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Watch: A DIY smart home fit for a tech legend
In a video tour that's sure to make techies week at the knees, computer programmer Loren Amelang shows off his woodsy yet completely wired Mendocino County, Calif. smart home.
The other week, I shared a faircompanies video tour of elder geek wizard Loren Amelang’s decidedly low-tech (save for the vintage notebook computer) 8' x 12' hideaway built inside of a decrepit sheep barn in the backwoods of Mendocino County, Calif. In that post, I mentioned that his hand-built cabin-within-a-barn living quarters were only a temporary housing solution while he was at work designing and constructing a larger home on his property where he could properly hang solar panels; a home — more of a vessel or oversized toy, really — that could supply the Silicon Valley expat with "free hot water, free power and a decent chunk of free heat."
And to be clear, Amelang has owned the land located outside of the teeny tiny timber town of Philo since 1973 and initially used it as a place where he and his friends could “live like hippies on the weekend." It wasn't until he left his job in a dispute over fluorescent lighting and cubicle decor (amen, brother man!) that he moved to the land full time and started camping in the barn and, several years later, living in his DIY dream home.
Well, faircompanies has just released a doozy of a video tour (it clocks in at over 23 minutes) of Amelang's “proper” permanent home, a truly smart living space complete with a heat-generating greenhouse/sunroom that’s much larger than his barn digs but still filled with an adventurous DIY spirit right down to the “heat down tubes" made from old computer fans and old airline seats repurposed as living room furniture.
I won’t give too much away other to say than it’s certainly worth a watch especially to discover how Amelang, a pioneering C++ programmer, has wired the fully customized solar-powered home with over 10,000 lines of code that allow him to remotely control the home’s HVAC systems via a smartphone. Before opening the electronic control panel (the sight of that mess of wires is enough to make a non-techy like myself extremely confused/nervous) that serves as the "heart" of his abode, Amelang explains: "That's what happens when you're a techie and you can change things ... you do change things." He continues: "It's very handy to have a tech background when trying to provide your own energy."
And then there’s Amelang’s central locking system that’s similar to security systems that you’d find in cars except that in this instance it applies to all 12 of the home’s door and windows — the whole home locks up with the single turn of a key. A reassuring feature to have I suppose if you live alone in the middle of the woods.
In addition to the video that's embedded below, be sure to check out this Flickr photo set documenting a self-sufficient home built by a man who, to cop a phrase from Frank Sinatra, did it his way. With all of its automated bells and whistles and remote controlled dodads, it's not simple living to be sure. And the exterior of Amelang's home isn't the most pleasing thing to look at. But when it comes to harnessing both active and passive solar technologies to ensure complete off-the-grid-ness, the home is truly a work of techie art.