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Smart Homes – What’s Out There?

A Smart Home is a house or apartment that is equipped with special structured wiring, enabling occupants to program and remotely control an array of automated home electronic devices by entering a single command.

thermostat

A technology called Powerline Carrier Systems (PCS) is used to send coded signals along a home's new or existing electric wiring from a control center to programmable switches or outlets where they are received by the “appliance,” then enabled.

From a compact video touch panel or computer, you can manage your home theater, audio distribution, security, heating, air-conditioning, lighting, Internet, lawn sprinklers and more. You can start the kids’ movie downstairs, shut the blinds in the living room, turn on patio music for your guests, control your internal climate or arm your security system by simply selecting Good Night on the screen. In the morning, check your stocks online while waiting for the preprogrammed coffee pot to finishing brewing. Additional options include being able to access your Smart Home remotely using a mobile phone or laptop.

Residential integration key to home automation

While you likely already have the beginnings of a home automation system with your programmable thermostat, that’s a long way from a complete system. There are more than 5,000 individual home automation tools and options on the market today. The key, however, is linking the systems/appliances so that they can be centrally controlled.

Most likely, there are already companies in your area providing these “resident integration services.” Most provide connectivity, equipment, software and services, and are happy to sit down with you and help you select the products and options to suit your lifestyle and budget.

Before signing a contract, do a little front-end research:

  • See if your integrator is certified by a professional organization such as the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association – the global trade association for companies that specialize in planning and installing of custom electronic systems for homes.
  • Ask for references where similar installations have been performed and call or visit them if possible.
  • Makes sure your contract covers difficult access since older homes may present surprises such as double bricking or plaster walls.
  • If you are building a house, the integrator can put in the “structured wiring” to serve your home automation needs. They can also retrofit existing homes.
  • Can your existing computer be used to offset some of the cost? Possibly, however, that will depend on its generation, speed, storage and other factors you can explore with your residential integrator.

As Smart Homes have yet to become the norm, also think of what a fantastic resale feature and added value upgrading to a Smart Home system will contribute to your home.

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