How have you automated your home???

Old 01-10-03, 09:12 AM
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Location: Atlanta, Ga
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How have you automated your home???

I want to hear how some of you DIY have automated your home.
This could be with X-10, Smarthome, or maybe you've some DIY rig that opens the dog food for you (Back to the Future style .)
Whatever it is, I want to hear it.
I don't want you to just say, I turn my lights on and off automatically. Tell us how you do. This will be for newbies to get some ideas on how to automate their homes, for DIY'ers to get some ideas on how to upgrade/add-on to their home automation, and to get some discussion going here.
Give us some details. What equipment are you using? Where can we get it? How much will a basic setup run (approx.)? How much work is involved?

Ok, I'll start. I have an ITI Concord RF-16 system (in my little 1 bed/1 bath Apt.) that has X-10 capabilities. I've added the Env. Sensor to control the Thermostat (however, without the Phone Module it's pretty useless.) I'm just using the basic X-10 wall switches to control lights from my keypads and keychains. We also rent a garage here at my complex, I'm using an ITI Quickbridge receiver to control the garage door from my keychains * output (since the complex won't give me a remote to use.)

That's just a few examples of some of the things I want to hear. I know it's not much, but you can't do a whole lot in a 1 B/1 B apt.

But, I'm going to be buying in the next year (fingers crossed), and I want to get some ideas of what I should do with my home. So I want to know what you guys have out there.

So let's hear it...
Old 02-04-03, 02:46 PM
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Post Your Home is Already Automated! Just add to what you already have.

Hey SafeWatch

Been thinking about what I have done to automate my home. We all have some sort of automating devices. Programming a VCR to record you favorite show or to set your coffee maker to start at 6 am are some basic forms of home automation. Yes I do have the X10 wall switches to control the lights via remote controls. Although sometimes lights will switch on by themselves, I do not consider this automation. But someday I hope to work the bugs out of the X10 system and then to control them via software on a computer to command “scene lighting” and other auto activated routines. If I get to that point that’s when I will consider the X10 devices a form of home automation.

Along with my coffee maker, alarm clock and VCR. I have a programmable thermostat programmed around my work schedule. It’s a really great energy saver. I plan to upgrade it. The one I have now limits you to only two programs, a weekday program and a weekend program. This is fine if you work five days a week. But I only work 4 days a week. Not bragging, as I have to work 11 hours a day. I am looking for one that allows individual programs for all days of the week and some how adjustable via a remote control.

Another thing I have done is to automate task of turning on and off certain lights. I was the worst at leaving lights on all day. I would return from work to find that I had left a bathroom light and or a closet light on all day. I have replaced all the switches in my water closets, pantry and bedroom closets with Leviton Decora Occupancy Sensors. Theses cost about $17 a piece. I have replaced 7 switches so far totaling $120. So now I walk in to a closet, the motion timer detects my presence then cuts the light on. Five min after I leave its cuts it off. These are easy upgrades if you do not mind doing 110v electrical wiring. Just turn of the breaker first.

I have the motion censor spotlights around the exterior of the house for security and convenience. They cost about $20 dollar a piece. You can get cheaper ones but the experience of standing on top of a ladder at all five corners of the house again to replace defective units is something I’d rather experience as least as possible. Keep in mind my house was already wired with floods at all five corners. Just remember to switch the breaker to off as 110 volts Bites. Then swap the fixtures according to the instructions. So all 5 lights cost me about $100 bucks. --- Here a tip for best coverage of spotlights. Don’t point the spotlights to the same corner they are mounted on. They should point across the front yard to the furthest corner of the lot in the front and the other light of the same fixture should point to the furthest corner of the side yard toward the back. I E If you have two fixtures on the front corners of a house. The left fixture should point across to the right front yard and vise versa with the right fixture. The others spotlights of the front fixtures should point to the very back of your side yard. If your house has lights on all four corners do the same crossing technique in the back and sides of the house. Sometimes security lights are referred to as “floodlights”. Does not mean you need to actually use “Flood” style light bulbs in the fixtures. You should use Spot bulbs not Flood bulbs for this to work best. Your house will have the coverage of Fort Knox just by aiming your lights across the yard instead of directing them to the yard closest to the lights.

I also auto control my “Tacky Lights”. I have low voltage driveway / walkway lights that are controlled via a master timer and a photo eye. The total cost of this setup was about $70. The light kit cost $20 from home depot for a set of ten lights with 50 feet of wire and a transformer with built in timer. I have two sets. I bought an extra 100 feet of wire for $10 to make further runs. Separate timers for each set of lights are impossible to time together. The timer of one set would get out of sync with the timer of the other set. One set would come on then 15 or 20 min later the other set would come on. To solve this I cut a 15 foot drop cord about in half. I spliced in a $7 photo sensor eye in the middle of the cord joining it back together. Have someone else do this if you’re not familiar with how to splice a cord. I will now refer to this cord as the “photo cord”. I then plugged both transformers with their independent timers disabled into the photo cord. The photo cord is plugged into the outlet that’s near the garage window. The window is where the photo eye is placed. When it’s dark the lights come on when its not they go off. This is great because you do not have to adjust the timers for different times of the year. To keep them from running all night I plug the photo cord into to a $five dollar plug in timer instead of straight into the wall outlet. I have programmed it to shut off power to the photo cord for four hours during the night. So now my lights come on at dusk, go off a 1:00 am, back on at 5:00am and then off at dawn. You could actually install bigger transformer with a master timer and a photo control but much more expensive.

The next lights I have automated are my front porch lights. I leave these on all night. So I have designed these to auto operate dusk to dawn. They are controlled with another $7 photo sensor. The photo sensors wires terminate just behind it to the wall switch. The wall switch and the sensor are located in the same exterior wall. The sensor is mounted just above the doorbell. Another option would have been to wire the photo sensor directly to a light fixture but I use a dimmer on the lights; the builder went over board with three 100-watt can lights on the porch. So the power needs to go to the photo sensor first then through the dimmer to the porch lights.

My sprinkler system is another one of my automated system. The original timer has been upgraded to an odd/even calendar capable Rain Bird Timer system. Not sure to the model number. It cost $50 off Ebay. Best of all it has a remote control. The remote is more for showing off or "eye candy". Most of my home control and automation come to be because of the "eye candy" factor. The system is low voltage. But still unplug the transformer (wall wart) first. The install is basically define/tag the wires of the original timer. Mine has seven wires one ground wire and six zones wires 1-6. Not including the wall wart 2 more wires. I first identified which zone was which then decided on a more logical order. I decided what were grass zones and what were flowerbed zones. Then facing the yard from the house, looking at the street, I ordered the grass zones left to right for zones 1-3. Zone 4 and 5 are my front and side flowerbeds. The very last is the back yard zone. Maybe too much detail but this helps me understand what zone is what. This helps when showing off the systems remote control feature.

Ok this is all I can think of right now. I may add more if I think of anything else. The main point is that home automation is more commonplace then people realize. Home automation does not have to mean dealing with all sorts of complicated wiring, equipment, computer controls and switches. Its help keeps you from dealing with all the equipment, computers controls and switches.

BRgds Mot

Last edited by mot; 02-04-03 at 03:10 PM.

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