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Reload this page Automating Homes

Here are my notes on making our home safer, friendlier, more fun (and hopefuly not more confusing).


Topics this page:

  • The Lifestyle
  • Hardware Technologies
  • Signal Technologies
  • Controlled Devices
  • Remote Controls
  • Wireless Transceivers
  • X10 Limitations & Workarounds
  • Computer Interfaces
  • Design Software
  • Video Displays
  • Wiring
  • Your comments???

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    Set screen Home Lifestyle Scenarios

      My wife asks "How Lazy Can One Get?" But integrated home systems combine security with lighting and HVAC controls.

    • As I'm getting ready to leave my home, when I arm the system to away mode, the system helps me save electricity by informing me which doors or windows I need to close, and helps me lower the thermostat, turn off TVs, my PC, the hot water heater, etc.
    • A HAI controller senses my actions and sends additional commands according to a program.

      HARMONY REMOTE 880 Advance Universal Remote. Just $159.99
    • As I'm driving back home, I use my cell phone to call up the computer to tell the house to start heating up or cooling down, and boot up my PCs. This way, I arrive to a comfortable house.
    • As I drive up to my house, when I press my garage door opener, the motion sensor alarm is automatically disarmed and the entry lights automatically come on (no more stumbling around in the dark).
    • When I'm on the couch, I don't need to get up to dim the lights because I have a universal remote that also controls all the lights. I can be lazy with impunity.
    • When I'm in bed, I can give voice commands to switch off all the lights downstairs (no stumbling through the cold to turn things off).
    • Voice recognition module
    • Instead of an annoying alarm clock, my drapes automatically open at a set time so I can I can enjoy the morning view. The drapes stay open in the mornings to warm up the house. But they are automatically closed in the afternoon to block out the sun.
    • $300/$90 U-cord drape controller + X10 module
    • When I'm sleeping or away, if motion is detected in the driveway, floodlights come on (if it's daylight), video camera images are wirelessly sent to a server on my PC. I can retrieve these pictures on the internet using my cell phone. This way, I enjoy the wildlife.
    • $40 Floodlight with camera.
    • If an intruder or glass breakage is detected a SMS message is sent to every phone in my family.
    • $20 Security Glass Break Detector (GB10A) on windows.
    • If I don't like what I see, I can turn on the sprinklers and soak 'em.
    • Irrigation

      webpage article Bob Vila's Getting Connected special feature

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    Set screen Hardware Technologies

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      This scenario above requires integration of signals bridging across several frequencies and protocols (cell phones, RF devices, etc).

      Set screen Signal Technologies

      The two major carrier technologies used to send control signals are X-10 and Zensys. The Z-WaveT wireless RF (Radio Frequency) mesh network branded by Sylvania and Intermatic was acquired by Sigma Designs Each device repeats signals to other devices, so the controller doesn't need to be close to the receiver (as X10 receivers require).

      Some new companies are forming based on Z-wave technology, such as Smart things which makes GE sensors for doors, lights, switches, etc. which Z-wave talks to their $99 smart hub.

      Set screen X-10 Controlled Devices

      X-10 is line of products that send signals through electrical power lines to several types of controllers. There are several versions of signal protocols:

      • "CM11a" is a X10 computer interface compatible with software ActiveHome, HomeDirector, and CM12u (UK).
      • "CM17a" is a small X10 computer interface. Also known as the X10 FireCracker.
      • "CP290" is an older, obsolete X10 computer interface.
      • "TW523" is also an older X10 interface.

      For a built-in look, replace standard switches and receptacles with X10 versions:

      • $10 ($15.99 list) SR227 X10 Super Socket Wall Receptacle - Rated at 120VAC 15 amps and 1800 watts unrestricted load. Only the top plug is X10 controlled.
      • $23 XPR wall receptacle is rated at 120 VAC 20 amps, with both X10 controlled.
      • $26 XPR2 wall receptacle single X10 controlled plug is rated at 240 VAC 20 amps
      • $9 WS467 X10 500W Wall Switch
      • Dimmer switches

      Different controllers are needed for different wattages.

