Introduction: Home Energy Conservation and Automation With Z-Wave and Android
Energy conservation is a big topic, there's lots of ways to save energy, from turning off your lights when you leave a room all the way to putting in weather stripping to ensure your not letting out the hot or cold air from your home. These are definitely helpful and should always be considered when trying to reduce your carbon foot print, but figuring out where your energy is going is the best way to conserve energy. Knowing is half the battle, right?
So how can we figure this out? Sure we can take a look at our energy meter outside and mark our usage and check it in a month, or we can take a look at our electrical bill and see what our kilowatt usage is, but that just gives us a broad view, we really don't get any details about it. Is it because my heater or air conditioner is kicking on too much? Should we go through the process of weather proofing the house and hope that our usage goes down? Well it may not be a bad idea but it's just a shot in the dark, we could spend hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, and still use more electricity than we want to. So what do we do? Enter the Z-Wave.
What is Z-Wave?
What is a "zwave"? Is it some kind of surfer lingo for catching some zuper coool waves? (That was bad, horrible even, we'll keep it) Well, maybe it is, but for our intents and purposes we're talking about a Technology. Z-Wave is a type of technology that's used to get more information out of your home. We can check the status of doors, we can arm alarms, we can set up motion detectors or lock your doors remotely. You may have guessed it, we can monitor electrical usage as well! Technology is amazing. Sort of like bluetooth and wifi signals. Z-wave is a type of communication between a Hub or controller, and devices that are hooked up to it. Z-Wave sets up a mesh type network which is great for big homes.
What's a Mesh type network? Well simply put it means that every device we connect can act as a communication pathway to the original Device, in a typical Wifi situation we have multiple devices connecting to a central Hub. All devices have to be near the central hub in order to be connected. But in a Z-wave network the devices can jump from one another with data back to the central hub. Instead of all devices going from A to H, B to H, C to H, we can connect to A to B to C then to H, they are basically like range extenders if that makes more sense.
In this instructable we're just going to set up our Controller (Vera Lite) and a single Device (SmartSwitch Energy monitor). Then we're going to set somethings up in tasker to get the automation going. It's going to be fun.
Step 1: Preparation
Please do not skip this section.
Everything has a beginning, and any project you start should have the same beginning, safety. Working with electricity is dangerous. Electricity is not your friend, it does many things for us but we cannot take it lightly (ah-ha-ha-ha, sorry this is no time for puns). Always take precautions to ensure your safety. Electricity takes the path of least resistance and our bodies don't give much resistance, so one wrong move and we've got anything from an annoying shock all the way to losing limbs and stopping your heart. If you do not feel comfortable with dealing with your electrical break or dealing with your electrical outlets, please, by all means finish reading this instructable, if only to quench your curiosity but do not attempt this if you are not comfortable. We have the obligatory, we cannot be held responsible for any damage to you or your property by following this instructable.
Have a goal!
It's always fun starting new projects, but without a goal you won't get far. What do you want to accomplish, would you like to just try and save more money in the long run? Or do you want to do your part to reduce your carbon footprint in the world? Or do you just want to automate your lifestyle? Whatever your goal is, write it down! Keep that thought alive and let's dive in and get this party started.
Step 2: Materials
We'll start by going over the tools needed for this, honestly there are not very many "required" tools for this, the great thing about this project is that we don't need to make many modifications to drywall or living set up.
Let's list things from most important to least:
- Safety Gloves
- Safety Goggles
- Ear protection (if we need to drill)
- Phillips/Flat head screwdrivers
- Marking pen
- Drill (for creating mounting holes)
- Android phone (for automation)
Bill of Materials
Alright, let's get into the items we'll be using for this, cost of these devices will vary depending on which ones you decide to go with, the most effective set up would be to get electrical outlet sensors for each outlet you use in your house. We're really only going to be doing a basic set up as each device is typically configured the same inside of our Z-Wave controller. The more devices we can get hooked up, the more control we've got over our energy consumption.
- 1 - Z-Wave Controller
- We're using a VeraLite Home Controller for our example
- 1+ - Outlet adapters
- The first one we're using is an Aeon Labs Z-Wave Smart Energy Switch
To go even more in depth with our energy saving we can set up a custom thermostat.
