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Home Automation Reviews, Insteon, Elk M1, High-tech Pet Gear & More!
Driveway Probe with Insteon E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   
Driveway Probe Home AutomationLooking for a way to receive notifications when a vehicle is on your driveway or nearby?  Motion-based systems regularly false alarm due to falling leaves or animals, however using a magnetic based system with an Insteon EZIO provides a flexible, reliable solution to getting an early warning - even on your mobile device.  What were the biggest challenges in this setup?  Read on to find out...

Complexity:
Moderate
Time:Approximately 1 hour
Required:

-Magnetic-sensor based system (Dakota Alert DCPA-2500 used)
-22-18 AWG Female terminal connectors (x2)
-Solid or stranded 18 AWG wire
-Insteon EZIO (a 2x4 is shown in photos, however other models will work as well)
-Precision flathead screwdriver (for EZIO and Dakota set screws)

Read more...
 
Extending Xbox 360 Controllers E-mail
Living
Written by Peter   

Xbox Controller strengthWe recently purchased a new house and with a new house comes new challenges.  One of my goals was to centralize all our video/audio sources in the basement and use an HDMI Matrix to allow any tv in the house to view any of the available video sources.  I'll discuss the challenges and setup of this in another article, but wanted to touch upon a recent success with locating the Xbox 360 in the basement first. By locating the Xbox in the basement the controller response was flaky on the main floor of our house and completely unresponsive on the second floor.  Some research pointed to others extending the wireless range of the controllers through modifications to the controller itself, but with children around I didn't want to tamper with the controllers...

 

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Cat Genie review - Automatic litter box reviews E-mail
For Pets
Written by Peter   

Cat GenieLittermaid

Cat Genie

Littermaid

RatingRatingRatingRatingRating

Rating: 5 out of 5

RatingRatingRatingRatingRating

Rating: 2 out of 5

Stupid cat. That's what I used to think when cleaning the litterbox and grumbling to myself about him prancing around like royalty while I clean up after his majesty. Of course, the simple solution of getting rid of the little fluffball isn't really an option due to the wife's emotional attachment. So what's a guy to do?

 

Note: For an at-a-glance view of Litter Robot vs Cat Genie 120 vs Littermaid vs Scoop Free click here.

 

My first attempt at solving the problem was to search for some sort of automatic litter box, insisting that someone has to have this figured out by now – I was right, but there are several options and you can only do so much reading about a cat litter box before you feel awkward and bored. I settled on the Littermaid box which essentially uses a rake to run across the litter, scooping up any cat droppings into a container which becomes air-tight after the rake goes back to its resting place.

There is a sensor to stop the rake in case the cat does something silly like jump in, and I figured that emptying the container once a week would surely be easier than each and every day as I did currently (ok, once every couple days, but it begins to stink after that.) After some mild threats about giving the cat away, I received wife approval for the expenditure and ordered it immediately...

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iPad: Ultimate Home Automation Controller? E-mail
Latest
Written by Peter   

iPad Front

Updated 2012: Having used the iPad for home automation for well over a year now, the pros and cons have become more clear.  The increased real estate can be put to very effective use over other controllers, and having an integrated dynamic display is useful for webcams or context sensitive information where the function of the button may change.  A negative aspect I've experienced is the additional time of unlocking the iPad and waiting for a network connection (just a few seconds but still can cause you to pause).  I've considered putting the iPad into 'never sleep' mode and leaving the device in a permanent state of readiness, as would be the case with a wall-controller, however or a home theater, bedroom or other location where light sensitivity would be an issue this wouldn't be an ideal solution - there may also be the issue of screen longevity, however my preliminary searches indicate it should hold up for 10 years without issue.  Still, for these situations a hard-buttoned approach may seem to be a better fit.  With prices coming down for used iPads, the opportunity to place dynamic whole home controllers is increasingly achievable by the day. 

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Remote Control Fireplace: A How-To using Insteon EZIO E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   
Remote Controlled FireplaceThere's a whole world of interfacing with your house beyond your lighting and media, and that includes things like your fireplace, curtains and garage doors.  In this step-by-step guide we'll take you through the task of connecting your fireplace to your home automation network using an Insteon EZIO.  

Complexity:
Simple
Time:Approximately 15 minutes
Required:

-22-18 AWG Female terminal connectors (x2)
-Solid or stranded 18 AWG wire
-Insteon EZIO (a 2x4 is shown in photos, however other models will work as well)
-Precision flathead screwdriver (required for EZIO set screws)


Read more...
 
Insteon Switchlinc: How-to Install Without Neutral Wires E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   

For many people, pulling off a light switch coverplate and seeing what's behind may be the most practical first step into home automation.  Determining if your house's switches contain a neutral wire or not can help direct which home automation solution will offer you the least headache down the road. 

Insteon 2-Wire Kit

In the case where the majority of switches in your home do contain a neutral wire but there are one or two that don't, Insteon is now just as capable as it's wireless peers due to the recently released 2-Wire Switchlinc.  In this step-by-step guide I'll show you how to install the module, using a recently completed installation in our living room as an example.

Complexity:
Moderate
Time:Approximately 35 minutes
Required:

-Insteon 2-Wire Kit
-7 Marrettes/Wire Nuts
-Flathead screwdriver
-Pliars to twist wires together
-Other screwdriver bits as necessary to remove fixture

 

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Insteon Software Review - HomeSeer E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   

Home Automation Software Review

HomeSeer Home
Automation Software

RatingRatingRatingRatingRating

Rating: 4 out of 5

For those of you hunting for the best home automation software, I empathize with you, it's not an easy task to sort out.  Compiling a list of which software supports which technology and on what operating system is just stage one, and then there's the part where you sort out the plugins, third-party modules and so on until you feel like this little project has just turned into something complex and it may be more work and less fun than you had hoped.  

Putting some of the fun back into the process is the latest version of HomeSeer, which supports every major home automation technology (Insteon, Z-Wave, X10, UPB & others) and has plugins to handle everything from sprinklers to security systems to RFID tags.  Having used other home automation software such as Girder and MisterHouse in the past, I was interested to see how HomeSeer would compare.  

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X10, Insteon and Z-Wave Price Comparison E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   

Which Home Automation to Choose?In my recent X10 Home Automation review, one of our readers (Ray) asked for a more detailed comparison of prices for typical scenarios using X10, Insteon and Z-Wave.  It's a good question, and one that others have likely thought about as well when debating the merits of spending the extra on a second-generation system such as Insteon or Z-Wave versus the cheaper X10.  

I've created a couple of plausible scenarios below, however it would be great if this was more of a collaborative effort so if you have been doing some research yourself and have information to share (or have any questions) please post in the comments section below.  

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