The following three examples are simple home solutions that can be implemented in nearly any home on nearly any budget, using equipment available from X10.com.

Affordable Home Automation Solutions

Paul Custodio | X10.com

Affordable Home Automation Solutions
by Paul Custodio, X10.com

The following three examples are simple home solutions that can be implemented in nearly any home on nearly any budget, using equipment available from X10.com.


The following three examples are simple home solutions that can be implemented in nearly any home on nearly any budget, using equipment available from X10.com. 

To the uninitiated, the words 'home automation' may bring to mind "The Jetsons", futuristic homes with closets that automatically dress you with just the push of a button, electric dog walkers, and more. Today however, home automation is a creative, viable choice to simplify daily life through creating schedules, consolidating common tasks and using remote controls to operate lights, appliances, security systems, and more. 

Certainly, complex schedules and macros can be created to complete several tasks at the touch of a button or when motion is detected. However, home automation does not have to be complicated, expensive or require an engineering degree. And at its very best, it can be easy, affordable and even fun. The following three examples are simple home solutions that can be implemented in nearly any home on nearly any budget, using equipment available from X10.com. The best thing about X10 home automation is that it's extremely easy to install, fully customizable and scalable to suit any need.

Motion-Activated Porch Light

Wouldn't it be great if your home could "see" someone approaching your front door after dark and automatically turn the porch light on? It's not only possible - it's also very affordable. Not to mention, using motion detectors to control lights is an economical, energy-saving benefit to home automation.

And if you'd like to add security to your Motion Activated Porch Light Kit, we recommend a wireless video camera and a motion-recording kit. Set your VCR to record who's at your front door whenever the motion detector is activated. 

The setup:  As a person approaches your front door after dark, a wireless motion sensor will send a signal that turns on your existing porch lights and causes a Remote Chime to sound inside your home. With the Motion Recording Package, when the wireless motion sensor is triggered, your VCR will automatically record what your camera views at the front door. With the Motion Recording Package, your wireless video camera will view who's at the door, and your VCR will record when the motion sensor is triggered.

Items needed: EagleEye Motion Sensor, Wireless Transceiver, Wall Switch Module, Remote Chime, XCam2 Wireless Video Camera, a Video Receiver, and a VCR Commander, 

Cost:  A special Motion Activated Porch Light Kit offer is available to hometoys readers for only $49.99 - and the Motion Recording Package for only an additional $50. Visit www.x10.com/hometoys now for more information. 

Time to install:  under 45 minutes.

First, select a location for the motion sensor where the only motion it detects would be when people are walking toward your front door - about 5-6 feet off the ground. For the purpose of this example, we'll set the Housecode to B and Unit Code to 2. Set the "off" delay to 10 minutes (this way, when no motion is noticed for 10 minutes, the porch lights turn off). You can also set the motion sensor so that it only turns lights on at night.

Plug in a Wireless Transceiver (set to Housecode B) inside the home within about 30 feet of the motion sensor. Set a Remote Chime to B2 (the same as the motion detector) and plug it into an outlet inside the home in a common area, like the living room. The chime will give those inside advance notice of someone approaching your front door - before they even ring the doorbell.

Finally, replace the light switch that controls the porch lights with an X10 switch set to code B2. Walk in front of the motion sensor to test the system and you're done!

For the Motion Recording Kit, place the XCam2 Wireless Video Camera in the best location to view people at your door. Connect the Video Receiver and the VCR Commander to your VCR. Follow instructions to program the VCR Commander to work directly with the motion sensor, and you're finished!

Create a "Smart" Office

Creating a macro can consolidate many individual tasks into a single command. There are virtually unlimited possibilities as to what can be accomplished with macros, from controlling several sets of lights with one button to having a room "come alive" when you walk through the door, as we're going to create here.

The setup:  As you enter your home office, a motion sensor "sees" you and sends a signal that triggers a macro, turning on the overhead lights, a desk lamp, a radio and your computer (Note: See your computer's manual on how to have it turn on when power is restored; you'll likely have to change settings in the BIOS).

Items needed:  ActiveHome starter kit (1 Lamp Module, 1 Wireless Transceiver, Remote Control, 2-Way Universal Computer Interface, Credit Card Controller), 2-Way Lamp Module, EagleEye Motion Sensor, Appliance Module, Wall Switch Module

Cost:  A special Smart Office offer is available to hometoys readers for only $89.99. Visit www.x10.com/hometoys now.

Time to install:  approximately 1 hour

First, we'll install a motion sensor near the doorway, but in an area that will only detect someone after they've walked through the doorway, not just past it. For the purpose of this example, program the "on" signal to C9. 

Set the Wireless Transceiver to C1 and plug it in; plug in a radio to the Transceiver. Plug a lamp into the 2-Way Lamp Module set to C2, and plug a computer into an Appliance Module set to C3. Install an X10 light switch to control the overhead lights, setting the switch to C4. 

Using the ActiveHome software, create a macro that responds to C9. The macro should be programmed to turn on the overhead lights first (C4), then turn on the computer (C3), then the radio (C1), then the desk lamp (C2). Set C2 to dim up from 0% to 50%. (2-Way Lamp Modules can dim up from the off position, whereas standard Lamp Modules start at 100% brightness and dim down.) Once your macro is created, upload it to the 2-Way Universal Computer Interface and test your new system. Tip: set up another macro on your own that shuts everything down.

Rise & Shine Macro - Creating a False Sunrise

Macros can also be used to automatically turn on lights and trigger other various events over a period of time. For example, for those of us who could use a little extra help getting out of bed in the morning, having lights dim up over a period of 20 minutes can trick the body into thinking the sun is rising, gently rousing us from a deep slumber. And what better way to wake up than to the smell of a fresh pot of brewing coffee?

The setup:  Each weekday morning at a set time, the bedside lamps will fade up from 0% brightness to 100% brightness over a period of 20 minutes, when the overhead lights will also turn on, along with a radio and a coffeepot.

Items needed:  ActiveHome starter kit (1 Lamp Module, 1 Wireless Transceiver, Remote Control, 2-Way Universal Computer Interface, Credit Card Controller), two 2-Way Lamp Modules, Appliance Module, Wall Switch Module

Cost:  A special Rise and Shine offer is available to hometoys readers for only $99.99. Visit www.x10.com/hometoys now.

Time to install:  under an hour

Plug a radio into the Wireless Transceiver set to D1. Replace the light switch that controls the bedroom's overhead lights with the Wall Switch Module set to D2. Plug the bedside lamps into the 2-Way Lamp Modules, one set to D3, the other to D4 (this allows for individual lamp control outside of the Rise & Shine Macro). In the kitchen, plug the coffeepot into an Appliance Module set to D5.

Now you'll create a macro using the ActiveHome software. Program D3 and D4 to turn on to 10% brightness at 6:30 a.m., increasing 10% every 2 minutes (you'll need to set each step in the macro; 20% at 6:32, 30% at 6:34 and so on). Then set D1, D2 and D5 to turn on at 6:50 a.m. Once your macro is created, upload it to the 2-Way Universal Computer Interface and test your setup. Optional:  in the same macro, you can then program everything to shut off after a set amount of time (have everything shut off at once or stagger them-have the bedside lights shut off, then the radio, then the overhead lights and finally the coffeepot).

All of the above solutions are easy to implement, extremely affordable, and great introductions to the world of home automation. Of course, we have accepted the fact that our meals won't be lovingly prepared by a smiling, apron-wearing robot any time soon. But after completing any of the simple set-ups we've discussed, it's easy to see that with the variety of home automation products available today, the possibilities are almost endless.

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