Home & Living

My Automated Home: Delmar Faddens event manage System (ECS)

This months ‘My Automated Home’ comes from Delmar Fadden, a guy that’s no complete stranger to electronics.  As a retired avionics as well as flight deck engineer he’s spent a lifetime at the sharp end of manage systems.  now with a enthusiasm for house automation, he takes us on a trip of his Seattle wise house system which runs on ECS.

Submission by: Delmar M. Fadden – That’s it!  I’ve tried every technique there is to enhance X-10 communications, however this time around the practical reliability of my system has dropped below the level that even I can tolerate.  as well as that is well below the level that my spouse sees as barely functioning!  The final straw was not being able to turn off our get up lights.

I’ve utilized X-10 because the 1980s, very first to manage illumination as well as then some HVAC as well as lastly part of our AV system.  When we transferred to our present house in 1992, I had a possibility to begin from scratch with an general plan for inside as well as outside lighting, coordinated manage of three as well as later four HVAC units, two warm healing ventilators, a warm circulation system, as well as some hot water controls.  The house was equipped with a easy audio distribution system however the controls were inflexible as well as didn’t prolong to video at all.  So AV additions were needed.

At that time the JDS ‘Stargate’ controller provided integrated manage of all the devices types I had in mind.  It has proven to be an outstanding choice; incredibly dependable as well as easily expandable.

Our house is in a rural area as well as while the power service to the home is under ground, the primary distribution line serving our neighborhood runs for a number of miles with forest.  This makes on-site emergency power a must.  sadly the home was not wired keeping that in mind.  A cautious evaluation of the existing circuits showed that with restricted modifications we might have sensible heating as well as illumination with sufficient additional power for necessities like computers, cooking, as well as entertainment.  An 8kVA propane generator now offers power with two new standby circuit breaker panels.  By putting the primary air handler on standby power together with the boiler controls, we have great heating without the requirement to cope with the heavy startup tons of a warm pump compressor.

4 FMR1-20 gadgets utilized to manage exterior illumination circuits connected to an 8 X 8 junction box.
The blue light on outside surface of each gadget is a programmable LED sign of status.
The red program button is utilized to go into the programming mode or the test mode.

The added complication of the standby power distribution system was as well much for the original passive X-10 couplers forcing me to add amplified couplers to the 3 primary distribution panels.  When the PCS line of X-10 compatible products came out in the early 90s, they provided 200 step dimming as well as brightening from off.  That made it possible to do long fade ups.  I believed this would be much much more enjoyable for morning wake-up.  as well as certainly it was a fantastic enhancement over the huge brightness steps that many X-10 products supported.

My spouse liked the smooth shift of light levels as well as desired it utilized in much more locations as well as for much more reasons.  Within a year almost a third of our illumination had been changed to that style of control.  For a number of of the applications the built-in fade rates weren’t adequate.  Stargate supports sending the little increment steps as well as therefore enables one to personalize any type of style of fade in or out while retaining the fine manage that makes each step almost imperceptible.

JDS StarGate controller with two I/O expander units in the middle of the picture
and the IR expander system below. The units on the best are the network
patch panel as well as two of the network switches.

The only drawback is that the level of X-10 web traffic on the power line ended up being an issue.  generally I had to develop in pauses in any type of communication intense tasks that would enable other X-10 web traffic to get through.  At very first this was just a minor inconvenience however after adding a number of sign switches, this issue ended up being much much more serious.  numerous of the Leviton DHC gadgets did screen the power line as well as would retransmit if a data collision occurred.  Better, indeed however not a genuine service if the person hitting the switch was in a hurry or didn’t comprehend that a delay was “normal.”


FMR1-20 gadgets utilized to manage exterior illumination circuits are installed in two 8 X 8 junction
boxes mounted between studs in the devices center in the crawl space.  the blue light on
outside surface of each gadget is a programmable LED sign of status.
The red program button is utilized to go into the programming mode or the test mode.

As much more gadgets were added to our system, it was inevitable that specific circuits drawn in much more X-10 utilize than others.  These circuits ended up being much more noise sensitive as the offered signal level decreased.  Judicious utilize of filters as well as gadgets with adjustable sensitivity circumvented the consequences of this issue for a long time.

But now intermittent operation has ended up being the norm and, short of re-wiring the house, there is nothing I can do to make the system healthy again.  It is time to reassess the system.  thankfully there are numerous much more choices offered now.

A few years back I assisted a buddy spec his new house with Vantage controls.  together we took the factory program to make sure we comprehended what was possible as well as exactly how to apply it.  We discovered that a difficult wired system is still finest for a new house as well as that a new RF-based system might offer close to hard-wired performance for retrofit situations.  The programmability of the Vantage system makes it extremely versatile however clearly targeted for a expert installer.  because my buddy was building a new house as well as had an electrical contractor who was familiar with Vantage, it was a great in shape for him.  I did a style for part of my house utilizing the RF-based version.  It would have handled our needs extremely well however the projected expense was extremely much high end.

KPCW6 6-button wall mounted controller.  The label sheet below the switch plate
allow us to try out the illumination controls before we dedicate to engraved
labels that install directly over the buttons.


Sorting with other retrofit capable systems, lead me to the PCS PulseWorx line.  These gadgets do utilize the power line for communication however the protocol is universal Powerline Bus (UPB) instead of X-10.  This protocol is much quicker than X-10 with a larger signal range, much better noise immunity, as well as a style that supports true two-way communication.

Each UPB gadget can be managed directly utilizing its native address or by utilizing a “link.”  links enable several gadgets to be managed utilizing a single command.  Each UPB gadget can have as numerous as 16 links.  The link idea is similar to X-10 scenes—a ability that a number of X-10 gadget producers support.  My experience with scenes suggested that links would be extremely useful, especially provided the higher speed of UPB.

