Casa del Rey

(formerly Tom's House)

I started working with home automation in 1990 to give my house a lived-in look while I was away. My system has evolved over the years and now includes the following items:

Everything is controlled by a Windows program called Zeus. Read on to see how these devices and scenes all work together...

My current system is now controlled by the Zeus software. This has made the whole system more intelligent and easier to manage. I found that as I added automation modules the whole system got more difficult to manage. There were too many controllers that needed to be "programmed" and too many devices that worked almost the way I wanted but not quite.

Zeus allows me to manage everything from one central location and set up intelligent scenes that allow for real-life conditions to be added. This allows me to continually upgrade and enhance my system making in more intelligent and adapt to our lifestyle.

I have X10 compatible motion detectors hidden at various places around the outside of the house. When motion is detected at the front door, Zeus sounds a chime. If it's after dark, the porch light also comes on.

If motion is detected on either side or in the back of the house, Zeus decides what to do based on several conditions including whether anyone's home, whether or not it's dark, and whether someone just walked outside through a door. If no one's home, or if it's after bedtime, then a portable stereo with a digitally mastered sound of a dog barking (affectionately known as "the e-dog") is started, a few seconds later, if it's dark, an inside light comes on, followed by an outside floodlight a few seconds after that. If the drapes were left open in back, they are closed too. When we add another CCD camera, we'll turn on the VCR and record what tripped the motion detector.

If we're home and not in bed, only a chime is sounded and the computer running Zeus announces which motion detector was tripped. I've noticed that the motion detector monitoring the driveway will frequently ignore a car if the car's surface is cold or wet. Since the motion detectors work by sensing heat, I guess this makes sense. I'm thinking of installing a car sensor next to the driveway to cover this situation.

We have various scenes set up for convenience. We have an early morning wake up scene for my wife who gets up before dawn most days. The computer "gently" wakes her by demanding through the speakers to "Wake Up" and several lights are turned on. We're not coffee drinkers, so no coffee needs to be started, but she does like to watch the morning news, so a TV in the guest room is turned on to encourage her to get dressed there rather than wake me up. The lights that get turned on for her morning routine get turned off automatically by a sunrise routine, so she doesn't have to turn them off. The only two items that get turned off automatically by the wake up scene are her iron and the TV in the guest room. The early wake up scene is set for 5:00 AM on weekdays, 7:00 AM on Saturday, and 6:00 AM on Sunday. I need to do something about recognizing a holiday schedule.

The sunrise scene just shuts off some lights if they're on, and opens the south facing drapes to let in the light. Sunset turns on some lights and shuts the drapes if they're open. I'm still experimenting with using both the built in sunrise/sunset calculation in Zeus and an X-10 Sundowner. It's surprising how near to the same time they both activate each day. One big benefit of the built-in calculation is that I can set an event to automatically occur a predetermined amount of time before sunset actually occurs. However the Sundowner is nice for very overcast days when it gets dark well before actual sunset.

We have a scene defined called No One Home. We check in and out with Zeus and when No One Home is On it triggers action on certain events where No One Home was used as a condition.

The Bedtime scene shuts off the lights in my office, closes drapes, and shuts off lights in my garage workshop. Zeus makes sure there's a light on the living room so I don't trip going to bed and it sets it to turn off after a five minute delay. Zeus also turns on some music for a half an hour.

I recently installed a closed circuit TV camera and monitor, so Zeus turns that on using an appliance module when motion is detected at the front door, so we can see who's at the door. The CCD TV came with an intercom which I haven't hooked up yet, but I'd like to make a welcome message too.

We also have an X10 based security system, but I haven't done anything to modify it except that it shares a couple of devices with Zeus. Most notably, the House/Unit code corresponding to the keychain remote security light is used for a scene we've called Temp Motion Disabled. If we're leaving the house or going to the garage, we can push this button on our keychains and temporarily cause the motion sensors to ignore us. This way we don't set off the "e-dog" going to the garage or every time we leave the house. Temp Motion Disabled automatically resets after a couple of minutes.

We've created a shareware version of Zeus if you're interested in trying it out on your own automation project.