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TOPIC: Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant

Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 24 Jan 2022 18:34 #127697

  • Tim Crew
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Inspired by this post I decided to play around with Home Assistant. First stop the website. second stop install it on windows 10....Expecting a simple download followed by install what I got was "Download the appropriate image" followed by 4 choices - Virtualbox,KVM, Vmware workstation and hyper-V - no explanation of how I could decide which was "appropriate" or even what they were. Fallen at the first hurdle as it were! Im not sure that "I'd say a level of knowledge being similar to writing an Excel formula" is a fair description of this system. Probably Im missing something but it does not seem very simple or intuitive to me :-(

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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 15 Jan 2022 23:38 #127545

  • Chris Rowling
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Hi all

And for those who want it all, Victron and HA integration via Modbus for Venus:

boathackers.com/boat-energy-management-using-victron-and-home-assistant/

Cheers
Chris

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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 15 Jan 2022 23:27 #127544

  • Chris Rowling
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Hi Colin
It is possible, but network depends on where your boat is as usual. France only good in larger centres. Part of coverage map attached (I hope) .
Cheers
Chris
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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 15 Jan 2022 17:32 #127542

  • Colin Stone
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Could all this kit on board use the Helium infrastructure/LongFi /LoRaWAN instead of a GSM device?
www.helium.com/

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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 15 Jan 2022 16:07 #127540

  • Al Cree
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Jan Pieterse wrote: Great posting Alex,
now just for fun....Victron next software update ( somewhere this year...) will allow integration of RuuviTag. They measure temperature, humidity, movement, air pressure and they communicate with the Victron control units with Blue tooth.
No need for wiring. www. ruuvi.com


Yep, I'm running the beta v2.80~36 OS with GuiMods for the extra flow overview, and Ruuvi's working well:



I've been thinking to eventually try and get my head around Home Assistant, but so far Victron does most of what I need, and soon they'll integrate Shelly wifi plugs and sensors too, but HA is definitely a cool thing.
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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 15 Jan 2022 12:03 #127536

  • Tim Crew
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Thank you for sharing this excellent post. You have really clearly articulated what Ive been thinking about. My ‘smart’ systems have just been piecemeal so far…. Amazon Blink for security, an RTU5029 cheap GSM device from amazon which tells me if I’ve lost AC shorepower. Ive not gone further yet, but was starting to map out a system architecture based on Rasberry PI.

It’s a big ask especially after your very detailed post, but I can’t see any point in me reinventing the wheel, so any further detail on your system that you feel able to give would be great either publicly or privately would be brilliant and really help me.

Thanks for a very inspiring post.
Tim

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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 05 Jan 2022 14:22 #127372

  • AlexM
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That's interesting - one thing that is wonderful about Victron (and actually swayed me to commit to them even though the kit is expensive) is that all their code is open source. They work out in the open on their systems which is unique. For example I proposed that they increase the range of sensor resistances that their system can read so that it supports Vetus tank senders. They did it in a matter of weeks - github.com/victronenergy/venus/issues .

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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 05 Jan 2022 02:27 #127358

  • Jan Pieterse
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Great posting Alex,
now just for fun....Victron next software update ( somewhere this year...) will allow integration of RuuviTag. They measure temperature, humidity, movement, air pressure and they communicate with the Victron control units with Blue tooth.
No need for wiring. www. ruuvi.com
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Making a smarter boat: Introducing Home Assistant 04 Jan 2022 15:54 #127345

  • AlexM
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Hi all

I've taken a lot of knowledge from this forum and I'd love to contribute my experience over the past few months of making a Smart Boat using free software and cheap hardware. One of the big benefits of this is that it puts everything in one place, remotely available, and removes the need for expensive 'smart' control systems and their associated 'marine' price tags. For example, Webasto will happily sell you a GSM control system for £284, but you can build a smarter one for £10 once you're set up with Home Assistant.

Overview
Home Assistant ("HA") is a free piece of software that runs on a small PC. This PC can be a Raspberry Pi 4, an old laptop, or similar. I use a Raspberry PI because it is tiny (cigarette packet-sized) and uses almost no electricity. This system acts as a hub and then you can connect all your things to it and control or monitor them. You can access Home Assistant using a computer, smart phones, iPads etc.

