Homevision Home Control System
My previous home control system was an HCSII which was
originally designed by the folks at Circuit Cellar
and is now an open
source project. Although this worked well, when we
moved in 1998 and built a new house, I decided I wanted to go in a
different direction. After quite a bit of research, I decided
to go with a Homevision
Controller manufactured by Custom
Solutions, Inc. The system had an amazing range of
features, a strong and very active community of users, and a designer
who offered outstanding service and support. I have never
disappointed with my choice and still am amazed at the expansion
I started off by researching what I might want to do and
then began running wires. Between myself and my two sons, we
ran almost 7000' of wire in the new house. We ran a minimum
of 2 - CAT5 cables, 2 - RG6 coax, 4 conductor speaker wire,
and twisted pair to every room in the house. Some rooms, like
the den, family room, master bedroom, and sewing room, we ran even more
cables - wire is cheap (or was then) and it's easier to run in bare
walls than after wall board is hung. All of the wires were
run to a central point in the basement where I hung 6' X 8' of 1/2"
plywood and began installing equipment. Read on for a
detailed description of the current components as well as some of the
things the system does and future plans.
Main Control Center
Below is a picture of the main control center. As you mouse
over an area, you can see a short description of the main components
and clicking on a component will bring up a more detailed picture of
area. Below the image is more detailed list of the components
identified by the letters on the image.
Besides the equipment located at the control center, there are
many more items located throughout the house. Here are many
of them in no particular order.
- I recently installed a Cyber
Power 1000PFCLCD UPS. This UPS employs a pure sine
wave system provides power to the Homevision controller, the connected
PC, as well as the main power supply that powers most of the
peripherals of the system. It works very well and I have been
very pleased with its performance.
- Touch screens - I have 2 touch screens that provide most of
the user input - one on the first
floor and one on the
These touch screens are Epods
web pads that I got off eBay for
about $100 each. They run Windows CE and were originally
intended to be inexpensive Internet
Appliances. Using a
terminal services client application they actually run a virtual
Windows XP session on the main Windows XP computer. In this session
run the HomevisionXL
Remote plugin client software and the Control plugin to provide a great
interface (more on this below in the software discussion). I
have a couple of pictures of sample
- Small LCD - I purchased a small
from eBay and installed it below one of our touch screens.
screen is fed from our video switcher and can display any of the
cameras. Currently, when the doorbell rings, if we are home,
screen is turned on and switches to the front door camera so we can see
who is at the door. If we are not home, the video is
snapshot is taken and uploaded to our web site, and an email and text
message are sent to let us know someone was there.
- Over the years I have looked into purchasing or building a thermostat
that would interface with the home control system. There are
several available but they are either X-10 (which I didn't want to
use), or more money than I wanted to pay, or both. Recently Filtrete
has introduced their Model
3M-50 which is a re-branded Radio Thermostat
model. This is a WiFi compatible unit that sells for $99 at Home
The thermostat is fully programmable, works great, and I'm
currently working on a HomevisionXL plugin to interface directly to my
home control system and the Control plugin. My initial
up and running and works great.
- X-10 modules - Although I have gone away from X-10 switches
for light switches, I still have numerous X-10 modules for other
purposes. I use appliance
modules for turning on and off
table lamps and display lights. I use 110V
outlet modules for
woodworking ventilation system and an air compressor. I also
use a 220V
module to control a large dust system, also in the wood shop.
- X-10 SS13A
Wireless Wall Switches - It seems like overkill
to have touch screens in every room but I still needed to have some
controls in each room. That's where I use these switch pads.
They are wireless, very unobtrusive, and stick right on the
wall. They're used to turn speakers on and off in a room for
example. The signals are received by the W800RF32A
transmitted to HomevisionXL to handle.
- X-10 DS10A
Door and Window Sensors - These are intended to
be used with X-10 security systems but the signals can also be read by
the W800RF32A and sent to HomevisionXL. They are wireless and
can be used just about anywhere you need to sense any type of switch
closure. Here's an interesting
discussion of some creative uses for these devices.
Also see my
using these devices for water leak detection.
- Magnetic Switches - I have several types of magnetic
switches and use them to sense things like garage door position, entry
window positions, blast gate
positions on woodworking dust system.
