Picture of Automated Lighting Using DMX and Perl
Why automate your lights?
Well, to be honest, most of my house is automated, so it seemed the obvious thing to do.
There are lots of benefits in automating parts of your house, lighting in particular just makes life easier, lights coming on when you walk into a room is better than switching them on yourself! ....and because they turn themselves on, they turn themselves off too, so you can't forget!

Hopefully there is enough information here for most, but if (like me) you love detail, you'll find more information on my page http://www.yourmissus.com/lighting/


Step 1: Installation

Ok, lets start at the light switches themselves.
Each room has either a double (two lights) or a single dimmer control mounted on the wall.
The pictures below show the dimmer control units mounted in the wall, you'll see they are still unfinished, I'm unable to find suitable looking knobs, like the simple white ones you get on a standard dimmer, so until I do, there are none.

These 'control units' look just like standard UK single blanking plates with variable resistors sticking out of the front, and that's because that is what they are!
Below are some pictures showing the insides of these units:

First the single dimmer.
You'll notice also that there is a small black device at the bottom of the unit:

This is a temperature sensor that I use to control the heating, it uses the same enclosure as the dimmer units and the same run of cabling, but they are two separate systems.
The double units are a bit more busy inside, but essentially just two singles in the same box.
GREAT STUFF I love it.

Could you Feed the dimmer Packs From a "Master Dimmer Pack".

It would work the same but if you wanted to turn all the lights off in your house you turn the master dimmer packs off?
adrumsolo4u5 years ago
this instrucable is great!

one suggestion i have is for your manual system. you could go with a "manual override" routine, where you would have two buttons on each wall plate. one for shutting off the lights and one for turning them on at a pre-determined intensity.

you would have to run each control to your computer, which would be quite an ordeal given your setup, but with a good end result. you could simply push a button to turn off the lights when going to sleep, and if the system ever had a malfuntion in movement detection, an "on" button would be the perfect backup.
So each of those plugs that are plugged into the dimmer packs are a separate room?
toastyboy (author)  van johnson1126 years ago
yes indeeedy! Well I do have a kitchen diner, so arguably one room, but generally yes, those cables go off to each ceiling rose in each room, I have one spare. Thanks for your interest Dan
That is so innovative. Bringing DMX where mostly used in theater and commercial applications into the home and automating it. Being an electricianI think this is awesome. One thing I wonder is, is each dimmer pack on its own circuit and if so what is the amperage rating.
toastyboy (author)  van johnson1126 years ago
Yep, each is on it's own circuit. The fusing is a bit confusing... My main consumer unit has 6amp circuit breaker for each circuit, but the dimmers have an integral 16amp circuit breaker. Then each output is fused at 5amps with a little 20mm glass fuse. I have at most a few hundred watts of lighting on each dimmer, so the 6amp circuit is plenty, however the dimmers are good for about 1kw per channel I believe, but this is due to their stage/theatre origins, I'd never use that much at home.
vodo6 years ago
where did you get the Serial to DMX conversion box?
toastyboy (author)  vodo6 years ago
I got it from a company called Millford instruments.

You can find it here http://www.milinst.com/DMX/dmxtext.htm

Thanks for your interest
5/5 Very good
toastyboy (author)  stephenniall6 years ago
Oh thanks! Glad you liked it.
yokozuna7 years ago
Very well done sir, excellent pics and instructions, I give you 4 1/2 stars. You should also include the entire code for people (like myself) who can't program so they could still do the project. Also, any estimate on how much this cost to build?
toastyboy (author)  yokozuna7 years ago
Thanks! It cost me about 200 uk pounds (60 for each of the dimmers and about 80 for the dmx controller) I'm glad you enjoyed it! Cheers -Dan
Because I live in rented accomodation, I had to go with X10. I can't begin to describe how awful it is. I have to think up a wired solution that's removable ... and cheap, lol. Man, if I had my own place, the walls would be so full of cabling, there'd be no room for spiders! Cool instructable, btw.
toastyboy (author)  MisterSlippy7 years ago
Cool, thanks! I have 2kms of cat5e here!!! in the walls, floors, in fact everywhere. -Dan
Oh man, this looks extremely complicated.
toastyboy (author)  GorillazMiko7 years ago
It is complicated!! ..but that's good isn't it? X10 is a great easy way to automate stuff, but I don't want simple, I want loads of wires, servers, interfaces and a GUI. I like things that are complex, it keeps it interesting, and makes for some real headscratching when you need to troubleshoot! ;-) Cheers for your comment -Dan
Yeah. X10 is simple and easy, but it's not as reliable as I'd like. Depending on how things are wired, controllers on one circuit may or may not be able to control devices on another one. There is a device that can fix that, but the X10 switches aren't compatible with the CF bulbs we installed, so I had to uninstall the whole thing. Plus, X10 dot com really horked me off a few years back with their ubiquitous and annoying popup ads, and I decided to stop giving them money. If I ever get to build a house from the ground up, I'd like to install intelligent switches and outlets all over the place. One of these days...
toastyboy (author)  Pasketti7 years ago
Hi Pasketti, The reasons you state are exactly why I didn't use X10 and why I went for DMX. I really must post some more stuff here, it's not just my lights that are automated, my heating, sockets, cctv etc.. are all automated in 'interesting' ways. Cheers for your nice comments All the best -Dan
I've been inspired. This is a great instructable. You've got my vote for the Green Science Fair.
toastyboy (author)  Erik Lindemann7 years ago
Wow, thanks! Glad you liked it. To start with, I did have crazy stuff happening, like lights flashing on and off when you entered a room, but these were just software bugs... Now I've got all that sorted and the system works really well, no one uses the light switches anymore and so we save loads of energy as lights don't get left on by mistake. -Dan