Showing posts with label Safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Safety. Show all posts

House Freeze Alarm / Furnace Failure Alarm / Pipe Freeze Alert

This is another feature that can be added to an Insteon / Universal Devices ISY994i system - a freeze alert to warn of a furnace failure, to prevent pipes freezing or other damage in cold weather. I negotiated an insurance rebate with this capability added to my system, so it's worth considering and looking into.

I had some unused inputs on an EZIO2x4 Input Output module, and was looking for a simple way to add a freeze alarm. I also had an unused Honeywell CT3500 digital thermostat, with single stage heating and cooling functions. This was very quick and simple to set up, starting with the installation of the thermostat next to my automation panel in my mechanical room in the basement. The Honeywell CT3500 runs off battery power - and the internal relays are switched on battery power as well - so you don't need to provide the thermostat with 24VAC to provide the dry contact capability.

Install the digital thermostat at a convenient location. Note the wiring connections - R and W connections give you a dry contact output for the heating activation of the Thermostat.
With the thermostat installed, and a dry contact wire pair connected to the R and W (Heat) terminals - it was time to install the thermostat face, and program the thermostat. I programmed the thermostat so that it would always return to the programmed temperature setting if anyone (kids) play with the setpoint keys on the face of the thermostat. The CT3500 can be set as low as 4.5 degrees C - but in my case I decided to give myself a bit more warning and programmed the heat setting on the thermostat to 7 degrees C. 

CT3500 thermostat programmed to provide heat at 7 degreex C - Label added to face of thermostat indicating function of the thermostat and a reminder to replace the batteries once a year. 
On the automation side, you have to have an input contact interface to your Insteon network. You could use a Smarthome IOLink, an EZIO module from Smartenit with input capability - the EZIO2x4, the EZIO6I, or the EZIO8SA. In my case, I had free inputs on an EZIO2x4 2 Relay 4 Input Insteon module.

The EZIO2x4 has four inputs per device - 2 inputs are dry contacts, and 2 inputs are digital / analog inputs that need to be configured for your application. Since my dry contact inputs were already being used for smoke detector and alarm interfaces - I had to use one of the digital inputs for this function.

The instructions for the EZIO2x4 advise you to use a pull up resister in order to convert a digital input to a dry contact input. Some research on the Smartenit forums provided some additional detail - you should use a 6000 to 10000 ohm resistor - connected between the 5V and the I3 or I4 terminals - in order to avoid drawing too much current from the 5V terminal. Then - your dry contact connects between the common terminal and the I3 or I4 terminal. Here's what the connection looks like with the pull up resistor:

Using a pullup resistor to protect the 5V terminal on the EZIO2x4 from overcurrent, when using inputs 3 or 4 as dry contact inputs.
On other thing I learned on the forums - that if you are not using the digital inputs on these EZIO modules - you should ground the input to keep them from floating, and initiating unneeded Insteon traffic on your network. If you look at the photo above, that's what the green wire is used for - shorting the I4 input to the common terminal. 

Once the thermostat has been programmed, it's time to program your ISY-994i. I set up a new notification message - House Freeze Alert - and created a new program to check the status of the I3 input on this EZIO2x4. Whenever the input changes to "On" that indicates that the thermostat has called for heat - indicating a temperature inside the house of less than 7 degrees Celcius. In that case - I have the ISY-994i send me an email to my email address, and a text message to my phone with the Freeze alert message. 

You could also tie this functionality to a monitored home alarm system - simply by using one of the output contacts on the EZIO2x4 to trigger a zone on your home alarm. Your alarm company could configure this zone to warn of the house freezing - and initiate a call out.


Interconnecting your Household Smoke Detectors with your Alarm System and Home Automation System

In the last two houses I've purchased, there has been two separate smoke detection systems - the bare minimum 120V wired smoke detectors - one per floor of the house, and a single low voltage smoke detector wired to the home alarm system. The 120V wired smoke detectors, when wired with 3 conductor (14/3) house wiring - use the red wire as an "interconnect" communication wire. When one detector detects smoke, all the interconnected alarms will sound.

