Utendørs/Outdoor

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


Detailed site navigation

Outdoor

On this page, I present the actual solutions installed outdoor around 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
  • Cosa LED 30 spotlights

  • 6 IKEA Trådfri E27 smart bulbs

  • 4 IKEA Trådfri GU10 smart bulbs

  • 2 IKEA Trådfri smart plugs

  • Osram Lightify Gardenspot Mini RGB

  • 4 Philips Hue E 27 smart bulbs

  • 2 Philips Hue Calla outdoor pedestals

  • 3 Philips Hue outdoor lightstrips

  • 3 Philips Hue Outdoor extension cable 5 m

  • 3 Philips Hue outdoor motion sensors

Climate Control
  • Netatmo weather station, outdoor module

  • Netatmo rain gauge

  • Netatmo wind gauge

  • Nexa LGDR-3500 smart plug

Home Entertainment

None

Security and Alarm
  • Aqara G2H camera x 2

  • Logitech Circle Camera 2 (this camera comes in two versions, powered by battery or connected to mains power, we have the latter type)

  • Netatmo smart video doorbell

  • Xiaomi Xiaofang Smart camera

Pet Care None
Control and Automation
  • Afore solar power inverter


Description of the solutions in this room

Outdoor on our property was for a long time an area without any smart technology, but gradually an extensive number of solutions have been implemented here. The most extensive category is lighting, covering a number of different products as explained below, a few components for surveillance/monitoring of traffic, climate, and the cats, as well as a robot lawn mower, which isn’t really that smart, more about this further down.

The first outdoor lighting installed was in the form of simple on/off control of a chain with outdoor Cosa LED spotlights using an Eve Energy smart plug, see pictures below. This smart plug uses Bluetooth for communication and the distance to this placement was obviously too long since it would often turn up as unavailable. It was therefore replaced by an IKEA Trådfri smart plug, which relies on ZigBee for communication and has no issues with the range. These lights turn on at sunset, are turned off when going to bed, and are also linked to a Philips Hue outdoor motion sensor, see more about this below, so that they turn on at motion when it is dark outside.

LED lights recessed into the decking

Stacks Image 702

Stacks Image 708
Trådfri smart plug controlling the LED lights, where the plug itself is housed in the outdoor shed so that it is protected from the weather

A more complicated project that lasted a while was an extensive upgrade of the outdoor lighting on the property. A count showed that we had 11 outdoor lamps; nine of these plain outdoor lamps with classic E27 bulbs and two more modern lamps with two GU10 bulbs in each, pointing respectively up and down. All these lamps were controlled by two “old-fashioned” solar cells placed respectively on the house and garage walls. This has worked well; the lights come on when it gets dark and turn off again in the morning. Despite some attempts at adjusting the solar cell sensitivity, I had though never managed to quite synchronize the two and the lights would generally stay on longer than really necessary. And there were of course no options for remote control of the lights.

So I had an investigation going into upgrading these. A small challenge for lights controlled by such solar cells is that the cell sits between the light switch and the lamp, so that in daylight there is no power to the lamp. Smart bulbs will thus get disconnected and not be available for remote control. This can be solved in different ways; the easiest is simply to cover the cells (preferably with thick, black tape) so that the power stays on 24/7. A more “proper” solution is to remove the old solar cells (typically replacing them with a wall box designed for outdoor use). Both solutions then allow replacing the old bulbs with smart versions, which allow remote control and programming, e.g., based on time of day, detected motion in the garden, the doorbell is rung, etc.

In our case, the solution has been to tape over the solar cells. The E27 bulbs have been replaced with IKEA Trådfri E27 1,000 lumen and two Philips Hue E27 bulbs, one with 1,600 lumen in a new lamp (see picture below) and the GU10 bulbs with IKEA Trådfri GU10. I was a little anxious whether the tape would be good enough cover to keep the bulbs with constant power and also uncertain whether some bulbs would be too far away from the house/other bulbs to stay connected, but neither has been a problem. The lights have been programmed in the Home app to turn on at sunset and off at sunrise. As far brightness, they are just as good as the old ones, and they consume much less power.


