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Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Automation

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Automation

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by Mark Edward Soper

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Get the home of tomorrow, today! Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Automation will help you turn your ordinary home into a high-tech haven. Want to schedule your lights to turn on while you're on vacation? Stuck late at work and want to start the roast you put in the crock pot this morning? You can make it all happen with the help of existing 110V electrical


Get the home of tomorrow, today! Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Automation will help you turn your ordinary home into a high-tech haven. Want to schedule your lights to turn on while you're on vacation? Stuck late at work and want to start the roast you put in the crock pot this morning? You can make it all happen with the help of existing 110V electrical wiring in your home and this step-by-step tutorial. Through simple, do-it-yourself instructions, you will walk through the process of outfitting every room in your home with a network connection that you can control with a few clicks on your computer keyboard. Complete with illustrations and photographs, Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Automation will have you riding the wave of the future in no time.

Product Details

Publication date:
Absolute Beginner's Guide Series
Product dimensions:
6.96(w) x 9.16(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

IntroductionIntroductionSmart Homes for Everyone

Ever since I was a kid growing up in the 1960s watching TV shows like Hanna-Barbera's The Jetsons and reading stories such as Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," the idea of a "smart house" has fascinated me. In some ways, the smart house of the future is already here for many of us:

  • TV screens are getting larger and larger.

  • Home theater systems combine digital surround sound and better-than-broadcast video.

  • Internet access enables us to work from home remotely.

However, in other ways, today's homes are often stuck in the past. In my youth I saw older homes with rotary light switches, relics of a retrofit from gaslight to electricity. Today's homes use toggle or decorator paddle switches, but you still have to walk across the room to turn off a lamp or an overhead light fixture.

Now, just as then, if you're not around to turn off the lights when your kids leave the room, the lights stay on, ripping a hole in the family utility budget. If you forget to turn down the thermostat when you head out for the day or go on vacation, you'll make your utility company very happy. If you're away from home and you don't have somebody keeping an eye on things for you, your vacation or business trip might be frittered away with worry about what might be happening while you're away.

If you're building a brand-new luxury home, many home builders can build-in "smart house" features that provide remote control of lights and appliances, remote control of heating and cooling, and security. But you don'tneed to be a millionaire to make your home a smart home.

Whether you want to reduce the drudgery of turning off the lights at bedtime, make your home look lived in when you're away, provide extra security for your home and family, or use your home PC as the PC that runs your home, this book is for you. This book shows you how to turn the dream of home automation into a practical reality at minimal cost. From controlling your lights with a wireless remote to equipping your home to call you when there's a problem, this book provides practical advice on buying, installing, and using the most popular home automation standard on the market today, X10. We chose to focus on X10 because of its popularity, low cost, and versatility. However, if you are using another home automation standard such as Z-Wave, UPB, or others, the home automation software programs discussed in Chapters 11 and 12 can be used to create a home automation solution that combines X10, X10-compatible, and non-X10 home automation products.

I have spent many hours in my own home experimenting with many of the products described in this book and countless time researching other products. My goal in writing this book is to make sure that you have a fast track to transforming your home into the smart home you want...today.

Although X10-compatible products have been on the market since 1978, the continued development of new features, new types of home automation products, and the ability to interconnect X10 with other types of whole-house or do-it-yourself home automation standards through computer control make X10 an evergreen technology.

As you'll learn in the following pages, the X10 standard offers a huge universe of home automation possibilities. But the X10 standard often hides behind various brand names. This book shows you how to choose the right home automation products from leading vendors to accomplish practical tasks. If you're looking for Rube Goldberg contraptions, this is not the book for you. But if you're looking for practical advice about how to make your home smarter, friendlier, more economical to run, and even more secure, keep reading!How This Book Is Organized

This book contains 12 chapters and two appendices. You don't need to read it cover to cover, but to make the most of it, take a moment and review its basic plan:

  • In Part I, "Home Technology Basics," you will learn about major uses for home automation and home automation standards (Chapter 1); the basics of X10, the world's most popular home automation standard (Chapter 2); and how to plan your future home automation projects (Chapter 3).

  • In Part II, "Using X10 for Basic Home Automation," you will learn how to use X10 to control home lighting (Chapter 4), appliances (Chapter 5), and how to upgrade your X10 home automation projects with more powerful controllers and timers (Chapter 6).

  • In Part III, "Using X10 for Advanced Home Control," you will learn how to use X10 to control central heating and cooling systems and portable fans, heaters, and window air conditioners in your home (Chapter 7); how to control exterior lights, garage lights and outlets, and other landscaping and exterior features (Chapter 8); and how to use X10 to provide home security through motion detectors, video cameras, and alarm systems (Chapter 9).

