DIY Project: Crown moulding with timed lighting

Night time view

This is the first in a series of posts describing some of the automated tasks that run in my house.

The Problem/Idea:

I have a 2-year-old that goes to bed every day around the same time. He likes the night light to be on at night. Need to make the lights to turn ON and OFF on a schedule (preferably with an ability to override/cancel the entire schedule or a single event remotely).

The Solution:

I thought that having a regular night light is too boring for an automated home and came up with a following idea… Why not install a crown moulding with some lights inside that could be dimmed at night or run at full brightness for an ambient lighting effect. Additionally, this approach has a huge “wow” factor and also increases resale value of the house. And then there was one other thing… I really wanted to test my Christmass present — a cordless nail gun! And I thought this would be a great application for it. |-)

For the source of light I chose the LED rope light strips. Rope lights come in different lengths and colors and could be interconnected to achieve desired length. I chose amber color for its soft glow and added drama. (Tip: Rope lights are available in most stores during holidays season, so stock up now while they are available at a discount price).

I picked up a 4″ moulding and some wood planks at a local hardware warehouse. The wood planks are required for rigidness of installation, since moulding is not being directly attached to the ceiling. I chose a 3/4″ triangular profile planks, but it depends on the width of the moulding you are installing. There should be at least about 3/4″ to 1″ of space above the moulding for light to come out. (Tip: Measure the thickness of the joints at both ends of the rope light, that will tell you how much space at a minimum you should leave above the moulding, or else you might have a hard time pushing the rope inside the installed moulding). Cutting moulding is not that difficult (ones you get a grip on how it’s done). Buy a little extra moulding and practice. There are plenty of books available on the subject. The one I have suggests to cut and mark templates for all kinds of corners (inside, outside, left, right). That was a really good advise and it saved me lots of time on setting my compound miter saw to the right angles for all cuts. You can also check out This Old House and HGTV websites for advice.

The actual automation part included plugging in the rope light to an INSTEON LampLinc module, setting its ramp rate and brightness level. Then linking that LampLinc to a SmartLinc controller and setting a schedule on it to turn lights ON and OFF at certain time each day of the week. The lights turn ON at a preset time (say, 9pm) and go to full brightness, so we can go in and out of the room getting ready for the night, reading a book, and what not.

LampLinc is also linked to one of the 8 buttons on a KeypadLink in the master bedroom, where its brightness level is set to a dimmer setting. This allows us to dim the lights to an actual night-light mode with one key press on our way downstairs after saying good night to the kid.

Initially I planned to use light sensor to run the night lights only when it’s dark to save on electric bill, but since baby’s room has blackout drapes that block all outside light, I chose to use the timer instead. Also, the LED lights draw much less wattage then regular incandecent lights and they could be dimmed without annoying buzzing sound of incandescents or CFLs.

The entire project’s work time was just a few days evenings. It looks pretty cool when crown moulding softly brightens to a preset level, so don’t overlook this part and set the ramp rate as you desire.

The Components:

  1. Crown moulding and LED rope lights. Check your local hardware store for selection.
  2. SmartLinc Controller – used to create timer event to turn lights ON and OFF at selected time. Also allows to control the lights from iPhone or any browser from any place on Earth.
  3. LampLinc Dimmer – allows to remotely control a light plugged into it from any INSTEON and/or X10 compatible switch, keypad, controller or software running on a PC or Mac*.
  4. KeypadLinc Dimmer – a keypad with 6 or 8 buttons. Turns lights ON/OFF or Dims/Brightens to a desired level.

* The computer software usually requires a power-line modem such as PowerLink (2412s or 2414u).

About Ruslan Ulanov 103 Articles
Ruslan Ulanov is a software engineer by day and Smart Home hacker by night. He got fascinated by potential of home automation over a decade ago, when it was available to select few. Over the years experimented with smart products using different technologies from X10 to Insteon to ZigBee. Actively supports new smart home developments on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

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