HTPC Tip of the Day: Lighting Control

Our first HTPC Celeb Tip Of The Day via Chris Lanier.

While not sticking an HTPC tip, lighting control can add
another dimension to your home theater. 
Being able to dim the lights before a movie or remotely without getting
up, the possibilities are really endless. But let’s say you want to get started
on the cheap and build up as you go.  The
cheapest way to start is by using X10-based products.  X10 is very inexpensive, relatively reliable
and best of all a perfect starting point for getting interested in home

Our goal

Control three separate lamps in your home theater from your
couch for under $40.

The solution

(1) X10 RF Transceiver (TM751)

(3) X10 Lamp Modules (LM465)

(1) X10 Credit Card
Controller (KR22A)

eBay is the place to get
these modules on the cheap (still new often).  You can pick
up the TM751 for about $6, the LM465 for $5/each, and the KR22A for $4.  That’s only $25, factor in a few for shipping
and your still under $40.  Shopping
around is key, you will often find package or 3-1 type deals that get you a
better value.


Here’s how it works, X10 modules sends commands on your existing
powerlines to modules that control of flow of electricity to the devices.  Each module has a unique code (eg. A1, or E6,
or G9) that corresponds to the same code on an X10 controller.  We are using a small key-ring type controller
called a “Credit Card Controller” that will send that X10 code over RF to a
transceiver and then on to the powerlines.

It sounds pretty simple and that’s because it is.  Plug-in the X10 RF Transceiver to the wall
and set the House Code (A, B, C, etc) using the dial.  Plug the lamp modules in to the wall with the
lamps connected to the receptacles on the bottom.  Use a dime to set the code dials to match the
House Code on the transceiver and then set a Unit Code (1, 2, 3, etc) to a
different number for each module. 
Finally do the same for the Credit Card Controller, this time it
involves pushing and holding the buttons to change the Unit/House codes.

You’re now done with your starter lighting control
project.  Take your controller to the
couch, sit down and press the buttons to turn on/off lights and even dim them


X10 is far from the best, but it will give you a small taste
of what you can do.  Products like mControl can do even more and
works with X10, INSTEON,
and Z-Wave from a
Media Center UI.  Best of all, if you
decide to upgrade to the more advanced INSTEON in the future it is backwards
compatible with X10 all the way, so any X10 investment is not lost.  Likewise, mControl is only limited to the PC controllers you have.  Want X10/INSTEON and Z-Wave modules?  Cool, just make sure you have an INSTEON controller (does X10 also) and Z-Wave controller.

Interested in more lighting control, home automation, and
general Media Center topics?  Be sure to visit my blog for more.