An effector (a slightly broader term than actuator, which is more commonly used) is by nature an endpoint device. Its job is to take an instruction from the digital domain then make something happen in the real world.
One good physical example is the electronic deadbolt (our picture shows a classic deadbolt; an electronic deadbolt uses a motor or a solenoid to insert or withdraw the striker). Because it presents an observable physical action, even untouched by human hands, it is a great poster child for the role of an effector. An effector effects change.
While effector locations are spread across the house, they are reasonable to group by function.
The element that make a lighting fixture turn on or off or set its dimming is located near the driver module for each fixture; all of these link by radio to a bridge device at our lighting controller.
Direct control over the Ecovent ventilation registers happens through the Ecovent hub which, again, connects to them over a wireless radio link. shown here.
It connects to our control system over Ethernet.
One of the earlier forms of automation in the home was the thermostat, and it's still a thermostat that effects the operation of our HVAC system; for us, though, a WiFi link will let us manipulate what it sees as the current temperature.
The best way to effect the appropriate operation of a ceiling fan, given the intelligence behind such control systems in our implementation, is through the use of an electromechanical relay, connected to an Arduino. These are placed near the fan and communicate over WiFi. The picture shows a 4-channel relay board that an Arduino can directly control. A typical ceiling fan runs on less than 1 Amp of current; depending on test results, we have the option of letting these relays control secondary relays so the AC power is 2 steps removed from the board and so that relays with beefier contact ratings can do the higher-power switching.
The irrigation (watering) effectors are valves going to each spray head in the yard, controlled by power selectively provided through a dedicated irrigation controller which, in our case, becomes something of a puppet for our controller doing weather and soil moisture analysis
The pushbutton control of most garage door openers is a simple momentary switch that connects two contacts; for us, one Arduino with a 4-channel relay board can handle all 3 doors by simply paralleling that pushbutton.
The natural gas line shutoff valve is located near the gas feed to the house, after the first connection to the line; that first connection goes to the backup generator. The digital sign at the front door that changes from just displaying the house number to showing a thermal map of the floor plan is driven by a Raspberry Pi located nearby. The voice modem that calls the fire department is located in the control rack in the bonus room main office equipment cupboard.
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