Sunday, September 12, 2004

So what can I hook up to?

OK, so you think HA sounds like a good idea and you would like to know what you can hook up to be controlled and monitored? Well lets start with the obvious, X10. Why X10? Because it's cheap, available and mostly works (though some appliances, such as PCs do interfere with X10's operations). You'll note that I have a distinctly Do-It-Yourself (DIY) point of view. I'm sure there are plenty of businesses that can create a set it and forget it HA system. It's just that I don't deal with them enough to know about them (hmm, another BLOG entry idea?).


  • X10 PLC - uses the home's power lines to communicate between controllers and modules
  • X10 RF - uses RF to communicate between controllers
  • IR - uses infrared to communicate
  • DMX - hardwire control
  • CEBUS - I consider this vaporware, lot of promise, little materialized
  • Lonworks - big in industrial controls but it licensing cost is too prohibitive for consumer products.
  • ZigBee - a wireless standard, this has the promise to replace X10. Hopefully it can live up to that promise.
  • Custom - Parallel ports, USB, RS232, RS485, and Ethernet. Ports found on your PC and generally an extreme form of DIY. With a little imagination and appropriate knowledge creative things can be done.


  • Appliance module - for things you shouldn't use a dimmer on.
  • lamp module - for things you can use a dimmer on
  • RF module - some to control the module, some to pass the signal to the AC line
  • RF remote - such as the Key chain fob or the X10 TV remote (the TV uses IR but the X10 uses RF).
  • Computer interface - CM11A, CM17A or TW523

X10's devices are relatively cheap and work for the most part. They are susceptible interference from other devices but this can be remedied by using the appropriate filters on TV, stereos, and PCs. Many people just use them for holiday lighting. Others for day to day appliance and lighting control. Many people have experience with IR as it's used in all the modern TV remotes used today.


  • Temperature probe
  • Relay probe
  • Reader probe


  • HCS II & HCS_C - One of my pet projects. A controller which doesn't need a PC once it's setup.
  • ADI Ocelot - another controller that doesn't need a PC once it's setup. Has very good IR capabilities!
  • LynX-10 - a RS232 PC to X10 interface
  • CM11A - a RS232 PC to X10 interface
  • CM17 - a RS232 PC to X10 RF interface
  • RS485 - needs a converter to go from your PC's RS2232 interface to a custom controller which uses RS485. The HCS II's comm-links use this.
  • RS232 - RS232 to custom controller.Weeder has a very good reputation with the MisterHouse folks.

Weather Station

  • Wm918
  • Dallas Onewire Weather Station

User Interface

  • The discontinued 3COM Audrey is an excellent interface. It simplest terms it's a touch screen with a built in browser. These can still be picked up on EBAY and a few other places.
  • MisterHouse - Perl base, Open Source and portable software.
  • Event based - meaning using cron to set off a job running at a certain time or having software run all the time and kicking off an action because some event occurred.
  • And here is a Demo Example of some PHP, HTML & JavaScript I threw together to demonstrate HA to a friend. It was really meant as a monitoring app. What it actually consists of is a PHP page, a database (I've used both MYSQL and a flat text file), and some JavaScript. While not a perfect example it is good enough to show what can be done with very little effort.


  • Asterisk - IP PBX, this is the other end of VoIP. From a home users' perspective it a personal PBX for home use with voice mail, extensions and everything else you'd expect from a PBX. But it's also scalable for business use.
  • Tivo - Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The Series 2 version are not very hackable but are extremely useful for watching TV programs when it's convenient for you! The Series 1 is extremely hackable but I'm not sure Tivo is supporting them any longer.

While hunting around four links on HA I came across KCP's Idea Page. Another HA enthusiast with ideas on HA.

And not to out do myself, yet another interesting BLOG. Nothing up my sleeve - Gordon Meyer's BLOG. Gordon is the author of the O'Reilly book: "Smart Home Hacks"

It's time to wrap this one up. I'll continue this in another entry. I need to get further details to backup the information. Also I'm leaving a whole lot of details out.


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