The Different Types of Home Control Technology

Home automation, which is another name for home control, refers to the ability to control devices in the home remotely or automatically. This capability relieves the homeowner from performing mundane task such as adjusting the thermostat or activating the security system. The idea of home automation is to connect in-home devices so that they can interact not only with the homeowner but with each other as well.

There are a myriad of devices or appliances that can be controlled in the home. These include heating and air conditioning, lighting, security cameras, entertainment systems and sprinklers.

Those are just a few examples of what is possible and these capabilities are on the rise as new technology comes into play.

There are two main types of home automation and control. They can be categorized as wired or wireless networks. Each of these has various sub-divisions which can be are further categorized. Each system uses specific protocols for communication between devices. Devices on one type of protocol are usually not compatible with devices on another protocol.

Wired Networks

Wired networks are based on the homes electrical wiring using the typical AC outlets throughout the home. Lighting and appliances that are plugged in are easily controlled using this system. X-10, which is one of the oldest protocols, is widely used for this type system.

For newer home or homes undergoing renovation, coaxial cable and CAT-5 wiring are current technologies being used to transport audio, video and data between devices.

Wireless Networks

Wireless networks use RF signals to communicate. Devices for this type system are easily placed in locations where there's no house wiring and they often have their own built in power source. These devices can control lighting, appliances, security and monitoring systems just to mention a few. Two prominent protocols for wireless communication are ZigBee and Z-Wave.

Protocols

Protocols are the life-blood of these systems. Without protocols none of the devices could communicate in a meaningful manner.

X-10

X-10 is the oldest protocol. This technology uses the home's wiring which makes it very easy to integrate into pre-existing homes. Signals are sent through the wiring to communicate with other devices plugged into the wiring system. Newer X-10 devices do have the capability for limited RF signaling. A drawback of X-10 is it's plagued with slowness and signal loss.

Insteon

The Insteon protocol uses both wired and RF technology to communicate. One of its major advantages is that it's backwards compatible with X-10, bringing it up to date. It's a logical choice for those already invested in X-10 technology. This protocol was designed to eventually replace the X-10 protocol.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a low powered RF protocol. The devices have the ability to communicate and network with each other. They can pass signals along so that devices that are out of range of the main controller can still be reached. There is a wide range of Z-Wave devices available from various manufacturers that are all compatible with each other.

ZigBee

ZigBee is also a wireless protocol that works on the2.4GHz global frequency and the 915MHz North and South American frequency. Z-Wave operates on a 908.42GHz which is strictly an American frequency. ZigBee is also open source so various companies can develop devices for this protocol.

Types of Devices

The central controller is the brains of the system. Both wired and wireless networks use the controller in the same way. It may be a hand held or wall mounted device that controls only a few devices. A more complex controller may control many devices, schedule events, turn appliances on and off or send alert messages to a specific recipient.

These controllers can be programmed to perform just about any task including setting scenes. When communicating from an internet connected device, it's the central controller that intercepts the signals and sends them to the devices.

Switches

Switches are a basic device in all automated systems. Switches turn power on or off and work with just about any appliance or device that is designed to be switched on or off. Automated switches can replace standard wall switches or be had as plug in modules that go between the device and the power outlet.

Dimmers

Automated dimmers can be used where light levels are adjustable. Special dimmers with higher power ratings can also be used to adjust ceiling fan speeds.

Motors

Motors and solenoids are used to control devices such as shades or curtains or lock doors in the home. Doors can also be opened or closed using motors as well.

Sensors

Sensors are used to monitor a condition. If the condition is met or not met, a signal can be sent to the central controller.

Combining these different type devices creates the different type home control systems. These systems are then tailored to the homeowner's wants and needs to create their ideal automated home.

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