Hmmm… 36 Switches for ‘Simple’ Operation?!

2nd April 2012 in Know How

Home automation is taking over the media – newspapers, magazines and TV reports are all publishing more and more articles about the intelligent control of your home.

But sometimes the information in these articles is more absurd than helpful. So it is with this ginormous 36 push button switch panel which we stumbled upon in a Swiss magazine.


How this enormous (and unlabelled) panel of switches can be “simple” to use is still a mystery to us.

Our tips on using buttons

Buttons are still an essential, maybe even most important, interface in the home. Why? The answer is simple – They’re fast and easy to operate. Having a lot of unnecessary buttons, however, makes them trickier and potentially confusing to use. Home automation should not make life more complicated. You don’t want to hand a visitor a manual to operate the bathroom lights when the need the loo. With home automation, there are several ways to reduce the number of switches in your house:

Switches for important functions, an app or browser for the rest

Only use switches for the most important functions – ones that you need on a daily basis. If you walk into a dark room it needs to be obvious how to turn the light on! Rarely used functions can be controlled with a smartphone app or a using a computer through a web interface.

Automation helps reduce switches

Having switches to manually control lights, blinds and heating doesn’t require a home automation system. An automation system ought to do as the name suggests – Automate. Rather than increase the number of switches, a well thought through system should reduce it.

Example: Your outside lights can automatically turn on after sunset and your heating can be controlled semi-automatically with a single button which selects different operating modes. Blinds and curtains may work fully automatically, all year round. They’re only adjusted if necessary, for example for cleaning or when entertaining guests on a summers eve.

Avoid unnecessary “double” assignments

Often when there’re many buttons on a switch plate, functions that would normally only require one button take up two. KNX and other smart switches often have a separate switch for “Light on” and “Light off”. Avoid this unnecessary doubling up and just use one button.

Make use of your system’s “advanced features”

An intelligent system like the Miniserver can also differentiate between single and double clicks, or short and long clicks.

So you could for example set up the living room so that a single click controls the light, making the system intuitive to anyone, whilst a long click on the same button adjusts the volume of your music system.


Have you got any tips on how to use switches around the home? Let us know by posting a comment. It’s always great to hear your feedback!