Smart Home Helps Owners Observe Shabbat

Using an electronics system and its kosher controls aids in following a Jewish observance that prohibits the use of electronics.

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The use of electronic devices is prohibited during Shabbat, but one family has figured out a way to enjoy a high-tech lifestyle without violating any Jewish laws.

The first step was calling a seasoned custom electronics professional (CE Pro). Per a referral, the family contacted Jeff Michael of Procom Enterprises in Chicago, Ill., who had designed Shabbat-friendly systems for a number of other homeowners in the past.

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According to Michael, many home control systems are capable (like the HAI system chosen for this project) of disabling the use of light switches, thermostats, keypads, touchpanels and other electronic devices during certain periods of time—in this case from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. Before sunset on Friday, the family presses a button on one of four touchpanels to put their home into Shabbat mode, during which time HAI system would do all the light switching and thermostat adjusting for the family—pretty straightforward.

The challenge with this project, says Michael, would be finding a way to keep security system armed so that the home would remain protected at all times, but would allow the family to use any of the perimeter doors without tripping an electronic alarm. (Tripping an alarm is considered using an electronic device, per the rules the Shabbat.)

The solution involved a redesign of the circuitry inside the HAI system and the addition of a mechanical shunting system, engineered completely by Procom. It’s a fairly complex setup, says Michael, that required hours of research and field testing by to accomplish, but basically “disconnects” the front door temporarily from the electronic sensor until Shabbat is over.

Also disconnected from the system are the keypads and touchpanels the family ordinarily uses to operate the lights, thermostats and other household electronics. Doing so prevents the children and guests from accidentally activating something, explains Michael. The HAI system self-adjusts these devices for the family the during the 24-hour religious holiday, according to a schedule programmed into the system by Procom.

“Certain lights will come during the day then start turning off at around 11 p.m., while leaving a few on at a 20 percent intensity to serve as night lights,” Michael explains.

The home’s surveillance cameras are exempt from the Shabbat shut-down. “Since they are exterior devices they fall under a different category of the law than the devices inside the house,” says Michael. “The homeowners can’t view the camera images on a touchpanel, but they can continue to record the video to a DVR.”

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