Optional Software (for automation)
Technology is great right? I can't get enough of it, so let's talk a quick bit about ways we can automate our home and energy usage with our Z-Wave controller's interface or if we're on the go we can use our smart phones. Both Android and iPhone have a VeraMobile app, I can't go into much detail about the iPhone app, but here's some links:
With android we can go into a step further with a few plugins to make automation even easier and more customizable with:
- Tasker is just a great program for Android, you can do so much with it, so much that a whole new instructable could be made to go over all the cool functionality. This app is not free but I recommend this app even without a z-wave system.
- AutoVera is a plugin for tasker that allows us to go into customization options tied to triggers that Tasker has built in. AutoVera can be used as a trial (with ads) or you can purchase the unlock key, which is definitely the way to go.
So many possibilities, but let's get started with the basics.
Step 3: Implementation
Getting started with Z-Wave
First we'll need to get the Z-Wave controller (Vera Lite) plugged into our network and then load up the GUI (Graphical User Interface) so we can start getting our settings taken care of and our devices added.
- First thing to do is plug in the Vera Lite to our router and power outlet
- We'll want to wait for all three lights to stop blinking
- Next we'll go to https://home.getvera.com
- We'll click on continue and next a couple times once the site recognizes the device we'll need to register on the site
- Fill out the registration!
We'll move onto the next step which is setting up the device, no worries though, it's easy!
Step 4: Adding a Device
Adding a device is simple!
Alright now we've got this green box in our house with some pretty lights, what do we need to do next? Well, unless we're using it as a night light for the kids we'll need to add some devices. Well we could still do that, but it probably wouldn't work out too well, moving on:
- Once the controller (the Vera lite) is set up we'll add a device.
- Click on devices on our left hand side of the screen (you may already be here)
- For the device we're setting up we're going to select the Dimmers and lights section
- We'll then select the SmartSwitch Energy option
- Crazy enough there's a picture of our device! We'll have about 60 seconds to double press the power button on the smartswitch energy device to pair it.
- We need to name the device, add a room (to keep track of things if you've got a large amount of devices) and smack that finish button
And that's it, we now have control over our switch, now this is a pretty basic set up, with this we can just control whether it's off or on. Devices like door locks, smoke alarms, power strips, thermostats, and even IR Controllers all have other settings that we can play with. The next step is optional, but the step after that we'll start setting up an android device to get some automation going.
Step 5: Messing With Your Kids..
We've got a remote controlled switch..what to do..
Well let's mess with our kids, muwahahaha...
Crafty little buggers, alright well that didn't last long, moving on!
Step 6: Getting Tasker and Auto Vera Setup
Alright, these next couple of steps are going to be picture heavy, again in a previous step I listed the two android apps we'll need to purchase, Tasker and AutoVera which is a plugin for tasker.
- Get the AutoVera and Tasker apps installed, if you purchase the full version of AutoVera download and install the unlock key
- Open up AutoVera and you'll need to set up your Android Device name so you can keep track of the devices that are controlling your Z-wave components
- Enter the username/Password you created for you veral light login
- After that you'll want to Select Your Veras
- You'll then click on the refresh button and your your device should show up
Alright we're going to move onto the next step which is going to be setting up Tasker, and it's going to be a biggie.
Step 7: Intro to Tasker and Setup
Tasker is an amazing android application. It can be used to automate your phone, to set up profiles based on time, location, wifi state, bluetooth state, when you open a certain app, so many things can act as triggers. And what can you with those kinds of triggers? Well pretty much everything, playing alarms, sending messages, calling numbers, turning on GPS, turning off things to save battery, and we can even use plugins like AutoVera to send signals to our Vera Lite and control our home! Aww yeah, let's do this:
- First and foremost we'll want to turn off beginner mode, beginner mode's for chumps.
- Hit the menu key on your device
- Then let's click preferences
- We'll go ahead and click on the UI tab if we're not there then uncheck Beginner Mode
Tasker 101 - Crash Course
Alright Moving on, once that's taken care of we're going to start creating a profile. In tasker, think of a Profile as a Trigger. We can set up a trigger to initiate an action, which, in tasker are called Tasks. We can initiate multiple actions actually, which is great. Think of scenes as a way to create a GUI, or remote for activing tasks. Scenes are a bit of an advanced topic that we won't hit, we're just going to work on triggers and actions (profiles and tasks).