Light Switches - I am in the process of changing
all of my light switches over to Insteon Icon Switches. There
are 2 types - 2876D
Dimmer Switches and 2876S
Switches. Instead of using them in their native mode, I'm
using an X-10 emulation mode and I
really like these switches. They have a small amber LED so
easily be found in a dark room. They operate like a normal
decora switch - press the top to turn a light on and the bottom to turn
a light off. Additionally, when using the 2876D, holding the switch
down will cause the light
to gradually bright or dim. Any switch can also be linked to
any other switch so you don't need a traveler between switches to
two-way switches. Finally, in X-10 mode, the
switches send the equivalent X-10 command when they are activated
locally. This allows the Homevision controller to track the
status of lights and always know if a light is off or on.
- Cameras - I currently have 7 cameras of various types
installed and 1 more that I haven't gotten around to installing yet.
can currently view or switch
cameras either over the web or from either
of the touch
Color cameras are pretty cheap these
days and one of my next projects will be some type of servo pan and
tilt mount so
that I can control them over the web.
- X-10 Ninja
Pan and Tilt Bases
- After some research, I purchased a couple of these with the
intent of modifying them to be controlled over an RS-485 network from
my home control system. I was ultimately successful and added
on my web
site detailing the modification.
- Sprinkler system - I am currently using an Irrmaster,
zone, X-10 sprinkler controller. This works well
and has been
very reliable. I also have a Mini-Clik
Model 502 rain sensor
to ensure that we don't water needlessly. The rain sensor is
hooked directly to Homevision so it can be used for both the sprinkler
and drip systems.
- Drip system - I also have a 2 zone drip system for watering
baskets, etc. This is simply a pair of 24VAC sprinkler system
solenoid valves installed in the basement which feed hose bibs outside
where the each zone connects.
- Speakers - We currently have 8 sets of speakers in various
rooms around the house. Each room also has a volume
for that room.
Shades - There are 3 motorized pleated shades
installed on large windows in the master bedroom. They are
controlled by relays mounted in the control center. Update -
recently one of the shades failed and I had to repair and upgrade one
of them. Click
here for the complete details.
- Current Sensors - I have several current
sensors that I designed myself.
These attach to a digital input and can be used to know when
appliance or device is on. I am currently using them to track
number of hours on my air compressor to know when it's time for
servicing and to track the hours on my furnace to know when it's time
to change furnace filters.
- Doorbell detection - I'm using an Elk
for doorbell detection. This part is actually 3 circuit
2 doorbell detectors and 1 phone ring detector. The doorbell
detector works fine and is used as described previously to detect
someone at the front door, take a picture, and send us an email if we
are not home. I'm also using the ring detector as described
later on this page.
- Temperature Sensors - The Homevision
Expansion Board interfaces with Dallas
(now Maxim) DS18S20 digital temperature
sensors and I'm currently using 3 - one outside, one in a freezer in
the basement, and one in the freezer of the refrigerator in the
kitchen. I also have an LM34DZ
installed in the garage along with the FloodStop valve to monitor
garage temperature in case of freezing.
- Rain Gauge - I'm using a La
Crosse Model WS-7048 tipping bucket rain gauge which I
modified by simply connecting the small magnetic reed switch that
senses the tipping bucket to a Homevision input. This way
Homevision can track current day, previous day, month to date, and year
- X-10 Filters - I have also installed several types of X-10
filters. I didn't need them until I started using CFL bulbs.
Once I did, I ended up installing filters on computers that
happened to be on the same circuit with CFL bulbs. This seems
to have solved any problems.
- Surge Protector - I have an Intermatic
IG1240 whole house
surge protector rated at 20,000 amps per phase and 60,000 amps per
system. Although we don't really have significant lightning
issues here, this is just a little insurance.
- Signal Bridge
- X-10 signals can some times have problems
passing from one leg to the other in a 220V system so we have a Leviton HCA02
2 phase X-10 coupler/repeater. This has worked flawlessly and
I have never really experienced the X-10 problems that some people seem
the years my X-10 performance has slowly deteriorated. I
that this is mostly due to the addition of computers, HD TVs, and
assorted other electronics that tend to be X-10 signal suckers.
recently added an XTB-IIR
from J V Digital
Besides boosting the X-10 signals from a range of 5 VPP to 30
VPP, the XTB-IIR also serves as a signal bridge so it has replaced the
Leviton HCA02. The XTB-IIR is installed
in my garage
next to the main circuit breaker panel and is connected, via a 220 Volt
plug, to a dedicated 15 amp, 220 Volt breaker. Since the
also includes TW523 emulation port, I ran a new 4-wire, flat phone
cable from the Homevision controller to the XXT-IIR.
has been outstanding and I'm very pleased.