      • 2 pin Lamp modules take 15 amps and 1800 watts unrestricted load.
      • X10 TW523 or PSC05 power line interface modules
      • $13 2-prong AM486 & 3-prong AM466 Appliance Modules take 15 amps, 1/3 hp, 500 watts are used to control fans, air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, coffee pots, stereos, TV's, etc.
      • For those who think the extra box unsightly, replace wall plugs with Wall Receptacle modules. The bottom recepticle is not controlled and thus always live.
      • The $125 HAI thermostat has a connector to communicate.
      • $13 Lamp module LM15A go between bulb and socket. These may not fit the lampshade.
      • The RLM20 Screw-in lamp module, after being added to a hot socket, learns its code settings from 3 identical ON commands from any X10 controller. But I can't control it from a wall switch.

      Caution Some units respond to ON/OFF and ALL UNITS OFF, but not to ALL LIGHTS ON or DIM/BRIGHT commands.

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      Set screen X10 Protocol Limitations

    • The X10 protocol is capable of managing up to 256 devices because each controller unit is set at time of installation to recognize a 8-bit code consisting of a 4-bit House Code (A-P) plus a 4-bit Unit Code (1-16).
    • There is no conflict management nor error detection or correction in the transmission. So if you only need to use 6 different codes, use combinations that differ by 2 bits — combinations bolded in the table below. An anonymous contributor suggests that X10 is not so logical as to assign use binary "0000" for A and 1, "0001" for B and 2, etc. as assumed by Don Middleton:

        House Code   Unit Code   Assumption   Binary Signal
      A 1 0000 0110
        B 2 - 1110
        C 3 - 0010
      D 4 0011 1010
        E 5 - 0001
      F 6 - 1001
      G 7 0110 0101
        H 8 - 1101
        I 9 - 0111
        J 10 1001 1111
      K 11 - 0011
        L 12 - 1011
        M 13 1100 0000
        N 14 - 1000
        O 15 - 0100
      P 16 1111 1100

    • Using different codes not only gives you more precise control, it is also a more reliable approach because when X-10 devices are daisy-chained on the same line, The first device receiving the X10 signal consumes the signal strength and the signal may not be strong enough to reach the next device.

    • There is a lag of at least a 0.3 second for signals to get transmitted, received, and acted upon. Expect a 3-4 seconds when using PC software.

    • X-10 signals don't travel past GFCI recepticles and surge suppressor strips, so we use a whole-house surge protection unit.
    • When X10 signals have to travel on long runs, to avoid signal loss (attenuation), plug in a $85 Boosterlinc Plug-in PLC Signal Booster (4827).
    • To bridge between 100V legs, plug the $80 SignaLinc Plug-in Coupler-Repeater 4826B onto the 220-volt dryer outlet to detect and amplify X10 signals. This works because most homes have 2-phase 220V power that splits into two separate 110V legs. You can tell if this will work if signals travel only when your dryer is running. If that doesn't work, an electrician is need to install a Cross-Phase Amplifier/Repeater.
    • To avoid signals being transmitted between neighbors on the same electrical transformer, have an electrician install a Signal Blocker a the meter/power entry box.
    • Energy saving florescent lights in an incandescent socket create a lot of AC line-noise. A filter is needed.
    • "Bright", "Dim", and "All LIGHTS ON" signals are only received by "light controlling receivers" with resistive loads (incandescant light bulbs with filaments).
    • "ALL UNITS OFF" commands are recognized by all lamp and appliance modules.

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    Set screen X10 RF & IR Remote Controllers

      Human-operated remotes controlling home electronic equipment (TV, VCR, DVD, FM Tuner, WebTV, TiVo) emulate IR (Infra Red) signals at frequency up to 78 kHz and 455 kHz (B&O).

      X10 controllers eminate RF (Radio Frequency) signals at 418 MHz inside and 433.92 MHz outside North America. Genie garage door Intellicode remotes (1995 and after) run on 390Mhz.

