Alexa pool control on a shoestring budget

Poolzzz

Well-known member
Aug 14, 2017
373
Vancouver, BC
Are there no wifi switches that can talk to software running on a computer on the LAN? That's how Insteon works. I use Indigo for the Mac. I'm all about schedules (even just for lights). Cloud-based is a non-starter for me.
The wemo doesn't need the cloud. Based on the manual I suspect the same for wion although I realize chief thinks otherwise (probably worth a test).
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
4,426
Central California
I suppose I should just buy a few of the various brands and models and see what they can do in my environment.

The disadvantage I might be hearing (without seeing) is without the in-house computer running things, I'll be missing some of the niceties I've become accustomed to: user configurable web-based interfaces, scripting, if-then-else logic, variables, just to name a very few.

In it's heyday, when I was really into seeing what it could do, my system was pretty complex: I could double-click a light switch on my way out the door, and the computer would set lights and furnace and fish tank and media gizmos appropriate for when I was leaving, based on time of day, and then schedule all the same for while I was gone. One such schedule operated lights throughout the house, several times a night, as if I was walking through the house to go to bed, and later as if I got up to use the bathroom! (Yah, those crooks were totally fooled!! ;) ) Then another double-click upon return and all the schedules would be setup for when I'm home. A double-click elsewhere would turn on a TV to a nice fireplace scene (I didn't have one back then), turn on stereo and play a specified playlist from iTunes. Stuff like that. (This was all before Alexa, hence the double-clicks.)

Very sophisticated stuff, that would even work once in a while! It all sounds silly I'm sure, but you get used to that kind of "smartness" once you start using it. It becomes pretty contagious, and so you want more and more. Next go-round I'll be looking for a much simpler, more robust system, but would still like a few of my ol' geekeries...
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
4,426
Central California
But remember even with perfect WiFi and downloaded schedules they aren't intended for mission critical applications.
This reminds me of Apple support, when I called them to complain about their calendar syncing. They made such a big deal about it, when they went "cloud" way back when (it really sucked at first). The tech's response was "Well, you know we don't support syncing for business use." I was flabbergasted! Try telling that to a dentist who sends you a bill for your missed appointment!

Until this stuff can do mission critical, they should stop calling it "Smart!" Maybe "Not So Dumb Switches" in your "Slightly Above Average Intelligence Home!"

[END OF RANT]
 

madtv126

Gold Supporter
Jul 30, 2018
90
Fort Mill, SC
You may consider looking at something like wink or smartthings which do local control but to do all that fun stuff you may still need integration with the cloud through IFTTT since with these things now nothing really talks to each other in the way you are used too.
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
4,426
Central California
I will, thanks. This comes down to bean counting, and the needs of the many. I would pay $100 for a light switch with a 10-year guarantee and 100% reliable usage. But there's no money to be made off of me and the other two guys that would be willing to do the same! So we get lowest-common-denomiator products.

There's probably something like that, maybe hardwired back to a dedicated controller or something, I've never really looked. So you'd have to put it into new construction or tear your house apart to wire it. There's just too much interference with power-line and wireless solutions to do much better than they're doing now... The quest for the perfect $25 switch you just replace your dumb switch with is very likely a technological impossibility (as long as the FCC is involved)...
 

madtv126

Gold Supporter
Jul 30, 2018
90
Fort Mill, SC
Totally agree, I have mostly Lutron caseta dimmers with a wink hub and the occasional remote relay zwave and they all work well with local control but 10 switches in and I am at $700 just in switches. For the house any place I can use a motion switch I do. So I like to say I have semi smart home. I do use Alexa to control but if in a bind I can control locally by phone and wink holds my schedules locally too.

I am with you no easy diy solution for the guys like us.
 

Poolzzz

Well-known member
Aug 14, 2017
373
Vancouver, BC
The disadvantage I might be hearing (without seeing) is without the in-house computer running things, I'll be missing some of the niceties I've become accustomed to: user configurable web-based interfaces, scripting, if-then-else logic, variables, just to name a very few.
As I said in my first post, CAO Gadgets integrates with Wemo (plus many others) and does all those things.
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,395
Tucson
My goal was simply iPhone and voice (Alexa) switching of my spa and pool/patio lighting, and doing it as cheap as possible. I’m using using the following equipment to accomplish that goal.
Spa pump uses a WiOn 220v DPST with a current cost of $43
Heater, pool light, spa light- (3) Martin Jerry smart switches are $16.50 each.
Patio and barbecue lights- (2) Martin Jerry smart plugs are $10 each.
Gazebo lights- (1) Martin Jerry smart dimmer, (now on sale) $23.99.
So for $136.49 (current prices), you can switch 7 different circuits, with one being a 220v pump, and one using a dimmer. I’m sure you can get more sophisticated control, but for basic iPhone and voice control, I don’t think you can beat that.
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
4,426
Central California
Those are fantastic prices. Please do report back if you form an opinion about the reliability of the various pieces. Do you have something doing the scheduling, or are you operating all of these manually?
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,395
Tucson
Those are fantastic prices. Please do report back if you form an opinion about the reliability of the various pieces. Do you have something doing the scheduling, or are you operating all of these manually?
I have no interest or need for any scheduling. My only interest is iPhone and/or voice control.
No hubs or additional equipment is required.
Thus far everything has been rock solid reliable, but it’s only been a few months.
 

