Did you ever want to automate your home in such a way that you could control your lights and decorations automatically? This is a dream for almost everybody that decorates during the holidays. While it is true that you can get standalone timers to set up for certain decorations, these timers have to be individually programmed and you have to have access to the timer in order to change the settings.
I remember as a kid when we had the mechanical timers that you put the pins in order to create a “program” for the timer to follow. Often times the pins would miss or sometimes even get stuck as the timer tried to activate the switch. In addition, these mechanical switches were extremely noisy and the small clock motor that was in the timer used a certain amount of electricity to run. This option was great in the day but today; we have a lot more choices.
Personally, I have my entire house run by X 10. I have no normal switches anywhere. Everything is controlled by X 10 palm pads and remote switches. If the lights are not manually controlled with a remote they are totally automatic and controlled from my computer. In addition, I have used motion sensors to activate certain lights so that they are not on wasting energy when they do not need to be on. The system also saves energy by turning lights out automatically in case you forget to do so yourself.
There are several companies out there that offer home automation including X 10 and Insteon. X 10 is the flagship company and was it was founded in 1979. Most of the tips I am going to talk about today will deal with X 10 but can easily apply to any home automation system out there.
The truth is, home automation can be accomplished with or without using computer software. If you use software such as Active Home, your options of what you can do with your system are greatly enhanced. For example, if you use home automation software, you can create macros, which are essentially complex programs. Since using specific house codes and unit codes sets up X 10, you can specify a separate activity for each light or decoration you are trying to control.
For example, you might assign your icicle lights House Code A Unit 1. When you click the 1 on the remote, the icicle lights will either turn on or off depending on what button you press. Now, lets say you want to turn on your icicle lights, turn on your living room light to 50% brightness, turn on your driveway candy cane lights and shut off the porch light so you can see the decorations better all with one click. By setting up a macro on your computer, you can.
A home automation system will usually come as a starter kit with several remotes and modules all in one package. It will usually consist of lamp modules, appliance modules, palm pads, an RF receiver and software. Lamp modules should be used in cases where you are controlling lights that can be dimmed such as incandescent and LED. When you are controlling fluorescent lighting, you will need to use the appliance modules. For most holiday lighting and bow up applications, you will want to stick with the appliance module.
If you are not using a computer and you want simple control of your lights, sort out what lights you want to control on or off at the same time. For example, you might want all of your blow up decorations to shut off earlier in the night then your LED icicle lights. Simply set all your blowups to the same unit code and set the icicle lights to a different unit code. You will now be able to control both sets of lights independent of the other right from your easy chair.
If you want to make this all automatic, you will have to use home automation computer software or a separate timer designed for X 10. Personally, I recommend the computer option. Check with your home automation vendor on what software they offer for the kit you are purchasing.
So if you want to compete with the lighting display in Christmas Vacation, get yourself a home automation kit with software and let your ideas run wild. What you create can be truly amazing! Your options are endless.
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