Home Automation

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The term "home automation" describes almost anything you can do to control devices in your home, including remote control, computer control, timers, etc. Automation can make life more convenient, improve security, and it can also save considerable energy. There are many vendors that produce and sell equipment for home automation. On this site I describe some of this equipment and how to choose what is best for you. I also describe some automation projects that I have completed.

Sources of home automation equipment

Two of the best sources for home automation equipment are Smarthome.Com and X10 and each of these has its strengths and weaknesses. If you decide to automate your home, it is likely that you will add to your system over several years, and you will likely choose equipment from both of these sources. Fortunately, the main line of automation equipment from these two vendors will work together. If you need basic modules quickly, you might also check at your local Radio Shack, although the selection will be more limited and you might pay a higher price.

In addition to X10, Smarthome.com offers a second line of home automation equipment that uses the Insteon protocol. This protocol is more reliable than X10, but at present there are some devices that are not available in the Insteon line. The Insteon modules also work with X10 controllers and vice versa. If you are getting X10 modules from Smarthome, I suggest getting the Insteon version since they will also work with your X10 controllers, and it leaves you with Insteon capable modules in case you decide to convert to Insteon later. The price of the Insteon modules is comparable to that for the SmartHome X10 only modules.

Click here for a general discussion of the strengths of each of the vendors listed above, and how to get the best deals on devices. Read the desciptions under "Choosing home automation equipment" to decide which components are right for your application, and to find the best source for those components.

Getting Started

I am setting up a home automation system for my house and have started to order X10 modules. The first thing I did was to take the time to catalog the devices I wanted to control, and from where. I then listed the characteristics of each kind of control I needed in terms of whether I required dimming, non-dimming, confirmation of feedback of current state, and scene lighting, and whether I might want that functionaility in the future. This is an important step because there are large difference in the price of home automation modules depending on the features your require. On the pages linked in the following sections, I discuss different kinds of X10 modules and how to select what you need, and for some module types I discuss the benefits and drawbacks to the offereings of different vendors.

Home Automation Projects

Follow the links below for information on several of the home automation projects that I have completed. Some are standard projects one would expect to do using home automation, but I discuss the different equipment options I considered and experience with my choice. Other projects are straighforward, but will give you ideas about things to control, and discusses my experince, the cost of the project, and any savings that resulted.

Choosing home automation equipment

  • Lamp modules or Appliance Modules - This page discusses the two classes of modules that switch the power to your device, and when and when not to use each.
  • One way or two way This page discusses the benefits of two way home automation modules which can responsd to status queries and signal changes in their on or off state.
  • Lamp modules and contolled dimmer switches - This page discusses the options available in lamp modules or controlled dimmer switches, and gives the benefits and drawbacks to each vendors offerings.
  • Computer Controllers - This page discusses the heart an any advances home automation system, the computer controller that can be programmed to control devices by time, or to execute sequences of multiple commands when appropriate and gives the benefits and drawbacks to each vendors offerings.
  • Appliance modules and switched outlets - This page discusses the options available in appliance modules and switched outlets and gives the benefits and drawbacks to each vendors offerings.
  • Keypads and switches - This page discusses the keypads and switches that send and receive X10 signals to control your lights and appliances and gives the benefits and drawbacks to each vendors offerings.
  • Wireless commands - This page discusses devices that receive wireless commands and send them over your house wiring to control devices from a remote control. It gives the benefits and drawbacks to each vendors offerings.
  • Starter Kits - This page discusses starter kits that are available, i.e. collections of devices that can be used as a complete, albeit small, home automation systems.
  • Debugging - X10 automation is not perfect, problems can arise from weak signals, or interference in your household wiring. This section describes some of the tools you can use to diagnose problems, and steps you can take to solve problems when they arise.

For more information related to home automation

  • If you are thinking about a home security system, several sites have guides that will help narrow your choices for systems and accessories.

  • Security Systems.Net has consumer security system information as well as an alarm buy-versus-lease calculator which can help you determine the most cost effective way to purchase alarm monitoring.

DIY Home Automation Webring
DIY Home Automation Webring
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