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Old 03-08-2013, 12:32 PM   #1
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Building a Master Control Panel


I'm in the middle stages of developing a recreational cabin near my home in Washington. We expect heavy guest usage (potentially rentals from time to time).

I am going to be installing the electrical system myself, and I plan to include a master control panel that provides for both remote control capabilities of the major house systems as well as an easy "1-switch" away setting that kills all non-essential circuits (laundry, outlets, lights, aux heaters, workshop power, etc).

Since I'm going this far, I'm also building the capability to remotely control some of these items (such as not energizing the workshop for rentals, turning on the water heater ahead of arrival, etc).

I've begun designing a system based on an Arudino microcontroller that drives smaller relays, which in turn drive larger contactors that can safely switch the full load of 2-pole 240V circuits.

My intent is to route controlled circuits to the control panel contactors, then onward to loads. The main panel will be immediately above the control panel.

Contactors will be either ABB or Eaton 120V/240V rated contactors rated 5-10A higher than the full load of the circuit.

Before I get too overboard with parts, I'm trying to piece together relevant pieces of the code to ensure we're designing the correct safety in place for this sort of equipment.

Has anyone ever done this sort of thing before? If so, are there useful guides or references you were using? Any advice before I go much further?

PS: The microcontroller provides me the mechanism to programatically change startup sequence and delays of each circuit group (I can drive a total of 16 relays). This lets me remotely program different "modes" based on who is at the property and remotely control individual groups. The main "control" will be a simple lighted industrial switch on the outside of the control panel that has a "HOME" and "AWAY" setting.

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Old 03-09-2013, 08:08 AM   #2
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Building a Master Control Panel


I've thought of now neat this would be for the whole house but not sure if it would be code compliant to do or not. Basically get a general utility panel (not sure where you'd find this) that is basically just a chassis with a door. Have all circuits pass through this panel first and connect to relays. The relays would then be controlled by an Arduino board that you program to do what you want. Idealy you could program it to be very basic (accept on/off commands) then have a Raspberry Pi with custom software and http server that controls the Arduino. DIN rails could probably be used to help keep it tidy in there as well. Basically some terminal blocks/relay arrays with the control circuitry going to the control board. Could code some advanced stuff like scheduling and what not, too.

If I was building a house from scratch what I'd probably end up doing something like this. Every light switch would actually also lead to this panel and control he relay directly. This way I can override light switches via software, but at the same time still have control via light switches. Could also have a random function for when you are on vacation so random lights turn on/off at certain intervals to simulate someone being home. Could also tie in with the security system where all the lights flash when the alarm goes off.

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Old 03-09-2013, 08:24 AM   #3
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Building a Master Control Panel


Its called a HOFFMAN box. You can order any size you want, complete with a hinged door. Mount the DIN rails inside, and all the relays should mount directly on the rails.

As long as you maintain proper wiring methods for the power circuits into and out of the enclosure, you can probably use class 2 wiring methods for the controls and computer interface.

Be sure to use wires with at least 300 volt insulation for your class 2 circuits while in the same enclosure as the power relays.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:14 AM   #4
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Building a Master Control Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by gashalot View Post
I plan to include a master control panel that provides for both remote control capabilities of the major house systems as well as an easy "1-switch" away setting that kills all non-essential circuits (laundry, outlets, lights, aux heaters, workshop power, etc).

Before I get too overboard...
...get realistic about which circuits really need such control and how inconvenient it will be to do 99% of this manually.

Put ALL of the lighting circuits on 3 way switching.
Feed to your fancy controller box thingie then 3wire to each room.
Run the rest of these "non-essential" circuits through a sub panel.
Use the main as needed.

As for the remote control aspect I really don't see that as being even remotely practical for tenants or even for guests who have been there before.

Last edited by TarheelTerp; 03-09-2013 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:34 AM   #5
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Building a Master Control Panel


Good god, walk or drive to the rental and use the breakers.

Other than that piece of advice, if this rental has its own electrical service, it would not be legal to run power to your main home.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:47 AM   #6
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Building a Master Control Panel


What is the programming interface for the Micro controller? (I'm too lazy this morning to search).

