Automating a vacation property from another country / Turn off AC automatically to save on electricity

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Hi,

I’m new to automation and I have a use case that I haven’t been able to find existing information anywhere. I’d like to have your thoughts on my particular approach:

I own an airbnb property in Brazil (I don’t live in Brazil) and I need to manage everything remotely. The people renting the property tend to leave the air conditioning on at 18C with windows and doors open or when they are away. The electricity bill is quite high and it’s getting more expensive every day.

I decided to look for solutions and found “Airconoff AC14 Automatic Occupancy Sensing AC Power Saver” and “Ecosense UK - Ecosense 4000+” stand alone products but researching even further I got into home automation and I found Home Assistance. Being a developer I decided to build my own solution and integrate it to HA.

Right now I’m building my shopping list and strategy so I’d like to get your opinions in running the following unusual setup:

  • Install a Samsung SmartThings WiFi mesh (because I also need to upgrade my wifi and that’ll give me zigbee and zwave coverage too)
  • Install ST multipurpose sensors to entry doors and windows
  • Install ST motion detector or Aotec multisensor inside the rooms for motion detection.
  • One of the AC units is an LG AC voice with WiFi that can be controlled remotely and integrated to HA using “sampsyo/wideq github code”
  • The rest of the AC units can only be controlled over InfraRed.
  • For those, I found a cheap IR that apparently can control the old air conditioning units over WIFI (amazon: Universal-Controller-Hand-free-Compatible-Controlled/dp/B07L9VV9N8)
  • Run HA on a remote server to manage all the logic (because I have spare servers of my own in a datacenter)
  • Additionally I’m planning to install SONOFF GK-200MP2-B - Wi-Fi Wireless IP Security Camera mounted outside but integrated to HA. (I found them on a youtube video today)

The logic would be the same found here: https://www.airconoff.com.au/Aircon-Off-AC14-Air-Conditioning-Control-Motion-Sensor-Smart-Switch-Energy-Saver

Since I have no experience with HA, I’d like to know your suggestions specially about running HA in a remote server and controlling everything remotely over Internet using port forwarding via the home Internet router.

Do you know a better/cheapest way to achieve this?

On the port forward side of things, you’re better setting up a vpn on your router. So a router that is capable of running openvpn is the way to go.

Yeah, I’d skip the ST wifi and get an asus router (with openvpn), a pi3 w/ ssd, and a husbzb-1 stick instead. Go with ST sensors if you like, but beware of shorter battery life on a vaca home (ecolink zwave are tops in that regard). Motions, your choices are fine, but if there are pets involved maybe upgrade to ecolink pet proof zwave units. Your solution for the ac sounds well thought out. Wifi IP cams… avoid as if the plague. Invest in POE ip-cams if at all remotely possible… and a poe switch and some wiring to be free of wifi/hd headaches (just ask a friend how reliable their wifi cams are… and if they’re honest… but everyone with poe cams loves them to death :wink: ).

I know, an ST wifi hub sounds so much easier, but it isn’t really. Using the hardware I mentioned will give you a much more professional, secure, and robust install. Again, the big bullet point here is NO PORT FORWARDING, use a VPN instead!

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Would a smart managed switch if the router doesn’t support VLANs, be a way to go too? You can isolate a network for all those items to run on, separate from the guests’ network.

Cams…I run ethernet directly to them (not POE) and it’s sooooo much more reliable than their wifi.

Depending on budget and access to your electric panel, maybe a unit to monitor the power consumption in addition. Help to track usage in a more detailed way?

you need to add the cost of getting power to the cams as well. with POE you don’t. just one POE switch and that can be anywhere. Reolink POE cams are only $54 sure the Sonoff is $30 but add the cost of a power connection and still around the same if not more. Plus those Sonoff cams are indoor camera there not weatherproof.

Thanks @truglodite for your suggestions.

