Alexa pool control on a shoestring budget

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
3,220
0
Tucson
#1
I just spent the last few days completing my Alexa controlled pool and patio system. I can now turn on or off all of the following devices, either by voice command using Alexa, or via an iPhone app from any location:
Spa pump
Heater
Spa light
Pool light
Patio light
Barbecue light.

The total cost of the project was just under $200. It took me about two days to finish, although due to having to order and wait for some items, it was spread over a weeks time. Some basic electrical skills are needed, but nothing too complicated.

Due to the limited budget, I decided to forgo a WiFi hub based system. A hub system would provide better, and more dependable and robust coverage for the devices, albeit at a bit higher cost.

My system has standard deco type wall switches in my pool panel which operate the pool and spa lights.

11DFF3B9-BDF9-4440-AF47-9369F87C9452.jpg

4271A5CE-9575-432B-8E13-0E13295D11CD.jpg

Shopping for hubless standard 110 smart switches brings up a number to choose from, with an average price point right around $25 each. For no particular reason, I chose these:

Smart Switch by MartinJerry | Compatible with Alexa, Smart Home Devices Works with Google Home, No Hub required, Easy installation and App control as Smart Switch On/Off/Timing (2 Pack) - - Amazon.com

Since I was using that brand for wall switches, I elected to stay with the same brand (which also means using the same iPhone app) for my plug-in patio rope lights and barbecue lights.

image.jpg

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0776WL59D/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

With the lighting sorted out, I turned my attention to control of my attached spa. The pump and heater were both wired on a single 220 circuit. I always thought that was a problem since the heater should be turned off before the pump shuts down. In the past that was impossible without a trip to the heater to manually shut it off. I decided that the heater should be on a separate switch, but wired so that the pump must be on for the switch to be active. Being a cheapskate, I decided on re wiring the heater to 110 operation and just adding a third 110v smart switch. I could have left it 220 but that would require a second 220 switch. Re wiring was not a big problem, the manual for the heater had wiring instructions for 220 or 110v. I just pulled the power from one leg of the 220v circuit I would later run to the pump.

Control of the spa pump itself required a 220v DPST smart switch. There seem to be very limited choices in this area. The only hubless 220 switch that I could find that met my needs and my limited budget was this:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZYLTJ16/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I had to add one of these:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0756N989G/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
plus some additional items from the local hardware store to mount and connect the WiOn 220v control box.

C535DC23-CA92-4F67-B6FD-B950DC4F559F.jpg

Since the WiOn 220v control and the smart switches use different iPhone apps, it took a bit to get everything online and then to connect it with Alexa Smart Home.

It was all working, but I found that using a hubless system put a bit of strain on the limits of my home WiFi system. Rather than invest in a range booster or a more robust router, I decided to try a more economical approach (did I mention, I’m cheap?) . Since the system seemed very dependable when I was working on it, with the metal door on the panel open, I thought of an alternate approach. For $10, I purchased a 12x12 piece of lexan! Then cut a 10x10 opening in the door immediately above the switches and installed the lexan window.

A97B537A-327D-4D82-9336-DBF75CE7C873.jpg

The WiFi switches now seem very dependable and it all works.
I even grouped all the lights under the command “Patio”

So, now Alexa can be told to turn on (or off)

The Booster Pump
The Heater
The Pool Light
The Spa Light
The Rope Lights
The Barbecue Light

or, I can say “turn on the Patio Lights”, which is all the lights.

Actual total cost for the project was $191.24. And about two days work.

If anyone wants to do something similar and has any questions, just post them or PM me.

UPDATE - due to price reductions, this project could be now be completed for less than $150!
 
Last edited:

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
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Tucson
#3
Now I have discovered Smart Dimmers! That means I can now control the brightness of my patio lights from 1% to 100% by just saying “Alexa Smart Dimmer to 50%” or whatever name I choose, to whatever % I choose.

