When it comes to home automation, I usually post about custom controls I’ve built or controls that integrate into an actual home automation controller like a HAI OmniPro II. This post is a bit different, since automating Christmas lighting with a real automation controlling is very easy but quite costly.
Without a real automation controller it is difficult to sync lighting on different circuits — something you need to do if you have a lot of lights (or lighting is in different areas). When I built my house, I put outlets around the roof and have them all tied into the automation controller. However, I understand most people don’t have this luxury so while I was out picking up some new outdoor Christmas lighting at Target (my favorite are the basic clear C9’s), I noticed that they now carry very inexpensive digital timers ($12.99) and RF remote control switches ($8.99). Makes me feel like an idiot spending 100’s of dollars on automated outlets for turning lights on and off then you can get a simple kit for less than $30.
These cheap digital switched timers are actually quite sophisticated. Really! They are… they have a photocell that detects when it’s dark and then you have the option of a countdown (say turn off 8 hours after dark) or you can schedule it based on day (on at XX:XX, off at XX:XX). Since it’s a digital timer, you can sync them exactly (or damn close) so all lighting turns on at the same time. Not bad.
For those of you that don’t need a timer but have placed lights, trees, etc. in hard to reach areas, the RF remote works great. Plus, when the holidays are over you can hack them up for your next project.
There you have it… Mavromatic’s first LOW-TECH automation post.