About the cameras, the new Sonoff cameras can be connected over ethernet (not POE). Check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE38eqP84w8

Comparing my option and your suggestion I have:

Option A:

  • ST WiFi mesh + hub = $220
  • Pros: 3 WiFi+Zigbee+Zwave AP mesh, zigbee/zwave hub, easy to setup, cheaper
  • Cons: No vpn access, samsung cloud based connection

Option B:

  • Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply: $54,99
  • GoControl CECOMINOD016164 HUSBZB-1 USB Hub: $35,28
  • ASUS AC2900 (RT-AC86U): $160
  • Total: $250,27
  • PROS: VPN access
  • CONS: More expensive, harder to setup, SD card wear, hardware maintainance, single WiFi AP, no zigbee/zwave extender

Conclusions:

  • I think ideally, I’d like to have HA in a remote server connected using a VPN tunnel, also, I like the idea of not depending on samsung cloud at all
  • Being located in another country, I’m worried about SD card wear/corruption of data, reboot PI3 and loosing remote access. On the other hand, since I depend on my Internet provider provided router, I’m also afraid they can eventually just reset the custom configurations and delete the port forwarding, therefore loosing remote access.

Check this review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE38eqP84w8

To be honest, the cameras will be placed inside the building in a corridor just outside the apartmen’s door, so no outdoor cameras required. However, I think I can install a generic cover dome. Also, a power extension cord is not as expensive.

I saw the review its very nice 360 indoor camera

if it goes offline and you need to reboot it
mmm

being that you don’t live there
your better off with a POE Cameras 24/7 no issues,
no power cords
1 cable, 1 switch
That’s it !
Simple as

Separating them on a different network sounds like a good idea, but probably won’t add much.

I am indeed thinking about monitoring power usage, and so far this is the best candidate I have:
Emporia Vue Energy Monitor with Expansion Module | Real Time 24/7 Smart Home Electricity Monitor/Meter with 8 Sensor:

I have been following this thread, @Harry13 what Reolink POE cameras do you recommend?

How about:

  • VPN connection to home router (you can still go with an Asus router, but don’t necessarily need an AC86u as there are cheaper models such as AC66u);
  • MQTT broker at home;
  • 433 Mhz sensors (motion and door/window sensors and maybe smoke, water leakage, etc);
  • Arduino Mega with ethernet shield and a 433 Mhz receiver running https://github.com/1technophile/OpenMQTTGateway to capture signals from sensors; this would connect to MQTT broker at home;
  • ESP8266 from the above repository with IR blaster to control AC (also MQTT controllable) and optional DHT22 (to monitor temperature & humidity) and LDR (to monitor light level).

There would be no need for a local HA instance. Battery life of the 433 Mhz devices is usually not a concern (~ 2 years). There are also wall/handheld switches and power plugs that can be controlled over 433 Mhz.

You could also use the Sonoff RF bridge and flash it with Tasmota.

An alternative I use for temperature and motion are the Xiaomi Zigbee devices. They’re small and cheap (altough RF sensor are even cheaper). You would need a local Raspberry PI and a zigbee USB stick (like the Conbee 2)

i only have the 6 of the one type RLC-410-5MP and the RLN8-410-E NVR.

Camera’s are connected to a separate POE on the internal network,
i could only get 1 to show up in HA when they were all connected to the NVR

I do a lot of installs of HIKvision for my clients, if i was to choose it would be HIKvision but there 3 x the price, since i was doing it on the cheap and there suppose to work with Alexa (Not Connected to the NVR although i still haven’t got that to work), and The Hookup had a good review, if i had to do it again i probably wouldn’t worry about the RLN8-410 .NVR and use BlueIRis or a NAS
Having them separate is fine, but i haven’t found anywhere in the NVR that lets me specify the username and password for the camera’s it finds so i can only add the camera’s to the nvr with the default admin password.
To get the camera’s to work with Alexa i need to initialize them in the reolink app, which wants to assign a new user and password, so then the NVR won’t connect to the camera’s

The Reolink NVR software fall’s far short of the options you can set on a HikVison NVR.

