Master Class: Home Automation



Home automation is one of those things that seems like a useless extravagance—until you have it. Then you wonder how you ever lived without it! So what is it, exactly? At the most basic level, home automation means hooking up all the technology in your home to one simple and easy-to-use processing unit, whether that be a control panel or even your iPhone. To give you a sense of how powerful this concept really is, here is a short and simple list of what home automation can do:

—Control your air conditioning and heating/ HVAC 

—Access video cameras inside and outside your house 

—Control your home theater system 

—Control your lights 

—Pipe music, your TV's audio or your voice into different rooms 

—Interface with your home's security system 

—Turn on and off any appliance 

—Open doors, windows, blinds, curtains, and other motorized entry/exit components, like your garage door

..and you can do this all...

—From your phone 

—From a computer 

—From touch screen panels or fancy light switches or iPads 

—From outside your house 

—Automatically, based on a schedule 

—Automatically, based on other "events" that happen, like doors opening, or motion sensors being set off 

—One at a time, or all together


Image via Bluetooth.

Pretty neat, yes? And with the rise of technology, home automation is fortunately becoming a much more affordable and realistic option for most people. While most might find doing this time-consuming and unnecessary, I think outfitting your home in this way is important for a number of reasons:

—It helps to control energy use and consumption

—It provides you access to all the electronics in your home, whether you are physically at home or not

—It will also rid you of a pile of different remote controls, each only slightly other words, it’ll create simplicity in using your electronics!


Image via The Sound Vision

So how does this all work? There are three basic approaches:

1. The first requires a lot of construction, and the philosophy is that instead of running a wire from a switch to a light in order for it to turn on as you would usually do, that wire is circumvented from your switch to a central “brain,” which then signals to your light to turn on. This allows you to control any item in the house from any location in the house, as the central “brain” is wired to everything in your home. This is the traditional way home automation has been implemented, and it’s what you will see in the big brands like AMX, Savant and Crestron. They have all been doing it this way for years and are great at it.

2. Another system is one called x10, which has also been around for a while. It was developed for people who wanted a simpler solution to creating home automation that required less construction work. This system can be retrofitted into an existing home. Instead of dedicated wiring, it uses your existing home electrical wiring. All the usual items can be controlled by this system, which is convenient—however, for my taste it can look a little clunky.

3. The last system is the newest one and probably the most versatile. It incorporates wifi, bluetooth or similar systems to negate the need for physical wiring altogether. These systems are easy to add to your home and are designed to work with multiple manufacturers. For instance, you may have light dimmers by one company, electronic locks by another and heat control by yet another, but since the systems are designed around specific standards for wifi, bluetooth, etc. they are all able to work seamlessly together.The advantage of this method is that it allows you the freedom to expand your system at will (and also take advantage of sales on these products when they come up, too!). The most current, well-known brands that work with this system are Zigbee and Z-wave, and there are lots of manufacturers creating new products every day for both. 


Image via everythingiCafe.

The rising popularity of these simple systems means that automation for all electronics in your home is not far away. So what are you waiting for? Let me know what you plan to automate first by giving me a shout out @nousdecor.There are other systems too, that are more job specific. For instance, NEST (which was acquired by Google) can link your thermostat and fire detector, and have them both operate from your smartphone. Another that I like is the wireless SONOS system, which can control all your sound throughout the house wirelessly, and can also be operated using your phone.

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