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

Slimline Wall Switches Can Be Placed Almost Anywhere

Slimline Switches

There really is nothing to installing these wall switches, as they do not use any wiring. They operate on a simple watch battery and send RF signals to the X10 transceiver. The basic switch controls any house code you desire, but can only control unit codes 1, 2, and 3. A nice feature with the Slimline switch is that it can dim lights. The switch has self-adhesive tape on the back that is used to mount to your wall. You should clean your wall thoroughly before you attach it. Also, if you have a high-gloss wall finish or high humidity, it may have trouble sticking. I suggest using a silicon-based adhesive, like E6000. This way you can remove it later and it should peel off with no trouble (just be careful with the torque).

Motion Detectors

Installing motion detectors in the "right" location is a process of constant fine tuning. For example, on our staircase going upstairs, we had some difficulty because we didn't want it going off every time you walk past the staircase. It took a few days to finalize the best position for this particular detector. So you want to make sure you don't put the final screws into the wall until the detector works to your satisfaction. Instead, I recommend using tacks, tape, or pins during the testing phase. You might also look into setting it on a surface, like a bookshelf.

Can you see the motion detector? It's hidden behind the framed picture.

Screw-In/Socket Rocket Modules

The screw-in module has some heft, length, and girth to it. This is not for smaller table lamps or floor lamps with small lampshades. It does have a great benefit of being dimmable, and it works well where a plug-in module isn't practical. It can also be used outdoors if it's weatherproofed or installed upside down.

The Socket Rocket module fixes the size issue that you'll find with the screw-in, but cannot be dimmed. It can be used outside if it's weatherproofed or installed upside down. It's easy to program; the unit code is set by simply sending the same code over the house wiring three times in quick succession.

Notice the difference in sizes between a screw-in module, a Socket Rocket, and a regular light bulb.

Appliance Modules

These can be used in a variety of ways. I use one on a fountain, and another on Ikea halogen track lighting in my office. (I may have a few others lying around.) The Ikea lighting uses a transformer that is supposed to mount into a light fixture box or be hardwired onto the wall. I didn't want this ugly thing on my wall or ceiling, so I wired it with a plug and used an appliance module to control it.

This transformer just doesn't fit the look of my house.

PowerLinc USB Interface

Obviously, this has to be located next to the computer with which you wish to control it. Simply plug the USB cable into your computer and then into the PowerLinc module. Then plug the module into the wall. It has an "always on" pass-through plug built into it, which is handy.

PowerLinc module. The USB cable comes out the bottom, while the plug has a built-in pass through.

My Home Server

Phase Coupler

The phase coupler simply plugs into your dryer's 240v wall plug, and your dryer plugs into the phase coupler. If you do require a phase coupler, you really need to pay attention to which shape your house/dryer plug is before you buy the coupler. There are different types of plug configurations. Otherwise, installing the unit is as simple as plugging it in.

Plug the coupler into the receptacle and the dryer into the coupler.

Surge Protection

Like many electronic devices, your X10 components are sensitive to power-line surges. Why just protect your computer or entertainment system, when everything in your home is susceptible to the same danger? Instead of purchasing tons of crappy surge protectors, why not solve the problem at the source?

Think about installing a surge protector at your circuit breaker. While an additional $200+ investment might seem like a lot, it is really no more expensive than many UPS protectors, and covers everything in your house.

Leviton Surge Protector

Next Step: Software

Now that we have the basic hardware down, in the next article, we will start to program our home automation software and see some results.

Alan Graham is the creator of the Best of Blogs book series and is a frequent writer on the O'Reilly Network.

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