Planning Your Home Automation and Home Control

Earlier this year I set out to purchase a home and move from my existing townhouse, to a larger home to make room for my new family. As part of the process of moving, I wanted to plan my home automation in advance in efforts to simplify the implementation. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do, but since the home had to be heavily renovated, I knew that my plans would change along the way. I figured that it would make sense and be easier if I could plan things out from the beginning and do as much as I could along the way rather than waiting till everything was completed. In addition, I had started to purchase items I thought I needed in advance in smaller buckets to spread out the expense and avoid a large one time hit as I was expanding the system from the old house quite a bit. As things turn out, it ended up completely different than what I had planed. That said, it was still helpful overall to have a plan from the beginning even if the scope grows on you.



I knew I wanted to control lighting in each room, including outdoor and pool lighting. I also knew I wanted to control my sprinklers as never did like those standalone sprinkler controllers. One of the most important things I needed to do is to control temperature very carefully as the electric bill is a real concern. As I am in Southern California, operating a pool and air conditioning are major expenses that can range from $350-$600 monthly depending on the season and your consumption. When it comes to electricity, cost reduction, monitoring, and controlling energy was an absolute necessity.

Below is a high level summary of the areas I covered and my strategy for each of them. Some of this is still in progress and in a continual state of change, but much of it is already done. I will get into more detail for each area in future articles including some of the programing and customizing that I used once everything is exactly the way I want.



One of the first items I installed was the Insteon thermostat. I thought about using he Nest, however being a control freak, as well as wanting one control system for everything, I opted to control it myself using a variety of programs on my ISY 994. It may not be as automated and smart as the Nest however it works very well and has saved me quite a bit of money both in my previous house as well as this new one. I have created some programs that monitor temps as well as set temps at certain times. Being tied into my controller while I am away also allows me to control things remotely. Since I come home at different times of the day, it allows me to cool or heat to the right temperatures just before I get there regardless of schedule.



So let’s start out talking about lighting which sounds easy enough, or least it started that way. When I initially planned this, it was based on how the house was as well as what I envisioned it would be. Part of the renovation plan was to install recessed lights and add some additional switches through most of the house. Somehow before I knew it, I had over 30 recessed lights installed on top of what was already there. To further complicate things, my contractor decided to get creative and add extra switches in most of the rooms to allow me more granular control of the lighting. He installed an additional 12 switches just in the living room/bedroom/family room alone with others throughout the house. This allowed me to choose which banks of lights were on at any time which does sound good on paper. That said, if you consider that in order to automate each room I would have to purchase and install a bunch more switches than was on my original plan. In total, I had to purchase about 18 additional Insteon switches over my original plan, OUCH!

As a side note and not related to home automation, every light in the house was replaced with dimmable LED (5-6K Kelvin color temperature) including G8, GU10, MR10, A19, Par 30, T8 LEDs, and chandelier lights. This was very expensive however combined with the home control hit the power bill in a very positive way and well worth the cost in long run. My initial estimate for payback is about 4-6 months for the LEDs.



Motion detection

What would home automation be without a few motion detectors thrown in? For me I used one for lighting in my office, and a couple for home presence and security, mainly for during the week when there is no one home. In addition, I am adding one in the garage and one in hallways that will be tied to events and for safety.



Sprinkler Control and Pool fill.

This was a big one for me as water is very expensive here in California. I used the EZRain Insteon compatible 8 zone controller to create various programs for watering 6 zones with different time requirements, and added a control valve to fill my pool when it was low on water. Presently I use 6 sprinkler zones and I programmed zone 7 as a pool fill valve. Why you ask? Well simply put, to make up for the possibility of yours truly leaving the water running (which I did) and nearly flooding my back yard. So what I ended up doing is tying it to a scene so that when the pool level gets low, I push a remote button and the fill runs for 12 minutes then shuts down. This raises the pool level about 1 inch. I also created an auto fill so that it adds a small amount of water on a weekly basis to keep things balanced. Going forward I will enhance this once I find the right level sensors to integrate into my system. In addition, I am using the Insteon 24950A3 Rain Sensor Kit to disable both  the sprinkler control and the auto fill  during the rainy season (not that we have much in the LA area but we do have it).



