Home Control Assistant Newsletter for May 2 2021

Have you looked over the version 17 release notes? Lots of changes that you can incorporate into your designs right away. Easy upgrade.

Looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA? Check out our
Frequently Asked Questions page.
Some of what you know may be wrong - or at least out-of-date

A few weeks back I wrote about a way to really know that when you control a device ON that it really goes on. I did that by using a power reporting outlet that was managed by Hubitat. While I agree that this really isn’t needed in almost all cases, sometimes what you are controlling is important enough to really know.

Along the same line, I encountered an interesting situation with a user a few weeks back. He has an Ecobee thermostat with remote sensors. If you are not familiar with the Ecobee thermostat, I’ll give you a short brief. While it does all the usual thermostat stuff by being wired to your heating/cooling system, it is also Wi-Fi based so you can control it with an App. Every 15 minutes the thermostat posts its current state to the Ecobee cloud. When HCA wants to read the current state, it gets that data from the Ecobee cloud and not directly from the thermostat. To the best of my knowledge there is no way to do that data retrieval directly. A consequence of this is that the Ecobee thermostat must maintain a connection to the house Wi-Fi, or it can’t contact the cloud to post its data.

The retrieval of data from the Ecobee cloud is handled by the Ecobee package – available in the online library – and, in general, works well. The problem the HCA user and I encountered was that his Ecobee thermostat was dropping off the in-house Wi-Fi, so would be unable to post updated data.

The Ecobee package was happy to retrieve data from the Ecobee cloud but didn’t “notice” if that data was recently posted and so is current with environmental conditions.  Investigation showed that the Ecobee does save the current time that new data was posted. This made it possible during the HCA retrieval of the data to check if the data was current or not, and if not to report a problem. This change to the Ecobee package will release in a few weeks when a new point version of HCA is released. The update uses new features in that point release to convert the UTC time that some Ecobee time stamps use into local time.

The reason for this story is it is another aspect of the resilience problems I been writing about lately. We create our designs with programs to do things based upon events and conditions. Sometimes we forget that anything can go wrong especially when data move across systems. 

A similar problem happened to me in my own home because of a dead battery in a presence sensor.  While you can easily create a program to check the battery level in many of the Hubitat managed sensors, I wasn’t using this feature for the presence sensors since their batteries seem to last a long time. But a “long time” isn’t forever.

I’m doing my best to make my home design a bit more resilient. The check for long-running programs I wrote about last week has been incorporated. I’ve added this new check for Ecobee data, and an hourly Ping of my Hubitat to make sure it’s still alive. I plan next to build in some “sanity” checking of my sensors to see if what they are reporting is at least possible given the time of year and how I know my house behaves. Also to cross check one another.

I’ll end with a line I also used a few weeks ago: Never Assume.


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.

Want to take the next step in automation? Want to get started with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and control HCA by voice commands? Even if you are a long-time user of HCA, the Getting Started guides have all the info you need on client-server, mobile applications, DDNS, and voice assistants.

All of the
Getting Started Guides are available on the support website.
Copyright © 2021 Advanced Quonset Technology, Inc, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp