Welcome to Do-it-Yourself Home Automation!

In late 2006, I decided to create a home automation system with the stated goal of making it smart enough that it would eventually come to life and attempt to kill me. While the system hasn't quite reached HAL strength, it does do some cool stuff, and home automation technology has come a long way since I got started.

This page exists so that I can share my experiences and offer some useful information to those that are interested in creating an HA system of their own. Check out the menu on the left for specific projects/tutorials, and the blog below/to the right for quicker updates and general home automation news.



Track Your Driving With Metromile

Ever wondered how far you drive in a given month? Want to track everywhere your car goes, NSA style? About six months ago, I was invited to beta test a new product from a company called Metromile. Californians may be familiar with Metromile’s ads, which seem to be everywhere, including on the very pricey billboards flanking the Bay Bridge. The company’s main goal is to sell you per-mile car insurance. The idea is that if...
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Dreaming of Apartment Scale Solar

California gets a lot of sun; where I live, we get about 9 months per year of continuously sunny days. In fact, it’s genuinely surprising when the weather isn’t sunny. And we’re not talking wimpy East Coast sun, either. The sun here is bright and strong, and there’s rarely any pesky clouds to interrupt it. It’s a shame, then, that so much of the sunlight which falls on my house gets wasted. Solar, as you’d...
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The Arduino Tre Beta, In 3D!

In a previous post, I shared some details on the new Arduino Tre, which is currently in Beta testing. I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the Beta by the terrific Michael Shiloh at Arduino. As part of the Beta, I got a Developer edition of the board to play with. The Tre is extremely promising as a platform for home automation projects. It has both high-level, graphical Linux capabilities and...
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Raspberry Pi As a Home Automation Server

In the Hardware section of the site, I talk about using an old Powerspec PC as my home automation server. An outdated PC works fine as a server in some cases, but really, running a little spaceheater-ish P4 around the clock? That’s so 2006. It would be kind of silly to blog all about power efficient lightbulbs and realtime energy monitoring while having a 10 year old PC buring 400 watts all the time. And...
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What is Color Temperature, Anyway?

If you’ve purchased an LED or CFL lightbulb recently, you’ve probably heard of color temperature. And likewise, if you’ve talked to an older family member recently about their lightbulbs (and honestly, who hasn’t?), then you’ve probably heard about it as well, albeit in stronger language. So what is color temperature, anyway? Basically, it describes the color of your white light. That may seem counterintuitive; white light is, after all, white. It shouldn’t really have a...
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Testing the Phillips Hue Lux

For a while now, I’ve been using the fancy Hue system from Phillips. These are pricey LED lightbulbs which you can control remotely from your smartphone. Not only can you do standard things like turning lights on and off, but you can also change the color temperature on the fly (going from a nice, warm incandescent light to something suggestive of a 1980s office park), change all the lights in your house to your favorite...
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Tutorial: Using Python + Bidgely to Get Realtime Electric Usage Into Your Home Automation System

In a recent post, I wrote about using Bidgely to track your realtime electrical usage, using a little gadget that reads minute-by-minute data from your utility’s smart meter. I even made a video showing how to install the Bidgely Rainforest Eagle device and use Bidgely’s (very pretty) web dashboard. Using the native Bidgely hardware and dashboard is all well and good, but this website is do it yourself home automation. Most of us are creating our...
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Video: Monitoring Electrical Usage with Bidgely

In a previous post, I shared info about monitoring your realtime electrical usage via a smart meter and hardware from the home automation startup Bidgely. Below is a video from my testing of Bidgely. This includes info on the Rainforest Eagle, as well as a demo of Bidgely’s web interface. I’ve been using Bidgely for more than six months now, and despite some issues with data connectivity to my smart meter, it’s been a great...
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Wink Home Automation: Not There Yet

Happy New Year! 2014 was a big year for home automation products. It seems like pretty much everything is suddenly “smart”. You’ve got smart watches. Smart thermostats. Even the pinnacle of silliness: a smart egg tray, which pings your smartphone when you are nearly out of eggs (manufactured by GE, nonetheless). What was the real winner in 2014, though? Apps! Several companies have come out with smartphone apps–often with accompanying physical hubs–which are designed to...
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Beta Testing the Arduino Tre

Some time in 2015, Arduino will be launching a new board known as the Tre. Thanks to Michael Shiloh at Arduino, I got my hands on an early development version of the board, and got to participate in Arduino’s official Tre Beta testing. The Tre has some promising applications for home automation, which I’ll get into below. As I’ve explained in previous posts, prototyping boards like Arduinos and Raspberry Pis are fantastic for home automation....
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