Controlling room temperature with Netatmo "occupancy detection" and IFTTT

Thanks to the addition of Heatmiser range to the online automation service IF (formerly IFTTT - "if this then that") it's now possible to control room temperature using inputs from your other IFTTT-friendly IOT devices. In my case, Netatmo weather station. 

In my house, heating for every room is individually controlled by a Heatmiser Neo thermostat, each running an individualised programme of temperature gradients throughout the day, tailored to each room. During the summer most of these are just on standby, meaning in practice unless the room drops below 12 degrees C, the heating will never come on.  

My child's room is the exception, because we don't want him to ever get too cold, and some days he naps in the afternoon; so his thermostat is always active. So far so good. Except when you open the windows, perhaps for fresh air during the day, and it turns cloudy, the temperature drops and the heating comes on and heats the great outdoors. 

Finally, I have a solution which does not involve adding sensors to the Windows.  

The first step is to use Netatmo indoor station as an occupancy detector. Over the last year I've charted the correlation between occupancy and CO2 levels and in general found that an occupied room tends to read >500ppm CO2 and unoccupied room is below that. Of course if you open the window the CO2 level drops to almost zero very rapidly. So, this basic threshold measure can be used as a simple detection of empty room and/or wIndows open.  

IFTTT recipes to control Heatmiser thermostats based on occupancy (CO2) 

IFTTT recipes to control Heatmiser thermostats based on occupancy (CO2) 

 

Of course, you might ask what happens if the windows are open while the room is occupied. Good question - but in our case it never happens; our child is young, so for safety when he is using the room we always have the widows locked shut. 

This simple trigger forms the basis of the input to an IFTTT recipe which controls the Heatmiser thermostat in the same room. If the CO2 levels drop (room empty or Windows open) then the thermostat is set to 'standby' (this stops it following its daily program) and if CO2 rises again ( = occupied) the standby mode is deactivated and the normal program continues to run. 

This way we hope to avoid those costly mistakes where we have opened the windows and forgotten to adjust the thermostat; or unnecessarily heated an unoccupied room.  

For the future we can explore whether outdoor temperature, wind speed and rainfall can be used to optimise performance of the indoor heating.   

Please forgive me - it's fossil fuel...

This household is about to buy a new car, a supermini, and it won't be electric and it won't be a hybrid.

Before you yell, no-one is sadder about this than me.

As an early adopter and general planet-hugger, I already switched to a diesel car with double the MPG (and diesel particulate filter) a few years ago. So, the prospect of a car that is cleaner still and costs about 90% less per mile is a very tantalising idea. [By the way, I won't even enter a debate on the stats and benefits of electric - if you want a decent argument on the topic, follow Bobby Llewelyn on twitter or read his blog - he knows his stuff.] 

So, firstly, the car is not for me, but my better half; so ultimately it's her decision and has to fit her needs. I will only drive it occasionally. (Unless, perhaps, she was getting a car that was faster than mine, in which case I might hanker after it all the time :-) But she's not.)

Secondly, electric cars currently just don't suit our needs. A lot of criticism comes the way of the current breed of electric cars, most centred around range, which is typically 100 - 140 miles on a charge. For many, many people who are based in towns and doing lots of short trips and school runs, this type of vehicle would surely meet their needs. However, it just so happens that our life doesn't follow that pattern - in fact we both have long distance journeys to do as our main journeys (so not only can we not share one car, but we need two). Turns out those journeys are beyond the distance of the average electric range and we also don't have the necessary charging means at the other end. I think an electric car would be brilliant to have - but we need a simpler life. (I reckon that's true regardless.)

So, much as I believe that electric cars represent a realistic future and can deliver some cracking performance, the current range limitation rules them out of our driving pattern for the time-being. Next time round might be a possibility though.

Now, what would be a good alternative for our lifestyle is a hybrid car, which combines fossil fuel and electric power to deliver more MPG and extended range when there is no battery power. Volvo, for example, have just announced an S60 saloon than can deliver about 125mpg and drive 1000 miles on a tank. Awesome. Truly Awesome.

The issue with this breed of cars basically comes down to cost and choice. There are not that many models available at the moment and they are also beyond our current target budget (and form factor) of a super-mini. I can pretty much guarantee that if Skoda produced a hybrid Fabia at Skoda prices, it would be a no-brainer purchase.

But they don't. No-one does. 

So, that leaves us going for a conventional fossil burner. Another requirement is to have an automatic, which also limits the choice and price - and in the end the best all-round value vehicle we have found is the Skoda Fabia with 7 Speed DSG auto box (a beautiful piece of equipment in its own right, complete with "flappy paddles" as the girls on Top Gear would say). Better still, the auto is actually more economical than the equivalent manual! I am confident it will be a smooth and economical drive, as I have the 6 speed DSG on my Octavia and it's nothing short of fantastic. These cars must be popular as the waiting list is currently 4 - 5 months.

Once again, it will be a step change in economy and lower emissions compared to the car it is replacing - so it's all in the right direction. I hope you feel forgiving. 

 

A paper-free birthday

It wasn't specifically intentional, but my recent birthday was almost paper free. 

Just over a decade ago I decluttered the musical part of my life. That was when I made the decision to rid myself of CDs (well, the visible ones) and go "MP3". Embrace the digital revolution, as it were.  

They were fairly early days then for such a move - a collection of nearly 1000 CDs is pushing 100Gb of storage. iPods of the day were, well barely emerging to be honest - 1Gb first generation MP3 players were flavour of the day. Hard disks were not much better - a 100Gb disk was pretty expensive; I think I paid about £250 for a 160Gb disk.  

Nonetheless, I threw myself into it and a first generation Squeezebox gave me wireless network access to all my music. Finally, I had flexibility to listen to my music anywhere and a wallful of free space in the living room. It re-released the joy in all the music I was never getting round to listen to. 

A decade on and the wheel comes full circle. 

This time it's the books and the bookcase. 

It's full of books, full of love, full of joy, but so much of it is unread. This, for me, is the perfect time to embrace the Amazon Kindle. To squeeze a few hundred books from my private collection onto a paperback sized device and keep going for years to come until I reach about 3000. 

Sure, it's not as splendid to look at, not as charming to flick through with your head tilted sideways over dinner. But it does mean there is a chance I'll do a bit more reading in those precious seconds roaming the country. I might, for example, use the text-to-speech option to listen to my books in the car. 

So, it was for my 40th birthday that I put out the broadcast that Amazon vouchers were the thing to get me. I wouldn't be impresssed with anything tangible or physical. And the response was surprisingly beautiful - and handful of amazon vouchers in my email right there on the morning of my birthday. Even one from my Grandma, who has never been near a computer or the interbookfacewebthingy. (Thanks Mum). I was able to go straight ahead and order my Kindle there and then. Not a jot of paper changed hands.

 

I'd like to think it was a lower carbon footprint birthday, though I can't be totally sure (Amazon might have made the Kindle itself in outer Galactica and shipped it via their hub in Timbuktu). I'm sure it WILL be over the lifetime of the Kindle though - fewer trees will certainly go to the great big Gutenberg in the sky. Though this time round I'm unlikely to stash my bookshelves in the loft - they'll just become a fossil record where they stand.

I wonder what will go digital in another 10 years time?