The camera’s are fine they give you all the stuff you need and will work independantly, record to SD, send emails etc, reboot automatically, the web interface currently relies upon Adobe Flash player, which is being phase out soon.

So in Summary
Camera’s Great
NVR not so Great

Thanks for suggesting a new perspective. Since I’m a noob, that has created even more questions thought.

I love the idea of building my own sensors (water storage tank level, water meter, humidity sensors, etc). From what I’ve seen, even going Sonoff WiFi DIY way seems easy in theory, however, I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to buy and learn all that’s needed before my planned trip to Brazil in 1 month from now.

About your post:

  • I also found this gl.inet $20 router that can solve the vpn needs and keep using my current wifi routers (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073TSK26W/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_fF0fEb44WFDAZ )
  • Which MQTT broker do you suggest (can you share a link?)
  • Can you share a link where I can learn more about building generic 433 Mhz sensors?
  • Currently I need 2 wifi routers to cover the whole property. Would I need multiple arduino mega with receivers to cover the whole property too?
  • Your multipurpose sensor with IR control sounds really cool! even though I already bought 3 Broadlink Mini3 that were on sale, I wouldn’t mind reselling them if I manage to learn quickly about arduino sensors and end up using your suggestion.

Thanks again for suggesting a method where I can run HA remotely and going DIY

Hi,

Pleased to learn I gave you headaches and the purpose of going DIY is to give you even more :slight_smile:

Actually I was initially going to suggest doing a mesh setup with this brand of routers (but with the AR750 version that has also an AC band antenna) but Asus was suggested by another user before and I already had 3 different generation Asus routers so I think they’re a solid option here.

I also own a GL.inet 4g mifi and it is really nice to be able to connect all mobile devices over OpenVPN to home network without the worry of installing separate VPN software (which is not possible on corporate laptop; recent mifi firmware has also implemented split VPN so that only designated traffic goes to VPN). As far as I could find, this was the only battery powered 4g router with the option to use a CFW (in order to be able to use OpenVPN; it also has WireGuard but I found the speed to be quite similar to OpenVPN).

Easiest way it is if you’re using Hassio as there are actually two addons for MQTT that you might chose from (I’m using the community MQTT addon).

There are several projects that make use of 433 Mhz devices but I’ve used OpenMQTTGateway as the author is really willing to help and to add new functionality all the time. In addition to @1technophile’s github page that I’ve referenced before he has also a community forum:

Although there are several problems with 433 Mhz devices (the fact that the signal is not encrypted is the biggest one), these are still a popular option as they offer a full range of devices (from switches, wall plugs, motion, door sensors to alarm system) for the lowest overall price among the “smart” devices. Actually the lack of encryption is not such as a surmountable issue as long as you’re not using the 433 Mhz remote to arm/disarm the alarm (also, fake 433 Mhz noise can be used in order to simulate presence).

It depends. I use a single 433 Mhz Arduino Mega gateway placed centrally and it covers a 100 sqm house without any issue (there are 4 walls at the most). Actually, in theory, 433 Mhz signal should have the highest coverage among the popular RF options (Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Wifi). However, even if a second Arduino Mega is needed to cover it all, the gateway software has a de-duplication option so that signals are received by Home Assistant only once.

Although cost for a sensor node with NodeMCU is quite low (~2 USD for the board and another 3-4 USD for the sensors such as DHT22, BME280 or PIR, IR blaster, etc), it isn’t really too much to learn as the Arduino IDE/Platformio sketches are already setup with very little to modify (things such as board name, wifi & mqtt connection details). As long as you have general IT knowledge (not necessarily programming experience; I think that a large part of the users of this project are not working in IT or electrical engineering) it is quite easy to setup such a board (one of the important factors is that it requires little to no soldering).

