Home Theater & Automation

Posts related to home theater equipment and home automation.

Lux GEO WiFi Thermost 2
Thermostats have come a long way since the days of the gold-colored round Honeywell dial thermostats at your grandma’s house. Ecobee launched the first “smart” thermostat in 2007, but others like Google’s Nest and Honeywell’s Lyric weren’t far behind. But now even those manufacturers are shipping 2nd or 3rd generation hardware… meaning that […]

Review: Lux GEO WiFi Thermostat

Relay assembly close-up. 11
Last week, I was working in my back yard when I noticed that the big red light on top of my septic system control box was lit up. That light is triggered when one of two alarm floats (in either the main effluent pump chamber or the clearwell pump chamber) detects that the fluid level in […]

How to Make Your Septic Alarm Smarter

Paul glues new dust covers on the repaired speakers. 1
Not long ago, we started to notice a distorted “buzzing” sound from our left and right front speakers in our family room, particularly when the TV was playing something with a lot of bass (like explosions, engine noise, or gunfire). I love our family room speakers. They’re made by an English […]

Rave: The LoudSpeaker Store (Kent, WA)

Apple HomeKit 15
Last year, when the ecobee3 smart thermostat was announced, I published a preview, then a “first look” and unboxing video, followed soon after by the very first review of the ecobee3. I followed those up with an ecobee3 installation guide for new users, along with an ecobee Smart to ecobee3 upgrade guide for owners migrating […]

Review: ecobee3 HomeKit-enabled Thermostat

KOHLER Touchless Toilet Kit 23
My initial review of the KOHLER Touchless Toilet Flush Kit was positive… except for the part where the unit started to magically flush the toilet all by itself in the middle of the night. I called it the “phantom flush.” If you recall from my review, KOHLER promised to send me […]

Product Update: KOHLER Touchless Toilet Flush Kit Parts Upgrade

standard MeteoBridge hardware configuration 10
I’ve been a weather geek (or as weather geeks would write it: “Wx geek”) since 2001, when I bought an Oregon Scientific WMR968 weather station. Within a couple of years, I’d connected my weather station’s console via a serial cable to a dedicated computer in my basement running Windows 95 and Ambient’s Virtual Weather Station (VWS) software, which […]

Product Review & How-To: Using MeteoBridge to Connect your Weather ...

ecobee3 says "hi" 35
My original ecobee3 review is now two months old, so I decided a “here’s how things are going two months later” post might be in order. Over the past two months, I’ve received numerous questions (both in my blog comments and over in the ecobee discussion forum at SmartHomeHub.net), and I’ve also […]

ecobee3 Review Followup: Two Month Update

KOHLER Touchless Toilet Kit 2
Remember when you were a little kid, and your mother would take you to the supermarket, and as you approached the glass doors you’d wave your hand at them… causing them to open… with… The Force? It was almost like magic! Sure, deep down you probably knew there was some kind […]

Product Review: KOHLER Touchless Toilet Flush Kit

Updated HomeIQ Activity and Temperature 5
Sir Francis Bacon is commonly credited for coining the phrase “scientia potentia est” — Latin for “knowledge is power.” Though one might argue that, instead,  control is power, particularly in the world of smart home devices, such as WiFi thermostats. The new ecobee3 smart thermostat does indeed give you greater control over your home’s comfort, while […]

First Look: ecobee3 Web-based Home IQ Charts

Lightning 88
You probably haven’t stopped and really thought about exactly how many devices you have in your home that plug into a power outlet. So do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait…. Now, think about how many of those devices have some sort of electronic or digital component. It’s probably way […]

What’s the “Best” Whole-House Surge Protection?

