Garasje/Garage

Løsninger for dette "rommet"/Solutions for this "room"


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Garage

On this page, I present the actual solutions installed in the garage of our smart home, with links to specific products used and how these have been set up

This room contains solutions for the following systems (notice that on phones, the table might only be displayed in landscape mode):

System Type Components
Lighting
  • Aqara motion sensor

  • Aqara smart light switch

Climate Control
  • Ruuvi tag multisensor

Home Entertainment None
Security and Alarm
  • Meross Smart WiFi Garage Door Opener (uninstalled)

  • Meross smoke detector

  • KingCam 1080P Dome ipcam

  • Tailwind iQ3 garage door controller

Pet Care None
Control and Automation
  • Netgear Orbi satellite

  • Easee charging robot for electrical vehicle


Description of the solutions in this room

The garage was for a long time is not the «smartest” location on the property, but now it does contain solutions for lighting, garage door control, camera for security, and control & automation in the form of mesh WiFi. Starting with lighting, the garage has two light fixtures for traditional T8 fluorescent tubes, controlled by a manual wall switch. Since we rarely go into the garage beyond when driving the cars in/out, there was no pressing need to make the lighting smarter, except for one “use case”; both cars have electric engine/space heaters installed which are powered by connecting the cars to power through an outlet in the front grille. These are obviously used in winter time and being able to find the grille outlet and plug in the cars required either manually turning on the ceiling lights or turning on the phone flashlight. Both worked perfectly well, but it would be much more elegant with motion-controlled lights. Several solutions were investigated (and partly tested). My first idea was to replace the T8 tubes with smarter versions, so I ordered T5 LED tubes with built-in motion sensor. These also required a special type of starters and they don’t work in all types of old fixtures. In our case, they worked in one of the fixtures, but not the other. And since these would require the wall switch to be kept on all the time, this meant that the fixture where the new tubes didn’t work would have to be left without tubes. Since this was impractical in the cases where we really needed bright light in the garage, this solution was abandoned.

The next solution to test was to install a spare lamp with a smart bulb and a motion sensor. Unfortunately, this proved infeasible as the distance from the house was long enough that the bulb couldn’t connect (I tried bulbs from both Philips Hue and IKEA Trådfri). An observation in hindsight; this might have worked had I done this after later having installed smart bulbs in various outdoor lamps, as these would work as intermediate connection points on the way to the garage. I also considered installing a motion sensor in the ceiling and connected to the light fixtures, e.g., from Robus. This would probably have worked, but it would partly require a somewhat cumbersome installation (which really should be done by an electrician) and partly it would mean the whole garage lighting up every time we would drive cars in or out, no matter which time of the year.

In the end, we ended up with an additional lamp with built-in motion sensor, see picture below. This was not “smart” in that it was not online and could not be remote-controlled/programmed. But it had the advantages that it could be installed on the innermost wall of the garage and be angled so that it turned on only when we moved in front of the cars to plug in the heaters. It was also easy to install and it turned on only when there was low light so not during day/summer.

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Namron LED lamp with motion sensor

But I never really managed to accept this “halfway” solution, and when I discovered that Aqara offers a wall switch that can handle the startup load of fluorescent tubes, this was my answer. The new switch is connected after (in the circuit) the old wall switch, see picture below, and can be controlled from the Home app. In addition, it is triggered by an Aqara motion sensor, which has been installed on one of the lamps controlled by the switch, see picture below.

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Aqara wall switch, installed above and circuit-wise after the old switch, on the left, and Aqara motion sensor that controls the ceiling lamps, on the right

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The programming of the lighting control is very little complex, see screenshot below, where the lights turn on at motion and off again after 10 minutes. This only happens during periods when it is light outside, though, as conditions have been set restricting when the light should turn on. This is programmed in the Eve app, since this can not be achieved in the Home app.

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On the left, the programming of the light in the Home app, but this has been set up in the Eve app, shown on the right

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The other garage solution is for controlling the garage gates, which already had motors controlled by remote controls. This was another project that required some research; there are several alternative products available, but all with their pros and cons. Some solutions considered were; Gogogate 2, Chamberlain MyQ, Aeotec Garage Door Controller, and Fibaro Roller Shutter (now in version 3), but none of these really fit my needs. They were either no HomeKit compatible (which at best could be solved via Homebridge) or it would be quite expensive to equip both garage doors with the required components.

