In my last couple of articles (Part 1, Part 2), I introduced you to some products that are used for home automation and won’t break the bank to purchase & install. So far I have shown you some X10 products and at a later point I will introduce you to some more recently developed products. But, since I’ve already shown you some X10 products for turning on & off lights and other devices, I want to show you a couple of ways to interact with those devices using other X10 products. Unlike my last article, nothing in this article will require a professional electrician or opening your circuit box.
As I have already mentioned in both of my previous articles, one of the easiest ways to control your devices within your home is the X10 wireless handheld remote which you can get from Amazon for about $15.00. It’s a very simple device to use and requires nothing more than setting the house code by turning the red dial on the front to match the house code set on your transceiver. Once you have the house code set (and have inserted the batteries), all you have to do is press the on or off buttons that correspond with the unit code of the device you want to control. This device is great to have on your coffee table or next to your bed. For example, pretend you are laying in bed and can’t remember if you turned off the front porch light or unplugged the Christmas tree. If that was the case, all you would have to do is grab the remote and push the buttons.
Since the X10 wireless handheld remote is wireless and light weight, you can easily carry the device with you from room to room. However, since you can use multiple controllers on the same X10 network, I would recommend buying a couple of these, especially being as cheap as they are. In the case of having one on your coffee table and another next to your bed, you could mount the one in your bedroom to the wall using the provided screws or using velcro with adhesive backing. Having multiple remotes helps when you move from one room to another but forget to grab the remote on your way out. It’s also nice for instances where you might hear a noise in the house and want to have the lights on in the other rooms before you go investigate.
In the event that you hear a noise somewhere else in the house and it actually turns out to be an intruder, another great X10 product you should have in your house is the X10 Active-Eye Motion Sensor which is available on Amazon for about $20.00. Just like other motion sensors, this one works with an infrared light that can’t be seen by the human eye. So, intruders wouldn’t be able to know the motion detector is there until it’s too late. The X10 Active-Eye Motion Sensor is very small, about 2.5 inches squared, and runs off of batteries making it very easy to install in most locations. I have installed several of these motion sensors in and around my house. Most of them are located on the outside of my house which will turn on the outer lights as soon as someone gets a little close to my house. They’re also nice for when friends and family drop by unexpected and I don’t have my porch light on for them to see. Having them on the exterior of my house also provides alerts to my internal system and mobile devices instead of waiting until the intruder (or friends & family) has made their way inside of my house before I am notified.
I’ve also tried installing these sensors in other places inside my house. This makes sense for places such as in the garage or attic, but didn’t really provide anything useful for other areas such as my office for anything more than security. If you want to use these for security, you could / should put them throughout the house such as in my case. But they’re not very good for controlling interior lights aside from the places I’ve already mentioned. For example, I thought it would be cool to have the motion sensor in my office turn on the overhead light when I entered the room and turn it back off again when I left. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had hoped. Even though the light was turned on immediately when I entered the room, it also turned off at unnecessary times such as when I had my head down soldering something. Holding a hot soldering iron in your hand is the worst time to have your lights turn off. The only way to keep the motion sensor from turning off the lights was to continuously flap my arms around in the air or to set the timeout on the motion sensor for a longer period of time.
In some places in my house, I have done exactly that. I have set the timeout on the motion sensor to not turn off until an hour or so after it has last detected movement. This is extremely helpful for when I forget to turn certain lights off. In the case of my office, it’s easier just to press the button on the way out of the room than to deal with the light continuously turning off at the most inappropriate times.
As for installation of the motion sensor, it can be mounted to any wall using the included screws or with velcro with adhesive backing as mentioned for the handheld wireless remote. Unlike the other X10 devices, the X10 Active-Eye Motion Sensor does not include dials for setting the house & unit codes. Instead, the sensor includes 2 buttons located behind the battery cover which must be held and pressed in specific sequences depending on which code you are setting. You can find the specific sequences in the provided instructions. One of the cool things about this sensor is that it can also detect motion & direction. It can also be configured to only broadcast commands at night, during the day, or both. This is extremely nice when you do not want it to turn on / off lights during the middle of the day. At my house, I never turn on a light during the day as I get enough sun light from the outside.
Another nice device for controlling your X10 network is the X10 Keychain Remote which you can get from Amazon for $15.00. Just like other key fobs such as the one for locking & unlocking your car, this remote can be attached to your keychain. The remote can be used for turning on & off lights as well as dimming those same lights. It can also be used for controlling other devices such as electronic door locks and garage door openers (which I’ll explain in another article). This product is especially nice for times when you are pulling into the driveway and want to make sure you have some lights on in the house. Like the motion sensor, this device does not include dials for setting the house & unit codes and is programmed using specific key combinations as explained in the instructions provided with the product.
Even though I really like this remote, one thing I don’t like about it is that it only supports up to 2 devices. For most people, that will be enough. But, if you’re anything like me, you would appreciate a keychain that can control more devices. However, don’t let the 2 device limit deter you from buying one of these. In a future article I will show you some things you can do to use this same keychain for controlling more devices at once. In fact, I will show you how to control an entire room with just the buttons that are provided on the remote.
Well, that’s it for today. I will share some other products for controlling your home automation system another time. At a later time I will also post some videos showing some of my home automation system in action as well as show you how to control your home automation system from anywhere in the world using your cellphone, tablet, and / or computer. I’m also planning on providing you with a complete price list of all the home automation products I have installed in my home. So, until then, be sure to share your home automation stories with us in the comments below.
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