Home Control Assistant Newsletter for Aug 22 2021

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
Motion Sensors
I think I have mentioned here a few times – well maybe many times - that I really don’t like motion sensors. They have several problems: First they only detect motion and not occupancy. If you move into a room the sensor sends a message, but if you then go to sleep or read a book they send a “no motion” message after a few minutes. Second, they don’t say which family member is in the room or even if it is a person and not a pet. Third, they don’t tell how many people are in the room. All bad!

But just a few weeks ago I went out and bought a bunch of the Zooz ZWave motion sensors. Enough to put one in just about each room of my home. I had no idea what they would be used for, but I wanted to see if any bright ideas would surface. One idea did pop up.

I created something that helps a bit. While it doesn’t solve all the problems I described above, it might be useful in your installation.

What I wanted to build was a way to know that a room was occupied or not. Here is the general idea.

I have a “media room”, bedroom, bath, hallway, and office in the downstairs of my home. Each now has a motion sensor. I mark the room in HCA – more on the specifics later – as its occupancy is determined by the “Media-Motion Sensor”. That means every time that motion sensor sees motion the room is considered occupied. I also mark the room as unoccupied if motion is seen on the bedroom, hallway, or office motion sensors.

Suppose I’m in the media room. The motion sensor sees me and marks the room as occupied. If I stay, then the room stays occupied even if the motion sensor changes state to OFF as OFF messages have no effect.  When I leave the media room, the hallway sensor sees me so the media room becomes unoccupied and the hallway becomes occupied. I enter the office. The office becomes occupied, and the hallway becomes unoccupied.

Now, of course all this is specific to the layout of rooms in my home. The way that these “marks” are made in HCA using tags on the rooms.

For the “media room” I have tags like this:
Tag name: Occupy
Tag value: Media-Motion Sensor

Tag name: Unoccupy
Tag value: Bedroom – Motion Sensor, Office-Motion Sensor, Hallway – Motion sensor

Each of a comma separated list of HCA device names for the motion sensors.

The “Occupy” tag says that if any of the named motion sensors send an ON then the room is considered occupied.  You can specify more than one motion sensor if the room has more than one.

The “Unoccupy” tag says if any of the named motion sensors send an ON message then the room becomes unoccupied.

In my setup I could just use the hallway motion sensor to mark the media room as unoccupied, but I added the other rooms just in case that motion sensor didn’t see me.

In general OFF messages from motion sensors have no effect. There is a way to modify that for “rooms” where no one stays for long like hallways. This is described in the notes for the programs.

There are problems with this: It works great with one person but if two persons are in the media room and one leaves, well, that person left behind is now in an unoccupied room. And if they move about then the room becomes occupied but other rooms may then show as unoccupied.

How am I using this? Not much at this point although I plan to use this occupied/unoccupied to shut things off after some length of time after a room becomes unoccupied.  This is each to do with a tag-change trigger on the Occupied tag on a room.

As I said this is far from perfect and I can see that there may be better solutions, but it was my first attempt at something useful with all the new motion sensors I added.

You can download this package from the online library. Use the “Library Browse/Import” button in the “Design” ribbon category. Look for the “Occupancy” package. You must have a Cloud account to download from the library.

Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.

When was the last time you made a backup of your HCA design? Not a month goes by without at least one tale of woe from a HCA user. Please use the "Design Backup Assistant" on the Tools ribbon category. The work you save will be your own.

Copyright © 2021 Advanced Quonset Technology, Inc, All rights reserved.

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