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Home Automation - the Basics

February 23, 2018

Smart homes are a hot topic these days. Rapidly-developing technology is creating endless ways to incorporate a safer, more convenient, eco-friendly home.  According to Juniper Research, by 2021, the number of smart home automation and monitoring devices will exceed 770 million globally.


 While smart home technology has been in existence for many years, it was previously reserved for the wealthy or nerdy types.  But the unbounded growth of the Internet of Things has made it possible for just about anyone to set up a home automation system.  With a wireless router, smartphone, and a few apps, you can remotely regulate the temperature of your home, monitor the security, and control lights, appliances, and door locks.


Smart wiring has become standard for most new home construction, with the incorporation of central hubs and connected wiring for lighting, internet communications, security, and entertainment systems.


Innovative technology is also affecting the home improvement industry in a big way, and home renovations are integrating smart wiring packages as well as automated appliances, lighting, and security systems.  If you’re planning a remodel or renovation and want to automate house-wide, be prepared to spend up to $20,000 for electrical modifications that include substantial rewiring and the installation of USB-equipped power outlets. 


Getting Started - Connecting Your Wireless Network

A smart home can be a great DIY project and you can build a basic starter system for less than you think!  Your home wireless network is what will drive everything, so you’ll need sufficient bandwidth and power. Place your WiFi router where the external cable/internet/phone lines come into the house; preferably in a central location.  For a more stable connection, use an Ethernet cable.


If you want to automate multiple products in your home, you’ll need a central hub.  Amazon offers several Echo products that connect to a number of compatible devices, and Samsung’s SmartThings brand has many options.  


For single product automations, you can simply download the manufacturer’s app and set-up the WiFi connection with your phone.


Be aware that there are hundreds of products on the market and they use different internet protocols, including WiFi, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Thread, and more.  Before you run out and buy smart products, plan to first select the hub/controller you want to use; then, find products that are compatible. The product website should have a “Works With” page showing what it plays well with.  For instance, Samsung’s SmartThings is here.


Smart Plugs

 A cost-effective option, especially for small homes and apartments, is using mobile-enabled smart plugs and switches for individual appliance automation.  These fit into regular electrical outlets and you simply plug in your device and set it up with the manufacturers’ app.  You can buy plugs for $20-30 each and most can also be integrated with other systems.


Voice Control

The most exciting trend in home technology right now is voice control. Leading the pack are Amazon Alexa, Apple Home Kit, and Google Home.  With all three, you can connect compatible products in your home and your lights, TV, thermostat, appliances, and garage door could all be programmed to respond to your voice commands, or you can manage them remotely with one app.


Smart Appliances

All of the major brands (GE, Whirlpool, etc.) offer some sort of smart appliances including ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers with remote control operation and intelligent energy consumption. Prices can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.


Temperature Control

Smart thermostats make it possible to control your home temperature remotely.  Some devices use sensors to detect when you are at home and automatically adjust the temperature without you lifting a finger.  For a wireless system, the basic start-up price range is $130 to $300. 


LED Lighting

There are amazing new lighting solutions in LED technology. While LED bulbs are more expensive, they are safer, more energy-efficient, and last longer. You can create a state-of-the-art LED lighting system that will allow you to instantly alter the mood of a room with color changes and use motion sensors and automated features to conserve energy. Some lighting is available in strips that you can place virtually anywhere.  You can pick up a small smart lighting starter kit (with two bulbs) at Home Depot for about $50.00.


Home Security

You'll find many wireless home security systems that can be remotely managed with an app.  Some of them you can monitor yourself and some require a monthly fee for a monitoring service.  You can also easily install automated security cameras and sensors in individual rooms.  If you want to start with a basic self-monitoring, wireless security system, plan to spend about $300.00.


Technology is quickly leading us into the Jetsons’ world. The advances in wireless capability have led to more affordability and variety.  There is a growing list of products on the market and manufacturers are rapidly adding new features. So, even with a small budget, you can add a little more intelligence to your living space and save money in the long run.


Planning a remodel?  If you'd like to find out how we can fully automate your kitchen, contact us today!


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