This is a description about the automated features of the master bedroom in our home. The features described ensure my wife and I can get a good night’s sleep every night, provide lighting to enable us to walk safely around the house during in the dark, and give us an easy feeling by knowing that the automation processor is taking care of monitoring critical systems and keeping watch on the security in and around our home.
“Is it different to sleep in an automated home versus a regular home?” This is a question I was once asked, and my response was, “No, it’s exactly the same as sleeping in any other home, if you have a personal security guard, a full time janitor, and a butler that never sleeps !” But if you cannot afford to keep this type of help around, or prefer your privacy, then it is slightly different.
While sleeping, I once received an ALERT call to tell me “something really important is awfully wrong”, and that I’d better deal with it “right now!” It was about 1:30am in the morning, and STARGATE woke me to tell me that the main hot water heater was leaking (a sensor detected a small puddle of water on the floor under the heater). I was grumpy getting up and hated to loose the sleep, but only had to deal with a minor leak since I got this advanced warning the moment trouble was detected. STARGATE is the heart of my home automation system. He is on a 24-hour watch to entertain, maintain order, and protect our home and family, and occasionally show off for visitors. During the night, it gives us a comfortable feeling to know that critical systems are being monitored by a reliable computer. STARGATE monitors our two water heaters for leaks, he monitors our two freezers for temperature fluctuations from a failed compressor or possibly a door left ajar, and he monitors our outdoor plumbing for freeze protection. In addition, STARGATE puts prime emphasis on security and outside perimeter monitoring during the night, and takes appropriate action to keep from having to wake us. If all else fails, STARGATE will wake us up with an alert sound and a voice announcement describing exactly what it is that needs attention.
But other than the total sense of security, and the fact that we never are awaken by a wrong phone number, and not bumping into furniture in the night, sleeping in our home is about the same as anywhere else. The following paragraphs describe the features that make our master bedroom safer, convenient, and ensure we get our share of beauty sleep.
Since most of the time spent in our bedroom is after dark, I put a lot of emphasis on lighting. I have several independent lighting systems that all afford visibility when we get up during the night, yet don’t interrupt our normal sleep.
There are small green colored LEDs mounted flush in the doorways of all the house interior doorways and flush in the tile in the main walkways. You can walk through our home after dark and never hit a thing since your path is marked. It’s really handy when you leave a room and shut off the light. You are “flash blind” for about 5 seconds or so, but you can still see these LED lights and are safe walking around until your night vision improves. The effect is like that of a runway as you are landing and all you have to do is stay in the middle between lights!
I have a small light fixture under the box springs of the bed. This is extremely handy to light the way with a soft glow to be able to avoid hitting furniture when my wife or I get up in the middle of the night to attend to the children, or for a visit to the potty. STARGATE turns on this light every night, and turns it off at daybreak. There is a motion detector in the bedroom that senses movement during the night. If it senses a person up and walking, it turns the light up to full intensity for increased visibility, then dims it back down to nearly off when we’re actually in bed asleep. There is a bed skirt around the edge of the mattress that reaches the ground which serves to diffuse the light, and since the light is from under the bed, the overall effect is a soft glow on the carpet in the entire room, even when at full brightness, which is only 7 Watts. I enclosed the bulb in a screen mesh to keep anything from contacting it, but it really never gets too hot anyway.
I have an LED light fixture mounted just above the phone which is on my side of the headboard. The LED cannot be seen, since it is recessed into the woodwork, but it softly glows to illuminate the face of the Panasonic KX-T7030 phone. Now I don’t fumble around miss-dialing in the dark.
One other light in the master bedroom worth mentioning, is a 12 Vdc light that only comes on if power is lost in the home. Again, STARGATE makes the determination to turn on the light, and there is a DTMF function that I can dial to enable or disable these lights manually.
To be able to take advantage of automated features around the house, STARGATE’s capabilities are extended through the use of two separate X-10 remote control panels; One is mounted on the wall at the entry to the master bathroom, and the other is mounted in a custom built under-headboard console that I built.
A wall-mounted Leviton X-10 control enables me to control the bedroom lights, bedroom ceiling fan, and the stereo which is located in the living room, and a ROMANCE macro. Using STARGATE’s X-10 SEQUENCE event, I can control more than four X-10 addresses using this single Leviton 6400 type controller. In addition, the status LEDs built into this panel enable me to see at a glance what’s on and what’s not.