Smart Dimmer Switch by Martin Jerry | SmartLife App, Mains Dimming ONLY, Compatible with Alexa as WiFi Light Switch Dimmer, Single Pole, Works with Google Assistant [For Sale NOW] - - Amazon.com

BTW: It’s hard to believe there is so little interest in using Alexa and smart switches for pool and patio control functions.
 

todd.brock

Silver Supporter
Jan 19, 2018
191
0
Cincinnati/OH
#4
Nice job!!! I just had the Hayward VS Omni automation installed at my house. It uses the Hayward Omni app, and then an Alex’s skill to control. It’s a little odd because you hat to “Ask Hayward to turn on the light” it works about 75% of the time. You can turn on a light show, turn up/down heat , pump, etc. there is no other switch other than control box at panel for lights.

Did you use IFTTT to connect the Wimo app ? I plan to use one for my back yard low voltage lights. Or some type of outdoor Zwave module. It’s cheaper than the $250 Smart relay module for the VS Omni automation system. Plus, I don’t really need/want the low voltage retaining wall, deck and landscape lights tied to the pool. I will have them come on year round in evening to light the steps and path.



18x36 vinyl liner ,19k gallons, Hayward Sand Filter, Maxflo VS pump, Hayward VS Omni automation, Aquarite 900 SWCG, Rheem 115k Heat pump, Colorlogic LED, Dolphin M400 robot, TF-100/K-1766
 

manfacro

Active member
Jul 9, 2018
43
0
Davenport, FL
#5
Awesome! I'm happy to see someone else did this as well! I went a completely different route, but with similar results. The base of my automation for home stuff is controlled by Node-Red (Node-RED). Its made for pretty much this and other home automation.

As to the pool related items, I have the patio lights, and pool light itself running on a dimmer pack. So I can have Alexa control it, or the touch panel (Old Amazon Fire Tablet). But I also have it running on a schedule, so at sundown (Software tracks sundown/seasons and adjusts daily) the pool light comes on, and the patio lights come up at 25%. Everything off at midnight, back on at 4am when people get home from work and then off again with the sunrise.

Almost forgot, my pool cleaner is on it as well. "Alexa, Turn the Kraken On" (It's really a Dolphin, but I can pretend) and it'll turn it on, and then automatically turn it off at the end on it's 2hr cycle... It's timed out that the Dolphin will stop, and then a minute later, the power will drop out to it as well.

Automation programming is my thing, both at home and at work. Automation is the way to go!


--Dan
 

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
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Tucson
#6
The WiOn control uses its own dedicated app, which has been linked to Alexa. All my other lights and devices are linked to the Smart Life app, which is also then linked to Alexa. The switches (via WiFi) connect directly with my router. There are no hubs, modules or other devices required. In addition to Amazon Alexa, the Smart Life app would also support Google Assistant, IFTTT and Rokid.

As far as my Dolphin (Kokapelli) is concerned, a simple $11 smart plug could add that if I chose.

My pump (an Intelliflo) is programmed to come on in the a.m. at preselected speed to run the infloor heads. Then switch speeds to the minimum required for the SWG, which is controled by a simple Intermatic timer.

If heat is called for and available at the solar panel a ($250) SolarTouch controller ramps up the pump and opens the valve. When done it closes the valve and returns control to the pump.

After the pool is chlorinated for the day the pump slows to 1,000 rpm for some extra filtration. Late in evening it shuts down, then repeats the program the next day.

So, what I have a system which is programmed to clean, chlorinate, and heat the pool all automatically with no effort on my part. This is done with no automation system, just using the onboard pump timer, a basic Intermatic timer, SolarTouch controller and one valve actuator.

An additional $200 investment has now added both remote and voice control of my spa pump, heater, pool and spa lights as well as my patio and barbecue lights.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 13, 2017
4,375
0
Central California
#7
Pentair has been notified. I suspect the hit men are on their way to silence you. But even after you're gone, your story will live on, here, and the revolution will continue. I pledge you this!! :rambo:

Congrat's on beating the big three! Keep us posted on reliability, please. I am heavily invested in Insteon, and find it so unreliable (in both function and equipment lifespan) that I don't want to put any more money into it, or add my pool to it. I haven't fooled around with Alexa yet, I don't even know if a Mac/iPhone/Insteon user can. I had a smart switch mounted in my controller, similar to yours, but Insteon uses RF plus power line signals, so I didn't have any communication issues. Lexan, way to think outside the box, well, put a window in the box anyway. ;)
 

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
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#8
I had an old X-10 system that used to control the spa pump and pool lights. It also used power line communication. That technology is quite old and is easily effected by “noise” on the lines. It kept getting less and less reliable. What I discovered was you need to add filters to any circuit where there is a source of noise. LED bulbs can be one source of that noise. After converting my entire house to LED I decided, rather than adding filters everywhere, I would try newer technology. The hubless smart switches are actually cheaper than the filters I would have needed, so it was a win-win.
 

