Note: we’ve moved so this page is very out of date!


Compared to others, I have barely started playing with a few bits of home automation. So far it’s mostly just some very basic utility metering, which is hooked up to the Pachube service:

Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve tried so far…

Home server:

I wanted something a bit simpler to work with than the popular Slug, so I currently have everything running on a Netvoyager LX-1000 with SLAX running live CD style off a compact flash card. I like the idea of an idiot proof home server system where you can just plug in a USB key/memory card, boot up and forget about it. Of course I’m also the idiot creating that compact flash card but SLAX has a really nice modular approach which makes creating a custom live OS pretty straight forward.

Netvoyager LX-1000

Home broker:

The Really Small Message Broker I’m using is now available on alphaWorks. It provides a flexible way to link components together and can be readily extended to link with new services, like the Pachube feed above for example. Glenn’s presentation shows the kind of topic tree you can build up.

Utility metering:

It was the CurrentCost meter that started this in the first place. I think, like most people, I spent the first few days tracking down every last drop of power, and have been largely ignoring it ever since. I have had a couple of goes graphing the data it produces using the RRDtool, which seems perfect for the job, and the latest variation looks like it’s working pretty well.


Device automation:

It’s not actually hooked up to anything yet but I’m giving HomeEasy a go with the socket kit pack. It’s quite handy for a couple of out of reach sockets, and there’s certainly potential, but just a gadget at the moment. On the look out for a cheap way to hook HomeEasy up to the server.


That’s just about it at the moment, so what’s next? I already have a link to Twitter working but there’s not enough going on in my house to make jthouse interesting for anyone just yet. Twitter would have been a great way for me to get alerts from home as well, unfortunately that’s not quite so straight forward since they stopped sending SMS texts in the UK. It does still receive messages though…

Adding a ‘GasCost’ monitor would be a nice addition and my gas meter does have a socket. It’s outside though, so it would need to be wireless link like the CurrentCost. Maybe one device will do both in the future.

Depending on whether HomeEasy improve their on/off range, and whether I can find a cheap PC link, I might do a bit more with device automation, although that was really something I was planning to do after we move house.

What I’d really like to do is simplify the interaction with automated devices. For example, instead of checking a CurrentCost meter, or looking at a graph, it would be nice just to get a sense of whether more power is being used than expected, with the system learning the normal patterns of use. I’ve always thought that thermostats should learn what temperature settings are required at different times of the day in a similar way. I have a programmable thermostat, which is great, but it’s a pretty inflexible manual process to program. I think Google charts provide a nice way to show what the system has come up with in both cases, e.g.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty more on top of all that!


8 thoughts on “House

  1. Pingback: Home Camp « Notes from a small field

  2. Hi james,
    I found your interesting blog while I was searching informations about the mqtt software. I am going to implement an home automation solution in order to control/minimize the energy consumed at home and other related functions (home security, etc…).
    I installed a solar photovoltaic and now I want to trace both the produced versus consumed energy. I use an Artigo pico-itx box as home server (It’s not cheap as your solution, but it consumes about 15 W equipped with 1 Gb of RAM and 32 Gb SSD disk). To monitor the energy consumed I have just ordered some devices from using zigbee protocol and some X10 actuators to control energy on/off.
    Other local lan appliances monitor the photovoltaic production and home security (intrusion detection,etc…).

    Best Regards

  3. The Artigo pico-itx does look like a nice little box. I sometimes think I was a bit too mean when I picked my low power server, but then I don’t really do much with it.

    I’d be interested to hear how you get on with the Plogg devices, and the rest of your home automation!

  4. Hey James,

    Stumbled across your site after you started following me on twitter. Keep up the good work – looking forward to seeing what you do next.

    Must get round to publishing all my data online…


  5. Pingback: Current Cost gas meter monitoring? « Notes from a small field

  6. Great project J.

    Plus I really like the fact your blog articles have decent images too and a bit of time spent on quality writing.

    Sorry to miss you and Jo earlier on Tuesday, but see you next time!

    • Thanks for the comment. Really should get round to updating this page at some point with results of recent gas meter experiments.

      Hope to catch you at the next tweetup

  7. Pingback: New clock radio « Notes from a small field

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