So you’re ready to settle down on the couch in front of a good movie. Wait, there’s still work to be done: Turn off the lights, make popcorn, maybe even mix some drinks in the blender. No, don’t get up—just use a home-built receiver box that lets you turn any household appliance on and off with your TV remote. For example, plug a lamp into an outlet on the box (we’ve dubbed it the Zapper), program one of the remote’s little-used buttons to control it, and the next time you want to watch Halloween VI, you’ll barely have to lift a finger to set the mood.
For a full schematic, click here.
1 Download the IR-receiver data sheet from www.simerec.com.
2 Snip the receptacle end off an extension cord. Bend two scrap wires into a “Y” and connect that to a wire from the cord. Connect the two arms of the “Y” to the socket and wall adapter that go inside the Zapper. Connect the cord’s other wire to the adapter, which provides five volts for the IR receiver and relays.
3 Follow the schematic to assemble the IR-receiver circuit, switches and relays.
4 Fit all the parts into the electrical boxes.
5 Plug the box’s cord into the wall. To program, point the remote at the box and hit the button you want to use, following the sequence in the data sheet.
6 Plug appliances into the outlets. Press the first programmed button to turn the first outlet on, and again to turn it off. Repeat with the second button and outlet. To operate the appliance, leave its power switch on.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.