Most basic Equipment Needed to Start

Greetings!

My circumstances are a bit unique as I am in the merchant marine and on board a ship at the moment (no WiFi and very limited company internet). I'm looking to try my hand at HA and want to use some of the quite time out at sea to experiment with setup/ basic automation. Hopefully then I can hit the ground running when I get home on leave. Anyway I have decided to give the HE a try since it doesn't require internet access to work after setup.

My Question to the Community:

What is the absolute basic physical equipment I need to use the HE? Ordering parts to the ship is very slow (we're talking months sometimes but usually weeks) so I want to ensure I have everything I need to get up and running.

My Plan:

For testing my skills and seeing how the HE works I'm planning to change out my regular lamp bulb with a smart bulb, put a door sensor on my stateroom door and bathroom door, place a humidity sensor in the bathroom and a zigbee plug on a small heater. I've selected both zigbee and z-wave devices to try out and the room is only 250 sqft so range shouldn't be an issue. I hope to have the lamp come on when my door opens and when pressed a wireless button will turn the light off. The humidity sensor will activate the heater in my bathroom when I shower but will turn off the heater if the bathroom door is open.

Obviously I need the HE itself. I've got a WiFi hot spot to download and update the HE while in port and I plan to connect the Hubitat directly to my laptop. Do I need a wireless router to allow zigbee/ z-wave devices to connect with the HE?

Thank you all very kindly for your help and suggestion. I'm very excited!

No, but you may need a repeater or two. Innr makes outlets that also repeat.

I would strongly urge getting an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to ensure stable power. Your boat probably has 12 V batteries, so a USB charger that connects to 12 V would work nicely.

If he's on a ship he most likely won't need a UPS. Also he most likely won't have easy to access to the batteries :smile:

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The one "Gotcha" to watch out for is that the Hubitat Elevation hub really needs an NTP Time Server to be available each time it boots, to properly set its clock. You can connect to it via a web browser, and then Sync its clock with that of the computer your browser is running on, but this is a manual procedure that has to be done each time the hub is rebooted. Another option is to have another always on device available, on the same always on network, that can act as a NTP time server. However, many of these devices also require an internet connection to maintain their internal clocks as well.

There are some old threads here in the Community regarding this exact scenario with respect to NTP time servers. I'd recommend you read through those to see how others have solved this problem. If I recall correctly, some folks have added a GPS receiver to a Raspberry Pi to make sure the RPi can successfully act as a NTP time server for their Hubitat hub. Hopefully others in the community will also chime in with their ideas.

Of course, if specific date/time triggers are not important to the automations you are planning, perhaps this won't be too big of a problem. If you simply use Motion and Contact sensors to trigger the automations, then everything may work fairly well without needing to depend on the hub knowing the exact date/time. :thinking:

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There's so much metal on a ship that I'm concerned that wireless signals (especially zigbee) will be attenuated quite a bit. I'd recommend additional repeaters - like @672southmain suggested.

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What I want to know is, when did cabins become staterooms?

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Perhaps I am misinformed, and my past limited experience is misremembered, but I recall that often, when boats dock, they sometimes switch over to dockside power, which can cause brief power interruptions. What may seem brief to humans may be a catastrophic eternity to electronics.

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As a former mariner, a huge consideration is going to be the quality of electricity on your vessel. In my experience, sometimes the generator transfers were not so graceful causing small surges. I've been on a ship in rough seas where fuel movement caused slight generator surges that would vary the frequency about 5 Hz. Of course, anything behind a UPS would handle that, but I don't think a smart bulb would last very long.

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You are correct, depending on the design of the switchboards in engineering some ships will have a oh-so brief loss of power. I've got an APC 700 Smart-UPS on my work computer so I will plug into that. Thank you for the great suggestion.

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Do your berth and head have metal bulkheads between them? Or is the interior construction something radio waves will get through?

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No metal, some sort of marine grade fiberboard. WiFi signal from my hot spot gets through no problem.

@ogiewon Thank you for the heads up on the NTP time, definitely something I hadn't thought of. For the testing I don't anticipate using time based events but I will do more reading all the same.

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you're not misinformed, your spot on. It definitely wouldn't hurt to get a UPS but he really shouldn't need it if he's on a modern ship.

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Without any real-world experience, I'd imagine even in modern ships, in modern times, the amount of time spent out of port can vary wildly with the current circumstances....

I hear yeah but if there's no power there's no go lol and the least of his worries is going to be Hubitat :slight_smile:

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Now you've made us all curious so we want to track you via AIS!

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But with the small amount of knowledge in this space that I do have... kudos for being someone who spends their time on vessels around our seas.... There are plenty who have spent more time than they should at sea over the last 2 years..... Not sure whether you are in that category, and probably not the forum to delve into that, but regardless, plenty of good things come from those who spend time at sea, so thank you....

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This is an interesting scenario, also applies to us who have cottages or cabins with power but no internet.

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I know there is software available to run an ntp server on a PC. There should be an open source option available with a bit of digging.

The only other recommendation I can make is to get a variety of sensors and controlled devices to play with. Hue motion sensors are highly recommended in this community and use standard batteries. In addition to motion they report temperature and lumens, so useful for testing a couple of different automation scenarios. Contact sensors would be another device to get. Sonoff makes some that aren't pretty, but seem to work well and are inexpensive.

Smart plugs are another great item because they can control an attached device and also act as repeaters. The plug you choose should match your sensor's protocol. As the other sensors I've mentioned are zigbee, I might try the Sonoff S31 Lite. On second thought, a plug with power monitoring would add another "sensor" to your system that you could experiment with. Maybe someone else knows of a good zigbee Plug with power monitoring.

An RGBW bulb might be useful for learning as well. I don't have any, but I've heard others speak favorably of Sengled.

And maybe something a bit more advanced would be a Sonos or Ikea Tradfri speaker. Again, I don't have any, but they seem to be the best option for speech announcements that do don't require an active internet connection (although you may need one to set them up). These would need a wifi LAN connection to the hub so would require a wireless router.

And finally a tablet or smartphone would let you access dashboards without sitting at a PC... entirely optional.

This sounds like it could be fun for you... Good Luck!

P.S. you might also want to have some spare batteries on hand for your sensors. Many use small lithium batteries that might be challenging to get in your circumstance.

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Same here. Nothing to add that others haven’t, but interesting lab/use case.

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And for some reason every sensor seems to use a different size battery! Might make sense to standardize on AA and CR123/2032 or something.

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Download the Hubitat app