      • $13 KR22A Credit Card sized Keychain Controller
      • $4 KR19A SlimFire Keychain Remote
      • $18 UR73A 5-in-1 RF/IR Platinum universal SuperRemote or
      • $20 UR74A 5-in-1 RF/IR learning remote
      • MT10A Mini Timer
      • 6-in-1 Universal Remote
      • $25 VK62A Anywhere 2000 Remote
      • $10 HR12A PalmPad controller
      • UR85A Showtime Remote
      • Phillips Pronto remotes $100 RU950, $245 16-gray-scale 320x240 pixel TSU3000, $620 256-color RFX6000, $720 TSU7000 but the protocol for X-10 RF differs from the protocol for X-10 IR commands. Set the device to RF instead of IR channel 0 and ID 0. for the $95 RFX6000 to convert from RF to IR. CodeGenT generate the RF format, IR543, and IR543AH codes.

      controller Signals to controlled devices are sent from computers

      Set screen Wireless Transceivers

      The X10 line also includes RR501 and TM751 transceivers that listen for 310Mhz radio signals from wireless remote controls and other devices and retransmits them over power lines to controllers (power line interface modules):

      Devices that listens for wireless signals and passes them on to X10 modules by sending PL513/ITM751 signals on the powerline To send (310Mhz Radio Frequency) signals to controllers:

      • Individual transceivers listen are set to listen for just one of 16 house codes:
        • $10 X10 CM17A RF serial interface is one way send only.
        • $12 "Super" Transceiver RR501 is two-way (sends and receives signals) and can be polled for "status" by automation software.
      • The $70 V572A Whole House Transceiver receives all 16 house codes at once and provides further 200 foot reception range due to its external antenna. The ranges that it supports (not individual codes) are configured through a PC serial port. It does not receive extended X10 commands. It requires the V572A X10 RF Module.
      • Other receivers include Lutron Radio-RA, OnQ ALC and Lightolier Compose.
      • The $75 W800 RF Receiver listens for signals (including extended X10 commands) and directs them to a dedicated computer to act on them.

      The $12 SC546A Remote Chime listens for X10 Motion Sensor activation by the PR511 Floodlight Motion Detector or FloodCam or computer interface.

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    Set screen Wireless CCTV Cameras and RF Video Receivers

      X10 CCTV (Closed Circuit TeleVision) cameras send video signals at 2.4Ghz. The XX11A XCam2 package includes a small XC10A camera. The XCam2 Nightwatch cam, Anywhere Cam, and Anaconda video cameras transmit video and mono audio signals.

      The camera is powered on and off remotely by controlling its XM10A power supply. It can be up to 100 ft. away from the $16 X10 VR36A, $50 X10 VR31A video/audio receiver, or video-only VR30A receiver which attaches to a TV via a coax cable.

      The receiver also receives 2.4GHz signals from the $28 Video Sender VT32A, which is great for Superbowl and Pay-Per-View parties. This allows you to have all your TVs play from a single signal from one cable/satellite box.

      Cameras and receivers can be set to one of 4 frequency settings (A,B,C,D).

      Set screen Video to PC

      There are two ways for a PC to process video signals from a X10 receiver:

      Set screen Controlling InfraRed Entertainment

      Commands to tell a VCR to "record" (like from a remote) are generated by the RF to IR converter
    • "VCR Commander I" UX17A or UX21A
    • $25 "VCR Commander II" UX23A for XCam2 transmits learned IR commands to turn on the VCR when it receives a signal from 16+ motion sensors.

      To extend the reach of InfraRed (IR) signals, get the $35 PowerMid IR Extender that converts and transmits IR signals using RF.