Stacks Image 1064
Stacks Image 1067
Stacks Image 1070

Some of the outdoor lamps with smart bulbs


Another option, instead of replacing the bulbs in the existing lamps, would have been to replace the lamps themselves, especially if the old lamps could do with an upgrade. I did consider this for the nine lamps of a similar type, which are black wrought-iron lamps with a touch of 1980s styling. Philips Hue launched a rather extensive series (which keeps expanding) of outdoor lighting in 2018, including some wall lamps. Based on the specifications and marketing images they seemed promising as replacement lamps for our house, but I was unsure whether the brightness and light pattern would be ideal. I purchased a Philips Hue Turaco wall lamp for testing, in several places around the house. Unfortunately, the conclusion was that both the brightness and distribution pattern were inferior to the lamps we had. Thus, we went with the bulb replacement solution.

There are, however, other products in the outdoor series from Philips Hue which seem more promising for use in our garden; posts, pedestals, spots, and light strips. Several of these would be good additions to our outdoor lighting. And in fact, we have already installed three Philips Hue outdoor lightstrips, the first more as a test of the brightness and usefulness. I had some concerns about how these were fixed in place, whether I would be able to lead power to where they would best fit the garden, whether there would be connection issues due to distance to the house/rest of the system, and not in the least how they would take a Norwegian winter. However, the first test was positive and they are mainly used to frame three flower beds where we used to have some cheap solar-charged battery-battery LED posts in the corners, see picture below. Those cheap lights had rather weak light, especially in the fall when they would have their primary effect, but there is less sun to charge them, and they rarely lasted more than one or two seasons before they stopped working. My assessment of the light strips is:

  • Assembly is quite easy to do; there are plenty of clips that are screwed into the surface where the strips are to be installed, and the strip is easily popped into the clips. I was a bit curios to see how flexible the strips are, since they are rather thick, and to install them around the flower beds would require bending them around the corners. This was no problem, they are quite flexible in one direction (they are far more rigid the other way, so there are limits to how they can be shaped).

  • Regarding getting power to the strips, attached in the box is a power cable with an ordinary power plug in one end, a larger connection box, and a power cable that sticks out of the strip and with a smaller connection box. These are linked together using a water-tight screw connection and seem quite solid, but the large connection box is recommended for installation at least 30 cm above the ground. The distance from the nearest power outlet wall to the connection box was too long so I had to resort to an Hue extension cable, which is sold separately. This is 5 meters so that solved my problem, but I needed one for each of our light strips so that is a potential extra cost to factor in. There is a T-connector that comes with some of the pedestals/post/spots for outdoor use, but this can only handle 40 watts. The 5 meter light strip alone takes 37.5 watts so that is of no help.

  • The range for connection has not been a problem either. As every Hue light source acts as a node in the network and the house has Hue products throughout, also the garden is well covered. In fact also light sources outdoor beyond the range of the WiFi contact with the system.

Philips Hue light strips framing flower beds

Stacks Image 746

The greatest challenge faced by these light strips is that they are located almost right on the ground, where the Norwegian winter can be a tough obstacle. The light strips are obviously watertight, but the instruction manual said nothing about snow or ice. I therefore got in touch with customer support at Philips, who strongly discouraged leaving them outside during winter in places where they would be covered by snow (especially since this snow typically will turn to ice throughout the winter/spring before melting). We have therefore had to resort a procedure where we relocate the strips when winter is coming; they are placed respectively underneath the garage awning to light up the walkway, under the siding of the house to light up a section of the garden, and underneath a balcony to light up some outdoor stairs. In all these places, the strips provide light to areas of the garden where there otherwise is little light. Luckily, there were enough clips in the packages to permanently maintain two sets of clips in place so it is easy to move them back and forth between them. And when the first snowfall came in November 2018, I took the opportunity to move the strips as shown in the pictures below:

Hue light strips relocated to safer places free from snow and ice (during advent/Christmas, they were set to red or green to create the right atmosphere)

Stacks Image 757
Stacks Image 760

In the spring of 2019, the lighting was further expanded. I had been looking at the different Hue pedestals for the purpose of lighting up the stairs going from the balcony down to the lawn, shown in the picture above. This staircase had rather poor light in spring/fall so I ended up getting two Philips Hue Calla outdoor pedestals (I cannot find the exact type we have on the UK Hue pages, ours is broader and of lower height). It took some work to open up boards in the construction to pull the power supply to the right spots, but the attached cables are very practical to work with, including a T-splitter, and in the end it ended up as shown in the picture below.

