Smart Technology - Are you Getting any use From it?

Postby elthwatez » Wed Mar 20, 2019 9:54 pm


First post on the forum and it's a question. I have a fascination with smart technology, it seems to be appearing everywhere and every company seems to be advertising every possibility as the next big thing. But, in my mind, a lot of that is gimmicky and still misses the point - for example a washing machine that orders its own washing powder is not helpful if you have to sit in for a day for the guy to deliver it; or if it buys from the most expensive vendor.

I ended up thinking that really, the value of smart technology in homes is to make the simple stuff smarter or make life cheaper, now, rather than in the future. My assumption is that handy folk who are interested in home automation have found their own way through this and have been for ages, but it's a bit of a secret!

So my question is, what is the single most useful home smart enhancement you've made to your house?

My cards on the table, i think in-line switches have the potential to be great and I could bang on about this (in another post perhaps :-) ); but the market doesn't seem to agree!

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Simply Build It

Postby ericmark » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:07 pm

Well I have got some automation, in fact just starting to remove it ready to move house. It all started to help look after my mother with dementia, broad band installed in her house and a camera fitted.

It helped, it did stop having to do the 15 mile round trip a good few times, it also told me when central heating had gone wrong as it had a thermometer built in, however it also failed far too often, we would get a call from monitoring station that mother was out of bed, we would go to camera and only 70% of the time did it work, when it did we could speak using the camera and often get her back to bed without going there. And one time we could hear mother shouting help so mad dash after she fell, why the monitoring station set up with council social services could not hear her shouting is another question.

After some problems with central heating both too hot and too cold I fitted a pair of TRV heads so I could better control heating, shortly after we had to go and live with mother, she had got too bad.

So next problem was her wandering off in the night, the council came and fitted an alarm, the sounder and controller was out side our bedrooms upstairs, however visitors were a problem, we had to run upstairs to switch off alarm every time we opened the door. Tried both timers and plug in remote controlled sockets, but neither worked well as either not reset after or times wrong, so tried a socket with both timer and remote control so it auto switched back on 3 times a day so even if we did not press remote control button long enough it still switched back on.

So to start with the devices were a god send, however after mothers death we did look at some of the other functions since we already by this time had a double socket, a plug in energy monitor, a light switch, and 4 TRV heads.

The TRV heads were designed to work with Nest and Nest 3 can connect using OpenTherm so it seemed a natural progression. However found Bosch Worcester does not support OpenTherm and our old one did not even support Wave. So either control boiler with return water, or with simple off/on.

So thermostats only job is to turn off boiler when all rooms satisfied, traditionally this means put thermostat in the room kept the coldest, down stairs, with no alternative heating and no door to outside. Well simply put there was no such room. So closest was the hall, which has a huge radiator to re-heat room when front door opened, adjusting the lock shield simply did not work, so did what it says don't do, fitted a TRV in the hall, set to around 17 degs and wall thermostat to 19 degs this actually worked, hall radiator heats hall fast, to 17 then slows down allowing rest of house to catch up, before turning boiler off.

So the TRV heads by now we had 4 have the option of geofencing, and we can have them set so room starts at 20 deg C then drops to 18 then evening at 22 and over night 16 degs. Sounds great, however it simply did not happen.

The eTRV does keep room spot on, two sensors one for air and one for water means the temperature of radiator is compensated for so set to 19 you get 19, however speed of change was the problem, it has anti hysteresis software so room at 16 and set to 20 the room soon heats to 18 degs but then can take 2 hours to settle at 20 degs can cheat and set to 22 for hour then back down to 20 but it means the whole idea of it sensing phone and using geofencing to get house right as we arrive home, is useless, also cooling the same, house well insulated so switch to 14 degs over night and even on coldest night in morning still only cooled to 17 degs.

So the eTRV is set with times from the computer, then not touched, which means instead of £80 a pair (plus hub) could have got non computer linked at £40 a pair to do same job. Like the Terrier i30.

It would be nice to be able to switch heating simply off/on, however pointless being able to set temperature. And off/on relays are quite cheap to work from phone.

The other point is unless the boiler is able to modulate from a wall thermostat, then why have a wall thermostat? As it does modulate with temperature of return water. OK things are about to change gas boiler output 8 kW to 28 kW so modulating boiler makes sense, oil boiler however output 18 kW to 24 kW is there really any point, OK ticks box it is a modulating boiler, but why bother?

The remote energy meter was interesting, watching battery chargers work, freezer work, etc. I have learnt a lot, however once learnt what then?
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Postby collectors » Wed Mar 27, 2019 3:49 pm

Totally agree we ericmark there are lots of things that wont work with each other. There are also a lot of dangers with switching things remotely. IE: many things will tell you that it has sent the signal to switch an item on or off, but you dont get any conformation/feed back that tells you it is actually on or off, which is not a good thing when you want it off. It needs 2 way signaling to recipicate whats happened. Some things need to improve. Just on something slightly different, what has improved with radio? "Nothing" We had MW which was fine & no problems. Then we had FM when you could get it. It was useless in a car if travelling a lot. Now we have DAB, which is great if you live in a city, but i am in the country & lucky if i can get any more than 4 DAB station's with a roof aerial. But one thing that's great about modern tec is the internet, it has saved me thousands over the years.
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Postby Dr. Strange » Sat May 18, 2019 1:58 pm

I'm not completely sold to the idea of making everything smart, might be generational, but I believe there is still value in doing things manually when electronic devices are not without faults and could go awry no matter how efficient they should be. That said, I do not think I am a Luddite either, I am open to few help here and there. I only have one device currently, and that is because I got it for free, the Google Home Mini, but I admit I struggle sometimes and I'm not comfortable giving too much personal information but no matter which how to article I find like it seems there is no way around it. Don't mean to hijack the thread but I am open to suggestions!

Bottom line for the topic at hand though, not completely trusting smart tech but not dismissing it entirely either. There should be balance.
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