Another remote control in the bedroom is built into a custom console mounted on the under side of the headboard. The entire console is illuminated with glowing LEDs for use in the dark. In addition to the X-10 control, there is a clock, security control panel, and an indoor/outdoor thermometer. All of these controls and displays are within an arm’s reach while laying on our backs. The large digit displays and glowing illumination make it easy to control most automation features around the home with ease. If a startling noise is heard outside, a single push of a button causes a macro to be initiated that enables and disables lights around the house perimeter to warn off stray animals or intruders. Other levels of manually-initiated security measures exist if needed but I’ll hold those details back for now.
I have a Panasonic KX-T61610 with one phone located in the master bedroom. In addition to making outgoing calls and talking with the children from their rooms, the phones give me a very convenient means to control the many automation features around the house. By picking up the phone I can send DTMF control signals to STARGATE directly and he carries them out in silence or with a verbal confirmation message. The confirmation is always present in the phone, but only comes out the speaker of the room during the awake hours or when the DND mode is not enabled. This way, I can send commands and not wake my wife who might be asleep right beside me.
In addition to making normal phone calls and controlling STARGATE, the phones in the house can all dial using only a spoken voice command. I can pick up the phone and voice dial any number programmed into the system. This is accomplished using a VCS Voice dialer. This is very convenient when in bed on my back. I don’t have to turn over to see the phone to make a call.
As I am laying in bed before I doze off, I often think of something I should do the next day, and I am usually too tired to get up and don’t want to bother my wife. I can pick up the phone and dial a short DTMF command that enables STARGATE to take a voice message. He records my voice with his built-in digital recording capability and sets a flag to enable him to remind me first thing in the morning. This is a very handy feature for reminding yourself of appointments that you cannot afford to miss.
No discussion about communications would be complete without a discussion of un-communications. Around our house, and especially when we’re sleeping I prefer that this marvelous world of communications didn’t exist. I don’t mind being awaken by STARGATE in the middle of the night for a GOOD reason, but I don’t like being awaken from sleep by wrong numbers or annoying sales calls.
At night, the phones in our house go to sleep just like everything else. They don’t wake until 7am the next day. At 10pm, STARGATE and the Panasonic phone system go into a automatic DND mode. This is also a mode I can command anytime during the day if there is a sick child staying home and/or we don’t want to be bothered by a doorbell or phone ringing. There is one feature about this automatic DND feature that is different. I have programmed into STARGATE’s memory, the phone number of every one of our immediate relatives. If any of them call, STARGATE immediately comes out of his DND mode and lets the phone call ring on through. The person on the other end of the call never knows the difference. Outgoing calls are not affected by this DND feature and can be initiated at any time in a regular fashion.
For annoying sales callers or the chronic wrong number dialer, I have the capability to REJECT the last incoming call by simply pressing one button and confirming. From then on, if a call comes in from any rejected number, the caller gets a very polite message stating that the number they dialed does not accept their call. This happens without the house phones ever ringing.
The sound of a telephone ringing in our home is rare. It has been replaced by whole house caller ID announcements. All of the calls we receive are announced in the speakers throughout the house before we get a ringing sound. The Panasonic phone system has the ability to delay the ring by several cycles. I delay the ring by one ring cycle, which gives the caller ID audio a chance to be heard, and gives us a chance to answer the call before we ever hear a ring. If we aren’t fast enough, we eventually hear the ring, but that is rare. This same delayed ring makes the caller ID REJECT feature effective and blocks the unwanted calls without us ever hearing it ring.
Security and Situation Awareness
Security is one of my most important concerns, and I strive to make our home completely safe through automated means, in addition to the dedicated security system. By using STARGATE and some other electronics around the outside of the house, we are never startled by the arrival of a visitor, and are first to know when a person wonders into our front or back yard after hours, whether of good or bad intentions. When an outside sensor is tripped, STARGATE sends an IR command to the house TVs to tune them to the active camera channel. The picture immediately pops up showing the view of the area where the sensor was tripped, then reverts back to the normal program in about 5-7 seconds. If the security system is armed, STARGATE goes into a defensive posture to warn off intruders.
