Frequently Asked Questions


NOTE: Although this FAQ was written for HomeVision, most topics apply to HomeVision-Pro as well.


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General Information Questions

Does HomeVision require a TV?
Does HomeVision require a PC?
How do I choose between HomeVision and HomeVision-PC?
Can HomeVision be installed by a do-it-yourselfer?
Can I get voice recognition with HomeVision?
Do you have an Apple version of the PC software?
Will there be any software upgrades to add more features?

Installation and Equipment Questions

What accessories do I need?
Can HomeVision be installed in an existing house or apartment?
What wiring should I run?
Where should I put the HomeVision controller in my home?
Can I use a long serial cable to connect to HomeVision?
Is the HomeVision video overlaid on top of the TV picture?
What do I need to view the HomeVision video output?
Can I control HomeVision throughout my house with a remote?

The following questions and answers apply to both HomeVision and HomeVision-PC, except where noted otherwise.

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Question:  Does HomeVision require a TV?

Answer:  No. Although the video menu system that can be displayed on a TV is HomeVision’s most unique feature, you don’t have to use it. HomeVision can be controlled in many ways, including by computer, infrared remote, X-10, and digital inputs. Many people choose HomeVision because of its powerful non-video capabilities, and don’t use the video system.

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Question:  Does HomeVision require a PC?

Answer:  HomeVision requires a PC for initial configuration and downloading a schedule into the controller. After that, the PC may be disconnected. Alternatively, you can leave the HomeVision controller connected to the PC to provide more capabilities.

HomeVision-PC does require a PC to be operating at all times.

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Question:  How do I know if I need HomeVision or HomeVision-PC?

Answer:  The vast majority of users prefer HomeVision or HomeVision-Pro, as they provides much more power and can run "stand-alone" (i.e., without a computer running).

HomeVision-PC may be preferable if all of the following conditions are met:

bulletYou’ve selected a PC-based program (such as HAL2000, ECS, or others) to be the "brain" of your system.
bulletYou don’t need any of the accessories (which work only with HomeVision).
bulletYou’re willing to have your system dependent upon the PC (i.e., your system will go down if the PC crashes or shuts down).
bulletYou’re on a budget and can’t afford HomeVision (HomeVision-PC typically sells for about $200 less than HomeVision).

If you meet all these conditions, you may prefer to use HomeVision-PC as the hardware interface to the PC. HomeVision-PC provides the X-10, infrared, I/O, and video interfaces, while the PC software acts as the "brain". If you choose HomeVision-PC and later decide you need the more advanced capabilities of HomeVision or HomeVision-Pro, you can easily upgrade.

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Question:  Can HomeVision be installed by a do-it-yourselfer, or is professional installation required?

Answer:  The choice is yours. Physically installing and connecting HomeVision is quite simple in comparison to installing other automation devices you may have (X-10 wall switches, thermostats, alarm panels, drapery controllers, etc.). HomeVision does require "programming" in order to control your house. However, no computer programming experience is needed. You’ll simply be "pointing and clicking" to tell the controller what you want it to do.

If you prefer, professional installation is available from most home automation installers around the country.

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Question: Can I get voice recognition with HomeVision?

Answer:  You can run HAL2000, Home Voice, or Dragon Dictate on your PC to provide voice recognition. We recommend Home Voice for voice recognition and response, and HAL2000 if you also need it’s many other capabilities like Internet access, phone control, etc. Home Voice can also "speak" upon command from HomeVision.

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Question:  Do you have an Apple version of the PC software?

Answer:  No. However, you can run VirtualPC on your Apple computer, which in turn can run the HomeVision software. You may need an adapter to connect the HomeVision serial port to your computer.

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Question:  Will there be any software upgrades to add more features?

Answer:  We are regularly developing new upgrades of software and firmware (a PROM chip in the controller) to add features. See our upgrade page for details.

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Question:  What accessories do I need?

Answer:  HomeVision is the central controller for a house. You need to provide all the systems to be controlled and any inputs you want to use. For example, you may want any or all of the following:

bulletX-10 devices (wall switches, lamp modules, drapery controllers, etc.)
bulletAlarm systems
bulletMotion sensors
bulletDoor/window contacts or similar switches
bulletWhole-house audio/video distribution system
bulletWhole-house infrared distribution system
bulletInfrared remote control
bulletRelays to control sprinklers, motors, etc.
bulletLCD displays

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Question:  Can HomeVision be installed in an existing house or apartment?

