Wireless Networking: Not Just for Computers Anymore

Learn how wireless networking can be used for phones, speakers and lighting control.

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Go ahead. Keep a cordless phone in the bathroom ... and the garage, the sunroom and so on. New phone systems from companies like Panasonic allow multiple handsets to share the same base station.

When most people think of wireless networking, the first thing that comes to mind is a group of computers freely sharing information without being physically connected. While that’s certainly a common use for a wireless networking system, it isnt the only one. Light switches, telephones and stereo speakers are a few of the electronic components in your home that can benefit from going wireless.

Telephones
Cordless phones have become as ubiquitous as toasters in American households. Recently, however, manufacturers like Panasonic, Siemens and AT&T have developed a new kind of cordless phone system that enables multiple handsets to share a single base station. You can put handsets all over your house in the kids rooms, the master bath, even the garage — without having to plug in a single piece of equipment.

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In addition to supporting several handsets, some cordless phone systems support multiple incoming lines. You can pick up a call on any line from any handset, place the caller on hold, and make another call using a free handset. It’s a great way to run a small business from your home.

Another important feature to look for is 5.8-GHz transmission technology. Phone systems that operate on this wavelength will experience less interference than systems operating on the more populated 2.4-GHz spectrum. Plus, you wont have to worry about signals transmitted by your wireless phone system mucking up the signals sent by your wireless computer networking system.

Loudspeakers
These days, surround sound is the way to go, and that means having at least two speakers in the back of any room with a TV. Of course, you could spend an entire afternoon routing speaker wire beneath the carpet and through the walls to connect a pair of surround-sound speakers to your audio/video receiver, but there is another option: wireless surround-sound speakers. With this setup, a small transmitter is the only piece that attaches to your entertainment system. Audio signals travel from the transmitter to the speakers over infrared or radio-frequency airwaves. Without any wire to worry about, you’re free to place the speakers anywhere you wish — as long as there’s an electrical outlet nearby.

Wireless speakers are convenient for other places besides a media room. You can put some on the patio, by the pool, in the garage, on the kitchen counter and just about anywhere else you can imagine. A wireless speaker may never sound as good as one thats wired directly into your stereo system, but it’s a quick and easy way to spread music throughout your house.

Lighting
One of the most effective ways to alter the look of a room is to dim the lights. In seconds, your family room can go from a bright, active space for entertaining a group of friends to a soft and sultry romantic hideaway for you and your spouse. You can add dimming capabilities to your house by simply swapping the toggle switches for dimmer switches. But as long as you’re replacing switches, you might as well consider putting in a complete lighting control system.

Nearly every manufacturer of lighting control offers a wireless version. The absence of wire makes the system a cinch to install. Each button on a smart switch can be set up to cue a specific lighting scene. One scene might fade out the sconces, while another might brighten the table lamps, for example. You can start by outfitting one room with a switch and gradually adding more until every light in your house is under the command of the system.

Explore All Your Options
So go ahead and network your computers. You’ll be patting yourself on the back as you peck away at emails from the deck. Just be sure you think about all the other products in your home that can benefit from a wireless networking system. You won’t need to add wire to beef up the capabilities of your phones, light switches and stereo system, and you can tackle each project without having to pull your house apart.

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