Smart Home Hacks

Closer to the Jetsons

The dream of animating your house to automate the routine and alert you to the unexpected has reached the level where you need only four things:

1) An inexpensive software controller program for your PC or Mac.
2) Off-the-shelf X-10 components, which send signals along your 110 volt room wiring.
3) The Smarthome catalog of devices, hardware and parts.
4) This book, which tells you in satisfying detail how to use 1, 2, and 3 to accomplish (and extend) your fantasies.

-- KK 01/14/05


Not everyone in your household will be as enthusiastic about home automation as you are. That's to be expected -- everyone has different interests -- but unlike some hobbies, automating your home has a profound impact on others. If it's not done in a careful and considerate fashion, it can disrupt and bring frustration to a family's ultimate retreat: their home. For this reason, and just for common courtesy, it's a good idea to discuss your plans before you implement them. The results of some automation projects can be surprising, such as a talking house [Hack #28], so it's best to make sure you aren't the only one who will enjoy them.


The PowerLinc USB power-line interface


Hack #55. Know if the Garage Door is Open.
Use a magnetic switch and Powerflash module to keep track of the status of your garage door.


A keystone in my home automation system is that it knows when the house is unoccupied [Hack #70]. When the house is empty, the alarm system is activated, visitors coming to the front door are logged [Hack #74], and the network camera that I used to check in on my dog [Hack #82] is turned on. Furthermore, the first person who comes home to the previously unoccupied house is greeted with appropriate lighting and thermostat setting, and important reminders and announcements [Hack #28].


Hack #48. Put the House to Sleep for the Night.
When it's time to go to bed, have your house turn off all the lights, check to make sure things are secure, and ready your motion detectors to light the way should someone get up for a drink of water.

(For an avalanche of smart products in mind-numbing diversity, see the previously reviewed Smarthome catalog. -- KK — editors)

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