These limitations:

  1. It doesn't make sense to have a wired smoke detector situated 15 feet away from an alarm system smoke detector - wall acne - when only one detector is required for that space;
  2. The smoke detectors on the 120V circuit, when detecting smoke - are not connected to your home alarm system, and therefore cannot send the signal to your alarm monitoring problem that there is a fire;
  3. For additional precaution, there should be a smoke detector in every sleeping room (and especially if there is decentralized heating in those sleeping rooms, like baseboard electric heat). 
Made me consider an upgrade:
  1. Eliminate the duplication between the alarm connected smoke detector, and the 120V wired interconnected system. Use only the 120V wired interconnected system for smoke detection, and connect the interconnect signal to the home alarm panel;
  2. Add interconnected 120V smoke detectors in every sleeping room, in addition to the standard smoke detectors in the hallways on every floor of the house. 
Since you should replace your smoke detectors regularly (usually every 10 years), the last two renovations that I carried out required the replacement of all the smoke detectors in the house. I decided to go with Kidde smoke detectors, they are commonly available at your local home improvement centers, and, Kidde sells as an option a relay module that permits the interconnection of the Kidde wired interconnected detectors with your home alarm system (2 wire contact interface). 

The Kidde smoke detector interface is the SM120X. 
The Kidde SM120X Alarm Interface Module
Installation of the SM120X is quite simple. Two wires connect to 120V line circuit (hot and neutral), one wire connects to the smoke detector "interconnect" wire - usually the red wire in a 14/3 cable interconnecting all your wired smoke detectors, and 2 wires connect to your home alarm system as a dry contact interface. Here are some photos of an installation in a 4" junction box:

Kidde SM120X Alarm Inteconnect Relay Installed in 4" Junction Box. Note 14/3 (wire to alarm daisy chain), 14/2 (line feed wire), and 4 conductor alarm wire entering the box). 

Kidde SM120X Alarm Interconnect Relay Installation - Cover Installed and Labelled using a PTouch Labeller
 In the most previous renovation, I also wanted smoke detector indication to be relayed to my ISY-99i / 994i. To do so, I used small automation relays with multipole contacts, driven by the Kiddes SM120X Alarm Interconnect Relay Module. In this installation, all connections are made on the phoenix contacts terminal blocks (eliminates the marettes used for wire connections). The automation relays drive the EZIO61 - to transfer the smoke detector status to Insteon signals for my ISY-99i, 994i, and also to my standard DCS alarm system panel. In this way, the signals are independent between the alarm dry contacts and the EZIO dry contacts, eliminating any issues with the alarm panel independence.
Kidde SM120X Alarm Inteconnect Relay - driving coil on double pole relay - one set of relay outputs go to alarm panel, one set of relay outputs go to Smartenit EZIO6I Insteon Dry Contact Interface

Kidde also sells a carbon monoxide detector interface - the CO120X. I have purchased one of these for installation in my current panel, I just haven't had the time to install it yet. I'll provide a short update to this page when I do. 

Kidde CO120X Carbon Monoxide Detector Relay Module (Color coded blue to differentiate from SM120X)

As always - if you have any questions just post them in the comments and I'll try to respond fairly quickly. 

Building a New House or Doing a Renovation, with Home Automation in Mind?

Here is what I would set out as a specification for your electrician:

1. Put in the deepest wall switch boxes that are readily available for your wall thickness. Some of the modern Insteon devices are getting quite large now that they contain wireless mesh net antennae ("Dual-band") circuitry, and the Insteon Switchlinc On/Off Relay switch - which you would use for all wall switches that don't require dimming circuitry, are now rated to switch 17 Amps / 1 HP / 1800W. The downside to this high current capacity is that it's supplied with 12 gauge leads - large, require larger maretes to make connections, and less flexible. So it becomes a chore to install these and try to stuff the wires and connections behind it. So - deep switch boxes will make this easier.

2. Always feed the switch box first - and everywhere there is a wall switch control. In my current house - this rule is 75% respected - except for most of the closets, where the circuit is fed from the ceiling light octagonal box, and a two wire 14 gauge cable (14/2) is sent down to the switch box. So - if you want to install an automated switch - you're in trouble because there is no neutral wire in the switch box. There are ways around this - Insteon sells a dimmer switch that doesn't require a neutral wire, but not a relay switch which is required for flourescent fixtures and some LED fixtures.

