Istabai.lv - installation
So, the price of heating my apartment has gone up significantly since last year and a lot of people have noticed the same trend. As a geek, I want not just any solutions, but geekiest solutions possible to that - enter a Smart Home system. The heating in my apartment is separated from all other apartments with a separate heat meter that measures both heating water flow and the temperature difference on the incoming and outgoing pipes, so if I reduce the heating consumption I will immediately see that in lower heating bills. This particular smart home system is very simple and made in Latvia and also relatively cheap, so I decided to give this a try.
The start was very simple - I filled out a form on their home page and got a call the next day to verify the specifics. They already knew my building and had experience installing there, so they offered me two options: I could have two thermal sensors and a radiator controller on each of the 3 radiators in my apartment or (seeing how my apartment is relatively small and well ventilated thus reducing the efficiency of per-room control) one thermal sensor and one radiator controller installed on a new valve that they would build into the heating pipe just outside my apartment. I chose the second option as that was cheaper, simpler and involved less installation for me. Also they offered a nice discount.
A plumber of my building installed the valve at some point during the day, I did not even have to be there or arrange anything special, it was all included in the main bill. Then the next day a friendly guy came by to my office and gave me three very cute boxes. The packaging was very, very Apple-like. The three devices were named 'mother', 'spy' and 'puller' - basically that is a base station, a temperature sensor and a radiator regulator - a wireless stepper motor.
The installation was straight forward - I connected the base station (something very similar to this thin in size and looks) to Ethernet and power, went to the web address specified on the sticker on the base station, completed a registration process there, entered a code from the base of the base station into the website and it just found it. After that I pressed a button on the temperature sensor (a Zippo lighter sized box with a built-in Li-Ion battery rechargeable via microUSB once a year or so) and put that on a shelf. I secured it with some double-sided tape after the cat got to it once and played some hockey while I was away. The temperature sensor immediately showed up in the Web UI and I could assign it to a room.
The regulator installation was the most complex bit, but it was trivial as well - all I had to do was insert some AA batteries (helpfully included in the box, should last a couple years by their estimates), then go outside to the newly installed inlet valve, put this thing on, screw the thread with my hands and then push and hold a button for 10 seconds. After that the controller came to life, connected with the base station and started spinning the valve, testing its operational range I presume. The range is very good - you can see 13% signal in the screenshots - that is across the whole of the apartment, trough 3 solid walls and another 5 meters out in the hallway inside another wall.
As soon as that was done, the Web UI showed the controller and asked my to assign it to a room. So now I have 1 room defined with 1 temperature sensor and one controller. That is all that is needed.
From the charts I have already found out that at current inside/outside temperatures my apartment cools down at around 0.3 degrees C per hour and with current radiator settings it heats up by around 1 degree C per hour. I should turn the radiators up a bit thus increasing the rate at which the system is able to heat things up. Also I should try to re-inspect all possible cold spots to see why the cooldown speed is so high. I expected it to be lower. At least now I have real data to compare things.
At this point you can either fire up your web browser or a Android/iOS client on you mobile device to monitor and control the temperature of the apartment. But that was not enough for me - I opted for the PRO upgrade which includes the ability to program a weekly cycle of desired temperatures. The programming is limited and thus simple to do - there are three temperature modes: day, night and eco. The idea is that you have the night mode every night, then at some time during the day, you have the day mode (to wake up), then you switch to eco mode (when noone is home) and then in the evening you go back to day mode and later to night mode. There are separate sliders for each day of the week and temperature settings for each of the modes for every programmed room.
Total investment so far - 210 Ls (or around 3 months worth of just heating bills). The experience of other users tells of 30-50% heating bill reduction, so this should pay for itself in 2-3 years. In addition I get a more stable and predictable temperature at home and some more geeky stuff to brag about - yay!
These guys have their work cut out for them - I have no idea how/of they do international orders, I would definately like to see more information in the web site about how my system is working (more temperature history, valve state history, wireless signal and battery history, mobile apps are a bit wonky - it feels like the mobile app does not respect the temperature set over the web and tries to reassert itself when opened and it often shows out-of-date temperature data with no indication that it is out-of-date + the mobile apps are missing charts.
All in all - this is a great start: easy, quite cheap and stylish home heating automation. Good work!
P.S. I am pretty sure they use Linux, but it is so packaged, that there is basically no way to confirm or deny that.
P.P.S. Also - check out this overnight chart, there is definitely some mode switch anticipation going on :)