DIY Network

Home Automation Part I: How to Install a Wireless RF Lighting System

Begin by replacing your ordinary light switches with control units.

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  • Time


  • Price Range

    $2,500 - $5,000

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Prep the Area

Wireless RF, or radio frequency controlled, home systems have several advantages over hard-wired systems. Wireless is more easily expanded when you want to add features, and it can be removed and taken with you when you move. Radio frequency control also provides convenience, allowing you to operate lights in various rooms or even control interior lights from outside the home via a car's remote control.

Ensure that the system you choose has built-in electronics to eliminate radio frequency interference from other products.

At the main electrical panel, shut off power to the circuits you will be working with.

Use a circuit tester at each junction box before touching any wiring to be sure the power is off.

Step 2: Replace the Wall Switches

Replace the existing light switches with remote control dimmers. Each dimmer switch controls a zone that can include one or more lights.

The new dimmer switches use the same wiring connections as the old light switches. Simply cut away the wires at the old switches (Image 1) and discard them.

Make sure all of the new units installed in the switch or junction boxes are grounded. If necessary, add ground wires according to the lighting system recommendations (Image 2).

Homes often have three-way switches that enable you to control a fixture from two different switch locations. When replacing one of these switches with a wireless lighting control unit, you typically would use all three wires provided with the unit and cap off (Image 3) the wire you don't need. Refer to the system’s instruction manual to know which wire to cap, or contact the manufacturer -- many offer toll-free telephone assistance by phone.

Install the rest of the dimmers in the same manner for different zones throughout the house.

Step 3: Add a Garage Interface

The garage interface not only controls the lights in the house, it also replaces the existing automatic garage door switches. Connect the wiring for each function in the back of the control unit according to your system’s instructions.

add a garage interface

Step 4: Wire the Controller

The last step is to program the master control. It can be used in any room of the house and sends a wireless radio frequency signal to control the dimmers in the different zones. This controller has two functions: it turns the various room zones on and off, and it allows you to adjust the dimmers in multiple zones to create different lighting scenes throughout the house.

program the master control