Smart house: Technology lets home run itself


Erik T. Hord, Modern Home Systems, Inc.

Q: What are the advantages of home automation? Won't it make my home environment more complicated?


A: Home automation combines various residential systems like security, climate control, lighting, irrigation, window shades, and home entertainment (audio and video). Simply put, it allows a homeowner to have these systems work together or on their own based on her needs, schedule, and lifestyle.

In an un-automated home, a person probably has most of the same systems (security, irrigation, lighting control, media room, central audio) but has to manually control each one. With automation, irrigation and outside lights could turn themselves on and off adjusting for the lengthening or shortening daylight throughout the year.

A hot tub could turn up the temperature in anticipation of the owner's return home. Lighting, window shades, and central music could be programmed to adjust their respective levels based on what's going on– cooking, entertaining, or just hanging out. With a programmed "vacation mode," the house would stagger turning different lights in the house off and on, keep the security system armed, and lower the costs of heating or cooling an empty house.

Executed correctly, home automation will simplify, not complicate a home environment. Success or failure is largely determined by the work that goes into designing and programming the system around someone's lifestyle. Done well, it allows a homeowner to touch one or two buttons on an LCD touch screen and have the system control all the systems automatically.

There are a number of automation choices depending on the budget and scope of the project. Systems that tie in security, lighting, and HVAC control are reasonably priced. On the higher end, systems from companies like Crestron combine basic home systems and add high-end audio and video control.

Fortunately, the price of these technologies continues to drop as automation becomes more common. We're also seeing more readiness for these technologies as more homebuilders are making structured wiring and other technologies standard features. Once the home is "future proofed," upgrades and integration of automation technology are much easier for the homeowner down the line.

Erik T. Hord