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Lighting and Devices
Note: This page is out of date. Please go to the page with my current lighting interface here.
I chose to go with Insteon as my home automation technology for lighting scenes throughout the house. This was mostly based on the fact that MisterHouse has a module that supports Insteon directly so I didn't have to write new code to use it. It seems to be pretty reliable and very fast compared to its predecessor technology, X-10.
The main controller uses an Insteon Power Line Modem (PLM) that connects using a serial cable. It plugs right into a 120-volt wall outlet so that I can send commands over my existing power line to the plug-in lighting devices all over the house.
All of the lights in my house are set to turn on every afternoon right at sunset. If the house is in non-occupied mode, the lights won't come on by themselves until I return home. I'm still using incandescent light bulbs in all my lamps only because I love being able to dim the lights at my discretion. Now, I know it's not the most power-friendly solution when compared to compact florescent light bulbs, but I do some pretty simple occupancy detection so that the lights are only turned on when needed. All of the rooms in my house (even the bathrooms) have motion detectors so that I can detect when someone walks into a room and thus turn the lights in that room to full brightness. Five minutes after no motion has been detected in the room, the lights are automatically dimmed back down to 20% brightness. I usually keep them all at 20% brightness because it can take about a second after you walk into a room before a motion detector actually picks you up in the room.
I've been looking for a good way to set the house into away mode as I walk out the front door so that I don't have to walk all the way into the kitchen to arm the security system when I leave. I came across the Insteon In-Wall Keypad Controller (also known as a KeypadLinc) and it fit the bill perfectly. The particular version that I use has 4 programmable 'scene' buttons, but you can also get one that has 7 'scene' buttons. It comes with the ability to control a locally connected load as well. I chose to go with the non-dimming version so that I can use an LED light bulb instead of a normal incandescent one that can be dimmed.
Right image: 6 button Insteon KeypadLinc with on/off switch installed in a double gang electrical box. Notice how the buttons are lit up to show the status of the light and scenes.
I replaced my existing front porch light switch with the KeypadLinc so that it could control the front porch light and be easily accessible when leaving the house. Another cool feature of the KeypadLinc is that it has built-in LEDs that light up to show the status of the connected light and the 4 'scene' buttons as well. This allowed me to do some pretty cool things with MisterHouse. Take a look at the macros and events page for some examples of how I use the 4 programmable 'scene' buttons and the front porch light.