  • In Part IV, "Remote Access to Your X10 Home Control System," you'll learn how to control your home by telephone (Chapter 10), with your home computer (Chapter 11), and remotely via your home network or the Internet (Chapter 12).

To make sure that you're fully equipped to enter the wide (and sometimes wild) world of the X10 home automation standard, I've added two appendices:

  • In Appendix A, "Integrating X10 with Other Home Control Systems," you'll discover which whole-house and non-X10 systems can be added to an X10 installation. You'll also learn the many brand names used for X10-compatible hardware over the years.

  • In Appendix B, "Troubleshooting X10," you'll learn how to bridge X10 signals between different phases of your home wiring, how to boost X10 signal strength, and how to test your X10 installation.

How to Use This Book

You can read this book in two ways:

  • If you're truly an absolute beginner to home automation, start with the first chapter and keep reading. The early chapters provide essential grounding in home automation concepts, terms, and technology you'll need as you progress.

  • If you've already dipped your feet into the ocean of home automation, feel free to go straight to the chapters that interest you most. I've added a lot of cross-references when they're needed to make sure that you have the help you need when you need it.

Either way, I know you'll have as much fun using this book to help you create a smarter home as I had writing it.Conventions Used in This Book

Commands, directions, and explanations in this book are presented in the clearest format possible. The following items are some of the features that make this book easier for you to use:

  • Shortcut to Success—I use this feature to provide tips that make a task easier to complete.

  • Cautions and Warnings—I use this feature to keep you out of trouble when you're performing potentially dangerous or tricky tasks.

  • On the Web—I use this feature to guide you to useful websites that provide more information on the topic or product being discussed.

  • The Big Picture—I use this feature to bring you up to speed on major home automation concepts.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home AutomationAbout the Author

Mark Edward Soper is president of Select Systems and Associates, Inc., a technical writing and training organization.

Mark is a 22-year veteran of the technology industry. His previous experience in photography, creative writing, and journalism has helped him make high technology useful to everyone.

Mark has taught computer troubleshooting and other technical subjects to thousands of students from Maine to Hawaii since 1992. He is an A+ Certified hardware technician and a Microsoft Certified Professional. Mark's previous books on home technology subjects for Que include The Complete Idiot's Guide to High-Speed Internet Connections, Absolute Beginner's Guide to Cable Internet Connections, Easy Digital Cameras, and Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Networking. Mark is also the author of TechTV's Upgrading Your PC, Second Edition, published by another Pearson Technology imprint, Peachpit Press.

Mark coauthored both the first and second editions of Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Technician's Portable Reference, Upgrading and Repairing PCs Field Guide (which has been translated into several languages) and Upgrading and Repairing PCs: A+ Study Certification Guide, Second Edition with Scott Mueller, one of the world's leading PC hardware experts. Mark also co-authored the original edition of TechTV's Upgrading Your PC with Patrick Norton. Mark has been writing technical documents since the mid-1980s and has contributed to many other Que books, including Upgrading and Repairing PCs (starting with the 11th edition through the current 16th edition); Upgrading and Repairing Laptops; Upgrading and Repairing Networks, Second Edition; Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition; Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition (all editions); Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition (all editions); Platinum Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP. Mark has also contributed to MaximumPC Ultimate PC Performance Guide and MaximumPC Guide to Building a Dream PC.

Mark has been writing for major computer magazines since 1990, with more than 140 articles in publications such as SmartComputing, PCNovice, PCNovice Guides, the PCNovice Learning Series, and MaximumPC. His early work was published in WordPerfect Magazine, The WordPerfectionist, and PCToday. Many of Mark's articles are available in back issues or electronically via the World Wide Web at http://www.smartcomputing.com. Mark welcomes comments at mesoper@selectsystems.com.

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Absolute Beginner's Guide to Home Automation 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is mostly about developing nifty controls using X10. In this field, X10 is by far the dominant controller. Soper explains why, by describing numerous varied ways to have it control items in the typical household. It is probably simpler to read this book than thumb through the official X10 documentation. Soper does not require that you have a deep technical background to implement the book's methods. Aside from the specific automation methods, he also offers a chapter on planning what you might want to and be able to automate in your home. Here is where you can start, to devise an overall plan, in a top-down fashion, rather than plunge into hooking up one or two gadgets. That can come later. The chapter is good for helping decide, especially within the constraints of a budget, which surely applies to many readers. The book also points out a strong point about the latest X10 devices. These can be wireless, hugely easing installation. No awkward and unsightly wires trailing along your floors and walls.