X10 lighting control - smart home on a budget
'Home automation made easy'
by Adrian Biffen
AeroHOST Web Systems
Bulletin: RollerTrol™ Automation Systems is Launched!
Lighting control is one of the first areas I tackled when I installed my system. I particularly like the idea of being able to walk into a room and have the light turn on automatically, without having to fumble for the light switch - especially if I'm carrying something or if it is dark. (for complementary home automation products such as lighting control and motorized blinds and shades, see our home automation DIY kit article)
There are three components that allow you to do this:
The motion sensor and switch are both set to the same specific 'address' so that each is sending or listening on the same 'channel'. The wireless motion sensor, powered by AA batteries that last for years, detects motion in the room and sends an RF (Radio Frequency) signal to the receiving antenna on the transceiver module, which then transmits the on/off control signal over the AC house wiring to the x10light switch in the room. You have to replace your regular switches with the x10 type, and if you have ganged switches for the same light you have to use the special x10 'master/slave' type.
The radio signal from the motion sensor is generally strong enough to transmit to a transceiver anywhere in a typical home, but I found it better to divide the house into two areas and use two transceivers placed centrally in each zone (plus it gives you twice as many device addresses to control).
Once the motion sensor detects movement in the room, it transmits the 'on' signal to the switch (via the transceiver) and then waits for a specified time period (programmable) before it sends the 'off' signal to the light switch. If no motion is detected during this 'wait' period, it will turn the light off; if motion is detected during the waiting period, it will send another 'on' signal, keeping the light on (resetting the wait period). You can set the wait time according to how you use the area ... for example, my bathrooms have a short wait period whereas other rooms may have longer durations set. You can also program the sensor to work only at night, as well as detecting dawn/dusk times for specific events to occur.
It is noteworthy to point out that you can use motion sensors to control multiple light zones simply by setting the x10 light switches to the same address code, and you can also use motion detectors to control other devices - not just lights. I do not tie my lighting control into the controller module because it simply isn't necessary to waste memory for simple light operation (and it also introduces an extra delay in the light 'on' response). This does not prevent you from addressing the light switches with the controller for an 'away' script for random lighting sequences to make the home look lived in. You may also prefer to use the controller approach if you need more complex scene lighting scenarios.
In my family room, I have a number of lights that provide a nicely balanced, distributed lighting effect, rather than one bright light source. I do not use a motion sensor in this room, but it is nice to control these lights all at once by setting them to the same code, and I take it a step further by using several hand held remote controls which allow me to activate and dim all the lights in unison, as well as control other devices such as the TV, satellite dish and fireplace! (see my heating page on how to do the fireplace). (for complementary home automation products such as lighting control and motorized blinds and shades, see our home automation DIY kit article)
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