- Modem - For a few years I used an AOpenFM56EV
voice modem in conjunction with CallStation
software as our answering machine. Unfortunately this modem
ultimately failed and, since they were no longer available, I needed to
find a new modem compatible with my system. I finally settled
Model H50113 V.92 56K external USB modem.
The modem has worked fine, the only drawback is that there is
60 second per call recording limit. This works for me but may
work for everyone.
Well all that hardware is great but, without software, it would be
nothing more than a pile of electronics. Software is a key
piece and fortunately there's some great software available.
- The Homevision Controller comes with some very capable
software that runs on a PC and is used for programming the
as well as providing many other features when the PC is on-line and
connected to the controller. In addition to that, one very
talented Homevision user has written his own software and made it
available to the Homevision community. The software is
and, besides adding many additional features to
Homevision, has a plugin
which makes it very extensible and adds the hooks for other
users to write software that adds even more features. I won't
even try to list all of the great features but you can read about them
on the HomevisionXL web site.
I will however list some of my
favorite plugins and what I do with them. You can see the complete
list of plugins here.
Plugin - This is the plugin that lets you create
control screens that can then be used on any computer. It has
a tremendous range of features and you can see some of my control
screens here - just remember that I'm an engineer not a
so, while my screens are very functional, they're not always very
Server Plugin - This plugin works in conjunction with the
NetIO App available for either Android
devices. Using the NetIO Online
Designer, you develop configurations consisting of various
screens which can be uploaded to your device. These
configurations in turn communicate with the NetIO Server running on
your system. I am currently running the NetIO App on my HTC
phone as well as a Samsung tablet. It all works great.
Here are some screenshots of some of my screens.
Plugin - This plugin was modeled after some
software I originally wrote called W800toHV.
receives commands from a W800RF32A whole house RF receiver and can
convert them into any Homevision action. This makes it very
easy to use the SS13A wall switches, the DS10A door and window sensors,
any other X-10 wireless devices.
Plugin - The weather plugin was written by another Homevision
(with very limited input from me) and can go out over the Internet
and retrieve data from a National
Weather Service site for any area in the country.
The weather data is
updated every hour and can then be displayed on a TV screen or any
other type of Homevision connected display. You can see the
site for my local area here
and see the kind of information available. The weather plugin
includes the capability to utilize the Weatherbug
API to obtain a 7 day forecast and then display the data on a
Plugin - The web plugin provide a complete web
interface to Homevision and allows the monitoring and control of any
devices from virtually any web browser. Here's
Plugin - Provides complete control for Winamp and
the playing of MP3 files. I have all of my CDs ripped to a
hard drive and I can select and play any of them or any play lists
my touchscreen interfaces. You can see a sample screen here.
Plugin - Provides text to speech output using the
standard Microsoft voices. I use this to announce alarms as
well as reminders for things that I might forget. For example
it reminds me if I leave the garage doors open at bed time or reminds
me to wind the grandfather clock once a week.
- I use the sendmail plugin to send me an
email if an alarm should occur when I'm not at home. It also
sends me an email if one of my cameras has taken a picture that has
been automatically uploaded to my FTP site. I recently
that most wireless providers have an SMS
gateway for sending text
messages. This means that, in my case, I can send
an email to
XXXXXXXXXX@vmobl.com (where X...X is my 10 digit wireless number with
Virgin Mobile) and I will get the message as a text message on my cell
phone. This is a great way to notify me of a problem if we
Plugin - The remote plugin enables me to run the
HomevisionXL Control plugin on computers that are on my network but are
not running the HomevisionXL application. It is mainly used
to play the Control plugin on my Epods tablets.
Plugin - Allows me to select up to 8 Homevision variables to
upload to a pre-configured ThingSpeak
channel. I can either view graphs of these variables
on ThingSpeak or in an iframe on my own website.
- Heartbeat Plugin - This is a simple plugin that monitors
the connection between Homevision and my PC to ensure a continuous
Plugin - This is one I wrote myself (with help from Schelte).
This queries the controller for all of the system status and
variables so that I can display them on a control screen.
- Stocks Plugin - Another plugin that I wrote with some
Schelte. This one opens the Quote.com
mobile web site and reads the current prices of the major stock indexes
well as the current change in price and puts these values into user
variables for display on my Stocks screen.