We're going to set up a couple different triggers to perform the same action, in this case we're going to set up a Wifi trigger, to detect when we enter and leave a wifi signal, and we're going to do the same for when we enter a certain geographical location (I.e. we're coming home from work, time to power on our devices)
To try and keep the steps and the picture mess clean I'll seperate the Profile (trigger) creation and the Task (action) creation on seperate steps.
Step 8: Profile Creation
Step 8 - Profile Creation
Alright, the pictures above are going through the process of setting up two different Triggers, we'll set up one for Wifi and we'll set up one for GPS location, both will have an enter task, or what we will do when we are connected to wifi, or within a certain radius of a GPS point, and we'll set up an exit task, what we'll do when we are no longer connected to our Wifi or when we leave the GPS radius.
Let's set up a wifi trigger first:
- Click the Plus in the lower right hand Corner
- Click on the State option
- Click on the Net category
- Click the Wifi Connected option
- Click on the Magnifying glass
- Then select your Wifi Network from the list (I'm going to black this out)
- Then Hit the back button on your android device
At this point it's going to be we will need to set up a task for this profile to continue, which we will in the next step, but I'm also going to show how to set up a GPS location based one because that'll probably be more useful to most people:
- Click the plus in the lower right hand corner
- Instead we're going to select the Location based option
- We'll need to make sure our GPS is turned on, but then we can just hit our location marker to auto find us (using a different location for privacy reasons) and then we'll change the radius option to something a bit smaller
- Once again when we're done we'll want to hit the back button on our android phone and we'll need to create a task or link a task
Pretty simple stuff, a lot of steps and tapping around but it's all pretty straight forward. We'll move on to the task creation portion.
Step 9: Task Creation
Alright,Once we've got our profile set up the app wants us to create a task.
- Smack the New Task button at the top
- Name the task, once you're there click on the + sign at the bottom of our screen
- Next we'll click on the Plugin options
- Then we'll click on the AutoVera option
- We'll then select Devices
- Now we're going to set up our Vera Lite Link - Click on the Pencil in the configuration section
- We're going to go through the options
- We're going to select our Vera Device we set up
- We'll Then select the device we want to control (my smart energy plug)
- The service we want to control will just be our "switch"
- Then we'll select our Action - now with other devices we'll have more options here, since this is just a plain outlet monitor it's just going to give us the state option, which we only have two..
- And Then we'll select our state, whether we want this on or off - since we have the trigger set to either when we enter a GPS location, or we're connected to to WIFI, I want to set it to turn my light on
Creating an exit task will consist of all of the steps above for creating a new task, so keep this step in mind, again to try and save some clutter in the pictures we'll create a new step about the exit task.
Step 10: Exit Task Creation
Again, this is going to be pretty short:
- Go back to the Profiles menu
- Tap down and hold onto the Task we have set for our profile
- Select Exit task in the menu that pops up
- Then create a new task using the process outlined in the last step, so simple!
Probably didn't need an entire step for that little guy, but no big deal. So what's next? How does this save us on our energy usage? We'll discuss that in the final step!
Step 11: What Does It All Mean?!
So what does buying all of these zwave devices and android applications really do for us? How is this saving us money? Why would anyone think to go through all of this?
Well it's really quite simple to be honest, using z-wave technology we can remotely monitor our energy usage from a nice little control panel on the web. We can plug in our TV to see how much wattage per hour it's using, we can see which devices in our homes are eating up our money and we can then do something about it.
When we finally finish getting all our devices set up, we can then turn them off remotely when we're at work or when we're going out for the day from a central Hub, and if we use Tasker to automate this process it makes it even easier.
Buy a door lock and set it up to automatically lock your door when you disconnect from your wifi, or when it's 10pm at night and you're going to bed. Set it up to unlock your door when you connect to your wifi while you're just outside of house. That one doesn't have much to do with energy saving but it's still a possibility with Z-wave and tasker.
Technology is great, it really is, with this kind of control over our devices we can truly automate nearly every mundane task we've got, or to just try and make our lives a little bit easier.
I appreciate you taking the time to read through this, let me know in the comments if this all makes sense, or if I missed something and I'll do my best to answer and get the instructable updated.
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.