Answer:   Yes. HomeVision’s primary control method is X-10, which uses your existing AC power lines to communicate with other devices. Some of HomeVision’s other capabilities may require dedicated wiring, depending on how you choose to use it. See the following question for more details.

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Question:  I’m building a new house. What wiring should I run to take advantage of HomeVision’s capabilities?

Answer:   See our wiring tips page for suggestions.

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Question:  Where should I put the HomeVision controller in my home?

Answer:  Two locations are most popular:

bulletIn an entertainment center. This works best for relatively simple installations and provides several advantages:
bulletEasy to connect HomeVision’s video output to your TV.
bulletEasy for HomeVision to transmit infrared signals to A/V equipment located in the same area.
bulletIdeal location to use your TV remote to control HomeVision.
bulletEasy to connect to A/V equipment sensors.


bulletIn a "wiring" closet or "mechanical" room. This works best for complex installations, and installations where other equipment (security panel, A/V distribution system, IR distribution system, etc.) is located there also. This is also the ideal location for HomeVision-ProThis provides several advantages:
bulletEasy to wire HomeVision directly to the security system and other co-located equipment.
bulletEasier to run wires from other areas of your home into here than into an entertainment center.
bulletEasier to access than if the equipment is buried within an entertainment center.

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Question:  If I put HomeVision somewhere distant from my computer, can I connect them with a long serial cable?

Answer:   Yes. The main issue is the allowable cable length. The original RS-232 standard (for serial communications) specified a maximum length of 15 meters (nearly 50 feet). This was later changed to specify a maximum capacitance of 2500pF. Many HomeVision users use Cat-5 cable runs of 100 feet or more with excellent results. We’ve tested HomeVision with 200 feet of inexpensive twisted-pair wiring without any problems.

If you make your own cable note that HomeVision uses three wires of the serial port:

bulletPin 2 - TXD (transmit from unit)
bulletPin 3 - RXD (receive input into unit)
bulletPin 5 - Ground

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Question:  Is the HomeVision video overlaid on top of the TV picture, or does it have it’s own background (thereby obscuring any underlying picture)?

Answer:  HomeVision can work either way. If you don’t input a video signal into HomeVision, HomeVision will display the text/menus on a solid background (default color is blue). If you input a video signal, HomeVision can overlay the text onto the video or display the solid background.

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Question:  What do I need to view the HomeVision video output?

Answer:  The video output is through an RCA-type connector. If your TV has audio/video input jacks, you can connect the HomeVision output to one of the video inputs. To watch HomeVision, you simply select that input source (just like selecting a VCR connected to the A/V input jacks).

If your TV doesn’t have A/V inputs, you could connect the HomeVision output to A/V inputs on a VCR. Tune your TV to watch the VCR, and select the A/V input for the VCR (since HomeVision can transmit infrared signals, this can all happen automatically).

If you want to view HomeVision on all your TVs, use a whole-house A/V distribution system and put HomeVision on its own channel.

Note that HomeVision doesn’t have any audio outputs, so you don’t need to connect to the audio jacks on the A/V input. However, you could use the audio inputs to connect a PC sound card output. Whenever the HomeVision A/V input is selected, you could have the computer provide audio output (for messages, confirmation of actions, etc.).

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Question:  Can I control HomeVision throughout my house with a remote?

Answer:  This can be accomplished with an infrared distribution system. Several types of systems are available, listed in increasing order of power/reliability/cost (since they usually go together!):

bulletX-10 Powermid. This is a two-piece system with a transmitter in one room that converts the IR signal from your remote to RF and a receiver near HomeVision that converts the signal back to IR.
bulletRemote control extender. This is a two-piece system with a small device placed on the end of the remote that converts the IR signal to RF, and an RF receiver located near HomeVision that converts the signal back to IR.
bulletThrough-the-cable system. This is a more elaborate system with IR receivers located in different rooms that send the signal over your existing coax cable line. Another device near HomeVision extracts the signal from the coax, converts in back to IR, and transmits it to HomeVision (or to your other A/V equipment). These are often available as part of a whole-house A/V distribution system.
bulletHard-wired system. This is similar to the "through-the-cable" systems, except dedicated wires are use instead of the coax cable. This is usually the most expensive system and must be run while the house is being built, but provides the highest reliability. It also allows IR "zoning" usually not possible with the other systems. Zoning allows the IR output from HomeVision to be directed only to specific zones, and may be necessary if you have multiple devices that use the same infrared remote. For example, if you have two Sony TVs that use the same remote, you can’t control them individually unless you zone the IR output.


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