Dirk

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TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
4,426
Central California
I have no interest or need for any scheduling. My only interest is iPhone and/or voice control.
No hubs or additional equipment is required.
Thus far everything has been rock solid reliable, but it’s only been a few months.
I think you've found the key. Less is more when it comes to HA! I got greedy. I'm going to try and follow your lead next time around.
 

jimim

Bronze Supporter
Jun 20, 2016
2,462
NE/Pa
I will, thanks. This comes down to bean counting, and the needs of the many. I would pay $100 for a light switch with a 10-year guarantee and 100% reliable usage. But there's no money to be made off of me and the other two guys that would be willing to do the same! So we get lowest-common-denomiator products.

There's probably something like that, maybe hardwired back to a dedicated controller or something, I've never really looked. So you'd have to put it into new construction or tear your house apart to wire it. There's just too much interference with power-line and wireless solutions to do much better than they're doing now... The quest for the perfect $25 switch you just replace your dumb switch with is very likely a technological impossibility (as long as the FCC is involved)...
i think Leviton zwave switches r down to about 35 a piece. That’s what I use in my home. All Leviton branded causexthe feedback to my hai panel and irule interface place nice together.
 

billmi

Member
Apr 15, 2013
11
Florida's Spacecoast
Also, to be considered - Home Assistant. It's a free open source home automation platform that is local (though it can also talk to many cloud based systems). Working in industrial automation and having recently built a home (getting pitched on commercial home automation systems costing tens of thousands of dollars) Home Assistant remains my top choice, regardless of budget, based on it's capabilities. I run mine in a $35 Raspberry Pi.

Right now the only pool item I have controlled is my lighting circuit, which is on a GE Z-Wave plus switch, which Home Assistant can turn on or off, or pulse to change color, either from a smart phone or laptop or requesting through Alexa. I'm working on a valve and pump controller to allow the automation system to switch the drain and return valves and call the heater and pump, and give me filter pressure and temperature. I'm putting the logic in the controller for that, and including valve status, so that it will error out if the valves don't move to position (a feature I was surprised to see the commercial controllers lack).
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,395
Tucson
Also, to be considered - Home Assistant. It's a free open source home automation platform that is local (though it can also talk to many cloud based systems). Working in industrial automation and having recently built a home (getting pitched on commercial home automation systems costing tens of thousands of dollars) Home Assistant remains my top choice, regardless of budget, based on it's capabilities. I run mine in a $35 Raspberry Pi.

Right now the only pool item I have controlled is my lighting circuit, which is on a GE Z-Wave plus switch, which Home Assistant can turn on or off, or pulse to change color, either from a smart phone or laptop or requesting through Alexa. I'm working on a valve and pump controller to allow the automation system to switch the drain and return valves and call the heater and pump, and give me filter pressure and temperature. I'm putting the logic in the controller for that, and including valve status, so that it will error out if the valves don't move to position (a feature I was surprised to see the commercial controllers lack).
I started this thread to discuss how to add very simple basic iPhone and voice control without a lot of complication or expense. If you’re interested in a discussion regarding more complex automated pool control, I would suggest other threads, like this one for example:
My DIY Pool Automation Particle Photon samsung smartthings
 

Wuulfie

New member
Jan 10, 2019
1
Palm Springs, CA
I started this thread to discuss how to add very simple basic iPhone and voice control without a lot of complication or expense. If you’re interested in a discussion regarding more complex automated pool control, I would suggest other threads, like this one for example:
My DIY Pool Automation Particle Photon samsung smartthings
I came up with an almost identical configuration, down to the same manufacturers.
I'm now eying the Pentair intelliconnect for only $240 to interface with my intelliflo vs.
 

chiefwej

LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 12, 2011
3,395
Tucson
I came up with an almost identical configuration, down to the same manufacturers.
I'm now eying the Pentair intelliconnect for only $240 to interface with my intelliflo vs.
I’m using the programming on the Intelliflo itself. A simple Intermatic timer handles the SWG and a Pentair SolarTouch interfaces with the Intelliflo for solar heat. My spa has its own separate pump, so I have no real need or use for any additional control of the Intelliflo pump.

(See post #6 in this thread for details on my main pool control system)
 

bmoreswim

Mod Squad
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Jul 16, 2012
5,428
Central MD
Chief,

After reading this, I'm reminded of one thing and I became aware of one thing.

Your elegant system reminds me of the opening sequence of Back to the Future and the great automation there, with a very specific set of expectations, just like you have.

And I became aware of exactly how cheap you are.

Both are to be commended.

My old garage door and old opener now goes up or down by my phone or Alexa, but I spent more to do that than you did to do all of this.