As a kid one of my favorite cartoons was The Jetsons. I loved watching the adventures and antics of George, his wife Jane, their teenage daughter Judy, their brainiac son Elroy and their dog Astro. Their life was simplified by technology. They selected breakfast and got ready for their day with the push of a button. I figured life for me would be just like the life of The Jetsons. I believed that technology would be far advanced by the time I grew up. Although we don’t have flying cars or robotic maids (just yet) many features of The Jetsons smart home do exist.
Home automation today gives homeowners the ability to control items and systems around the house with the touch of a button. To simplify the process, all compatible devices connect through a home network to allow control by panels mounted around the house, and may permit remote access from the Internet. Owners can then monitor their home using an interface on their computer, tablet, or even Smartphone. Ultimate control is achieved through the ability to automate and schedule your home based on personal preferences.
Different components can be part of a home automation system and owners can pick and chose based on their needs and lifestyle. Essentially there are three categories:
- Energy & Lighting includes smart appliances, lighting, irrigation, thermostats, and retractable awnings and shutters. Philips’ Hue Connected Bulbs, for example, let you change the color of your light bulbs and control them from your phone. This can be quite handy when setting a mood for a dinner party or a relaxing night.
- The Monitoring & Security category includes alarms, door locks, garage door openers, security cameras, sensors, and smoke detectors. This can be one of the most costly categories, but incredibly beneficial. This mode of home automation can alert you to events that you might want to know about right away like leaks or unexpected access to your home.
- The popular Entertainment category includes music, television, video, and sound. Crestron, an industry leader in this category, offers the ability to press the “Watch” button to transform your living room into a home theater. According to their website, “the lights dim to 30%; shades lower 80% to prevent glare on the TV screen; the movie automatically starts playing, [and] the volume set[s] to the perfect level.”
For non-techies, the world home automation may seem overwhelming. With so many components it may be difficult to decide or even know where to start. I highly recommend starting with Nest, “the next generation thermostat”. Imagine being at work and seeing on your phone that the temperature of your home is 65 degrees. You change the setting to 72 degrees and by the time you get home it is warm and toasty. Nest also learns your schedule, programs itself, and remembers your preferences. This level of control provides convenience and energy efficiency for ultimate cost savings. Their website claims that Nest can lower your heating and cooling bills up to 20%!
The higher the level of home automation the more costly it may become, so if you are on a budget starting slow may be the way to go. Luckily, this trend is quickly catching on with homebuilders across the country and will hopefully become more mainstream here in Nashville. With the Google purchase of Nest Labs for $3.2B and Samsung’s Smart Home initiative, it seems like smart homes are here to stay.