Think Outside the Home Control Box

Your home automation system has the potential to command some wild stuff on top of the usual lighting, climate, security and A/V.


We’ve heard it all before: The system controls the lights, the thermostats and the whole-house audio system. What we haven’t heard: The system controls the sanitation equipment at a family dairy farm, fills up the whirpool tub automatically and opens the fireplace flues. Those are some of the clever applications devised by custom electronics (CE) professionals who entered a “best installations” contest sponsored recently by lighting control manufacturer Lutron Electronics.

I had the pleasure, along with a several other editors of CE magazines, to collectively review hundreds of submissions to Lutron from companies all over the U.S. and abroad. A good number of the entries were focused on lighting design and control—as they should. But there were also plenty that went way above and beyond the scope of lighting.

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It was a reminder that in the world of home control, it’s good to think outside the box, and this is something you should remember when you’re dealing with a CE pro on your own project. Systems these days are super smart, robust and powerful, which means they can perform some fairly outrageous tasks. It basically boils down to the prowess of your pro. Some love the challenge of getting creative; others will shy away from it.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sticking strictly with the basics. Having the thermostats set back and the lights switch off automatically at times of your choosing is extremely convenient—and saves energy. Just remember, it’s okay to branch off and push your system to the limits, as long as you’re prepared to pay your CE pro extra for the his programming and design time.

Some of my own whacked out ideas: a remote controlled doggie door, an automated patio umbrella, and a garden hose that’ll roll out to the tomato plants every day at dusk.


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