Dirk

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Nov 13, 2017
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Central California
#10
Yes, I'm interested in newer tech, though I don't want WiFi. Insteon was power-line only, a supposed upgrade from X-10, but power line is all too fragile (noise, as you mentioned). I was hopeful that the addition of a secondary protocol (RF) would solve for Insteon's Instability, but all it did was give them an excuse to raise the price. I don't see any increased reliability. Interesting about the LED. Ironically, I knew about fluorescent interference, so methodically replaced all with LED. Guess I shot myself in the foot there. I remember a simpler time, when light bulbs required no on-board circuitry and actually came on when you flipped the switch. No advanced reservations were required to light up a room!

So what are these new Smart switches? Are they WiFi? I guess there is no communication band or method that is not already crowded with competing signals...
 

Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
96
0
MA
#11
So, what I have a system which is programmed to clean, chlorinate, and heat the pool all automatically with no effort on my part. This is done with no automation system, just using the onboard pump timer, an basic Intermatic timer, the SolarTouch controller and one valve actuator.
This peaked my interest so I checked out the WiOn link you posted. Your set up sounds great but just thought I would pass along one of the reviews I found from the Amazon site just to so you are aware of this possible scenario and make any necessary adjustments..


[FONT=&quot]"Avoid this product. I purchased one last year to run the liquid chlorine pump for my pool. It did not shut off and dumped 15 gallons of chlorine into the pool. That could have ruined the heater and the pump.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]My setup is a 15-gallon tank with a peristaltic pump. It runs 40 minutes per day to maintain the chlorine level in the pool. The timing has to be adjusted near the beginning and end of the season, when less chlorine is used. When we swim a lot, it needs to be increased temporarily, or I need to run a one-time timer. A mechanical timer does not give fine enough control. When the WiOn works properly, it is great.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Once last year the timer did not shut off. I thought it was operator error - it is possible to set a timer that never turns off. But when it happened again this week I had not made any adjustments to the timers - I had not even opened the timer app. I went out to open the pool for the day and smelled chlorine, which told me the level was too high. Sure enough, the pump was running, even though it should have stopped three hours earlier. The chlorine tank was dry. I had filled it earlier in the week. It takes 36 hours to empty a full tank. When I checked the timer box, it had gone offline.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]15 gallons of chlorinating liquid costs $56. Aside from the cost, that will raise the chlorine level in the pool to 52.5 - enough to damage equipment. That is over four times the shock level"[/FONT]
 

Dirk

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Nov 13, 2017
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#12
And this is my issue with Insteon (and X-10 before it). 90-95% reliability. That's fine for a light. Or even a thermostat. But not for anything "mission critical." My work-around was to always program two or three (sometimes more) "off" commands (and sometimes "on") commands, to make sure the message was sent and received. I'd fire them off a few seconds apart.

For super mission critical, like irrigation, where I am afraid of 48 hours of running sprinklers, I use the above safety strategy, and one other. I program multiple "off" commands to fire every hour on the hour. I schedule the watering to go on and off between the hour mark. So, like lawn from 5:05am to 5:35am. Wait until the hour passes, then the next circuit, garden from 6:05am to 6:50am, or whatever. So if the three "off" commands fail at 6:50am, there'll be three more at 7:00am. Then 8:00am. Etc. Ridiculous work-around, but safe(ish).

I don't know if you have that type of scheduling flexibility, but if you do you could do something like that. I'd still be nervous about controlling acid and chlorine dosing with HA-quality gear. But on the other hand I'm currently trusting acid dosing to Pentair automation, so there you go.

I don't load more than 2 or 3 gallons of 15% MA, but that could still cause some damage if it all dumped in and I didn't notice it, or if I was away. Typically I test the water before my kids get in, just in case.

Let me check Pool Math... 3 gallons of 15% would: "lower pH by 3.75 and lower TA by 61". Not good.

