Tech Toys: X10 home automation
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.
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
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?
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.
The entire system is remarkably
inexpensive, even for a large house, and it only takes a few minutes to
- The flagship retailer. Very obnoxious site, but good deals
to be had.
ideas - Articles on home automation, everything
from the most basic to very technical discussions for electronics enthusiasts.
Shack - The link at left jumps right to the
home automation category. You can pick up a lot of components in
the store, but I recommend going with a "starter kit" from an on-line retailer
to save money.