- DSC832 Plugin - I've written a plugin which
interfaces the home control system more completely with the security
system. I'm using a DSC
IT-100 Integration Module which sits on the DSC bus and sends
status data via RS232 to the HomevisionXL computer. This
allows me to display the system
status on the control screens as well as a stack of recent
Plugin - This plugin communicates with my 3M-50 Radio Thermostat
thermostat and allows me to control my thermostat either from my
control screens or remotely if necessary.
needed software to interface with my cameras and, after
extensive searching, chose Digi-Watcher.
Digi-Watcher is web cam software that provides video
surveillance, broadcasting, streaming, recording, and even snapshots
for your camera. Although I don't use all of the features, it
has proven to be very capable. Even though one instance of
software only interfaces to one camera, I can use my video switch,
controlled by Homevision, to easily switch between up to 16 cameras.
I also use the software to take snapshots of a camera if
Homevision detects an alarm or motion in an area where there shouldn't
be movement. This picture is then uploaded to my FTP site and
an email is sent to let me know it's there.
- I recently switched to the free version of webcamXP
for my camera viewing. WebcamXP provides live streaming as
well as the web software to more easily embed the live stream on my
camera web page server as well as in my NetIO App configurations.
- Another piece of software that I use is Macro Express.
WebcamXP doesn't have an API so I use a Macro Express
macro that is run by Homevision to take snapshots.
Macro Express can perform virtually any task that you can do
sitting in front of your computer. In my case, Macro Express
activates the webcamXP window, clicks on the snapshot button,
enters a file name based on the current date and time, and then uploads
the newly created file to an FTP site and deletes the local file.
I can also use the same concept to take short videos, for
example when someone rings the front doorbell, which can then be saved
on my Google Drive and then viewed from anywhere on the web.
- WebcamXP has a built in web server that allows you to
view the current broadcast image from any web browser. While
the browser worked just fine, it didn't allow me any provisions to
switch cameras from the same browser page. In order to
accomplish this, I found a simple web server written in VB6 and
modified it so that it would meet my needs. My server
up the current camera live stream and provides
buttons to switch between my current cameras. I now have the
capability from any browser to switch to any of my 7 cameras and to
control the Ninja Bases on the 3 cameras that have them installed.
- One of the pieces missing in our system was answering
capability so, along with the Hiro modem
mentioned earlier, I also purchased CallStation
software. This is very nice software with more features than
could ever list here. The one feature I really wanted was the
capability to send the contents of a message via email. This
when we are away from home, we don't have to constantly call to check
for messages - they are delivered immediately. Another nice
feature is the capability to execute a program whenever a call is
received. I wrote a simple VB6 program that does nothing more
than open a socket, connect to the HomevisionXL software, run a macro,
close the socket, and exit. This macro can then decide if we
away based on the status of the security system, increment a call
counter and, when we return, announce that there are calls waiting.
I also use an Elk-930
ring detector to count the number of rings to know when we
have missed a call.
- Finally, in order to run a session on the
Homevision-attached computer for each Epods touchscreen, and still have
access to the computer, I installed a patch that
allows multiple desktop sessions on
a Windows XP PRO computer. This also entails running a
Windows CE Terminal
Services Client application on the Epods computers.
Systems like this are never truly complete. There's always
something more to add so here's a short list of some of the things I'd
still like to do:
Well, that's it for now. Thanks for looking and feel free to contact me
if you have any questions, ideas, or comments.
- Install additional cameras and design a pan and tilt base
for some of them which can be controlled from my server. DONE
- Install a solenoid shutoff valve on the water line where it
enters the house so that the water can be automatically shutoff when we
house to ensure a broken line doesn't flood the house if we are gone
for long periods of time. DONE
- Continue to install remaining Insteon switches. DONE
- Voice message and voice dialing software that will send an
incoming message as an attachment to an email and then call me on a
cell phone and let me know I have a message. The system could
also log incoming calls and who they were from. I'm kind of
stalling on this since, with the move to VOIP, things are definitely in
flux in this arena. DONE
- actually I'm using the method mentioned earlier of sending text
messages instead of a voice dialer.
- Investigate installing a UPS for the complete system
instead of just some components. DONE
- Investigate writing software to control the Insteon
switches in their native mode instead of X-10 mode.
- Write a new plugin to work with the Pushover App which
will allow me to send push
notifications from my home control system to my phone.
- Add an interface to the current smoke detectors so that
Homevision would know if there was an alarm when we were