drowning:. Plan to check at out at some time :bookworm:
  9. ian_m

    ian_m Global Moderator Staff Member

    Yes two major issues:-

    1. Anything wirelessly controlled using a "shared communication channel" ie the airwaves, will not be 100% reliable. There is no guarantee the wireless switching command will get through due to other wireless devices, devices causing interference (eg poor quality tank lights) and loss of signal due to walls, non conducting things like fish tanks !!
    2. Here is a link about switching different loads. https://www.theben.de/en/Internatio...d-dim-LED-lighting/Capacitive-switching-loads. Yes LED loads are very bad for these timers, especially cheaper products, due to the capacitive load they present to the switch.

    I ran my wireless controlled sockets for years and had a few switching failures, like air pump still on in the morning, lights failing to turn on, probably only once or twice. My radio controlled sockets were Byron HomeEasy sockets. http://www.buyhomeeasy.co.uk/

    However, I suffered two catastrophic plant/fish damaging incidents.

    Once, I failed to replace the timer handset back near my tank, after a water change, and the handset failed to turn off my macro dosing pump and ended up dumping 1 litre of double strength EI macro solution into the tank. NO3 was 340ppm and PO4 80ppm, fish and plants didn't seem to mind and all survived despite the waste of EI solution.

    Another time, despite the timer handset being near the tank, I ended up dumping a load of liquid carbon in the tank. The water stunk of liquid carbon. This killed some fish and melted some of my plants away.

    I ended up running with multiple timer slots (the hand set provides 16 time slots) for the macro, micro and liquid carbon that had off times separated by a minute in the hope that at least one of the radio off command got through. After this no more overdosing incidents.

    I also suffered quite a few socket failures, where they no longer switched the output. I had at least 3 exchanged under Byrons warranty (out of 10 I possessed) and since had another two dead ones out of warranty. The newer sockets apparently are much better reliable, according to Byron, but don't work with the old control handset, so they had to send me a replacement handset to control the warranty replacement sockets. I never suffered failure with the new ones or possibly even switching failure as the new ones uses a different "radio code" that appears to transmit for over a second, in the hope a signal gets through.

    I was also told by Bryon, they don't recommend the switching sockets being placed next to each other in an extension lead as they may interfere with each other and the remote must be placed at least 20-50cm away from the sockets, again to prevent interference and signal overloading.
  10. markk

    markk Member

    As Ian has mentioned, energenie units use shared radio spectrum so there is always a risk of interference from other devices in that spectrum (wireless doorbells etc) and from noise from misbehaving devices.

    The best solution is to have feedback from the socket device that the message was received - but I just checked the energenie docs for the pi board and communication is one way only, so no feedback. The alternative is to send out the switch on/off command mutliple times to ensure it gets through (similar to Ian's workaround). Depending on the software your use, this should be straightforward enough (I would randomise the timing and have it sent say 3-4 times over a 30 second period).

    As far as inductive/capacitive loads is concerned, you are largely at the mercy of the quality of the relays they are using. That said, unless you have some large scale marine lighting system and/or pumps, the type and size of the equipment you are likely using should be well within the range of what a relay spec'd for a 13amp resistive load can deal with - there will be, I'm sure, thousands of people out there switching LED lights etc. All the failure reports seem to relate to people plugging in their hoovers:)

    If you are going to use a Pi, there are a couple of things to bear in mind (apologies if you're already aware).

    Firstly, they don't have a built in clock. Even if the pi is networked and you use network time, you still need to deal with the situation where the pi has lost power (and hence the time) and the network is down. I've been caught out before! So add a Real Time Clock - they can be had for £3-4 on ebay and are easy to setup.

    Secondly - raspberry pi's don't handle power failures very well. It's not happened to me in a long time but file system corruption is not uncommon. There are workarounds. You will ideally also need to add some sort of power switch as well so you can shut it down gracefully without having to log in.

    Arduino boards are better for simple use cases as they are so much more robust - but are obviously more limited.

    Regards, Mark
  11. ian_m

    ian_m Global Moderator Staff Member

    I will try and find the link where someone used a Pi to control his house & heating and basically suffered SD card corruption due to power failure. The system just hung on power up, so would be absolutely no use for aquarium control where unreliability has fish & plant deathly consequences.:arghh:... He tested his system by connecting it to normal time switch set to random mode, but after a couple of days and many power failure testing cycles the system didn't boot. Reformatting the SD card and system booted fine. I think he was using the SD card to log data and store system settings so looked like corruption was occurring during a write. In designing embedded systems this is a complete no-no, fail before even considering starting a design of this type of thing, using the program storage area (ie SD card) to store data. We normally store code in one memory device and data in something like a serially connected EEPROM, thus have no chance of corrupting your program code.

    Same guy also had problems with real time clock and the relevant controlling software. He found the real time clock module ran fast when the Pi was using 100% CPU. This was compared to NTP via Ethernet. Looked like there was interference going on somewhere. Solved by placing the real time clock module on end of a ribbon cable away from all other electronics. Also the RTC software sometimes read incorrect time, but he never got to the bottom of that, just read time until he got two reads the same.
  12. ian_m

    ian_m Global Moderator Staff Member

    On item I did discover, over a year ago when first announced was these. There are loads of Wifi plug type things out there, usually about £40 per socket, but these have timers, so suitable for fish tank control.


    They are now close to release and yes, they are the industry standard price of £40 each....:rolleyes:. Looks like they need to be connected to the Internet and timer switching command comes from their servers :banghead: rather than be stored in the device.

    The Power socket can measure power consumed, so could be interesting to see how much your tank costs to run...