There is a 25″ color TV mounted in the ceiling of the master bedroom that swivels down to a 45 degree angle when it is turned on. Sometimes my wife dozes off to sleep while I’m still watching a program, and I hate to keep her up. To allow private watching, there is a set of headphones at the headboard that are dedicated to the TV audio. When I flip a little switch on the headset cord, the speakers in the TV mute but I still get to hear the audio in the headsets without disturbing her.
There is an IR distribution system installed in the house, and one IR receiver is in the bedroom, located adjacent to the TV, flush with the ceiling. This enables us to control the VCR, Cable de-scrambler, and any other IR device from our bed. STARGATE reacts to IR commands also, so this is yet another means to control our home automation features.
The normal speakers in the TV produce nice stereo signals, but I wanted better speaker separation. I installed an automatic speaker switch to route the stereo audio from the TV output to the two speakers in the bedroom ceiling for increased separation. When the TV is on, these speakers play TV audio. When the TV is off, the audio heard in these speakers is from what ever source is selected, and STARGATE audio announcements. When STARGATE needs to make a verbal announcement, he mutes all currently playing audio, makes the announcement, then restores the audio to its original source.
We have an in-wall gas fireplaces in the corner of our master bedroom. I can control the ignition circuit and the blower re-circulation motor from an X-10 control on the wall or the headboard. Also, when the ROMANCE macro is initiated, the fireplace comes to life along with a soft lighting effect and a classic CD selection.
To keep from having to slip in between cold sheets at night, STARGATE turns on the two heat blanket controllers in the master bedroom to pre-heat the bed before we retire for the night. This feature is disabled during the warmer months.
Every workday morning, I receive a phone call on my bedside phone that serves as a wake-up call. I keep it simple and just announce the outside temperature. This way I know exactly what to expect when I go outside to work. My two school-age daughters have a similar wake-up call, but wanted something a little more exotic. They choose to be awaken by a rooster crowing sound, which is one of the many built-in sounds STARGATE can produce.
If we wake up and the indoor temperature is above or below what I consider comfortable, STARGATE sends a command to the RCS thermostat to adjust the temperature accordingly. He does this about fifteen minutes before I actually receive my wake-up call to ensure it is just right when I get out of bed.
I enjoy listening to the news and music while I get dressed each morning. After STARGATE adjusts the thermostat and delivers my wake up call, he turns on the stereo and routes the audio to the master bathroom for me to enjoy. I can change the channel or adjust the volume from the phone in the master bathroom if I choose.
In closing, I just wanted to state that sleeping in an automated home is probably the ultimate test for an automation system. It provides a high tech shield for its human inhabitants as they sleep, but does not interfere with, or inhibit their normal lifestyles and activities before, during, or after they wake. It is exciting to live in times when all of these things are possible, and makes a person wonder how electronics will enhance our sleeping experiences in the future.
Off the Shelf components:
* GRI water sensor – $5
* Nortel Phone w/caller ID and recorder model M9516 – $99
* Bel-Tronics Caller ID unit Model AD-100 – $49
* VC-2060 VCS voice phone dialer – $260
* Automatic switch for TV speakers – $50
* HAS-7481 Motion sensor – $25
* HAS-4210 & HAS-4216 Leviton wall X-10 control – $71
* HAS-7152 Temp sensor – $17
* HAS-4080 Outdoor X-10 motion sensors – $40
* HAS-4060 X-10 Powerflash – $23
* HAS-2010 X-10 Universal module for fireplace gas control – $19
* HAS-2000SF X-10 Appl module – $8
* HAS-RCS X-10 thermostat
Off the Shelf Systems:
* JDS Stargate Automation Processor – $1000
* JDS IRXP expander – $295
* Panasonic KX-T61610 phone system – $2000
* Video distribution system – $600
* Xantech IR distribution system – $350
* 12 Vdc emergency lighting system – $200
* Door illumination LEDs w/power cube – $50
* Under headboard LED illumination w/power cube – $15
* Under bed lamp – $20
* Under headboard control console – $300
* TV in master bedroom ceiling – $800
*HAS part numbers are from Home Automation Systems