Home Grown Home Automation — Getting Started

It turned out much easier than I had originally imagined. Just needed to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. And while I waited a few months with COVID lockdowns & home schooling & change of consulting engagements to get some focussed time on Raspberry Pi 4 to put them together, I more or less had figured out things I needed to do.

When you have a solar install, it makes economical (and environmental) sense to run your non-essential high-power devices mainly when you are generating lots of power. And although Oz is blessed by good sunshine most of the time, it hasn’t been very predictable for last year or so, with the rains.

The Plot :

Run the pool pump when the solar install is generating more than 6kW. 1kW would easily get used at home most of the time with refrigerators and gadgets and bare essentials, and 5kW on top is the typical export limit set by the provider.

Actors and their Acts :

  1. Something to manage and monitor the home automation, discover the smart devices and sensors, and orchestrate certain triggers and conditions into actions.

The Stage :

  1. Home Assistant has been making a lot of news. Or at least has come up a lot in what I have been reading. Its docker container version was very easy to setup on the Raspberry Pi 4. https://www.home-assistant.io/installation/raspberrypi#install-home-assistant-container. And the initial discovery of most of the existing devices and sensors from its dashboard easily made it look a very promising.

The Performance :

On a partly cloudy day, it has done what you would expect it to.

Here is the solar generation between 10 am and 2 pm.

And here are the on-off patterns for the pool pump for the same period. The up-triggers were configured to stay stable for 5 minutes before they are turned into actions.

Shows pool pump on and off time periods.
Shows last time the pool pump was turned on and off.

The Sequel :

  1. Make Home Assistant setup more robust for multiple seasons. Make it more inviting for family (& friends) to have a play. Keep others at bay.

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