Home automation Home Economics Technology

Keeping Warm in 2023

This post grows out of some remarks exchanged with a UK household. UK folk (like US folk) are notorious for overriding their home heating automatic controls, generally a waste of energy. In this post, we’ll examine the economics of Dominion’s Time of Use home electric tariff supplying energy for our dual fuel heat pump plus gas furnace home heating. This analysis will examine energy use of two strategies, burn natural gas myself or let Dominion Electric Power burn gas and deliver electricity.

Of necessity, this is a somewhat complex topic that is influenced by local climate, the local utility, and the scheming of the local legislature. In the US, a mix of Federal and State law govern electric power but building codes are local. Here in Virginia, our winter climate is similar to that in much of the UK (0C to 10C daily swing).

In this analysis we looked only at utility steam-electric power as the best home heating and cooling options for our region are electrically operated. Home photovoltaic power is becoming increasingly common in our region but its use for home heating and cooling would require high-end equipment with storage.

Home automation Personal Computing

Home Bridge Update

The Ubiquity UniFi Protect cameras went missing from Apple HomeKit Secure Video. Some updates and some reconfiguration were needed to revive them.

  • The nodejs library had gone out of date
  • The various plugins had been revised
  • The UniFi credentials system had changed
  • The beast needed reconfigured

Just the usual DIY bit rot and acts of Apple. There is nothing hard here but it took some effort to gather together the needed instructions and to locate the Home Bridge reset procedure. To save others this leg work, I’ve gathered together the work flow and primary references.

Home automation Zero Carbon

EcoBee 3 Dual Fuel

In the spring of 2022, we discovered that the Nest Learning Thermostat was not operating the reversing valve. It had been fine in the fall. The Nest energizes the reversing valve to cool. Come May and time to cool it wasn’t. Oh, and the fall update stomped on the heat pump lockout setting. So the proprietor fired Nest and hired Ecobee.

Church uses a large number of Ecobee 3 Lite devices with extra area sensors and has found them to work well. So Dismal Dave bought one and installed it. It set up easily enough for heat pump operation with automatically configured staging and automatic heat pump lockout and easy configuration of the associated gas furnace. But we had some drama anyway.

Home automation

More Observations

QingPing Air Monitor Lite images courtesy of HomeKit Reviews.

The QingPing Air Monitor Lite has been here a couple of days. I had expected I would have a particulate problem. In reality, the house is sufficiently tight that it retains emissions from internal sources like breathing mammals and greyhound butts. What the trend curves are showing is that, with the house closed up, CO2 accumulates. Since Dismal Manor is small, this is detectable in the bedroom when all 3 of us are in the lounge. After the break, I review the findings and

Home automation

A New Dismal Gadget, an Air Quality Monitor

Dismal Dave suffers from rhinitis, a general non-specific rhinitis brought on by particulates more so than a specific allergen. Cooking smoke, Diesel smoke, jet smoke, the Great Dismal Swamp Fire smoke, pollen, and other things make the sinuses angry. To get a better feeling for what it might be correlated with, I decided to add an air quality monitor to our Apple HomeKit rig.

The bits and pieces needed to make one are inexpensive and can be ordered as a kit with a PCB. A number of DIY websites describe air quality monitor projects. But if you want a case, and there is software to write, …

There are only a few HomeKit capable residential air quality monitor finished products with the QingPing Air Quality Lite being regarded the best value of the lot. Most of the products out there are portable monitors designed for work-place safety applications.

After the break, I’ll explain my initial motivation, selection criteria, intended application, and initial experience.

Home automation Technology Zero Carbon

Smart Thermostat Upgrade

For many years, a Nest Learning Thermostat has controlled heating and cooling at Dismal Manor. About a year ago, I replaced the Nest Beta program edition with a current production Nest Learning Thermostat. In mid-April, we had a surprise run of hot days so I decided to change from heat mode to cool/heat mode. I made the change, found the thermostat calling for cooling, and hot air coming from the registers. What’s up, Nest!

