Imagine waking up in the morning, reaching over to grab the remote, and pushing a button that says “Good Morning”. The shades raise, the lights turn on, the coffee pot starts brewing, and the furnace kicks on to take the morning chill out of the air. Or, at the end of the day, when you’ve just finished watching your favorite shows and you’re nice and sleepy, pushing a “Goodnight” button that will turn off the TV, turn off the lights, close up the entire house, arm the alarm system and start the dishwasher so you can go straight to your bed. These aren’t ideas from the future, however, a home automation system that can control your home is something that you can have today.
What is it?
A home automation system links appliances, monitoring devices like cameras and motion detectors, lighting, and electronics in the home. It provides control of a wide variety of devices either by programming or remote control.
What can it do?
- Open and close: windows, blinds, curtains, doors, garage doors, or anything else that can be opened or closed.
- Turn on and off: dishwasher, washing machine, indoor lights, outdoor lights, or any other appliances that can be interfaced with.
- Operate your heating and cooling system
- Control your home security system. Including access to cameras, indoor and outdoor lighting, doors, locks, alarms, etc.
- Automate your home theater system. At the touch of a button, the TV turns on, lights dim, shades close and you’re all set for movie night.
- Operate your audio system. Listen to music in any room, or listen to what is on the TV.
- Automatically schedule tasks based on the day of the week, the time, the season, or whenever you want things to happen
- Automate certain home based activities. Like sending a text message to your phone when the front door is opened. Or closing the shades and turning on the ceiling fan when it gets too warm in one room, but not hot enough for air conditioning.
These can all be controlled by:
- Touchscreen panels on the wall or light switches in each room.
- Mobile Apps / Web Applications
Sounds cool, but how does that save money?
The idea behind a home automation system, besides comfort and enjoyment, is that everything is used only when necessary. The simplest form of automation, the programmable thermostat, can make sure that every drop of heating and cooling energy has a purpose. Light switches with occupancy sensors are another simple but effective change. If nobody is in the room the lights go off. A more complex home automation system that integrates the whole home eliminates the need to go about all the tasks that we know save energy like turning down the thermostat and turning off lights and TVs to maximize savings.
Home automation is not just a posh feature for the wealthy to install into their homes. It is something that everyone should consider implementing, even with smaller and more affordable changes. There are many different technologies available so everyone’s needs can be accommodated. From the more affordable X10 protocol for the do-it-yourselfer to the popular ZigBee and Z-Wave, it is important to know what choices are available and what the pros and cons are of each system.
Our next article will go into more detail about the available options so you can choose the home automation system that is just right for you and your home.