I am not sure if it is because of the heart-stopping Duke Energy bills that many of us have been recently receiving or just a desire to be more “green,” but I have had several people ask me about home automation systems. Like so many questions of this ilk, the answer requires some background.
In the simplest form, home automation systems consist of three major components: a controller, various sensors and switches. With these components most everything in the house can be controlled remotely. You can use your home computer, your computer at work or your smart phone to set the thermostat, turn on lights, turn on the oven or open the front door. These systems have been very common in office buildings and other commercial building for years as they can save a ton of energy.
For example, if you are single and travel a lot on business you might install a system that allows you to control your heat and your hot water heater. You leave on Monday for a week-long business trip. Before you leave you set the heat to 50 degrees or so and turn off the hot water heater. Before you get on the plane at LAX for your return flight you can “call” your automation system and raise the temperature to 68 degrees and turn on the hot water. Six hours later you arrive at a warm house and can immediately take a hot shower. During the week, while you were absent, you were not wasting all that energy keeping your home warm and cozy and the water ready for that hot shower.
There are all kinds of home automation systems. The simplest is the programmable thermostat that many of us already have. While most can’t be remotely accessed, they do save energy and money. A system to handle the business trip scenario is more complex and does not come cheap.
Most new systems are wireless so the controls for the lights, furnace, hot water heater etc. do not need to be hard-wired. You do need to replace electrical outlets, switches, thermostats and any other device you want to have remote control over. Plan to pay about $35 for a regular light switch and about $100 for a switch to control a stove, oven or hot water heater.
You will also need to purchase a master controller. This device is either a stand-alone special purpose computer or a peripheral device that is attached to your home computer and the Internet. The controller sends signals to all the devices you control remotely. The higher the number of devices it can access, the more expensive it will be. You should plan on a minimum of about $250 for an entry level model.
The good news is that installation can be done by most anyone who is handy and able to replace a regular light switch or wall receptacle. You may need an electrician to handle the hot water tank module since you are dealing with higher voltages.
The good news is that you can start with controlling only a few energy hungry devices and add more as your budget and needs change. And there is always the “Wow Factor”
Labels: home automation, Home Networks