Tech Toys: X10 home automation system


This is the coolest set of gadgets no one else seems to own, and I'm not sure why I am alone in this!  Seriously, you don't have to be Bill Gates to have a remote control house.  Although this system works with any appliance, I use it primarily for my lights and occasionally with a fan.

You might think this is just lazy, but it is more than a little convenient, and it saves electricity besides.  For example, when navigating my house when I come home after dark, I can turn on the lights in a room down the hall.  The one light where I am heading is adequate to show me my path, and I didn't have to turn on every light in-between.

I also set up my girlfriend's place with a set of these devices.  Since we use similar codes in our house, we can use our keychain remotes around each others' houses, which makes it that much easier to find a lightswitch in the dark.

There are a number of other possibilities including connections to home security and monitoring systems, etc.  See the links below for more options.


Lamp & Appliance modules
Basically, you plug your lamps and/or other appliances into little boxes like these.  You set the little dials on the front to the number you are assigning that light.  For wall switches, there is similar device that simply replaces the switch.  It takes about five minutes to install, and it is completely reversible if you want to take the system with you when you move.

Remotes
The remote at the left is a larger one that comes in many of the starter kits.  It controls up to sixteen different devices (I have rarely had occasion for more than four).  The smaller remote at right is designed for keychain use, although you can leave them lying around the house in places where you only need to turn on/off a couple of lights.  This unit only controls devices you assign as "1" and "2"  Note that the little blue switches at the bottom of both units ca be used to dim the lights to save electricity or to set the mood.  Also available (not pictured) is a convenient bedside controller.


Transceiver module
This is the interface between all the wireless controls.  This device receives the signals from the remote controls, then passes that signal along through the wiring in your house where it is registered by the appropriate appliance(s).  This component is not required if you only have the aforementioned bedside controllers that plug into the wall, but who wouldn't want a keychain remote?

Computer Interface
As you might expect, you can also have your computer interface with this system as a controller.  The pictured component is from the Firecracker kit, and plugs into the back of your computer.  This allows you to interface with your home through the software provided, which can be configured to turn lights and appliance on/off at scheduled times.

Conclusions
The entire system is remarkably inexpensive, even for a large house, and it only takes a few minutes to set up.

X10 Links



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