A main point in this investigation was the benefits that could be achieved. One benefit is to be able to remotely control the garage doors from anywhere, typically when outside the range of the manual remote control; this is useful in being able to close the garage if having left home forgetting to do so or letting someone into the garage when away from home. However, I also wanted a solution that would automatically open the (right) garage door when arriving at home in one of our cars (and close it automatically when leaving home). This could somehow be achieved with several of the alternative products I looked at, either via IFTTT or through setting up a rule in HomeKit based on whether our iPhones are within a defined geographic area. But none of the ones mentioned above could distinguish between us arriving home by car, on bike, or on foot. They would therefore open the garage whether there was a need for it or nor (this is admittedly a case where an Android phone have helped solve this case, apparently they allow distinguishing between whether the phone is connected to car bluetooth or not and thus signal to the garage doors to open only when arriving home by car).

In the end, we went with Tailwind iQ3, which combines a control unit (connected to the garage door motors) and a vehicle sensor, see pictures below.

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From left, it is not easy to see from this picture, but the Tailwind iQ3 base station is simply placed on top of one of the garage door control units and connected with two wires (Tailwind provides detailed explanations of how to connect the base station to many different types of motors), the door sensors are easily installed on the garage door rails, and the little vehicle sensor, which we keep in a dashboard or door compartments

In the Tailwind app, settings for how far away from the garage the phone should be before the door opens/closes are defined, see screenshots below.

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On the left, status display for the garage doors in the Tailwind app

On the right, settings for distances for opening/closing

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Tailwind is a small company in Canada, but has offered exceptional customer service as well as excellent installation videos, making the installation very easy to perform. I should mention that in the beginning, I had some issues getting the right distance settings (a “wrong” setting meant that the signal was being transmitted just as the phone was migrating between WiFi and 4G and we also had a couple of cases where the distance was set so low that the door started closing before having backed fully out of the garage). After having tweaked this, combined with updates to both firmware and the Tailwind app, this now works very well, and it is very satisfying seeing the garage “welcome us home” when arriving.

Later on, Tailwind released a new version of their app with support for Siri Shortcut. This was even better, as we can now simply talk to our phones wherever we are and ask Siri to open/close the garage doors. Then iOS 13 added support for NFC tags to trigger Siri Shortcuts. We have exploited this by putting two small tags by the front door in the outer hallway, which respectively open the left and right garage door, and equally two tags inside the garage doors, which close the doors, see pictures below. This means we can simply hold the phone near the right tag to open or close the desired garage door. In the fall of 2021, Tailwind issues a beta firmware update that added HomeKit support, which works perfectly.

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NFC tags (covered by white badges) respectively in the outer hallway and the garage (only one shown in the garage, they are located next to each door)

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I commended Tailwind above, but there have been some minor frustrations with that solution. Partly there have been periods where the automatic opening at arrival home has not worked consistently and partly I have experienced a bud where the door will open automatically even if I arrive home on foot and not in my car. Tailwind has been very helpful in trying to solve these issues, but have not quite succeeded. When I saw that Meross had launched a rather reasonably priced opener with HomeKit compatibility, Meross Smart WiFi Garage Door Opener MSG100HK, I acquired also this one (had I gotten the Home Assistant integration of Tailwind to work earlier, I had probably not bought this one). It was installed "in parallel" with the opener from Tailwind, see picture below, and I was therefore able to utilize wire clips and other stuff put in place when that was installed. After I was sure the HomeKit integration of Tailwind worked, I uninstalled the Meross opener, since it was no longer needed.

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Meross garage door opener installed together with the Tailwind device on top of the garage door motor (left) and the door sensor (right), which is much less sturdy than the Tailwind sensor

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The light control has over time been extended, by utilizing the door sensors of the Tailwind garage door opener, which is exposed in HomeKit, to also control the lights. We would occasionally notice that the motion sensor did not pick up motion in the garage, but now the light turns on also when the door is opened (and it is after sunset), and off again after five minutes. The advantage of maintaining the motion sensor is that the light then stays on if working on something in the garage.

Furthermore, there is a Netgear Orbi satellite here, see picture below, to ensure sufficient WiFi coverage for devices in the garage/garden.