3. Make sure there are a good number of blank or spare breaker spaces. This makes it easy to add a double breaker to install a phase coupling powerline communications module (for better powerline signalling - e.g. Insteon), and a spare outlet for the installation of your powerline modem (PLM) right next to the panel for the best possible comminications with your Insteon devices located across your house.

4. Have your garage door opener wires - from the door sensors and wall mount controls to the opener location - run in the wall behind the drywall. This will ensure a nice neat setup without any surface mount wires. Have your electrician install an outlet in the ceiling of your garage, close to the opener. If you want to have the lockout limit switch to avoid garage door activation when the door is bolted, you can run those wires behind the drywall also.

5. Wiring for 120V wired smoke detectors - if the code in your area only calls for one smoke detector on each floor of the residence, consider upgrading the wiring to include one smoke detector per floor, plus one smoke detector in each sleeping room. The wired smoke detectors can then be interfaced to your home alarm system and your home automation system using interconnection relays like the Kidde SM120X.

6. Cabling - You can run structured cableways throughout your house for future expansion requirements, which is certainly a good idea, but for some reason the structured cable tubing is really overpriced. For short runs within walls - I've used ordinary shop vac or sump pump tubing - which is about 10 times less expensive, but it is not plenum rated for fire safty - it should not be run within ventilation ducts or in open ventilation spaces above modular ceilings. Here's a short list of cables you may wish to consider running in your walls before closing up drywall:

  • Smoke detectors - 110V with signal wire - every level of the house plus one in every sleeping room;
  • Network Cat 6 cable;
  • Video RG6 cable for classic cable / digital cable / PVRs;
  • Video surveillance. Sure, you can get wireless IP cameras, but you still have to get power to them. Power over ethernet is one option - run Cat 6 cable to camera locations, or plan for regular analog output cameras (which are much cheaper) and run a combination video signal / power cable. Front door, back door, garage, a few eaves of your house to watch your driveway, yard, etc. 
  • Alarm system - see below - panels, keypads, motion detectors, sirens;
  • Automation of roller blinds and shades - run cables to window corners for future upgrades;
  • Telephone (Cat 4, 5 or 6) - plan where your cordless phone base station will be - run a Cat 5 cable to that location, and also plan for a UPS protected outlet at that location so when the power goes out, your cordless phones still work;

7. Alignment of boxes - you can check out my post on Wall Acne - but I would certainly try to plan for and enforce coordination between the various contractors that are installing anything on the walls, such as:
  • Alarm contractor - panels, keypads, motion detectors, sirens, etc;
  • Electrician - lighting, outlets and switches;
  • Network - Cat 5/6 internet cabling, telephone cabling, coax cable, etc. 
  • HVAC - thermostats and controls for ventilation - humidity control, etc. Note that the thermostat has to be placed in a central location in the home, that you`ll need thermostat cabling to the furnace / mechanical room, and also keep in mind that modern intelligent recovery thermostats for heat pump systems require a separate cable running from the thermostat to an appropriate exterior location under a roof eave for outdoor temperature measurement.
  • Other items such as smoke detectors and CO (carbon monoxide) detectors. 
You'll end up with fewer wallplates and wall acne issues if you can use separator plates to double up electrical and low voltage in the same wall box. I've done this to combine telephone / internet cabling with electrical outlets, and wall switches with low voltage ventilation controls. You just need a wall box with a metal separation plate - your electrician will be able to help out with this. The trick, however, is that you'll need to direct your electrician to install the double boxes with separation plates before your network cable and HVAC installation takes place, so it requires some planning. 

Note the metal separation plate running down the center of this box, separating low voltage on the right, from line voltage (110V AC) on the left.
In a retrofit situation, you can add a surface mount media frame next to a standard simple outlet. It takes some adjustment to get the hole centers aligned to fit a double wallplate correctly, but it ends up being neater than having two boxes in close proximity on the wall.
Another example - telephone and internet next to outlet using surface mount media frame

Combination Electrical Box / Low Voltage Media Frame - These are tough to install in a renovation - easier to install in new construction

Venmar air exchanger control on the right, Insteon Light Switch on the Left.