Stacks Image 768
Hue Calla pedestals lighting up the outdoor stairs

I had also been looking for a possible solution for a flower bed where a light strip wouldn’t be suitable. A strong contender was Osram Smart+ Gardenspots Mini RGB (which now seems to have been discontinued) and when I got the opportunity to buy a second-hand set, I went for it. The spots are connected to our Homey. An issue is that the spots can not be turned off directly. Closer investigation revealed that if the lights are set to 83% brightness or more, they turn on right after turning them off. If, however, they are set to 82% or lower, they can be turned off... I have no idea why, but that’s how it is. I have found a solution that seems to work: First sending a command at sunrise to set the brightness level to 80%, then 5 minutes later send the command to turn off completely.

Stacks Image 960

Osram mini spots in a flower bed during summer and under a veranda in winter

Stacks Image 966

Partly to obtain measurements of light intensity to control the sun screen in the living room and partly to control the outdoor lights not only based on the time of day, but also presence of people in the garden, we installed two Philips Hue outdoor motion sensors. One was installed on the garage wall to detect when someone arrives at the house via the walkway along the garage, the other is on the house wall, see pictures below.

The sensor on the house wall was exploited to turn on outdoor lights in the garden at detected motion, but it soon turned out that the placement of this sensor (to obtain the most correct light measurement) meant it also reacted every time a car passed by. This caused the lights to be turned on many times during the night, without any need for this, so a third sensor was installed in a more suitable place, see picture below. This only responds when someone actually enters the garden.

By now, the Hue sensor is the only one intended for outdoor use, and beyond one of the sensors not showing light intensity/temperature during the first few days after installation, they have worked flawlessly.

Stacks Image 1007
Stacks Image 1010
Stacks Image 1013

Hue outdoor motion sensors (which allows very flexible installation, either flat on a wall like here or at an inner or outer corner) have been installed on respectively the garage, the house wall (used to control the sun screen that covers the living room windows), and at the “entrance” to the garden

Early on after upgrading the outdoor lighting, they were programmed fairly simply; they went on at sunset and off again at sunrise, which worked well; HomeKit keeps fully track of how these times change during the year. But with so many lights, both regular lamps and the light strips, it is “overkill” to keep all of these on during the whole night, which also consumes a lot of energy. We have later therefore programmed this as follows:

  • All outdoor lights turn on at sunset

  • In addition, one of the outdoor lamps, which is located so that it sends quite much light into the library during the night, turns off as part of the “Good Night” scene

  • During winter, when the light strips are placed around the garden, the lights are controlled a little differently:

  • If motion is detected in the outer hallway or by the motion sensor installed on the garage (thus monitoring the driveway), both the light strip on the garage and the lights around the front door are turned on (and off again automatically after 10 minutes)

  • If motion is detected by the motion sensor installed on the house wall (thus detecting it when someone walks further into the garden), the light strips mounted on the house wall/balcony and the Cosa LED lights are turned on (and off again automatically after 10 minutes)

As mentioned above, around Christmas time, for lights where the color can be changed, it is changed to more seasonal colors. In addition, we have some dedicated Christmas lights that are only put off this time of year. Most of these are "dumb" and can only be turned on/off by plugging them into power. These are controlled using smart plugs and turn on at sunset and off again at sunrise. A rather unique device is a Hooligo laser projector, which creates a "Christmas pattern" on one of the house walls, see picture below. This is controlled using an RF-based remote control, and it works very well integrating this into HomeKit via a Broadlink RM4 Pro universal remote control (located in the living room). This allows starting the "laser show" at sunset and stop it at midnight.

Holigoo laser projector puts a pattern on the wall, next to a colorful santa's sled, which is controled by a smart plug

Stacks Image 1242

We do have some additional devices outdoor, for climate control and garden care:

  • The outdoor module of our Netatmo Weather Station is located under a balcony, see picture below. This provides about temperature, humidity, air pressure, etc. which is presented in the Netatmo app together with weather forecast and some other information based on location. The information from the sensors also appear in the Home after Netatmo updated the firmware with support for HomeKit in the fall of 2019. This works OK, but as discussed in connection with the indoor module (see living room), the benefits from the information are limited.

  • From Netatmo, we also have a wind gauge, see picture below, acquired solely for the purpose of controlling the sun screen in the living room. This has not been wholly straightforward as far from all platforms/app for programming of this can handle data from the sensor (read more about this under the living room, where the sun screen is described), but the wind gauge itself works well.

