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Remote Control Devices for Electrical Outlets and Appliances

You can use these add-on switch controls to turn on and off the lights and appliances in your house. This article gives you the run down on what's available, how the controls are installed and how the systems work. These controls give you the convenience of powering electronics in your house from the comfort of your couch.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

  • COMPLEXITY
  • ComplexityComplexity Simple
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    It's mostly a matter of programming the controls. Some require you to replace an outlet or switch (which is also simple).

Add-on switch controls

The space-age convenience of remote control is now available in an easy-to-install technology called Z-Wave. This new system will wirelessly switch on or off any combination of lights or outlets from a portable remote or with a control panel by your bedside table, workstation, kitchen countertop or anywhere else in the house. Best of all, you don't have to buy a whole-house computer system or open walls to install or reroute wires.

Here's how it works: Z-Wave consists of two simple elements, a controller that sends a signal and a receiver/switch that receives the signal and turns the power on or off. There are several types of receivers. Some take the place of conventional wall switches, others take the place of wall outlets, and still others simply plug into wall outlets. All will allow you the option to use the outlet or switch manually as before.

Once you mount the receiver/switches, you simply program the controller to operate them. Controllers have several special features. They can operate several switches from a single button. Or use the timer function to preset devices to operate automatically. Say, for example, you come home every night after dark at 8. You can set up your home so that at 7:55, the outside security lights are turned on, and inside the house, the garage, hallway and kitchen are all brightly lit for your arrival.

You can start your system with only a few devices and build from there, without worrying that the technology will be outdated next year. Z-Wave has a bright future. Dozens of companies have signed on to the Z-Wave protocol, so you'll be able to outfit your home with products from different companies as long as you choose products that sport the Z-Wave label. Just look for that label when you buy.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Crimper
    • Non-contact voltage tester
    • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Z-wave controls
    • Wire connectors

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