My IntellipH doesn't allow more that a safe amount per hour, and per day. For some users it can't even keep up with acid demand. So that's "safety 1."

Gotta check...

OK, according to the manual, if my IpH reset itself somehow to 100% output, and had power for eight hours a day, it'd take a week for it to dispense a gallon of 15% acid. So I guess that's "safety 2." That would "lower pH by 1.25 and lower TA by 20," and the pool would use up most of that. A lot would have to go wrong. But... the manual also states that for a quick shot of manual dosing, the motor will dispense 4oz of MA in 1 minute, which, if it went haywire, could empty all three gallons into the pool in about 1.5 hours.

I'll have to hope Pentair has some safeguard against that, but it's still possible, even if they do have one. Scary.

That's automation for ya...
 

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
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Tucson
#13
Yes, I'm interested in newer tech, though I don't want WiFi. Insteon was power-line only, a supposed upgrade from X-10, but power line is all too fragile (noise, as you mentioned). I was hopeful that the addition of a secondary protocol (RF) would solve for Insteon's Instability, but all it did was give them an excuse to raise the price. I don't see any increased reliability. Interesting about the LED. Ironically, I knew about fluorescent interference, so methodically replaced all with LED. Guess I shot myself in the foot there. I remember a simpler time, when light bulbs required no on-board circuitry and actually came on when you flipped the switch. No advanced reservations were required to light up a room!

So what are these new Smart switches? Are they WiFi? I guess there is no communication band or method that is not already crowded with competing signals...
All the hubless smart switches I’m using are WiFi. Each one individually communicates with my WiFi router. So it does put a number of extra client accounts on the system. The switches are inexpensive, and so far have been stable and very reliable. But that said, it hasn’t even been two months since I installed them, so time will tell.

This peaked my interest so I checked out the WiOn link you posted. Your set up sounds great but just thought I would pass along one of the reviews I found from the Amazon site just to so you are aware of this possible scenario and make any necessary adjustments..
I’m only using the WiOn controller from my iPhone or Alexa to operate my spa pump. I don’t use any of the timer features. I wouldn’t depend on using the timing functions of this device for any critical operation. The timer settings are stored in an online cloud account, and there are just too many ways it could fail to activate the switch.
 

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
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#15
I considered a hub system. I understand they have better range and stability. But this being my first foray into home automation, for budget reason I went with hubless switches. Just out of curiosity, what does it cost to set up something like that using the hubs. Looking at prices those switches seem to cost more than the hubless. Then you have to add the cost of the hubs.

For comp, I have three 110v smart switches, one smart dimmer,two smart plugs, and one 220v DPST smart switch. I am controlling a spa pump, a heater, the spa light, the pool light, two sets of patio lights (one on dimmer the other switched) and my barbecue lights. Total cost including the Alexa device (echo dot) to operate it was about $250.

Early days yet, but it has been rock solid thus far.
 

ctrav

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Apr 23, 2017
2,394
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Northlake TX
#16
Google WiFi 3 pack was $250 on sale (normal price $300) plus I had some Best Buy cash back coupons. This was the easiest and best thing I have ever had that ensures connectivity. Most things are wireless in the home but desktop computers are hard wired. After a year with the system I am completely satisfied!
 

chiefwej

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Jun 12, 2011
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#17
So the Google WiFi 3 is a mesh WiFi router, but is it also a smart hub? It is a way to provide a stronger more stable WiFi network. But then would you then use it with generic hubless smart switches (like mine), or does it use its own proprietary smart switch?
 

ctrav

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Apr 23, 2017
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Northlake TX
#18
I would check to see if your brand "smart switch" works with google home? If its just about using wifi then Im fairly certain it will work very easily...
 

chiefwej

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#19
My system seems very stable with the router I’m currently using. I see no need to invest another $250, just to get a stronger signal. The hubless smart switches communicate directly with the router, and are compatible with any 2.4G WiFi.
 

ctrav

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Apr 23, 2017
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Northlake TX
#20
I agree that if what you have works then stick with it. I had been having wifi/connectivity issues with my old router and Verizon so that is why I searched for something new. This young guy at Best Buy swore by it and as far as Im concerned he was correct!!