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    Set screen Telephone Interfaces

      To control X10 modules from a touch-tone phone like an answering machine on your phone line:

      X-10 TELECOMMAND 100

      The $33 TR16A Touch Tone Controller (formerly known as the Telephone Responder) controls up to 10 modules

      Aiphone LE-series or LS-series intercom: Depress CALL button and call tone will signal master station. After master station replies, communication from door station is hands free. Selective door release, activating the door strike associated with the door where communication is established

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    Set screen Computer Interfaces

      An interface between computers and X10 signals on power lines by
      1. the X10 ActiveHome CM11A two way serial or USB interfaces compatible with IBM Home Director HD11A, Radio Shack plug'n power, and the X10 CM12U. The Serial control need a COM port and dedicated IRQ interrupt.
      2. Smarthome's Powerlinc Integrated Home COntrol 1132U USB interface uses HID (Human Interface Device) drivers that come with MS Windows.
      3. The lowest cost approach is the $9 X10 CM17A used by the FireCracker software freely downloaded from X10 or for Flipit on UNIX It sends RF signals from a serial port to X10 transceivers. And there's one less wire between your computer and the wall.

      For a PC to receive control signals from RF motion sensors and remote control pads (such as the $130 X10 CR12A), get the $20 X10 MR26A PC Receiver. Alternately, the $18 PC Transceiver CM19A also sends RF signals to robotic cameras such as the NINJA Pan 'n Tilt Camera Mount.

      BOOM 2000, MultiView,

      Set screen Integration Software Applications

      Open Source Automation is free if you can use Visual Studio and MySQL with code from their Github.

      tool FREE MisterHouse open source Perl software for Windows / Linux/ Macintosh OS X

      tool The $150 software for Windows control X10 devices through the USB or RS232 $35 PowerLinc converters.

      Control X10 devices though in-home voice commands through a $72 modem that answers voice calls or a $230 room-wide acoustic microphone from Homeseer software.

      Control X10 devices from a telephone by installing HAL (Home Automated Living)'s $35-$300 voice recognition software or using Homeseer software using a $72 modem that answers and interprets voice calls.

      Control X10 devices from your own program through's $23 PSC05 Two-way Powerline Interface

      tool Indigo (Macintosh)
      tool Xtension (Macintosh)
      tool HCA (Home Control Assistant) for Windows works with HCAWeb server. It from the US National Weather Service website METAR weather data (formatted according to WMO Manual 306) updated every 5 minutes for any ICAO Location (such as "KPRC" for the station at Prescott's Love Field airport).
      tool PowerHome for Windows

      HEYU! X10 Control for Linux sends signals to CM11A

      Programmable Thermostats

      • CellAutomate scans emails for X10 commands (from pre-approved email sender addresses). For PDAs with a web browser, the software generates a "Remote Control File" that allows them to issue commands through a point and click user friendly interface.
      • Home Automation Web Ring
      • X10Pro and SmartHome

      Web cams

      Video pictures can be sent to a webcam Active WebCam

      The ultimate is a controller (a dedicated computer) that listens to X10 signals and sends out additional signals. This level of automation is required in home security applications.

      X-10 Security or Contact Interface PF284

      The HAI system has its own battery-backed clock that sends signals out at pre-determined times.

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    Set screen Design Software

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    Set screen Video Displays

      Since 1080p projectors have dropped in price to near parity with Plasma and LCD panels($2,000), I've switched to display video on my 12 foot living room screen. Earlier models (at 1200 lumens) were not strong enough for daytime display, and dark indoor or twilight scenes were difficult to make out. But the 1600 lumens and 30,000 contrast ratio is as bright and comfortable as LCD screens.

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    Set screen Wiring

      Even though wireless systems are now available (from Bose, etc.), they are expensive and less performant than wired connections.

      Dennis at was very helpful. He recommends that I connect video using HDMI 1.3 cable without repeater.
      Type 1 up to 5m 3m=10ft $31.96, 13f=4m $36.44
      Type 2 to 8m Lashen has $186 for 75 feet (33 m)

      Heavy duty speaker wire. 10 guage Monster cable is about $1.55/foot.
      12 guage front, 14 avg, 16 guage 1 watt back channels wire Soundsational cable 2 or 4 ductor in a jacket. 500 foot rolls $235.99/ 3 diff colors (incl. purple).

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