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Since I mentioned poe cameras earlier, I figured I could also post links to some cameras I use (and like of course) from a vendor I have found to be reputable (lots of great reviews of this vendor on ipcamtalk as well):

$167 IPC-HDW5231R-ZE
This varifocal camera is excellent all around. This is the newer epoe version:

$124 IPC-HDW2231R-ZS
The old standby varifocal camera is hard to beat. Same as above, but more affordable if you don’t need epoe (most folks don’t have ~400’ cat5 runs so most don’t need it):

$196 IPC-HFW5231E-Z5
Excellent high zoom option. This camera gets clear images of license plates driving by at 25mph from 80’ away at night. This is hard to beat for LPR, or monitoring something farther away from the lens (toolshed for example).

I was turned on to these cameras after researching online. As I mention before, ipcamtalk is an excellent resource for learning about ipcamera setups. All 3 of these cameras are top picks among the ipcamtalk community, and I can say from my experience that they do perform extremely well. They all have lots of manual tuning options that are accessible remotely. For example, my blue iris dvr sends optimized exposure settings, focus, and zoom twice a day, so the cameras are always looking their best be it day or night. This makes all the difference between being able to ID the criminal or not (otherwise if you can’t get an ID, a zwave door sensor is about as useful).

An update for those interested in the project:

After researching a lot and from the suggestions, and trying to keep a low budget but also trying to get the most out of my initial investment, and with my limited time and budget, I ended up deciding to use HA locally and use zigbee sensors with the ability to expand or replace with zwave/433/wifi sensors in the future.

I ordered:

  • Smartthings sensors ( motion and multipurpose sensors for doors and windows):
    • 6 x Samsung SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor Door & Window: $101.94
    • 5 x Samsung SmartThings 3rd Generation Motion Sensor: $99.5
  • Raspberry Pi:
    • Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 2019 Quad Core 64 Bit WiFi Bluetooth (2GB): $46.29
    • SanDisk Extreme Pro MicroSDXC UHS-I U3 A2 V30 64GB + Adapter: $18.95
    • HUSBZB-1 USB for Zigbee and Zwave support: $35.28
    • CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply (USB-C): $9.99
    • MazerPi Raspberry Pi 4 Case, Raspberry Pi Case with Cooling Fan: $8.99
  • ASUS Wireless-AC1700 (RT-ACRH17): $78,97
  • 3 x BroadLink Universal IR Audio/Video Remote Control (RM MINI3): $53.46
  • 2 x SONOFF GK-200MP2-B - Wi-Fi Wireless and Wired IP Security Camera: $58
  • 2 x Emporia Vue Energy Monitor with Expansion Module: $199,98

Total investment: $711,35

I’m hoping to be able to automate 2 apartments and provide

  • One front door wired camera for each aparment
  • Monitoring electricity usage for each apartment
  • Automate and controll air conditioning usage (4 power hungry AC wall units in total)
  • Improve WiFi
  • Have remote VPN access

I’ll keep the post updated with my experience, and hopefully to have ideas and suggestions from the community.

Thanks again to everybody who’s provided help so far.

Hello,

Outside the technology debate as you have already choosen your components, here is some key things from my 4 years experience in home automation. And as you are going to be always outside the “home” it is very criticial to take into account the reliability of your system:

  • Raspberry pi on SD Card are not reliable, SD card are subjects to corruption. Mine have a life duration of 3 to 4 months, replace them with an external Hard disk if possible
  • Power outage happens and can freeze your system or make things very complicated, the use of an UPS is important in my sense, at least for the controller (raspberry) , your router and your internet box.
  • A second communication method could be interesting also (3G/4G…) in parallel of your internet provider.
  • An external canal of restarting the system could be usefull also (like a power plug with a differentiated app)

That’s expensive, may I suggest a different approach for other users?

Yes please! I challenge you to come up with a cheaper alternative. That’ll be awesome.