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Orbi satellite placed on top of a cabinet at the back of the garage to ensure good WiFi coverage also outside the house, with the KingCam camera above it

Finally, the last installed device here is a KingCam 1080P Dome security camera, see picture above. There were several reasons why this camera was acquired; after I got the outer hallway Ring doorbell camera to work in the Home app, together with the two Logitech cameras we have elsewhere, I realized how practical it was with such an assembled view of what is going on in and around the house. This led me to investigate whether the outdoor Xiaomi camera monitoring the cat pen also could be integrated into HomeKit. This seemed rather complicated, so I didn’t dare try that project (after the success with a garage camera, I have though succeeded also with the cat pen camera), but this investigation took me to many sites discussing Homebridge-based integration of cameras into HomeKit. Combined with a wish to see whether something untoward is going on in the garage (and an option to visually confirm the garage door status provided by Tailwind) made me want to test this with a suitable camera (given that cameras with native HomeKit support usually start at 150 USD).

After some searching and requesting advice, I ended up with a KingCam camera for about 20 USD, but there is really is a wide selection to choose among. The camera has been mounted on the back wall of the garage and thus provides a view of most of the garage, the cars, and even what happens outside the garage if the gates are open, see screenshots below.

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Screenshots from respectively the dedicated camera app and the Home app

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If the physical installation was very straightforward, I will not claim that the software-related part was easy! This is probably partly due to my lack of experience with DIY cameras and their communication protocols and video codecs, but no matter one's level of experience, it requires quite some "fiddling" with. If anyone wants my inputs, please get in touch, but a rough outline of the steps taken is:

  • Find a suitable 12V power supply, as none comes with the camera, and find a place to mount the camera where it is within reach from a network router, as it requires an ethernet connection

  • Throw away the enclosed user manual in Google translated English and start looking online for help

  • Connect to the camera, either via the generic camera management app recommended by KingCam, XMEye, or via a browser (by going to the ip address of the camera or the site of XMEye.net), but remember that this must be done in Internet Explorer in Windows

  • Here, one can change various settings for the camera and see the video stream from it, and strictly speaking, this is sufficient to start using the camera

  • But to get it into HomeKit, there are several other steps to complete, first installing ffmpeg on the machine used as Homebridge server, in my case it took some figuring out how I could do this inside the Docker container on my Synology NAS running Homebridge

  • Then I had to install the following plugin, homebridge-camera-ffmpeg, which really helps out adding the correct modules to the Homebridge config file. Later, it has become possible to run the cameras “unbridged”, i.e., added to HomeKit as separate devices and not as part of Homebridge, which avoids that fetching of still images (which often takes a long time) blocks other communication over Homebridge.

  • What really caused headache to me was that one key parameter required in the config file is the url for the camera's video stream, a so-called rtsp address, and there is little official support for this. The site iSpyConnect is supposed to maintain a database of this address for different camera models, but it didn't work for me. Another tip was to use the program ONVIF Device Manager (only for Windows), something I tried, in virtualized Windows on a Mac laptop, but it didn't find the camera. After a couple days of much frustration, I tried the same on a desktop Mac with an ethernet connection to the router, using the following recipe, and this worked, the program uncovered the rtsp address

  • I could then add the camera in the Home app and, as shown in the screenshot above, it works exactly as a camera with native HomeKit support

This does open up the possibility of installing more such reasonably priced cameras, but a challenge is the requirement of proximity to the router.

Through the Verisure alarm system, we have a number of smoke detectors in the house itself, but we had none in the garage. Especially after buying an electric car and installing a charger, see below, it was desirable to have a smoke detector here as well. We landed on one from Meross, which is also HomeKit compatible. It looks more or less like other detectors and has been installed in the ceiling, see picture below. It must be connected to a base station, which has been installed in the basement living room.

Meross smoke detector

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The last installed device in the garage is an Easee charging robot for electrical vehicles, see picture below, installed April 2021, while our first electrical car is due for delivery in the fall of 2021. The choice of Easee was strongly related to the fact that Tibber has support for Easee, and since Tibber also is integrated with the solar panel system this makes it possible to optimize charging based on when we produce our own power or rates when we have to buy power from the grid. This means the charging robot is shown as a device in the Tibber app, see screenshot below.

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Left, Easee charging robot

Right, screenshot from the Tibber app

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While not technically a device in the garage, but in one of the cars that “lives” in the garage, we have a multi sensor placed in the car we use most often. This is a Ruuvi tag, which is a sensor that measures temperature, humidity, pressure, noise, and acceleration, see screen shot below. We use this to monitor the temperature in the car when we leave it with our dog inside, and if it gets too warm or cold, we can use the app associated with the car to start the climate system. The Ruuvi sensor can be integrated into Homey, but I have not succeeded in getting into HomeKit.

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Screenshot from the Ruuvi app, showing data from the sensor

This means the room view of the garage in the Home app looks like this:

The room view for the garage in the Home app

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