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Automatic lighting

by Brandon Morrison

In an effort to reduce energy consumption and get more info about our home and its inhabitants, we’ve been working on building a monitoring and automation system. Part of that system (much of the hardware) was completed by students at Portland State University who were working on their capstone project. The hardware they produced will allow nodes to monitor ambient lighting, temperature, motion and humidity in different rooms of the house. We wanted to also build a controller for lighting, but due to code restrictions, decided it was better to install something that was ‘off the shelf.’

That’s where SmartHome comes in. They’ve been kind enough to sponsor the project and provide us with controllable dimming switches and outlets. These are essentially switches that can be programmed to turn on and off (as well as dim) by a computer or device. They were genuinely easy to install, work wonderfully and look pretty good to boot. Best of all, they work with dimmable LEDs, a requirement for us to reduce energy usage.

With the dimmer switches installed, we can, for example, schedule when the lights are turned on in front of the house (e.g., on at night, off in the morning; we don’t have a street light close by). The endgame, however, is much more interesting. We’re going to be using the monitoring system that the PSU students constructed for us to provide information about room activity and conditions, as well as control the lights.

So, for example, lets say you wake up early to get some work done, you go into the office and turn on the lights. As daylight filters in throughout the morning, the automation sensors notice that the light level is increasing and slowly tell the SmartHome dimmers to bring down their lights. By the time it’s bright outside, the lights are off. We can also use the motion sensors to automatically shut-off when someone forgets to turn them off in a room they’ve left.

We have a lot planned for the automation system (e.g. automatically watering plants, monitoring water level in the cistern, etc.) and we’re excited to be slowly building the parts that will help us do just that.

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