In its most simple form Home Automation is
the ability to control Lighting & Household Appliances remotely.
Almost everyone already has a limited amount of Home Automation. When was
the last time you got out of your chair to change channels on the TV Set?
(Probably when you couldn't find the remote control!)
All you have to do now is build on this. Wouldn't it be great if with
the press of button you could turn off the main light and dim your table
lamps from the comfort of your favorite armchair?
Good News......You Can with
There is a technology called X-10 which although invented in
the UK in 1978 by Pico Electronics of Glenrothes, Scotland, is almost
totally unheard of there. It is however, VERY widely used in the USA. X-10
uses existing mains wiring in your house to carry "Messages" to special
Light Switches & Plug-in Modules. These Messages consist of 2
parts...An "Address" and a "Command". In total there are 256 X-10
Addresses and the Commands are OFF, ON, DIM, BRIGHT, ALL UNITS OFF, ALL
The Light Switches replace your ordinary switches and can be used in
exactly the same way, however they also respond to the Messages sent over
the wiring. The Plug-in Modules resemble the plug-in time switches on sale
in most electrical stores but come in 2 types.
- Appliance Modules which can switch loads of 13amps and respond to
OFF, ON, & ALL UNITS OFF commands.
- Lamp Modules which can only handle loads of 300 watts but respond to
all the commands.
Each module has two switches to set its Address. When a Message is sent
the module looks at the address and if it matches the address set on the
switches the device will respond to the command.
How do the Messages Get into the Wiring?
Several types of "Controller" exist to "Talk" to the modules. The most
basic is the "Mini Controller" which can control 8 addresses by means of
press buttons. This plugs into a mains socket and sends the messages when a
button is pressed. More than 1 module can have the same address so if for
example you had 3 table lamps in a room you could control them
simultaneously with 3 Lamp modules set to the same address, or
individually by setting the modules to different addresses. An Infra Red
version of this controller is available which when used in conjunction
with a suitable remote control handset (typically a "One 4 All 6") enables
16 addresses to be controlled from the comfort of your favorite armchair.
The "Mini Timer" resembles a small digital alarm clock and has the
ability to send messages at a predetermined time. Imagine turning on the
coffee pot 5 minutes before you get up so that when you stumble downstairs
bleary eyed a pot of freshly made coffee awaits you!
The latest piece of the X-10 jigsaw is the CM12U
which is a small white box resembling a 3 way adaptor which plugs into the
mains and your PC. Using suitable software the CM12U is programmed from
your PC to perform whatever function you require at whatever time you
require. At this point the PC can be disconnected, however you can leave
the PC on all the time and have direct control of all your X-10 devices
from the keyboard. The PC screen also provides feedback of any X-10
messages on your wiring so if someone in the kitchen sends a command to
turn off the outside lights, your PC screen shows the status of the lights
change from ON to OFF. Very Cool!
Home Automation can be further enhanced by integrating a security
system so that when someone walks up your driveway, the floodlights come
on and a picture from a CCTV Camera is displayed on your TV set. You can
also arrange that if you are away from home, your video recorder will
record the camera for a preset period e.g. 2 minutes so you can see who
has visited in your absence.
Basically the only limit to what can be achieved with Home Automation
is your imagination & your bank balance (or lack of it!). Anything you
can think of probably exists somewhere (usually in the USA) but at a
price. My aim is to construct projects to enable me get "High End" features at a budget price ..... and have the satisfaction
of saying "I Built That".