This week I am going to walk you through the installation of a sprinkler control module connected via mControl to my Windows Home Server. The irrigation module costs quite a bit more than a regular sprinkler timer but I am hoping that the convenience of internet access to my sprinklers will save time, water and frustration.
The mControl application with Windows Home Server allows you to control your home from Internet Explorer, the WHS Console or Windows Media Center. The system works by connecting your WHS to your electrical system and then transmitting signals through your home wiring to modules and switches that control lights and appliances. Through simple macros you can control and monitor lights, HVAC, irrigation, music and even your cameras and surveillance.
You can read my previous mControl articles at:
Installation of the mControl Add-In and WHS Setup
Creating mControl Macros
Adding mControl to Windows Media Center PCs
As a refresher, mControl is an Add-In that you install on your WHS that controls modules and other communications devices within your home. mControl is the software and not the control modules.
There are three components to a basic system:
- The mControl software Add-In on your WHS
- A USB device (PowerLinc modem #2412U) that sends your WHS mControl signal to your house electrical wiring
- A module plugged in to the house electrical that controls a light or device (add as many or as few as you want, I got two to start)
These three parts are all that you need to begin. Before I started this project I thought it would be really complex but I was wrong!
The diagram below shows how you can connect to mControl via your PC, Internet Explorer, Mobile client, Extender or XBOX 360.
mControl and Smarthome
As I mentioned in previous articles, the Add-In and the device modules are from different companies. I downloaded mControl from their web site at http://www.embeddedautomation.com/EAHAmControl.htm
I live in Southern California and there is a place that sells modules close to my home called Smarthome. I bought my modem and two modules from http://www.smarthome.com/_/INSTEON/_/23b/land.aspx. mControl is compatible with INSTEON devices so to keep it simple I just bought those types of products. mControl can work with other devices but I will not talk about those in this series. The basic INSTEON modules are easy to use and run about $30. Some of these modules switch on and off and can even have dimmer options. Smarthome also sells outlets, wall switches, bridges, keypads, touch screens, sensors, remotes, thermostats, sprinkler controls and even infrared controllers. Make sure you choose INSTEON (or compatible) type devices.
mControl on your WHS
EZ Flora Irrigation Controller and AC Transformer
Two Beers (optional as always)
iTunes streaming your favorite radio station
Irrigation with WHS? Seriously? Why?
My wife and I have recently been renovating our backyard and have had new sprinklers installed. While my existing sprinkler timer still works well, it is a pain to update for Daylight Savings, it is hard to access in the garage and it has limitations for times in different zones. In addition, every time I want to adjust the sprinkler heads I need to walk to the garage, turn it to manual and then walk back to the yard. I think you can see where I am going with this, yes?
I bought a Insteon-Compatible irrigation timer from Smarthome that controls 8 sprinkler valves. This module was flippin expensive ($124.99) but I had a $20 off coupon so it was $104.99.
Ok, it was expensive but even the good ones at Home Depot are $70.00. Did I mention you can control it from WHS? I have wireless. Do you see where this is headed? Seriously.
It is time to touch some hardware.
Lets set this pig on fire!
The installation of the module is actually quite easy. Since I already have a sprinkler timer near the power outlet all I have to do is disconnect the wiring from the old system and connect it into the new irrigation module.
Mental note: Having to connect a DC transformer to the EZ Flora controller sucks. The instructions say you can plug the transformer into the controller but it is so heavy it pulls out from the plug. At least add a secure point for the center screw of the wall plate. Is this the best your can do for $150? Seriously?
Another mental note: Neither the transformer nor the EZ Flora came with the wire to connect the transformer and the module. If you are not going to include it at least tell me that I have to purchase it separately. Is this the best your can do for $150? Had I not been writing the article I would have told you to shove the transformer up your ass. Seriously.
mControl Configuration and Setup
Now that I have connected the module to my home electrical wiring I can find the irrigation module in mControl and Windows Home Server.
Choose the Zone in which you want to add the device. Open Beer Number Two now.
Click on “Add Device”.
Give the Device a Name, choose the Adapter and Module, pick an image and enter the INSTEON address. Once you are done, click on “Save”.
Once you have saved the device you will see it in the Zone.
Click on “Back” and mControl will show the Zone View. Click on the arrow to view the Device.
This module controls 8 valves and can have 4 programs. Click on “Prog 1” to set the program times.
The default program times are “-1”. You will have to change any unused valve schedules to “0” before you “Apply”.
I am going to set my four zones at 15 minutes each. Click on “Apply” to finish.
Ok, now that everything is connected it is time to test the system. Do you really think I am going to do this from the office PC? Hell no. Lets take the laptop outside my friends. I have not dropped coin for a HD video camera yet so the following is a little grainy:
Now that the system has been tested all I have to do is create a macro to start Program 1 on the days our city allows sprinkler watering.
Follow the macro process from my prior article.
Once the macro is completed the view from Windows Media Center is easy to understand.
This module installation was easy once I got back from buying a stupid power cord from Home Depot. It would have been nice to know ahead of time that neither the transformer or the irrigation module was NOT going to include the wiring needed to complete the installation. I am done venting. Up yours. Ok, now I am really done.
Over the last few months I have added a bunch of modules and it has become second nature to me. I really enjoy working with mControl and it has shown itself to be a stable Add-In. I hope you get a chance to try mControl with Windows Home Server!
See you next Friday night.