Like everyone, I’ve been bombarded with ads from X10. I eventually decided to buy a camera, which led to buying ActiveHome. The ad sounded great indicating all things I would be able to do with this, but I was quickly discouraged. I really needed more power in the macros. For example, I wanted to turn my facade lights on from dusk to 11pm. No problem. But I also put up outside floodlights with motion detectors. If motion was detected, I wanted to do various things depending upon the time. If before dusk, turn off all outside lights (whether on or off). If after dusk, and before 11pm, then turn on all outside lights and turn off everything except the facade lights off after 90 second. If after 11pm, turn on all outside lights and turn them all off after 90 seconds. This is what I had anticipated being able to do with ActiveHome, but found out that this type of if/then logic was not possible.
This started my quest for something that gave me the ability to write complex macros for home automation. I found a lot of options, but was looking for something that fit my very limited budget. Lots of power (detailed control) at a low price. I decided upon PowerHome.
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Although it took me a while to become comfortable with the application, it wasn’t long before I was wonderfully surprised with all I could do with the application and all the help I received from technical support. Within days, I not only converted all my home automation ideas I was dreaming about into reality, it opened the door to a plethora of new possibilities.
* Fully programmable interface.
* Internal Web server for remote control and monitoring.
* Remote control via emails (can send emails as well as read specific emails with commands to execute)
* Voice Recognition.
* Text to Speech.
* User definable remote layouts allow for virtually any keystroke combination.
* Touchscreen friendly interface.
* Customizable display allows you to show floorplan layouts.
* X-10 control via CM11A, CM17A firecracker, MR26A Mouse Remote, CPU-XA/Ocelot
* Infrared control via CIR, Multi-CIR, Red Rat 2, CPU-XA/Ocelot, Slink-e
* Up to 5 infrared controllers and 5 X-10 controllers can be defined. Supports multi-zone IR.
* CD jukebox player control with playlists and autoprogramming
* CD database with CDDB support
* Video database
* Timed Events
* Full event and Web logging
* Multi-X control allows a sequence of X-10 commands for control (access 256 macros from your palm pad by pressing 2 buttons, 64 macros from your keychain remote by pressing 3 buttons.)
* Sunrise, Sunset, and Civil Twilight calculations
It works with following hardware controllers:
* X10controllers (for lighting and appliances):
CM11A, CM17A, MR26A, and CPU-XA/Ocelot.
* Infrared control (for Home Theater or other electronic devices that use IR remote control):
CIR (Computerized Infrared Remote), Multi-CIR, Red Rat 2, CPU-XA/Ocelot, and Slink-e.
* Your imagination (and necessary hardware) is the only limit to what you can do with PowerHome. The program gives you relatively low-level access to the various controllers with a somewhat primitive yet powerful programming language.
* The built-in web site to remotely view status and control devices from anywhere in the world works great and is very convenient.
* The ability to receive emails that are triggered by specific events (for example, my program sends an email to my mobile phone when I am away from home and motion around the perimeter of the house is detected. I can also use PowerHome’s ability to receive and interpret emails to perform specific functions via email. This means I could actually respond immediately to email alerts or control my devices for other reasons via my mobile phone (with email capability) even when I don’t have Internet access. This is great, but I must admit, the limiting factor here is my ability to type emails with special characters on my mobile phone. But it is possible (when I really need it). Of course, you can purchase other hardware that allows you to send X10 commands via the telephone, which can be interpreted by PowerHome to perform simple or complex functions. But the email feature is a low-budget way of accomplishing this.
* The text-to-speech feature is very nice. For instance, I have an intercom at the front door. When it is detected that someone is approaching the front door, the intercom will either greet them (during the day when we are home) and tell them someone will be with them in a minute, warn them (at night) that the house is protected and they are being monitored via video surveillance, or a combination of both (during the day, but we are away). This is all handled by PowerHome.
* Multi-X is my favorite feature. The application allows for multiple key sequences to be interpreted as a single command. The result is that devices with multiple housecode/unitcode combinations can be controlled from even the most simple remotes. For instance, I have many of the tiny keychain remotes (KR19A). Their small size makes it very convenient to carry them around, but the fact that it is only limited to controlling two devices make it pretty useless. Well, with Multi-X (and some slick programming), I use these remotes to control any of the devices using the first 8 unitcodes on any of the housecodes used in my house. This has added a new dimension to home automation for me. Since what good is it anyway to be able to remotely control several devices within your home if you don’t have a remote handy? Or if you have to find the right remote set to the correct housecode you want to control (or a small screwdriver to change housecode!), etc. No problem with Multi-X. This was a GREAT idea and a wonderful feature of PowerHome.
* The ability to use multiple controllers simultaneously. For instance, I use the MR26A to interpret RF signals and the CM11A to interpret X10 powerline commands and to execute X10 commands. I will also add devices to control IR devices in the near future. All (up to 5) can be used simultaneously with PowerHome. The limiting factor will usually be the available interfaces on your computer.
* Technical support has been wonderful. As I mentioned, I had some difficulty in getting started with PowerHome. Although I am “technical”, I’m use to getting a program and having it mastered within minutes with no outside help or having to read pages of documents. Well, that didn’t happen with PowerHome, but I did find a support forum no the website. Within 24 hours of posting my questions (and I had a few!), a very detailed response that directly answered my questions was provided. And the forum goes beyond just technical support questions – there is a section to request new features for future releases of the program. Many of the requests provided there are being incorporated into the next release. (I can’t wait!) The forums have also been a great help in me finding other hardware and home automation ideas.
* This application also makes it quite simple to control any and all your home-automation devices and macros via the Control Center (once you manage to set this up properly, which may take a while in my case since I haven’t found the way to simplify the design of this just yet).
* Although powerful, this application is not extremely user friendly. Once you get use to it, it’s not so bad, but the current version leaves a lot of room for improvement in this area. But it appears this is a top priority in future releases, so I expect this to get much better relatively soon.
* The application is probably not for someone who doesn’t have at least basic programming skills. The programming language is rudimentary with no frills (not even comments!). For guys like myself who can remember programming in assembly language, it brings back good memories. But for many, I don’t think this will draw up such positive emotions – especially when you’re trying to debug the thing!
* There is no ability to download macros to the CM11A. It is expected that you use another application (such as ActiveHome) for this. But that means additional work. Although the CM11A can’t handle much of the complex macros created in PowerHome, it would be nice to have the ability to create and download “Fast Macros” and download these to the CM11A with the same application.
* The program does not run as a service (in the background). It must be started after login (can be part of Start Up group in Windows) and runs as a fully loaded application. I also found this to be a problem on Windows XP when the program is started by one user, but another user logs in to the system. There may be a workaround to this, but the bottom line is that this application does not run as a service (that is, in the background, independent of who is currently logged in with minimal resources being consumed if it is only monitoring and responding in the background, etc.). But this is being evaluated to see if it can be resolved in a future release.
* With my criteria of looking for a low-cost application to give me low-level and complex control of all my home automation devices, PowerHome was the clear winner. This one application, although one of the cheapest components of my home automation system, has opened “Pandora’s Box” to the possibilities of what I can do. I also see a road map for the application which will address its current shortcomings and add additional functionality to make it even more powerful.
* For those who are not so limited in budget for home automation and prefer a quick and simple means of accomplishing typical home automation tasks, this probably would not be the right choice.