Get turned on with Vera
Sorry for putting your hopes up but Vera is not a woman, not even human in fact. Vera is a Home Automation system. And yes, whilst we don't actively market ourselves as purveyors of Home Automation systems we will install it in the homes or businesses of our customers.
One such install was for the owner of a furniture retail business (for whom we install and maintain their IT & Telecoms). The owner mentioned that he was getting his central heating revamped and wondered if there was an alternative to the all too complicated Central Heating controllers you typically have in your kitchen. I mentioned that my house runs off an old laptop in my hallway, he was intrigued.
Now my own house uses X10 to turn on outside lights and to run the central heating. Everything is scheduled to turn on and off at predetermined times - the outside lights turn on at dusk - dusk being determined by the GPS coordinates of my house and the X10 controller software adjusting the time every day. For a history on X10 see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X10_(industry_standard)
But X10 is more suited to a "techies" house, for the furniture retailer we wanted something more suited to a non-techy and something a lot more modern (X10 technology is over 40 years old). After some research we decided on Vera - http://getvera.com/ ,the beauty of Vera being:-
1. No contracts or monthly fees
2. The ability to control everything via an app on your iPhone or Android smart phone as well as your laptop or home PC.
3. Vera's compatibility with a whole host of add-ons and home automation technologies meaning that by using Vera you are not tied down to any given way of doing things.
4. Manual over-ride capability - sometimes a good old fashioned switch on the wall is handy, especially when your smartphone is flat :)
The actual install was very straightforward. The brief was that the hot water was to be controlled, both by using the boiler and an immersion heater, and the central heating for upstairs and downstairs. The main brains behind everything was a VeraPlus home controller :-
This was connected to the home broadband router via an ethernet lead and the VeraPlus was registered to the Vera home automation website (as mentioned, this is all for free). To do the actual switching on and off we used Fibaro Z-Wave relay inserts (note: as these switch 240v mains, the services of a qualified electrician was used to wire them). What a lot of people don't know is that in the majority of cases Home Automation is simply the switching on and off of electrical appliances (lights, central heating pumps, motors etc.) using a remotely controlled electrical relay.
Fibaro Z-Wave relay inserts due to their small size can be fitted in electrical back boxes and plastic junction boxes, here is what they look like :-
We used one of the dual relay units that can remotely (and independently) switch two loads up to 1.5kw - in this case the pump that controlled the upstairs radiators and the pump that controlled the downstairs underfloor heating.
For the (boiler fed) hot water we used a single relay unit.
To cope with the higher load of an immersion heater we used an Aeon Labs Heavy Duty smart switch, capable of switching up to 40amps - so more than capable of coping with an immersion heater (again installed by a qualified electrician).
To provide manual intervention we had light switches installed - yes, light switches as we were switching a relay (very small load) and the relay was switching the heavy loads. To provide visual indication of what was going on a small display panel was wired up using Neon indicator lights.
With the system all installed we then setup timer schedules via the internet based (i.e. cloud) login system that in turn talks to the VeraPlus unit at the house, installed the app on the customer's smartphone and showed him how to control everything with his laptop as well.
With this system installed the backbone of a full home automation system is in situ, the next project "on the cards" is integration with electric gates at the entrance to the property.
Here's the flow of information :-
Vera Internet Portal --------- Home broadband router --------- VeraPlus unit --------- Wireless control signals --------- Wireless Relays --------- Electrical appliances to be switched on & off
All in all from researching the product to buying and installing took a little over two weeks. And, touch wood in the seven months (as of January 2017) there hasn't been a single issue with it.
So, there you have it. In a nutshell, how to get turned on with Vera :)