What is it and why would you want it?
Home automation is about connectivity and communication between your home and your smartphone or other devices. While simple home automation has been around for many years with programmable timers for lights and coffee makers, technology is now available to permit full control of your home from anywhere. Home automation technology systems now range from remote control of thermostats through to complex computer/micro-controller based networks with varying degrees of intelligence and automation. Here we will use the terms ‘home automation’ and ‘smart homes’ interchangeably, although a purist might say home automation is slightly less broad a term than smart home.
There are 3 main areas where automation can impact our lives at home… safety and security, convenience, and through energy savings.
- Safety and Security - A home automation system helps prevent potentially bad things from happening by enabling you to monitor parts of your house conveniently via smartphone or computer, at home or away. Your home automation system may include a variety of sensors, cameras, and other devices.
For example, sensors can watch over the condition of your house, and take action. A water sensor detecting a leak could be programmed to cut off the main water line; perimeter sensors detecting unauthorized entry could sound an alarm, call the security company, and/ or send images captured by surveillance cameras to your smartphone. In the event of a fire, a connected smoke detector and components could, amongst other things, call the fire department, flash home lights, and simultaneously shut down your HVAC system to prevent smoke from spreading.
- Convenience – Since automation allows you to manage a wide range of interconnected devices, one touch of a button (or a pre-programed ‘routine’ or ‘scene’) could provide comfort or save you time. For example, you may program the lights to gradually adjust as you are waking up, and the thermostat to adjust the temperature before you get out of bed. Similarly, touch one button as you leave the house to set back the temperature and turn off the lights, saving both time and energy.
- Energy Savings – Turning back the thermostat when the house is not occupied is merely the starting point. During parties, movie nights or other activities that involve a lot of people, body heat will naturally cause certain rooms to feel too warm. An example of saving energy while ensuring comfort could be to preprogram a ‘party’ scene to adjust the thermostat to a cooler setting, while also lowering the intensity of the lights. Yet another energy saving example would be to supplement heating and lighting using motorized window coverings and sensors to automatically roll up the shades when it’s sunny.
The capacity to control your home’s electronics systems can make your household safer, more comfortable, and more economical to run. The next post will touch on how to get started….