  • A Netatmo rain gauge was also acquired, also shown in the picture below, after the other Netatmo products had proven reliable and in irritation over very unreliable weather forecasts, especially regarding rain, in the local paper. It measures rainfall throughout the day, visualizes the data nicely, and can send notifications if it starts to rain.

  • Furthermore, we have a Gardena R50Li robot lawn mower. This is in itself smart enough, it “wanders about” and does its work, with a much nicer lawn than we have had at any time before. But I do regret not choosing a model in the line of Gardena products that can be controlled from a phone app, which is also includes a solution for watering of the garden.


Stacks Image 814
Outdoor module for the Netatmo weather station

Netatmo wind gauge, which is recommended for elevated installation for best measurements, and Netatmo rain gauge

Stacks Image 826

Finally, in the category of security and alarm, we have four cameras outdoor. As mentioned under the laundry room, the Xiaomi camera did not work for the purpose of reading the displays of the washing machine/dryer. It was therefore installed outdoor, under the veranda (with a plastic box covering it against wind and rain), see picture below. It is angled to give a good view of the cat pen, where the cats spend much time during the summer, so that we can easily see what they are up to. One disadvantage is that we had to use the dedicated Mi-app to see the video feed from the camera, see screenshot below. Another issue is that the camera is rather unstable and often appears as «offline»; to avoid having to physically unplug/replug the camera, it is connected to power via an IKEA Trådfri smart plug, placed in the outdoor shed.

The Xiaomi camera installed under the veranda to monitor the cat pen, providing a reasonable image quality, as shown on the right

Stacks Image 837
Stacks Image 840

After having succeeded using a Homebridge plugin, homebridge-camera-ffmpeg, to integrate a garage camera without native HomeKit support into the Home app, it was tempting to do the same with the Xiaomi camera. The key to this was a site about “hacking” of this type of camera. Here you can find detailed instructions on how to do this and customized firmware is available for download, which is loaded into the camera using a microSD card. There are some steps involved in this, and the discussion in the associated forum shows that not everyone succeeds without issues, but for me this worked very well and was quickly done. I could then connect to the camera using a browser to both adjust various settings and identify the important rtsp url. This is required in the Homebridge config file, and I could then add the camera in the Home app, so that the “room view” for outdoor now shows both cameras, as shown in the screenshot at the bottom of the page.

We also have a dog pen in the garden and it is useful to have a camera that allows us to see what goes on there. After having tried different cameras around the house and realized that HomeKit-compatible devices have many advantages and Aqara launched its Aqara G2H camera at quite a different price from other manufacturers’ cameras, I chose that one. It is small and strictly speaking mounted in the window of the living room, see picture below, but angled toward the dog pen and has nice image quality and has a built-in motion sensor.

Stacks Image 1218

Aqara camera mounted in the living room window with good view of the dog pen

Stacks Image 1211

In addition, we have installed another Logitech Circle 2 Wired camera facing the driveway and walkway between the garage and the house, see picture below. This serves several functions:

  • If we are away from the house during winter, we can see if/how much it has snowed, so we can start dreading the heavy work when we return home.
  • If something should be stolen/broken in the garden, we can see who was behind it (we had a very nice stone cat stolen some years ago with no way of figuring out where it went).
  • And in the category of trivial problems, often during snowfall, people use our driveway as a turning space, creating tracks that make it harder to remove the snow. The camera can make it easier to see who insists on doing this…

In november 2019, Logitech released a firmware update that made this camera kompatible with so-called HomeKit Secure Video, allowing video footage to be stored in iCloud (and these do not count toward your data quota, so this is much cheaper than having a subscription from Logitech for storing recordings). It also gives somewhat more fine-grained control over which type of detected motion should trigger recording (you can choose among people, animals, or cars, or all motion, see screenshot below). After a firmware update in March 2020, two additional sensors became available; measured light levels and person detection, i.e., not only motion detection, but whether someone is present in the area monitored (even if person and motion detection builds in the same data, but for person detection with “delayed conclusion” about the room being empty). This use of the camera works very well, but you should beware that after the upgrade, the camera no longer can be accessed in the Logi Circle app.

Stacks Image 984

Left, the Logi Circle camera monitoring the driveway, right screenshot from the Home app after the camera has been updated to use HomeKit Secure Video

Stacks Image 990

Our house is rurally located and with a small, partially wooded, hill behind the house. There is much wildlife in the area, fox, deer, elk, etc. and we thought it might be fun to see which animals wander around the house. We have therefore installed an Aqara G2H camera facing the hill, see pictures below. Since this camera supports HomeKit Secure Video it has been set up to record when it registers motion of animals (or humans) so that we can quickly find video clips of when animals have been on our property.

