Thursday, June 13, 2019

Answer to what can I do with X?

Another post I'm seeing a lot lately, especially with Wyze adding sensors and bulbs to their line up, is what can I do with X? This of course is backward thinking, trying to find a problem for a solution. You don't hear about a great plastic surgeon and then start asking people what you ought to get fixed. You go looking for a plastic surgeon when you think surgery is the fix for a problem you have. In the same way you dive into home automation to make some aspect of your life easier that is troubling you. Odds are you are not going to be happy with the outcome of finding a problem for your solution. But you a good solution to a problem is always a joy.

So the first thing you want to do is come up with a list of things you would like to fix / make easier in your life. Don't worry about if there is something out there to do it or how hard you think it might be. That comes later. Also go overboard here. You will probably find automation is out there is more capable than you thought. For example you might be thinking you would like to be able to turn lights on and off with your voice but wouldn't really like those lights to turn of when you enter and off when you leave all own their own and only use voice control as a backup? The cost difference between remote / voice control and automation is not that much when you are talking more than a couple things.

Prioritize that list.

Next do some research to find what options you have to automate each of those options. Be sure to note costs and needed skills for each option. (Some options might require coding or even hardware modification though most probably will not.) Also lean toward local control, works without talking to a cloud service, where possible.

Now see which hubs and devices (that work together) solved the most problems for YOU in the easiest way. There will probably be compromises to be made at this point. Note you want to lean toward devices that work with the most hubs so you are less likely to need to replace them later when you upgrade. And yes you will need to upgrade or abandon your setup at some point. That is just the state of the world. See Is the cloud over? for just some of the examples of services and devices that have gone away recently. Also drives home why you want to avoid cloud services for your logic whenever possible since there have been many more outages than shutdowns.

Lastly make a plan how start and grow. Odds are you will need a logic hub (as in SmartThings, Wink, Vera, Hubitat or Homeseer not gateway hubs like Hue. Lightify or Google Home) to start even if you plan to start with just remote / voice control unless you are OK with starting over later. Depending on the logic hub you start with this might be a significant outlay in money and or time. So go for the highest priority problem on your list you think you can tackle. Note however you might want to start with an easier one if that top one requires you to learn new skills or depends on equipment needed for other solutions as well. You want to avoid having to recode, repair or replace if possible. For example if controlling lights if top priority you might want to start with a Hue gateway and bulbs and a basic voice assistant. Then you could add all the Hue devices to a logic hub without having to repair all the devices directly as you would have had to do if you bought one of the voice assistants with a built in gateway. If you had gone with "works with" bulbs or switches you would probably need to replace them when you upgrade to logic hub.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Dakota mailbox and driveway alert system

I started this awhile back. Then the Dakota receivers became unavailable so I thought I'd wait till the new model came out. Unfortunately after talking to Guardline it appears that will not be happening. It sounds like there will be no compatible receiver coming. Probably no new model with multiple relay outs either though they hinted a model that talks to home automation might be in the works. So I figured I should go ahead and post this for those that want to snap 2500 up before they are gone.

Most Dakota 2500 receiver bundles are now going for several times the MSRP.  For example the receiver / contact sensor I used in my mailbox was just $75 a little while back. At the time I'm writing this the cheapest option is to get the underground bundle from Guardline directly for $240 and toss the sensor unless you need it and add contact sensor for $35. (While you can. Some are already trying to get over $80 per sensor.)  After a fair bit of research I'm not finding any decent replacement options as Dakota seems to have been to only one with multiple relay outs much less also supports contact sensors or talks directly to home automation. So you best option now for a mailbox sensor is to buy a 4000 bundle for each sensor you wish to install at like $90 a piece though those have no relay out. After distributors clear the last of the Dakota 2500 stock there might not be an option for awhile so I broke down and bought a "backup receiver" and several sensors. I wanted to add more sensors to the south field anyway with all the "interesting creatures" (deer, cows, wild? pigs, coyotes....) passing through there lately so finding them on video is easier. PIR motion sensors can be way more sensitive without the false alarms most video systems can give you since they see heat diffs. Of course you want both for best results.(See Paranoia definitely pays when it comes to recording.) Hopefully by the time one goes there will be better options. Or at least by the time both go. Kind of amazed there isn't one already.

Update: after ordering the above mentioned receiver / probe bundle I found the receivers on their own for just $70. Not sure how many they have and the site is damn slow. I ordered yet another one at that price so I should be good and well covered. I'll update with details good or bad about this vendor. Note the only sensor they had was the contact one which was a bit more than Amazon's current price so get the sensors elsewhere.

Here are the parts I used:

Dakota Alert UTDCR-2500 Duty Cycle Universal Kit, One UT-2500 & One DCR-2500 (see update above)
Dakota Alert DCMT-2500 Transmitter 2500' (Green)
Dakota Alert 2500 Wireless Motion Detector, Black (PR-2500)
Dakota Alert UT-2500 2500 Wireless Universal Transmitter
Dakota Alert DCPT-2500 Duty Cycle Probe Transmitter 2500'
Dakota Alert BBA-2500 Break Beam Alert Kit, One BBT-2500 & One DCR-2500 (Note was same price as beam sensor alone)

Step2 531700 MailMaster StoreMore Mailbox
Ecolink Z-wave Plus Rare Earth Magnets Door & Window Sensor, White & Brown (DWZWAVE2.5-ECO)
ALEKO 5BS-MC13S-M 5 Sets of Magnetic Contact Reed Switches Security Alarm Contacts For Doors Windows and Other Applications
I would suggest upgrading the door switches to
SM-226L-3Q Seco-Larm Overhead Door Mount N.C. Magnetic Contact w/ 3 Wires for N.O./N.C. Applications
And adding a deck box for parcels with signage.

Battery life

In the just weird department, the battery ran out in my first Dakota Alert DCMT-2500 Transmitter after almost a year. I stuck in a new battery and it kept tripping constantly. Even though the battery tested OK I put a newer one in and it worked fine. I'm guessing I just got a bad battery. Almost two years on now I've only needed to replace a battery in one of the motion sensors since.

Setup

Should be pretty straight forward. Just follow the instructions for setting channels on the sensors to pair the with the receiver. Wire the Ecolink sensors to the relay outs on the receiver and pair the Ecolinks with your home automation. Here is an example of how trigger Blue Iris cams when a Dakota sensor is tripped.

Pic of Ecolink insides with terminals showing.


Sensor mounted inside. Running the wire inside the shell would look better and probably hold up better but there is not easy way to do it without making some good sized holes in the shell. Note a switch on each door wired in series to sensor.

After being swiped by semi truck pulling out.

Snapped back together almost cannot tell it was hit.
I turned it around after this (effectively moving it back close to a foot) and added a more signage for all the delivery drivers that could not figure out all mailboxes in rural areas are on one side of the street.
I also have a similar set up in the parcel box just inside the gate along with motion sensors to tell me if some one / thing comes through the gate and if they decide to go up the driveway to the house.

Why 2 signs? Because with just one things like this happen.

I suggest you seal the holes in the parcel box as things may nest in there. I almost grabbed the snake that left this skin behind when I reached in for a package the day before. Note the sand looking stuff is Snake-B-Gon.