Using an Industrial Limit Switch to Lock Out Garage Door Opener When the Door Lock is Engaged

It's pretty common to see garage door bolt locks that lock the garage door closed with a pin through the door rail.
Garage Door Bolt
Have you ever accidently actuated your garage door with the lock engaged, and had the opener strain against the locked door? I've done this a few times by accident, and luckily never had any damage to the opener or to the belt. You can install an industrial limit switch to detect that the lock is engaged or disengaged, to protect against damaging the opener. 

I used a Telemecanique XCK-L - you can see the switch label below. Note that it's rated for 10A - less that load of my garage door opener. 

Telemecanique XCK-L Limit Switch with Roller Head

Here's a photo of the limit switch installed - note the roller head depressed by the door lock tab on the right
The limit switch is installed by screwing it directly to the garage door - ensuring that the limit switch is depressed by the end of the lock handle. 

Limit switch with coiled cord running to surface mount electrical box
The limit switch gives you both a normally open (N/O) and a normally closed (N/C) connection. I ran the coiled connection cord to a wall mount electrical box, where I connected the N/O wires to a 14/2 electrical cable. I ran that 14/2 electrical cable back to the electrical outlet near my opener, and used it as a switch wire for one half of the outlet. When the lock is open, it depresses the limit switch plunger, which closes the N/O connection. This allows power to the outlet that the opener is plugged into, and allows the opener to operate. 

 When you close the lock and lock the door, the plunger on the limit switch extends and opens the switch, opening the N/O connection - and disengaging power to the opener outlet. I also added a small lighted adapter so that I can see with a glance whether I have power to the opener outlet.


Inexpensive Water Leak Detection using a Dry Contact Input

When I installed my automated water shutoff valve, I used three of Smarthome's battery powered, wireless leak detectors. They work quite well and are simple and easy to install and setup without wires. There is a less expensive way to add leak detection, if you have dry contact inputs to your home automation system, such as the Insteon Smarthome I/O Lincs or the Smartenit EZIO series. You can purchase a spare Floodstop water sensor, pictured below:
Floodstop Water Sensor
The Floodstop water sensor is basically a simple circuit board with a series of intertwining contacts that don't make contact on the board. If water touches the board, it will allow current to flow between the two outputs. All you need to do is some wiring from this board to your dry contact into your automation system, set it up with a current source, and when current flows through the circuit it will change the state of your contact.

Installing an Automated Water Main Shutoff Valve with Water Leak Detectors

One of our family members recently had a dishwasher fail while they were away from their house, and they suffered water damage to their entire kitchen and finished basement. Insurance will cover the damage, but they are now going through the hassle of the reconstruction of their kitchen. I had been thinking for some time about installing an automated main water shutoff valve, and this was the motivation for me to get started on this project.
The Smarthome Select Water Valve - 12V Operated
Smarthome has a new product - the "Smarthome Select Electronic Water Shutoff Valve". It is available in two sizes - 3/4" and 1". My main water entry pipe is 3/4" copper nominal pipe size (NPS), so I ordered the 3/4" valve. I followed Smarthome's suggestions for the recommended accessories - and I/O Linc to control the valve, a power adapter to power the valve, and some of Smarthome's battery powered water detectors - the Insteon Leak Sensor (2852-222). As usual, shipping was quick and within a few days I had all the components to begin the project.

First step to installing the valve - shutoff the manual valve and cut the pipe
 I started with the installation of the valve. The valve body is made from stainless steel, with female national pipe thread connections (NPT). Since space is limited in my wall, and to facilitate servicing in the future, I decided to install the valve with two brass unions. Installation of the valve took about 2 hours - shut the water off and drain the water, cut the water supply pipe about 3" after the manual shutoff valve (so that when soldering the new union fitting, I won't be overheating the manual shutoff valve), create the adapters to install the automated shutoff valve (male NPT / solder adapter, short section of 3/4" copper pipe, one half of the solder union fitting).

Soldering the Valve adapters - Male NPT (top) to Union threaded side
Once I had the valve adapters soldered - I installed the adapters on the valve using pipe dope to ensure a good seal.