Stacks Image 1132

Left, the Aqara camera, which is strictly speaking meant for indoor use, installed in a protected location under the roof, right screenshot from the camera

Stacks Image 1126

The last camera is also a smart doorbell, and for a long time, we had a Ring smart doorbell, which also was fairly OK integrated into HomeKit via Homebridge. It did, however, pose several issues; being battery-powered and since it refused to accept charge from the accompanying Ring solar charger, it had to be taken in for charging fairly often, especially during winter. The quality of the product was also fairly poor; both the security screws and the mounts for these broke quite early on. Furthermore, we often experienced network connection issues, making it impossible to answer when people rang the doorbell, and since Ring never kept their promise about HomeKit support it had to go via Homebridge, which was not optimal. In the end, it was therefore replaced by a Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell, see picture below. This is connected to wired power so charging is not an issue, and it has built-support for HomeKit, even though it still lacks HomeKit Secure Video (yes, I should have learned not to believe in promises about future functionality, but Netatmo has actually kept such promises). Otherwise, it is at least as good as the Ring doorbell, with motion sensor, IR-based night light, good picture quality, and it responds quickly.

One important reason for choosing the Ring doorbell in the first place was that it was wireless, since our house had no setup for a classic doorbell. It was not altogether trivial retro-fitting this, but it was solved by first installing a Honeywell old-fashioned doorbell with a built-in transformer. This gets power using a power cable and power plug connected to a regular power outlet, installed in the basement living room, see picture below, underneath a window close by the front door. From this, a signal wire snakes through the vent above the window and to where the doorbell sits.

Stacks Image 1347

On the left, Netatmo video doorbell installed by the front door, on the right, Honeywell doorbell with Netatmo chime module attached to it

Stacks Image 1341

In the garden, we also have a greenhouse, see picture below, without electric power and thus only in use during summer. But with spring arriving late in 2020, the gardener in the house determined that some pre-cultivation of plants was required, creating a need for heating in the greenhouse. We had already acquired a greenhouse heater, but not put it to use since it does not have a proper thermostat, just a setting between min and max, and we feared it would consume a lot of power. By coincidence, at the same time, I came across a Nexa LGDR-3500 smart plug for outdoor use (site only in Swedish), see picture below, which we had in fact purchased before we started converting our house to a smart home, and for a long time it was forgotten in a drawer. We don’t have the Nexa base station, but it proved surprisingly painless to connect it to the Homey via the Nexa app for Homey, and from there directly into HomeKit.

By using an extension cord to bring temporary power to the greenhouse and connecting the heater to the smart plug, we can remotely turn the oven on and off. In addition, a Philips Hue motion sensor has for the time being been moved from the living room (where it activates lighting scenes based on the measured light level, which is not that useful during spring/summer). This sensor also measures temperature and this has been utilized to create a setup where the oven turns on if the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius and off again when it reaches 14 degrees.

Stacks Image 1046

On the left, the greenhouse that does not have permanent power, on the right, the greenhouse heater and the smart plug that controls it

Stacks Image 1052

One can always discuss whether this has much to do with smart homes, but just before Christmas 2020 we had a solar power system installed to produce our own electric power, see pictures below. This naturally includes a number of solar panels, but also an inverter, and this is online. In our case an inverter of the brand Afore was installed, which there is support for by Tibber, and which can be accessed using a Solarman app. Here we can see information about how much power is being produced at any given time and historic production data, see screenshot below, while in Tibber we can see how much of the power produced goes to our house versus out into the grid. Since Tibber has integration with Homey it is also possible to see create routines where devices requiring much power are only turned on when the price of power is low or vi produce power ourselves, but we have so far not done this - this will be more relevant when we get an electric car.

Stacks Image 1163

To the left, some of the solar panels on one of the sides of the roof, to the right, the Afore inverter, installed in the outdoor shed

Stacks Image 1157
Stacks Image 1173

To the left, screenshot from the Solarman app. to the right, screenshot from Tibber which shows the portion of the produced power that goes to own consumption vs to the grid

Stacks Image 1167

For a "room view" in the Home app of the installed solutions, see screenshot below.

Skjermbilde for enheter utendørsScreenshot of the outdoor devices

Stacks Image 1374