Build Your Own
By: Anthony Velte
Pub Date: September 19, 2003
- What the Book is About
- From piping audio and video through
the home to automatically watering the lawn, if you've got the inclination, there
isn't anything that cannot be automated in your home. This books shows you how to
plan and install Smart Home systems using step-by-step instructions and illustrations.
It includes projects for automating entertainment systems, home security systems,
utilities, and more. It also includes some cost-saving tips and advice on outsourcing.
- Target Audience
- I had an expectation that this
might be a "MacGyver" style improvement book, providing inexpensive and
free techniques to use ordinary items to do extraordinary things. It is not. You
will not learn how to use a paper clip to network your computers. The book is more
about specific controllers and sensors to make your home "smart", and installation
This book is intended for do-it-yourself gadget-loving home owners. Some of the installations
require purchasing some costly equipment, such as the Omni II security system, so
if you don't have the money to spend, not everything in this book will interest you.
However, there are some small tips and tricks scattered throughout the book that
require inexpensive parts, such as sprinkler rain sensors. Still, a lot of the sensors
discussed are ultimately controlled by the main system you install, so an upfront
investment is needed. Even if you don't have the money to invest in these projects,
I think most home owners will find many of these projects interesting.
Due to the do-it-yourself nature of the book, those wanting to implement some of
the ideas of the book will need to have some decent project building skills. Skills
required range from wiring, to drilling, to basic installation of electronic devices.
- What to Expect
- Several sections are dedicated
to designing, installing, and programming a home security system. This not only includes
installing motion detectors, but also configuring your heating and cooling system
to be remotely programmed, as well as your lights. Additional chapters cover projects
for your garage and outside, kitchen and bathroom. Some items of interest include
a stove that shuts itself automatically when you forget, or a toilet that is smart
enough not to overflow.
The book is broken down in four parts, with four chapters per part.
Part One is "Meet the Smart Home", and discusses Smart Home foundations,
Smart Home design, the costs associated with building a Smart Home, and designing
and building a Smart Home Local Area Network (LAN).
Part Two is "Smart Home Safety Systems", and discusses security basics,
designing and building a security system, programming the security system, and information
about Smart Home garage and lawn ideas.
Part Three is "Smart Home Utility Systems", and discusses lighting the
Smart Home, Smart Home kitchen and barthroom projects, Smart Home utilities, and
Smart Home communications system.s
Finally, Part Four is "Smart Home Entertainment and Integration", and discusses
audio/video systems, audio and video distribution, working and playing together (using
an X10 controller to integrate everything), and Smart Home controls.
The book also includes an Appendix on Smart Home resources, as well as an index to
look up specific word references.
The reading level is relatively simple,
and the author does a good job of introducing terms and providing decent step-by-step
instructions for some of the projects. There were some sections that were over filled
with technical jargon, but for the most part, it's a smooth read. The amount of pictures
and diagrams to illustrate some of the instructions was just about right.
- I love gadgets, I enjoy do-it-yourself
home projects, and I always have imagined that computers can do a lot to integrate
the home environment (beyond just the typical computer components). This book clearly
addresses this smart integration of gadgets, home functions, and computer technology,
and that is its biggest appeal to me. As an avid Mac user, I was a little disappointed
that when it came time to discuss computers and software, the book focused on products
that were mostly PC only products. For example, in the section on X10 controllers,
the book discussed the HomeSeer system which only runs on the Windows platform.
The highlight of the book for me was learning about using the X10 controller to automate
just about anything within your home. You can automate your lights, have things turn
off and turn on, open or close, all based upon a sensor reading from a number of
places. The sky really is the limit on what you can do with this kind of setup. I
was even fascinated to learn about home security systems. I was never interested
in security systems before, but now I might consider investing in one.
One of the sections I was looking forward to was the chapter on audio and video systems.
This chapter discussed various aspects of distributing audio and video throughout
your house. It discussed speakers, costly amplifiers, video modulators, filters and
more. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable in this subject area, but there was
a lot to learn in this chapter that I didn't know. On the other hand, I ended up
not implementing any of these projects, either because they were too costly, or simply
not necessary. This section may be more appropriate for those with much bigger houses
than mine. In my house, I have everything integrated in my living room stereo system,
and there is no need to extend it anywhere else. What surprised me is that there
was no mention of using the computer for an audio library. I have my entire CD collection
in my iTunes library on my Mac, and I have the Mac connected to my surround sound
stereo system. That provides me an incredible amount of control over my entire CD
collection, including smart playlists, that years ago I would not have even imagined.
By not considering Mac systems, the author completely passes over some of the smartest
ways to manage your audio library.
- Mac Guild Grade
- B (Very Good)
- Final Words
- If you're a gadget-loving geek
who likes to work on home projects, and are interested in automating functions around
the house as well as integrating your computer with your home, there's a lot in this
book that will be of interest to you. It goes into great detail on setting up home
networks, home security systems, and integrating everything with X10 controllers.
It provides good step-by-step instructions for many of the discussed installations.
The book has a PC-centric feel to it, and it completely overlooks some of the cool
things you can do with your Apple software to make your home "smart" (such
as cataloging your entire CD collection in iTunes). A lot of the projects discussed
are going to cost some money up front, as well as some decent know-how with home
project skills. Whether you're ready to invest in a Smart Home now or later, there's
definitely enough cool ideas in this book to hold the interest of PC and Mac users