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Home Automation with Mac OS X, Part 2
Pages: 1, 2, 3

My Home


My Home's First-Floor Zones

Here we have four zones on the first floor. Two of these zones are on the same house code, while the remaining two have no home automation at all (we never use the dining room, and the kitchen has ceiling fan/wiring issues). There are six lights with controllers and one appliance with a controller (the fountain in the back -- A8 -- is not pictured). There is one motion detector on the stairs. Using the single house code, in conjunction with the Indigo software, all of the downstairs lights can be controlled by the Slimline wall switch, the TV remote, and the keychain remote.

Entryway Modules and Controllers

Porch lights: both porch lights are controlled by one wired wall switch (A1).

Stair light: controlled by one wired 3-way wall switch (A10).

Slimline Switch: on the wall (controls A1, A2, and A3).

Motion detector: mounted on the wall going upstairs (controls A10).

Also useful here is the keychain remote (controls A1 and A2).

Entryway Commands

A1: Front Porch Lights Only

A2 "Home": Indigo turns on porch lights, living room lights, stair lights, and upstairs lights.

Living Room Modules & Controllers

Transceiver: nothing plugged into it. (A1).

Floor Lamp: controlled by a screw-in module (A5).

TV Lamp: controlled by 2-way lamp module (A6).

Table Lamp controlled by Socket Rocket (A7).

Living Room Commands

A3 "Watch Movie": Indigo turns off A7, dims A5 and A6 to 25%.

A4 "Go To Bed": Indigo turns off A7, dims A6 and A5 to 50%. Turns on A10, A12 (upstairs). Timer is enabled for five minutes, which then turns off A5 and A6.

As you can see, by using one house code downstairs, I can effectively control everything in those two zones individually and through the Indigo software.

Installing Home Automation

Now we finally get to roll up our sleeves and play with some of this hardware. Let's start with the mandatory tools list.

What You'll Need:

  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver with a medium-sized head
  • Modules unpacked and remotes with the appropriate batteries
  • If installing wired or inline modules, basic electrical wiring experience is a must
  • Six-in-one outlet or pigtail (optional)

Test Your Home

The first thing I suggest when installing your solution is to do a very basic test.

Step 1: Plug in a Transceiver

Find a location in your home to place a transceiver. Leave the default house code set to A.


My "A" Transceiver Resides Behind the Living Room Couch.

You'll notice that these modules are major space hogs. I have three solutions for this. One is a simple six-in-one plug adaptor that simply plugs into existing outlets and replaces the normal switch plate. You can also buy short "pig-tail" cables that plug into the outlet and allow you to plug the module into its cable. You can also use an extension cord.

Step 2: Modules

Take a number of lamp/appliance modules (perhaps three) and set their unit codes to A2, A3, and A4. You'll find the flathead screwdriver works best to switch the codes.


A Flathead Screwdriver Makes Changing the House/Unit Codes a Snap

Next, plug your lamp modules into different lamps in different rooms around the house. This will not only help to test for phase problems (signals having trouble crossing one leg of a home's wiring to the other), but also will help to test the signal strength of the transceiver/remote. For example, my downstairs A1 transceiver cannot hear RF signals from the second floor of the house (this can be fixed with Indigo).


Test Your Solution

Step 3: Try it

First, try pressing the "A1" command and listen to hear if the transceiver clicks on/off. Then walk around the house, testing your lamps/appliances, to ensure that your equipment is working.

Troubleshooting

If you find that your transceiver is not responding and none of your lamps are turning on, double-check your house code settings. Also, make sure the batteries in your remote are fresh and your light bulbs are working.

If one light turns on, but others in the same room do not, try moving your transceiver to the same outlet as the lamps that aren't responding. If the lamps turn on, odds are you have a phase problem in your home. You'll need the Smarthome Phase coupler.

Be sure you verify which type of plug your dryer uses before you order!

If your lights are turning on and off by themselves or are behaving erratically, you may need to purchase a Smarthome FilterLinc.

Continue with the Installation

Once your test is working and you've ironed out the bugs (if you have any), install the remaining components.


Behind the switch plate: The wall switch on the left controls my porch lights. The one on the right (3-way) controls the stair lights.

Wall Switches

These are a little larger than most light switches. If you have installed dimmer switches in the past, you know that they can be a tight fit in the wall, especially if you have multiple X10 switches. It is important after installing these switches to leave the switch plates off until you have verified that they are working properly and you have finalized their unit numbers. Otherwise, you will be removing the switch plate more often than you would like.

Safety note: when installing any type of X10 wired solution, I cannot stress enough the importance of prior wiring experience and proper safety procedures. You should be sure to turn the power to the switch off at the source (breaker). If you aren't sure the power is off, you should use a multitester to verify this. A simple slip of a screwdriver can melt the screwdriver's steel. Imagine what it can do to your body.

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