Examples of some usages
  • I can see the temperature and humidity in all rooms of the boat. These temperature sensors are wireless, tiny and cost around £10 each.
  • When I leave the boat, I set the intruder alarm. Home Assistant then turns off all non-essential loads - the TV, speakers etc. No standby consumption whatsoever.
  • If the temperature is less than 16C in the bedroom, the electric blanket will turn on automatically any time the the generator is running after 7pm.
  • I can turn the generator on and off remotely. The 'official' kit for this is seriously expensive. I did it for £10 using a simple relay.
  • All Victron kit and measurements are integrated. I receive an instant notification to my phone if the battery voltage drops below 24.4V
  • Wireless flood detectors are in the bilge and will send a notification to my phone if there is a flood - cost £20 each.

If that's piqued your interest, I'll share my setup and feel free to ask questions.

Core system
A Raspberry Pi with an 8GB memory card containing Home Assistant. You don't need to be a programmer but you do need to have a decent understanding of concepts like IP addresses and editing config files. I'd say a level of knowledge being similar to writing an Excel formula.

The Home Assistant needs to connect to the internet. On the boat I have a 5G router which sits in the wheelhouse. Connected to this is an 8-port unmanaged switch (basically a junction box for network cables) where Cat6 ethernet network cables run from around the boat. I also have a separate Wifi router downstairs to provide decent Wifi coverage throughout. This creates a single network - a LAN (Local Area Network) - the network is managed by the router - all the devices are given an IP address by the router and they can all access the internet and each other.

A note on cables vs wifi
I prefer cables to Wifi where feasible. The TV, Sonos etc are all hardwired into the network - this gives a rock-solid, high speed connection and
in some cases lower power usage. It's also surprisingly hard to get a decent wifi signal throughout a steel built boat with bulkheads. My boat is 70ft x 13ft and even with two top-end wifi routers it has no signal in the engine room.

Connecting devices
LAN devices
Some devices connect to the Home Assistant straight through the network. For example the Sonos sound system or the TV - you don't need anything further to connect to these things. Home Assistant can detect some things and other stuff you need to tell it about (eg. Victron setup)

Some smart plugs connect to your Wifi - you can control these with HA instead of the crappy Chinese apps that they normally come with.

Mesh wifi networks
For small devices like switches, sensors etc - Wifi is a bit of a power hungry network. Think of a wireless doorbell - it's overkill to connect the button and the sounder to your wifi, it will also drain their little batteries. So instead most smaller smart home stuff uses one of three different Wifi protocols:

- Zigbee is a low-power, high range network that I use on the boat. Temperature sensors, switches, relays, smart plugs and the flood sensors are all connected into a Zigbee network. The Home Assistant has a small USB stick that enables it to communicate with this network - thing of it as a separate wireless network. These networks are very smart because the devices can communicate through each other - spreading their range in what's called a mesh. For example, the home assistant core wants to get the temperature on in the master cabin (40ft away). The signal is relayed through the smart plug that controls the electric blanket (20ft) away. You don't need to worry about it - generally for Zigbee, any hardwired device will act as an extender - those powered by little watch batteries won't be repeaters . Philips Hue lighting systems use Zigbee.

- Z-wave is an alternative to Zigbee. They are very similar - on my boat the Ring alarm system uses Z-wave to communicate between the alarm sensors and the alarm hub. On my system I don't directly use Z-Wave devices. I could add a USB Z-wave stick if I needed to.

- 433MHz - this is an older and very basic wireless protocol used for simple stuff like keyfobs, doorbells etc. Usually it's one-way - you press a button and it sends a radio signal which may or may not be received. When you press the keyfob for a car, the keyfob doesn't know if the car has unlocked - it's dumb, it just sends the signal and hopes. I don't make any use of 433MHz but it could be useful.. for something.

My devices
- Security: Ring Alarm (v2). Amazon's Ring alarm system is outstanding. The hardware is high quality, the design is good and the app is solid. It's also highly likely to be supported for the foreseeable future. The Ring base station comes with its own SIM card and a battery - this SIM works in lots of countries and if you pay for Ring Protect (£100 a year I think) then the Ring will communicate using its own SIM card. When the alarm is activated it will notify you via the app, and via phone calls and text messages to three different numbers you can provide. I have an alarm sounder mounted on top of the mast. It's better than the ADT Remotely Monitored alarm that I have at work and pay £400 a year for. I highly recommend Ring. One thing I don't know is whether the SIM will switch networks as you cruise through Europe - I suspect it will. Though if any of us makes it across the Atlantic, you would need to swap the SIM. The Ring is integrated with Home Assistant so I can do things like: switch on all lights if the alarm is activated, switch off all non-essential loads when I'm away from home etc. You can get as creative as you like - even so far as playing sounds through the Sonos and starting the generator for 5 minutes if the alarm is triggered.