IP Cameras

For Cameras, I used all HD cameras (720P) consisting of 4 outdoor cameras, and 4 indoor cameras. I bought a combination of the Insteon and Foscam cameras though I ended up with mostly the Foscam as they were cheaper and better overall especially working with the Mobilinc software I am using. It is my understanding that Foscam makes the Insteon cameras anyway so everything seemed to work together pretty well. The idea for the cameras is monitoring and recording when I am not home. I use the same software (Mobilinc HD) as I do for all my home controls for the monitoring and use iSpy for scheduled/triggered recording.

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Blind Control

This was my first attempt at drape/blind control. I used an Add-A-Motor 45/80 Motorized Drape Controller combined with an Insteon 2635-222 Appliance Module to control it. This allowed me to attach it to various wake alarms and to establish various weekday/weekend schedules. It works ok but it requires a separate appliance module and only supports full open or full closed. I definitely would recommend looking for a better solution if you are thinking of this, as this solution is a bit clunky.  I used it because I happen to have in my inventory for a couple of years and wanted to put it to good use.




Leak sensors and smoke detector

For leak and smoke detection, I used the kind of equipment I had before but just more of them. I used the wireless First Alert smoke detectors teamed with an Insteon Smoke Bridge. This allows me to get notifications immediately on my phone/tablet/laptop if there is an emergency, or even if there is a problem such as a malfunction unit or low battery. Again not as elegant as the Nest, but nicely integrated into the whole home solution and very customizable. You have to do a bit of the work but in the end you get exactly what you want.

For leak detection, I used 8 of the Insteon leak detectors to put under each sink such as the kitchen and bathrooms, water heater, as well as behind the toilets in each of the bathrooms. Again, these will notify everyone on my notification list if a leak is detected so that steps can be taken in the event of a leak. They will also notify me if there is a low battery or malfunction so that I keep things in working condition. In the near future, I will be adding a main shut off valve so that an event will trigger the main to shut down.




For this task  I am using the Kevo.  I have read the reviews and have taken them into consideration, but for the short term, this offers the best protection/features for me especially when there is a tendency for people to leave the door unlocked.  For me the Kevo is the most interesting in this category as it offers you so many options. The down side is that this is the only device I have that is out there by itself and not tied in to the main controller at least for now (there is a rumored Bluetooth bridge in the works). The main reason for me was inside/outside proximity detection, user based electronic keys, and temporary key assignments for friends, cleaning services, repairs, etc. The only minor drawback is that they only offer IOS and Android apps, but for me that works out as I use IOS as my primary device along with a couple of Android devices.  In addition, to secure the office area where all my equipment is I used a LAYKOR Keyless Electronic Digital Door Lock YL-99.  Though this is a self contained unit, it does provide a convenient and secure way of locking down the toy room.  I plan on replacing this with something different when I find something that fits the bill.




Garage Door

My objective for the garage was quite simple, notify me if the door is left open and allow me to close it from any location if it is.   In addition, I wanted to be able to quickly view remotely via IP camera if I did get notified just to make sure before I closed it remotely.  Since the magnet switch at the bottom of door outputs a status, I can also use to trigger events.




The core of my system is still the ISY-994i which I still thinks provides the best overall experience and offers upgradability to Z-Wave and ZigBee should I need it. It is a bit more of an enthusiast level product versus the Insteon Hub, but I like the customizability it offers me. If you are just looking for the basics, the hub is a great place to start. Teamed with this, I use a Nexus 7 in my Bedroom running Mobilinc for Android as the master control, a Samsung tablet in living room also running Mobilinc, and of course my iPhones/iPad all running the Mobilinc HD software. In addition, I use Mobilinc Connect to simplify multi-device syncing as well providing a form of Dynamic DNS service to allow the remote access of my devices when I am away from home. To supplement this, I use a DynDNS account to simplify the access to the cameras remotely by other software.  I chose this method though there are other ways to do this as I also have other needs that force me to use a DynDNS account as well.



Equipment Summary

I will provide more detail on each room in upcoming articles as there is too much information for one post, however I hope it helps a bit in starting to see the big picture and help you to start planning your overall strategy. There is allot more to making all this work together when you start, but in the end it is very fulfilling and rewarding to watch it all work together as a system and provide you with a cost reduction and convenience factor. As for the result, let’s just say that I could not be happier with the present results. Stay tuned for additional articles on the specifics for each room as well any specific instruction that I used in putting it all together.



