Higher-end “home technology” projects demand over-the-top installations that can cost as much as a starter home. But what about your average homeowner who just wants to share the Internet with a couple of computers, or wants a little more control of their lighting so they don't have to walk into a dark house when they get home from work?
There is a plethora of off-the-shelf technology that can make that kind of magic happen with no rewiring and simple installation and setup. Remodelers and professional handyman companies can add a lot of value by understanding these systems and offering them as installed and preconfigured packages. Here are a few of my favorite problem-solvers.
X10. Need to add a three-way or four-way switch when you don't have enough wires? What about turning on the patio lights from the garage, or rigging all the holiday lights to come on from a single switch location? X10 devices “talk” to each other across existing 110v wiring, making it possible to control nearly anything from nearly anywhere else in the house. Leviton Corporation has taken X10 to the next level with their “Decora Home Control” (DHC) series and offers all kinds of installation and configuration help. www.leviton.com.
WiFi. By now most of you probably realize you can network computers to share the Internet using 802.11 wireless, or WiFi — but did you know you can also share printers, control security cameras, or pipe music around a house the same way? Linksys, Netgear, D-link, and other manufacturers are broadening their WiFi offerings all the time. WiFi Planet is a great resource site. www.wi-fiplanet.com.
HomePlug. Need to get computer networking to a location where you can't pull new wires and WiFi won't reach? Consider powerline networking, or “HomePlug,” which makes use of existing 110v wiring using special network adapters. HomePlug networks can be interconnected to conventionally wired or WiFi networks using a “bridge” device. www.homeplug.org. —Joe Stoddard is a process and technology consultant to the building industry. Contact him at email@example.com.