- Heating: Drayon Wiser Smart TRVs: Each radiator on the boat has a smart TRV valve that connects to the Drayton Wiser heat hub. It replaces any sort of thermostat / timer and turns the Kabola boiler on and off. This enables us to set the temperature of each individual room (or groups of rooms). For example, our guest cabins are normally only heated for an hour a day in winter just to keep any damp at bay. If guests are on board we switch them back onto the main schedule.

- Power: Victron: I have a Victron Cerbo GX, which is basically a mini-computer that ties together all the Victron devices on board. The normal setup is to combine this with a touch screen to allow control and monitoring of Victron kit. But the Cerbo GX can be wired into the network and then controlled and monitored by Home Assistant. You can read, automate and control all Victron settings for example:
- Send a notification when battery voltage drops
- Send a notification if I set the intruder alarm and the current draw is greater than 10A (I've left something on)
- Turn on the immersion if the battery is in float and there is greater than 200W of solar being produced.
- I use a Victron Relay output to turn the generator on and off.
- The waste and freshwater tank levels are available in Home Assistant. I can setup notifications based on these.

I should say that the Victron setup is a little more technical than others - it requires some editing of config files. I believe Victron are working on an integration that should make this easier.

All readings are logged forever by Home Assistant. I can pull historic voltages, currents, generator run times etc.

-Smart plugs: Corded devices can be plugged into Zigbee smart plugs which you can then automate. They cost around £10 each ( www.amazon.co.uk/S26R2ZBTPG-Compatible-Wireless-Control-Required/dp/B09DPG7HWG/ref=sr_1_3?crid=1EV9RLLQY1M02&keywords=zigbee+smart+plug&qid=1641306910&s=diy&sprefix=zigbee+smart+plug%2Cdiy%2C54&sr=1-3 ) and use 0.1W of power. In the living room - I have a Smart TV, Soundbar and Subwoofer. The standby consumption of these is around 20W. By connecting them through a smart plug I can turn them all on and off at the flick of a button and also automate this. For example, I have the system set to turn all these 'non-essentials' off after midnight. And any time the intruder alarm is set. Likewise - the electric blanket is on a smart plug and will run for an hour after 8pm any time the generator is running in the winter.

-Relays and switches: To control anything you like, you can buy Zigbee relays that operate at either 240V or 12/24V ( www.amazon.co.uk/MHCOZY-Adjustable-Selflock-Momentary-SmartThings/dp/B08X218VMR/ref=sr_1_4?crid=2JDA5YZ2G0S66&keywords=mhcozy+relay+zigbee&qid=1641307519&s=diy&sprefix=mhcozy+relay+zigbee%2Cdiy%2C47&sr=1-4 ). I use these to control the central heating. I also have them partially setup to open / close the electric sunroof in the wheelhouse. I will use them to control fans at later point based on humidity, room temperature, occupancy and battery capacity.

-Lights: I haven't done anything with lighting yet. I'm not sure it's really needed - I had a very fancy smart lighting setup in a flat once and it was utterly pointless. I might do something nice (depending on your tastes) with colour changing LEDs at some point. But Philips Hue setups are a very common use for Home Asssistant.

-CCTV: With an urban mooring, security is an issue for us. I will be setting up CCTV cameras that will detect a person clambering on board, notify me and then trigger the intruder alarm siren for a few seconds.

Summary
If I could summarise - this stuff is well within the DIY range of most barge owners. The power comes from being able to link together different systems and then apply your own logic to make things happen. You don't have to write code - Home Assistant has a simple interface that lets you setup triggers (eg. generator turned on), conditions (bedroom temperature is less than 16C, time is after 1800) and actions (turn on electric blanket)

Here's a list of Home Assistant integrations (basically systems it can communicate with)
www.home-assistant.io/integrations/

People more technical than me would be able to monitor things like oil pressure, engine temperature etc.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Bob Marsland, Pete Clark, Al Cree, Terry Hawkes, Scott Pereira, Tim Crew, Chris Rowling, Jan Pieterse, Charles Whitehead, Peter Johns, Martin Nunan, Peter Abbott, Justyn Lane

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