System Summary
News Glenn Steiner CoolHome



The Coolhome Automation System



I started experimenting with home automation around 1978.  It started in my apartment with a BSR timer and a few wall modules.  With the purchase of a condo, the system was expanded to a dozen wall switches and modules controlled by the trusty BSR timer and a couple of control pads.  Next was our first house where the system was expanded to nearly 20 switches and modules.  I actually wrote my own PC control software on a CPM computer that I had built, to create our  first smart home.  Finally, with our last move to a new home I started creating our fourth generation of home automation system.  There are over 35 installed wall switches, a half dozen wall modules, infrared sensors, cameras, sprinkler controller, etc.  This has become a never-ending but fun project.

I hope that you will find some of this information useful.


System Capability:

Currently, my home automation does many things to make my life just a little bit easier (at lest I like to think so). As mentioned above, the system is constantly evolving and features removed and added frequently. Here are some highlights of it capabilities.

bulletDevice control, such as lights, appliance, and home theater via remotes, keypads and the web.
bulletWeather Station with information displayed on two wireless LCD panels, channel 70 on all TV's and of course a web page.
bulletLighting control based on sunrise and sunset.
bulletVacation lighting sequences for that 'lived in look'.
bulletIrrigation and watering control.
bulletHot water pump control.
bulletInfrared control of the home entertainment system: TV, Surround Sound, DVD, VCR, DTV
bulletOne wireless and two hardwired exterior monitoring color cameras  displayed on channels 112, 114, 116 on all TV's.
bulletWeb camera with motion sensor at front door.
bulletMotion-based lighting control.
bulletComplex scene lighting such as night pathway lighting.
bulletMovie scene lighting for that home theater feel.
bulletWeb Wireless control via a Jornada 680 or Omnibook 800 laptop.
bulletWeb Control from anywhere in the world.


Hardware Configuration:

There are some home automation controllers on the market that run standalone and do not require a computer. They are traditionally more expensive than the ones that do require a computer. I chose to use a fairly inexpensive controller with a laptop for greater flexibility, remote web access and low power consumption. The specifications are as follows:

bulletHP Omnibook 800
bulletWindows 98
bulletPentium II 133Mhz
bullet80Mb RAM
bullet2Gb Storage
bulletAPC Back-UPS 400VA

Other elements include:

bulletOregon Scientific Wireless Weather Station
bulletHP Omnibook Laptops acting as Servers for the WebCam and the Weather Station
bulletDSL Gateway from Linksys
bulletOrinoco RG1000 802.11b Wireless Access Point
bulletJornada 690 with Orinoco 802.11 card for wireless web access
bulletOmnibook 800 with Orinoco 802.11 PCMCIA card for wireless web access
bullet3 Networked PC's for family usage



The computer is running HomeSeer's phenomenal home automation software. Put simply, there is no better software on the market for the home automation hobbyist running a Windows-platform system.  Some feature highlights are as follows:


bulletMicrosoft Windows 9x/Me/2000 compatible
bulletWorks with X10's CM11A and Applied Digital's Ocelot/CUPXA controllers
bulletBuilt-In Web server for remote control
bulletCan display email via web interface
bulletVoice recognition with Microsoft Agent technology
bulletVoice acknowledgement of commands
bulletSecurity system integration
bulletSupports all popular infrared controllers
bulletEvents may be triggered by time, X10 command received, sunrise/sunset, various conditions like elapsed time on or off, by email, or recurring.
bulletVisual Basic Script support for anything that can't be done with the basic control software.



I am currently using the Home Director HD11A interface which is equivalent to X10's CM11A interface.  It is simple and works very well with the HomeSeer Software.

The best deal for an IR controller is the very simple device from Midon Designs that plugs into your parallel port. (Some assembly required)



Most of the modules I use are from the SmartLinc line of products. At last count I am using the following:


bullet35 Wall Switch Modules -- SwitchLinc 2-way, SwitchLinc LS
bullet5 X10 - Lamp Modules
bullet1 X10 - Relay Module
bullet1 8 Button Wall Mount 2-Way Keypad (SmartLinc)
bullet2 X10 - Mini-Controllers
bullet2 Wireless Controllers
bullet1 X10 - Appliance Module
bullet3 HawkEye Motion Detectors
bullet3 Radio Frequency Receivers



There are may ways to implement a home automation system.  It is always interesting to see what each individual enjoys doing the most.  For the record, I have a love-hate relationship with the SmartLinc products.  There are some of the most capable products on the market.  They are also less reliable than average.  Before deciding on these products I would recommend checking the home automation message boards:

Message Board Link

Here are links to my favorite supplier web sites.

bulletHomeSeer Technologies -- controller software
bulletSmartHome -- source for many home automation products
bulletOregon Scientific -- Wireless Weather Station
bulletAmbient Corporation -- Weather Server Software & Hardware
bulletMidon Design -- CIR-II -- Interface your PC to Infra-Red A/V equipment


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Last modified: 12/31/04