How Does a Home Automation System Work?


Methods of Control

  • Components of a home automation system are controlled via various methods, depending on the manufacturer. Systems may be controlled wirelessly or may be hardwired. Wireless methods use radio frequencies like Bluetooth and infrared, while hardwired systems may use ethernet, phone cable, electrical wire or coax cable. Most systems use a mix of wired and wireless components.


  • Lighting is handled by inline dimmers, lamp plug-ins and gas fireplace dimmers. Hardwired dimmers and lamp plug-ins are installed between the light and the power source. The dimmers regulate the amount of power sent to the light giving you the ability to adjust the brightness of the lighting. Fire place dimmers work the same way, they allow you to regulate the amount of gas released and control the brightness and mood your fireplace gives off.

Heating and Cooling

  • Replacing your current thermostat with a "smart" thermostat allows you to remotely program when your air conditioning or heating unit operates and what temperatures they maintain. Thermostats can either be programmed to switch on or off at certain times or may be controlled through the internet via an ethernet connection. You can also control it wirelessly via RF signals.


  • Security setups contain a base unit and any number of wireless and hardwired sensors for doors and windows. Sensors are made of two pieces that touch when the door or window is closed. But when the device is separated, by a door or window being opened, the electronic circuit is broken. The sensor reports the breach back to the base unit via radio frequencies. If the base unit is active when the breach occurs, it will sound an alarm and a phone line connection to dial pre-programmed contacts--such as emergency services or your cell phone.

Cameras, Surveillance and Driveway Reporters

  • If you have a driveway reporter, when something passes by and breaks its laser beam, the length of the break and time of occurrence are reported back to a base unit inside your home via RF signals. Units detect the presence of people and vehicles but ignore animals. Cameras work similarly--they report video data back to a base unit via RF signals. Cameras may also use infrared technology for night vision or compacted circuitry for a smaller size. The base unit for the cameras sends video signals to a monitor, VCR or a hard drive.

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