    In my opinion, nice but for 4 sockets for £160 is a tad steep....(compare to DIY PLC costings...).
  13. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    The odd incident of something not turning on or off isn't the end of the world but damaging issues are! I am only really looking at lighting and pumps at the minute and other than putting the lights on a timer it is really on needed to turn everything off during water changes.

    The issue I saw with inductive loads was actually about switching items with motors rather than LEDs but most of that kit is/was primarily aimed at lighting I guess I would need to look at that.

    I currently have the heater, filter, circulation and air pumps plugged into an extension that is attached to TP Link Smart Plug which is £35 (although there is a version without the power consumption monitor that should be £25 but is out of stock everywhere). This switches via WiFi and has feedback. Indeed there is an Energenie smart plug which looks similar which I think has feedback.

    Indeed that is what is making me think too. I think both the LightWaveRF and Enegenie docs say they should be kept some distance apart. The four gang would seem a good solution as presumably there is only one receiver but four sockets so can avoid some of these issues.

    Energenie did come back and point out their other Pi Controller (ENER314-RT) which does do both way communication. Issue is not all their smart plugs provide feedback anyway.... At £20 it is still a bit of a project!

    Standard T5 lighting at the minute. If I do swap to the Juwel LEDs then they come with their own control unit which bypasses the whole timing / switching issue.

    Yes indeed, I had a Pi setup as a PIR camera in the garden to catch the foxes which used to visit. I was actually thinking about trying to trigger this externally to the Pi (possibly via IFTTT if I could get that working) so the Pi would just handle the request to turn on / off a device and send the signal. I have a USB battery device which keeps the Pi going for a while in the even of power failure and I did do some messing around to get it to restart gracefully after power was re-added.

    The Arduino board would be much better for switching but I am not sure whether it would work with the USB Seneye.
    I did consider doing a network boot from my server (although this would mean buying a Pi 3 rather than using the Pi 2 I have lying around)

    This looks pretty similar to the TP Link one I have (but more expensive!)

    My original thoughts on this was to remove some of the big bulky adaptors and make everything look cleaner. The shrimp tank in particular has a timer on the light which means the four gang wont fit in the space behind the tank and I have to have all the plugs on show. Without the timer I can hide all the plugs and that pleases the wife lots!!!!

    Also the original draw was £20 for a four gang and effectively £10 each socket (after you buy the controller) and that would give you a complete wifi smart solution.

    One thought is that I simply need two wifi switched relays. One that could turn off the heater etc. (could just wire it to a socket with a four gang attached) and the other to the lights which would just need on / off command sending at appropriate time.
    I have my Linux file server which is always on. Do such things exist (or is this ending up back at Pi / Arduino territory) ??
  14. simonm74

    simonm74 Newly Registered

    I'm not sure whether it meets the OP's requirements but I've recently splashed out on one of these:


    It's a wireless gateway which you connect to your wifi router, and comes with two plug-in adapters. I got it for £95 on Amazon.

    You use either a smartphone app or a web portal to control the plug-in adapters manually or set up timer sequences. So they're basically remotely-controllable versions of those digital timers you can buy in Homebase, which in my experience often burn out or pack up after a while:


    They're also two-way (i.e. send and receive - "control and monitor" they call it ) so when the a command to the adapter it sends a message back to the gateway to confirm that it has been actioned. Energenie also manufacture a much cheaper "control (no monitoring)" version which I would not trust with critical infrastructure such as my aquarium!

    The whole thing took minutes to set up and I'm really impressed with the smartphone app and with their customer service. I'm going to buy another couple of adapters this weekend. The cheapest I've seen them online is £23 each.
  15. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    The TP link thing is basically the same thing but without the hub. I was really looking for something so I didn't have large extra adaptors sticking out of the sockets.

    Unfortunately both the Energenie four gang and double sockets are only one way and have a few other restrictions as above.
  16. ian_m

    ian_m Global Moderator Staff Member

    These Energenie units look quite good. Wish they had been around instead of my HomeEasy stuff I bought years ago.

    They use wireless 433MHz range for control, so hopefully significantly less interference from phones, routers etc (but not car key fobs, Homeasy sockets, baby monitors !!) and will also have a lot further range due to using a lower frequency than WiFi.

    However it is still communication over a shared channel, so by definition will never be 100%.

    Still prone to interference, I could never remotely unlock my car IF the baby monitor was on in the car. :oops: This was years ago (my daughter is 18 now !!), modern systems using 433MHz may/will be better.

    Very nice to have feed back control that the unit has switched, however will always be prone to "unable to turn off macro dosing pump" type of failure. Hopefully the unit will just keep trying to regain control if communication is lost.

    So won't be 100% reliable control, but in practice is the best one could possibly get using wireless. Just getting thinking hat on of where else one could use this stuff, whole house electrical power monitoring is interesting...
  17. LondonDragon

    LondonDragon Administrator Staff Member

    I am actually looking at the TP-Link plugs, no need for hubs so much better:


    They also do a version that monitors energy consumption:


    I purchased a powerstrip that you can control 4 of the 6 sockets but later found out that I have the USB version and not the network version and its not wifi anyway so sucks, I will be purchasing some of these for my tank.
  18. simonm74

    simonm74 Newly Registered

    Interesting, I wasn't aware of those TP-Link plugs.

    The Energie MiHome products supply all manner of energy consumption statistics, graphs etc.
  19. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk Member

    Must admit I have never had any issues with it and it is 100% successful but I am basically using it to turn off pumps, filters and heaters when doing maintenance. Not tried the timer (still have a B&Q timer doing that) and obviously not really an option for things like dosing pumps and I am not sure I would trust it if I had a CO2 on a solenoid.

    If the Energenie four gang allowed you to set timers on individual sockets then this would already behind my shrimp tank. The current B&Q timer for the lights means it has to sit above the tank in full sight

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