This is obviously still a work in process but if all goes well, I will have this completed in the next month or so as I have all the pieces I need to complete this.  As it stands now, I am very happy with what I have implemented so far and all is working very well.  I really look forward to completing this (if there is such a thing) and seeing the end result.  If you have any inclination of taking on a project like this or if you are planning a move, I would definitely recommend the approach of at least pre-buying some of the basics.  If you are anything like me, you will want to have it running as soon as possible, so having things that you know you will need such as a controller, some switches/dimmers, leak sensors, lamp/appliance modules, and smoke detectors helps ease the pain trying to purchase everything at once. A rough estimate of everything I purchased throughout the year (April-November) for this move is about $3500 for the whole system as you see it here which may be larger than you need, however no matter how small or large you needs are, spreading it out over many months sure does help.


Summary of equipment by room/area/function


Front Porch

  • Insteon 2477S On/Off Dual-Band Switch. Used for the simple automation of the outdoor porch light that is synched with Dusk/Dawn.

Hallway 1

  • Insteon 2477S On/Off Dual-Band Switch. Synched with Dusk/Dawn to provide lighting in the main hallway from the front door.

Hallway 2

  • Insteon 3-way (pair) (Primary/Secondary) switches to replace a three way switch setup in the main hallway.

Living Room

  • 4 x Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmer.  These where used to control the living room lighting and attached to an Insteon 2335-226 6-Button Scene controller to control various combinations.
  • Foscam FI9821W V2 Megapixel HD 1280 x 720p Pan/Tilt IP Camera. I use this for monitoring and daytime recording when I am away from the house. As this is a pan and tilt, it is easy to use one camera to monitor a fairly large area.

Dining Room

  • 2 x Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmer to control and dim the chandelier and recessed lights.

Family Room

  • 2 x Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmer to control and dim two groups of recessed lights.

Master Bedroom/Master Bathroom

  • 4 x Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmers for control of the lighting in the master bedroom and 2 more for the master bath. In addition I used an Insteon 2342-242 Mini Remote to extend the switch for the chandelier which was badly located, and to move control of the device to the other side of the room closer to the bed. In addition, I used an Add-A-Motor 45/80 Motorized Drape Controller to open and close my curtain for the double sliding glass door leading to the back yard.

Bedroom 2

  • A single Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmer for simple light control. Controller allows me to set the dimmer to 60% when the manual switch is used or when called by a program.

Bedroom 3

  • A single Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmer for simple light control. Controller allows me to set the dimmer to 60% when the manual switch is used or when called by a program.

Bedroom 4 (Office)

  • Insteon 2477D Dual-Band Dimmer in addition to an Insteon 2342-242 Mini Remote which again I used to locate an extension switch to the outside of the office as my contractor moved a door from one side of the room to the other, however did not move the switch. Using a wall mounted mini remote solves the problem without rewiring. In addition, I am using an Insteon 2842-222 Wireless Motion Sensor to handle the lights as well as intrusion alarm should someone come in during the time I am not there.
  • Foscam FI9821W V2 720p Wireless/Wired Pan/Tilt IP Camera. Used for monitoring, recording and security


  • I am using an Insteon 2477S On/Off Dual-Band Switch teamed with an Insteon 2842-222 Wireless Motion Sensor to trigger lights and entrance alarm. Also, to control my garage door as well as to monitor if it is accidently left open, I am using an Insteon 74551 Garage Door Control Kit. This allows remote open/close of the garage door and notification if it is left open for more than 10 minutes. In addition, I am using a Foscam FI9821W V2 720p Wireless/Wired Pan/Tilt IP Camera for monitoring, recording and security. In the event the door is left open or opens unexpectedly, I am notified, allowing me to view the status via camera and to close it remotely. Conversely, I can also open it to allow someone to have access should the need arise.


  • For monitoring and recording the outside, I am using 4 Foscam F19804W 720P Outdoor cameras. 2 positioned facing the back yard, and on each side of the house. For irrigation control, I am using the EZRain INSTEON / X10 8 Zone Sprinkler Controller to handle the 6 sprinkler zones and 1 pool fill.
  • Insteon 24950A3 Rain Sensor Kit for disabling pool fill
  • Pool Lights – 2x Insteon 2477S Dual-Band Switch for basic light control
  • Back Patio Lights – Insteon 2477S Dual-Band Switch for basic light control
  • Back yard flood lights – Insteon 2477S Dual-Band Switch for basic light control
  • Sprinkler Control and Pool Fill – EZRain Insteon compatible 8 zone controller
  • Outdoor Cameras – 4 x Foscam FI9804W 2-1.0 Megapixel 1280 x 720P Wireless Outdoor IP Camera