Screw on the adapters to the valve with some pipe dope on the NPT Threads

I then did a test fit of the valve to the water pipe - and measured where to cut the water pipe for a perfect fit between the two union fittings.

Prepare the water main pipe for soldering the union connector - clean with sandpaper
Test fit the valve to measure where to cut off the distribution pipe at the correct length
Then I installed the valve, tightened the union fittings, and did a leak test. No leaks, then on to wiring and programming the I/O link and the valve.

Valve installed, water turned back on, no leaks
I was fortunate when my house was built that the builder ran a 14/2 electrical cable to the main water shutoff - so all I did was install an outlet box next to the main water valve, an outlet, and connect the line to my UPS. In my home automation design, I've tried to put all my mission critical controls on UPS circuits - network switches and routers, ISY-99i, and now this water shutoff valve and its I/O Linc. Once I had power to the I/O Linc, I wired up the valve per the wiring diagram provided by Smarthome on the product page. One drawback to this valve is that there is no installation and operation manual provide - online or in the box. The only information available is a wiring diagram, a dimensional diagram and override instructions. So - I wired up the valve per the wiring diagram - Power to the common connector, red wire to the N/O connector,  and green wire to the N/C connector.

Outlet moved next to valve, I/O Linc Installed with Power Adapter and wired to Valve control
Then I linked up the I/O Linc to my ISY-99i, and tried cycling the valve on and off. The valve would open when powered up, but it wouldn't close. I checked the I/O Linc settings on my ISY-99i page, and found that the I/O Linc was set to "Momentary A". So I switched that to Latching, and then the valve worked properly, opening on "off" command, and closing on "on" command. I decided that I would like the water supply "on" with the "on" command, and water supply "off" with the "off" command - so I reversed the red and green wires - red to "N/C", and green to "N/O". Now - when I control the I/O Link "Off" - the water supply shuts "Off". When I control the I/O Link "On" - the water supply turns "On".

One thing that I discovered once everything was installed and wired is that the LED on the I/O link provides the status of the valve control (and if everything is working well - the status of the valve). When the status LED is bright, the I/O Link is "On" and the Valve is open (water is On). When the status LED is dim - the I/O Link is "Off" and the Valve is closed (water is Off). I was fortunate that I oriented the outlet and the I/O Link to have the status LED facing away from the wall, towards the opening. This is a good visual status indication.

Next step was linking the Insteon Leak Sensors (2852-222) to the ISY-99i. These are interesting little sensors - battery powered, works over wireless, and up to 10 year battery life (according to Smarthome). They linked up quickly and reliably to the ISY-99i using the instructions on the ISY wiki. When linked to the ISY - they give you two inputs per device - a "Wet" input (On or Off), and a "Dry" input (On or Off). The normal state has the Wet input Off, and the Dry input On. If there is water bridging the two contacts on the bottom of the device, the Wet input goes On, and the Dry input goes Off. I wrote a very simple program for the ISY that has three "or" conditions for my three leak sensors - if any of the leak sensors - Wet input - goes to "On", it then shuts the water valve "off", and sends a notification to my smartphone by SMS text message, and an email to my personal email address.

I then did a quick test - placed a sensor in a plate of shallow water - and tested to see how quickly everything responded. It seems the leak sensor sent it's message to the ISY almost instantaneously - and a fraction of a second later the automated water valve closed. About 2 seconds later I received the notification on my smartphone. This seems to be perfectly acceptable performance.

I did not set up a program to automatically turn the water back on. My thinking is that I'll keep that a manual control - to force me to inspect why a sensor detected a leak before resetting the water valve.

My final test will be do a water test at each installed leak sensor location - this will tell me whether I have a good wireless connection from each leak sensor to my Insteon network.

Update - 6 years of Usage

The system has been running fine for 6 years now. I've found that I need to do periodic testing - because every once in a while some bug appears which causes a problem between the link sensors and the automated water valve control. I solved program issues by direct linking the individual water sensors with the I/O Linc - which takes the ISY 994i out of the chain of communication for actuating the water valve. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. . My go-to place in Canada for Insteon automation components is