Many audio and visual appliances use wireless remote controls to provide consumers the ease of use and convenience. Manufacturers also offer air conditioners and fans with remote controllers. Many of these wireless controls use radio frequencies. Consumers may desire to use remotes with other appliances, but not all appliances are available with this convenience. Individuals with some technical training and ability may add a remote switch to some appliances. Plug in controllers, however, may be used by almost any consumer.
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Wireless Controller and Switch Systems
Many companies sell radio frequency (RF) remote-controlled switch replacements for regular electrical switches. To complete this RF switch project, you must remove the original switch and install the new switch. The switches come paired with controllers that provide RF control. Available functions include timer control, area or regional control and computer control, depending on the model.
Different controllers provide different options in functionality, including options in the number of switches and switch types. Before you make your purchase, check the models to verify compatibility with any compact fluorescent or other non-incandescent bulbs, bulbs over 60 watts, motors, wattage appropriate to your appliances and other devices, and functions like timed or Internet access control. Not all controllers are compatible with all appliances or devices.
Plug In Controllers
Often called appliance modules, some RF controllers plug into an electrical socket and allow control with a remote. These controller projects provide an advantage to many consumers because they don't require any electrical skills (removing and installing electrical components) to perform the project. The appliance modules work with lamps, televisions, stereos, water fountains and fans. Choose a module that provides the features you need for the appliance you wish to control. For example, some controllers don't have a dimmer feature for lighting.
Your project may include a feature that allows you to plug in a crock pot, coffee pot or other cooking appliance that will start at a specific time so it's ready when you want it.
Some consumers also use remote access for hot water heaters and room air conditioners. This type of control project may help cut your energy consumption by only running the appliance during part of the day when you are home.
Outside controller projects may give you RF control over pool filters, hot tubs and shop equipment. This may prevent you from having to access inconvenient locations to operate your equipment.
If you can install and configure your own software and plug devices into a USB port, you can build your own computer-controlled home automation system. An old, used computer will often be powerful enough for this task, so you can recycle a clunker you no longer use instead of purchasing a new one, according to Gary Barr at Concept Engineering. If you don't have a used computer, the cheapest new one available will run your home as effectively as a more powerful one.
Determine the functions you need and pair it with the software and controller module. You will need to choose the RF control standard for your project. X10 and INSTEON are dominant in the industry. Don't mix the two types for the best results.
Be certain to install all components according to manufacturer specifications or your RF remote and computer will not interface well.
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