As helpful as links are there are times when a much more versatile controller is necessary.  I might add UPB ability to Stargate however did not want to provide up the audio as well as telephone interface.  additionally my Stargate program was running best at its memory limit.  If I moved the illumination manage out of Stargate to one more controller there would be much more area for the HVAC as well as sensor I/O that Stargate handles extremely well.

An Web browse led me to a program called event manage System (ECS)   This program was established by mark Gilmore, the primary of Omnipotence Software.  mark has been included in house automation for a long time as well as has an outstanding grasp of what house automation ought to be able to do.  He established as well as offered an early version of ECS that supported an X-10 controller called System 1400e.  That box as well as the early version of ECS had been my very first step into major house automation.  I downloaded the trial version of the present ECS as well as took a cautious look at its capability.  In addition to UPB it included an interface for Stargate that would facilitate tight integration of the two systems.  The only drawback was the lack of built-in support for links.

An exchange of e-mails with mark as well as a few phone conversations led to a new version of ECS that offered link support!  That offered me as well as I went to work on a new style developed around PCS PulseWorx gadgets as well as ECS control.  My regional PulseWorx distributor, Devine Systems, suggested that I get a couple of plug-in light controllers as well as a plug-in switch together with a powerline interface module (PIM) to confirm that communication was great sufficient all over in the house.  It was a fantastic recommendation.

PCS as well as other UPB producers offer a totally free utility program called UPStart.  In addition to dealing with the programming of UPB devices, UPStart offers a well believed out series of test functions that screen noise as well as signal level at every gadget as well as inspect communication between any type of pairs of devices; it likewise reports the phase of the power at each regional device.  I discovered that signal levels were outstanding for all of the gadgets so long as they were on the exact same phase of the powerline.  The signal on the opposite phase was present however the level was marginal.  By moving the PIM to a circuit on the opposite phase, I verified that the results were symmetrical.

PCS provides three styles of passive phase couplers as well as a split phase repeater that offers amplification in addition to phase coupling.  I elected to add a split phase repeater to provide us the very best possible signal margin.  keeping that system installed the test results were excellent, no matter what circuits were involved.

The style for the new installation developed from the original X-10 configuration with a number of simplifications made possible utilizing links as well as the versatility of the UPB addressing system.  planning the sequence of installation was challenging by two factors.  My day task enabled bit time during the week however I might count on typically totally free weekends.  The gadgets that would be managed directly at the gadget might be installed first.  next came gadgets managed by links however that did not need ECS inputs.

Together installation of these gadgets provided me a great chance to ended up being well acquainted with UPStart.  PCS provides factory as well as online training for the utilize of UPStart in addition to a comprehensive manual.  For many function I discovered the software application simple to utilize as well as comprehend without any type of additional help.  When I did have a question, the handbook had clear, simple to discover answers.  In a couple of weekends I had a number of gadgets installed as well as a very first cut at programming for the different links.

ECS provides two fundamental programming alternatives.  For controls that are based only on schedule of day, ECS routines are extremely simple to set up.  Controls that requirement to respond to events or handbook inputs are implemented utilizing Scripts.  The power as well as flexibility of Scripts implies that some research study as well as experimentation will be required to utilize them to their finest effect.  rest assured that the leaning time is well worth it.  originally I believed that I would have a few gadgets that were routine controlled.  however I discovered Scripts to be so much much more helpful that all of my routines have been replaced.

The sheer number of functions (ECS phone calls them Classes) supported by ECS appears daunting.  The on the internet assist handbook covers every class with the basics needed to utilize the Class.  ECS likewise offers some sample Scripts to demonstrate exactly how the classes can be utilized to achieve a function.  For my very first foray into ECS script programming I chosen a fairly easy function that utilizes a single output gadget as well as three kinds of inputs.  This function controls the hot water recirculation system for the master bath.  The system responds to a handbook or an event input as well as runs up until the return line water temperature exceeds a particular temperature or undergoes a defined temperature increase.  To prevent constant operation, the run time for the pump is restricted as well as a handbook shutoff is provided.

A WS-1D-6 wall switch dimmer as well as a KPLD dimmer – controller replace two single
switches in an existing wall box. The KPLD offers extra versatility for retrofit
situations by integrating both dimmer as well as controller functions in a single unit.
As with the stand alone controllers all of the switch buttons are programmable utilizing UPStart.

The temperature sensing is offered by an existing TS-111 temperature sensor interfaced with a StarGate analog input.  A PulseWorx AM1 appliance module controls AC power to the pump.  This module integrates a settable timeout function that shuts off the output as well as problems a link command when time out occurs.  handbook inputs come from either of two KPCD-6 desktop controllers in the master suite or a KPCW-6 wall controller in the master bath.

All of the controllers are illuminated as well as I wished to guarantee that the lights suggest the condition of the system whatsoever three locations.  UPB makes that extremely easy.  The UPStart “Receive Components” screen for the controllers enables each sign light to be connected with any type of of 16 links.  The links do not have to be the ones connected with the switch function, though that is frequently many convenient.

Programming the recirculation system took two tries before in functioned properly as well as the program has had a number of refinements since.  At very first the temperature sensing did not work as well as appeared to cause the script to timeout.  A comment in the assist handbook suggested that ECS updates StarGate analog data when a minute.  A quick experiment showed that adding a one minute delay between temperature checks gotten rid of the script timeout problem.  With this adjustment to the recirculation system script I had my very first operating function.

Section-by-section details of this script are explained in some detail in the paragraphs that comply with because they offer a helpful insight into the operations of ECS as well as UPB.  The actual script is prese

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