I have been into home automation and home entertainment for several years. When I was having my current house built, I had a lot of pre-wire placed in the walls for security keypads, thermostats, cameras, speakers, and video. And I also placed empty conduit in my walls in a few strategic places just in case I hadn’t thought of everything when I built the house (I didn’t, because I have already needed the conduit. Several times.) Here, I thought I would discuss my Home Automation (HA) setup.
First, I have the ultimate in home security, the Elk M1G. It is fantastic because it allows ethernet connectivity for monitoring by Elk specific programs or third-party applications, such as PowerHome. The end result is, if I open a door that is monitored by my security system, my home automation software, PowerHome, can detect that and react as I so designate. For instance, if I open my front door, the Elk tells PowerHome that the front door is open. PowerHome can check to see if it is dark outside, and if it is, it can turn my porch light on automatically. Then after I close the door, it will turn the lights off after four minutes. Want a text message if your security system alarm goes off? The Elk can handle this quite easily. Throw PowerHome on top of that and I could also have all the lights in the house start flashing. Starting to get the idea?
I have mentioned PowerHome already, so let me tell you about it. PowerHome is a very customizable and programmable Home Automation program. The best way to use it is to keep it running 24/7 on an HA PC. HA PCs are nothing special (but it is probably a good idea to find one that draws as little electricity as possible). I also use my HA PC as a Home Theater (HT) PC. PowerHome can easily interface with my security system, the Elk M1G, my lighting control system, Insteon, and other human interfaces such as infrared remote controls, email, and text messages. Because of the excellent integration between the Elk and PowerHome, I can easily write PowerHome programs to monitor my security system and react to changes. Similar to the example above, I have also written a PowerHome program that monitors my motion detectors in my house. If no motion is detected for 45 minutes and the system is not armed, PowerHome sends my work email and cell phones text messages asking if I forgot to set the burglar alarm. I can also monitor my garage door, turn on my garage lights automatically when I open the door, turn on lights at sunset and turn them back off at sunrise, and many other handy convenient features.
So, how do I turn on my lights? I use a lighting control system called Insteon. It allows me to link lights to switches in nearly infinite configurations. For instance, if I wanted my bathroom light switch to also turn on my garage light, I could do that. I don’t know why I would, but I could. I can also set up lighting scenes, such as movie watching and entertainment. Insteon devices primarily communicate with each other over the powerlines themselves, so they are very easy to set up. And the beauty of PowerHome and Insteon… they can talk to each other. PowerHome does this by the use of a USB Insteon module that plugs into a wall outlet. So, if I do turn on my bathroom light, PowerHome can also know about it and also open my garage door, or tun my stereo off. Again, I don’t know why, but I could. And PowerHome can also tell lights to turn on and off as well, such as at sunset/sunrise or upon a door opening.
Since my security system, lighting, and PowerHome are all so tightly integrated, I can also use a web browser from anywhere in the world, or my cell phone, and turn lights on and off, arm and disarm the system, and open and close the garage door. Not only is this convenient, but it also increases the home security and safety of the house. I don’t forget to arm my alarm, close the garage door, or turn the porch light on at sunset. Lights come on as I enter dark rooms. And I can monitor the whole system very easily.