I do a lot of system designs using PLC's, so I understand what your doing....and like the idea.

For the most part, you want to design the safety into the hardware....in other words, the only 'bad thing' your code can do it turn off a relay.

On your hardware, if your using IEC contactors, they have no wiggle room on over current...so make sure you're sized right...going bigger is good. Make sure you look at the load of the coil in the contactor and make sure the relays on your controller can handle the current. Most of those contactors are going to be about a .1A load. Make sure you put in the proper suppression devices.

Make sure the controller power is on a ckt that can not be turned off remotely.....

This would be a good project to post pics of over in the Project Showcase section.
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:41 AM   #7
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Building a Master Control Panel


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Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
Its called a HOFFMAN box.
Hoffman is a name brand, not what the enclosure is called. First you use the NEMA designation to pick the location.
Then you choose from several manufacturers of these enclosures.
Schaefer is another manufacturer and they are very similar, but less money.

ps..............If you buy an enclosure. Make sure you order the back board for that enclosure. Order them together.
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:49 AM   #8
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Building a Master Control Panel


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Good god,
MY thoughts exactly.

WAY over my head.
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Old 03-09-2013, 03:43 PM   #9
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Building a Master Control Panel


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Originally Posted by ddawg16 View Post
Make sure the controller power is on a ckt that can not be turned off remotely.....
Yeah definitely a good idea. If the system loses power all the relays turn off, something to remember.

I would also consider having a couple light circuits and outlets around the property that are not on this system, to act as emergency.

Of course, do not add any safety devices on this system either, like 120v smoke detectors, security system, CO detectors etc. The more complex something is the more things that can fail.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:38 AM   #10
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Building a Master Control Panel


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Originally Posted by ddawg16 View Post
What is the programming interface for the Micro controller?
...
On your hardware, if your using IEC contactors, they have no wiggle room on over current...so make sure you're sized right...going bigger is good.
...
Make sure the controller power is on a ckt that can not be turned off remotely.....
The microcontroller is an Arudino, which you program in a dialect of C (it may be a stretch to call it a dialect - it's basically C), driving a 16-channel relay board from SainSmart (each channel is 10A 120VAC). The CPU on the microcontroller is pretty limited, but sufficient to read switch input, drive some status LEDs, and the relay board. In addition to the onboard code, you can drive it over USB, which is how I'll integrate the "remote" control part. The entire low voltage side of the setup is ~$100, including a small Linux PC to interface on the serial link.

I'm planning on using Eaton's specific purpose contactors with 120V coils, fed from the relay board, as they're easy to replace and minimize the need for special power supplies. Individual circuit contactors are going to be sized for an inductive load equal to the total circuit ampacity, which means their resistive load exceeds the circuit rating.

The entire control panel will be fed via a dedicated 10A circuit. The draw should be a fraction of that, but all of the other interior general purpose circuits are controlled, so it's a necessary addition.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:42 AM   #11
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Building a Master Control Panel


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I would also consider having a couple light circuits and outlets around the property that are not on this system, to act as emergency.
A great point. As an emergency control, there will be a keyed bypass switch that can bypass the "smart" control and drive the contactors directly from 120VAC in the event there's an issue with the intelligent controls.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:46 AM   #12
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Building a Master Control Panel


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Good god, walk or drive to the rental and use the breakers.
Unfortunately it's about 2 hours form our home, so driving isn't practical between guests (most of whom will be friends, and self-cleaning between visits), and I'd like the peace of mind knowing they didn't leave everything running when they leave.

There's another side bonus I didn't mention in the original post: I can crank the hot water heater up when we leave the house and have a full tank ready when I'm there, which keeps the wife happy.
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Old 03-10-2013, 07:38 AM   #13
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Building a Master Control Panel


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Unfortunately it's about 2 hours form our home, so driving isn't practical between guests ...
Then you need to find a trusted local to rely on for this and the twenty other issues that WILL come up when strangers or even friends are using a place.

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