Home automation

UniFi Protect Cameras in HomeKit

In an earlier article, I wrote about using EuFy wireless cameras in the latest HomeKit Secure Video enabled series to realize the Greyhound’s Doorbell. Since then, I have added a HomeBridge with HomeBridge UniFi Protect plugin to allow me to bring in the UniFi Protect G4 cameras. UniFi Protect is not currently integrated with any of the smart home ecosystems as Ubiquity’s primary market is professional network system integrators installing video surveillance and entry control systems.

Home automation

The Air Tags are Here

The Air Tags have been here about a week. The fobs a couple of days.


  1. Nice explaination Find My presentation of the location process. No waveforms or math. IEEE has that locked up in standards and papers.

As a Key Finder

I have mislaid my keys once since then. Find My let me know they were in the house. We ended up playing Marco Polo for a bit to find which room they were in. Once the room was identified, the ultra-wideband position sensing took me right to them.

The Sound is Usefully Loud

I also left them in a pocket in the laundry. Find My quickly let me know they were in the laundry bin. The alert sound is loud enough to carry out of the laundry bin. There were only 3 pants to search so they were found quickly.

My first experience with a Bluetooth token was pretty dismal. The noise maker was too quiet to be heard when tossed into a laundry basket. There was no secondary form of cuing. The ultra wide band location requires a ultra wide band radio and associated ranging software.

Ultra Wide band Location and Ranging

My Mk VII Golf GTI key fob also uses Ultra Wide Band precision positioning to determine whether the key is inside or outside and which lock is nearest. I’ve yet to outsmart it. It won’t let you lock your keys in the car. It sometimes gets confused about the rear passenger door which is next to the gas filler door. The keys come attached to a $30,000 auto.

Apple may be the first to use ultra wide band remote sensing as a consumer product. Here, it actually works. A cute display indicates that Find My is chatting with the selected missing AirTag, a compass indicator shows the relative direction, and the approximate range is shown. This feedback is like the hot/cold feedback of hide and seek. It is very helpful search cuing.

Android Find My is Coming

At 2021 WWDC, Apple software VP Craig Federighi announced that Apple would be making an Android version of Find My to allow Android users to use AirTag and to locate a mis-laid Mac. Hardware capabilities will determine functionality. Those Android devices having ultra wide band locating capability (UWB radios) will support nearby direction and distance capabilities. Those without should be able to play Marco Polo with an AirTag and to talk to it by near field to learn its ID.

Home automation Personal Computing

Air Tags?

I had tried an earlier tracker that worked so well it became E-waste at the end of battery life. Basically, the radios weren’t there yet. A tag in the laundry basket could not be found or heard. Discovery of a tag left away from home relied on the general population running the tag app on their phones. Some did but the coverage in Norfolk, Virginia was truly sparse. Oh, and the battery life was about a month. BlueTooth Low Energy was not so low.

But I also watched the Apple announcement with some interest as I had just laundered one radio car key and cleverly hid the other in pants I’ve not worn for a while. The near death experience of the first key increased my interest in finding the second. I also have a couple of sets of Yubi Keys that unlock several important 2FA things. It would be really bad if they both went missing.

Home automation Personal Computing


A number of manufacturers of interesting kit have chosen to stay out of the smart home universe among them Ubiquity. Others like Nest play only in their own proprietary environment. HomeBridge is an open source software project that creates an environment in which Apple HomeKit bridges may be built. Smart home enthusiasts have developed over 2000 product plugins supporting popular devices.

Here at Dismal Manor we have two bridges, a Starling for Nest gadgets and Home Bridge on a RaspberryPi 4b that brings in the UniFi Protect camera RTSP streams.

The Starling is a commercialization of the Nest HomeBridge plugins. This product makes sense with the Thermostat and the cameras. It is less useful with just Protects.

In this article, I’ll describe my experiences setting up a UniFi Protect gateway and making the Ubiquity UniFi Protect cameras visible in HomeKit. UniFi Protect is one of the few camera systems having a Verified HomeBridge plugin.