DIY Home Automation
Simple to Advanced

If you can plug in a lamp or appliance, you can install you own home automation. DIY Home Automation is as simple as that. In fact, you may already have automation installed. Any timer that you may have on a lamp, or any dusk to dawn device is home automation. Even your oven, if equipped with time controlled start and shutoff, is an home automation device.

In this section, we will explore how to install home automation devices yourself. We will start with the more simple and affordable devices and progress to the advanced, including two way communicating systems. You will get information on how to do this yourself, or explain to a electrician or handy man what you want done.

Simple Home Automation

The easy way to start into DIY home automation is to use devices that utilize existing household outlets and remote control. These units allow the home owner or renter to avoid any wiring. You plug in a device and the device to be controlled is then plugged into the automated device.

The simplest devices are timers. You set the current time, set the ON time, and set the OFF time. Some are digital and some are mechanical. There are indoor and outdoor, 7 day, variable on/off, and photocell initiated. Click to check out DIY Timers here.

There are other devices that plug in and offer more. In addition to timed on/off, they offer remote control as well. These modules include screw-in bases for bulbs, and the bulbs themselves, as well as plug-in lamp and appliance modules. Click here for more information on these DIY modules.

The simplest devices are timers. You set the current time, set the ON time, and set the OFF time. Some are digital and some are mechanical. There are indoor and outdoor, 7 day, variable on/off, and photocell initiated.

There are other devices that plug in and offer more. In addition to timed on/off, they offer remote control as well. These modules include screw-in bases for bulbs, and the bulbs themselves, as well as plug-in lamp and appliance modules.

Moderate Skill Home Automation

For individuals with some electrical circuit and computer logic knowledge, the plug-in devices and be activated by triggers other than time. These could be sunset, sunrise, motion detection, or even the date or date range. These are triggered by other plug-in devices, computer programs, and simple contact closures.

I have a contact closure attached to my garage door. When the door is closed, the contact is open. When the door opens, the contact closes sending a signal to a device through simple 18 gage wire (doorbell wire), which in turns send a signal to my computer program. That program sends a signal to turn on the regular garage lights and remembers to turn then off in 20 minutes.

The computer is only necessary to send the off signal after 20 minutes. The sensing of the contact closure could easily send the on signal and allow the individual to remember to turn the lights off. There are examples of simple and complex circuits without computer control, which are one way communications, if you click here for DIY Signaling.

The DIY Home Automation intermediate skill requires knowledge of computer logic. There are a variety of programs available that actually control the logic. The implementer just needs to learn how to use it. The other intermediate skill for this level of sophistication is the installation of a simple wireless device, and understanding of the normal contact state, normally open (off) or normally closed (on). These skills can be used to set up alarm systems.

High Skill Home Automation

For those comfortable with changing electrical switches and outlets, the limits for designing and implementing your DIY automated house are bounded only by your imagination and existing wiring. For this level, you should have a healthy respect for 120/240v circuits. You also need to understand multi-way switches and how to determine which wire is power, which is neutral, which is load, and which is the messenger.

Instead of using plug-in devices you can actually replace your existing switches with addressable units. There are a variety of protocols, some of which work well together. These devices can turn on lights when a room is entered, and turn them off when no motion is detected in a period of time. Working with computer interfaces, they can light up the house and set off alarms when unexpected motion is detected.

When adding these devices, you must be aware of the load limits of the device and the potential load that could be driven by it directly. Also, the number of switches in a box may reduce the load that a device may handle. These are clearly marked when necessary on the installation instructions.

Sophisticated DIY Home Automation

Sophisticated Home Automation Systems require all the skills above plus the ability to plan and execute a project. For those who have done big DIY projects, you already know it also requires the patience to review the plan before execution and to make sure it is a reasonable and cost effective design.

With all the products that are available, there may be a tendency to use everything at once. The designer should have stated goals before starting. Some examples are:

  1. I never want to enter a dark house.
  2. The house should have lights on outside when it is dark.
  3. I want lights on outside in the morning when I get my newspaper.
  4. I would like to know when the mail arrives.

State your goals, and then set priorities. Design them into you plan and then estimate your cost and time to do it.

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