Proper ecobee3 wiring for PEK users 63
So you got your hands on an ecobee3 smart thermostat, and instead of reading through the installation manual (which is actually pretty good), you came to the Internet to figure out how to install your ecobee3. OK, fine… I’ll help you. 🙂 This how-to guide for installing your ecobee3 covers a […]

How to Install an ecobee3 Smart Thermostat

The new ecobee3 130
In 2009, Toronto-based ecobee released the very first “smart” thermostat  and called it, not surprisingly, the “ecobee Smart” (see my original review of the Smart from 2010). Since then, they’ve followed up with the ecobee Si (which I call the Smart’s “little brother”), along with a handful of firmware and mobile app updates for […]

ecobee 3 Review

The new ecobee3 1
While the Nest smart thermostat has fans of Apple-inspired designs swooning, it wasn’t the first smart thermostat. Toronto-based ecobee is actually the pioneer in this industry, and had two iterations of smart thermostats (the original “Smart” and the “Si”) on the market well before Nest (and now Honeywell) jumped into […]

New ecobee3 thinks it’s time to leave the Nest

Gas Water Heater Timer with included timer 13
I own a whopping eight water heaters between five houses: two at the main house, two at the Utah house, two at the cabin, and one at each of two rental houses. The cabin and one of the rental houses use electric water heaters, so the majority of my water heaters (5 out of 8) run on […]

Product Review: Save Money with a Gas Water Heater Timer

Control options for the ZigBee control module 19
One of my favorite features of my Ecobee WiFi thermostats is the ability to heat or cool a location so that it’s nice and comfortable by the time we walk in the door. For example, our furnace and heat pump at our cabin both use electricity, so I save money on my electric bill by allowing a […]

Product Review: Remotely Controlling an Electric Water Heater with a ...

Honeywell EconoSWITCH Review 1
When my primary residence was built in 1998, the builder installed a Lutron HomeWorks whole-house lighting system. Basically, it’s a set of three panels (one on each floor) that can control all the lighting loads in the house. It also allows any keypad in the house to control any light […]

Adding Astronomical Clock Functionality to an Original Lutron HomeWorks System

DirecTV with Off Air Local Channels 38
If you’re a DirecTV customer, and you want to watch your local channels and get shows from the “big” networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, then there’s a good chance you’re coughing up extra money for their local channels. Or maybe, you like to take your DirecTV receiver on […]

How to Get HDTV Local Channels “Off Air” with DirecTV

Lutron Maestro 600 Occupancy Sensor Switch 6
If you’ve got kids, then you’ve probably noticed that they never have problems finding a switch to turn lights on. Yet mysteriously, they lack the ability to turn lights off. I’m convinced it’s just never something that becomes important for a human… until they’re paying their own electricity bill. Using an […]

Product Review: Lutron Maestro 600 3-Way Occupancy Sensor Switch

When is the last time you rocked out this hard in the shower?
The kind folks over at Kohler’s bath products division (about whom I’ve had nice things to say in the past) were generous enough to recently send me one of their new Moxie wireless speaker shower heads for evaluation and review. Kohler states that Moxie allows you to “Shower out Loud” by […]

Review: Kohler Moxie Wireless Speaker Shower Head

This setting lets your Ecobee run the humidifier during heat, cool, or with the fan only. 12
In my original review of my very first Ecobee Smart Thermostat, I described how I had wired my Ecobee’s equipment interface to my whole-house evaporative humidifier at the Utah house. Because my furnace’s control board had a 24V HUM connector, I used that connector to help activate the humidifier. The […]

How to Wire a Humidifier to an Ecobee Smart Thermostat

This post is primarily a how-to for my own benefit, since I own a total of five APC S20 BLK battery backup units running a variety of things at the house from AV gear to a rack of servers. That means there’s a chance I’ll need to replace the battery […]

How To: Swap RB63 UPS Batteries in an APC S20 ...

Vizio 5.1 Sound Bar 1
The difference between saying you have a “home theater setup” vs. simply having a TV hanging on your wall is, of course, having the audio played back on something other than your TV’s built-in speakers. And for the budget and space conscious, Vizio has recently launched a family of “sound […]

Product Review: Vizio 42″ 5.1 Home Theater Sound Bar with ...

The Harmony Ultimate handheld remote communicates via RF to the Harmony Hub, which blasts IR to all your devices 2
Universal remotes have come a long way… and I’ve been along for the ride for pretty much the entire journey. I owned an old-skool “All In One” remote that controlled my cable box, VCR, and TV. I owned a variety of Phillips Pronto and Marantz RC5000 controllers, which required me […]

Product Review: Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote

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