November 23, 2007
| by Jeff Winston
Here’s a fun one. Connect a “Universal” module in parallel with the switch wires on your garage door opener. Now you can open or close your garage door from any keypad. But it gets better: Upgrade to PC software that is web-aware, or purchase a “Telephone Responder” controller which lets you control your system by phone. Either way, you can now open your garage door (or control any of your modules) from anywhere in the world. Seems much safer than leaving a key under the door.
Lead-acid batteries need to be charged for several hours, and shouldn’t be overcharged. If you have battery-powered bicycle headlights, one of those kids electric cars, or even a good RC car, you have to always remember to unplug the charger when the batteries are charged. I don’t. My chargers are hooked up to appliance modules, with a keypad nearby. I hook up a battery for charging, and then a single key-press starts a charging cycle, which is automatically terminated by my PC hours later.
How about a poor man’s sprinkler system? Just connect a sprinkler solenoid ($20 at your local home store) to a transformer, put a plug on the transformer’s primary wires, and plug it into an appliance module. Hook the solenoid to your garden hose, and program your watering schedule on your PC.
So far, I’ve touched upon just a few of the many uses of powerline home automation technology. With some low-cost modules (from retailers like Smarthome), maybe a little DIY, some good software (I use Powerhome, but there’s also InHomeFre, Houselinc Desktop, HomeSeer, etc.), and a little imagination, there really is very little you can’t do.
Jeff Winston has been writing about home electronics since 1998. An electrical engineer, Jeff has contributed to the development of products in the computer, consumer electronics, and wireless industries. He spends his spare time with his wife, kids, and many PCs, sometimes in that order.