Decking Out Your Home Entertainment System with Theater-style Lighting

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This article walks through how to get that real movie theater feeling at home using the Intermatic HomeSettings Kit.
ControlThink LC

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Less than 1 hour
Cost: $100-$200
Software: None
Hardware: Intermatic Home Settings Kit
Video: Watch the Channel9 Video 


To deck out your home entertainment system, typical options include buying a bigger TV or a better speaker system. But for something really unique and cool, add automated lighting to yours for less than $100 to give it that real movie theater feeling.

In just a few minutes, you'll be dimming the lights when movies start and will have the coolest system around!

What you need
For this project, you'll need a Z-Wave® remote control and two Z-Wave plug-in lamp modules. Here, we'll use Intermatic®‘s HomeSettings™ Lighting Control Starter Kit (model HA101K). I found it for $99 at Lowes, although you can buy it at other retail stores or online.

You'll also need 4 AA batteries.

NOTE: if your lighting is built-in and controlled by switches, you can pick up Z-Wave light switches from any manufacturer and use them instead of the plug-in modules—but you'll want to follow the switches' installation instructions or hire an electrician to wire those up.

Intermatic's HomeSettings Lighting Control Starter Kit (model HA101K)

You'll quickly notice that this system is wireless. There have been powerline home automation systems in the past, but those have often been plagued with reliability problems. But don't let that worry you: Z-Wave devices are wireless and will even act as mesh-networked repeaters automatically. If you're not familiar with how that works, just know that it's quite a reliable system.

Hooking up the lights
Since we're using plug-in modules here, there's no need to break out voltage meters or screwdrivers. Simply plug the lamps into the modules and then plug the modules into the wall. Also, be sure to turn on the lamps themselves.

Plugging lamp into module (left); module plugged into wall outlet (right)

Adding the lights to the remote
Now, we just need to add the lamp modules to the remote control. Make sure there are batteries in the remote, and flip it open to reveal the INCLUDE and DELETE buttons.

To add a lamp module to the remote, simply press and release the INCLUDE button. The display will show a small “INCL” indicator in the top-right corner of the LCD and will flash “TRANSMITTING.” Then, press the button on the lamp module. The remote should flash “SUCCESSFUL” indicating that it now recognizes your module. You have just paired the lamp module with your remote!

Go ahead and repeat this now with your second lamp module.

Pressing the INCLUDE button (left); pressing the button on the device (right)

Setting up the lighting scene
For our home theater experience, we want to fade the lights off when we start the movie and turn them back on just slightly when the movie is over so that we don't blind our movie-watching guests.

Let's add the lamp modules to scene one on the remote. This is a quick three step process.

NOTE: there are six sets of scene buttons (on and off for each scene) on this remote. Pressing the SHIFT button will switch to scenes 7 through 12, so make sure you're currently looking at scenes 1 through 6; if you're not, simply press the SHIFT button.

First, simultaneously press and hold both the ON and OFF buttons for scene one. After holding down these two buttons for three or four seconds, the display will show “LEARN” in big text. Now, press and hold the INCLUDE button—and don't let go of it quite yet.

While you're holding down the INCLUDE button, press the button on the lamp module to include in this scene. If the lamp module is off or turns off, press the button on the lamp module again to turn it on. When the lamp is on, go ahead and release the INCLUDE button on the remote. That's it!

Now, go ahead and repeat this process for the other lamp module, again using scene one.

Pressing scene one's ON and OFF buttons (left); pressing and holding the INCLUDE button (right)

Settling in for the ultimate home theater experience
Now it's time to grab your favorite movie and snack, gather your friends, and enjoy your new setup. To turn off the lights (with nifty ramping effect), press scene one's OFF button. When the movie is over, press the ON button. If you want to dim the lights up or down, simply hold down the scene's ON (dim up) or OFF (dim down) button respectively.

Lights off! Pressing scene one's OFF button sets the mood for “Batman Begins”…

More cool things to do with your new setup
One of the great things about Z-Wave is that you can do new things with your existing devices and can add on new devices anytime. Here are a few cool things to do with your new setup:

1. Set up a second scene with the lights at 20%; this will be good to switch to when the movie is over so you don't blind your friends.

2. When I'm tired, getting out of bed wakes me up. Set up your bedroom instead and enjoy this new convenience when going to bed (or getting up!)

3. For an even better home theater experience, wire up your overhead lights—or add in motorized blinds. If it has the Z-Wave logo on it, it'll work with your system.

About the author
Chris Walker is President and Chief Software Architect of ControlThink, creator of the Z-Wave SDKs for .NET platforms, and is an outspoken advocate of reliable home control technology. He is determined to make home control technology affordable and available to the average homeowner.

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