If you are considering remodeling your home, you should consider installing a home automation system. Home automation installations create less dust, noise, or inconvenience than most other upgrades to your home. It also offers benefits that help defray the cost of the improvement by reducing consumption of resources by your home. Below I discuss the basics of automation and working with a consultant to design your system.
The home without an automation system will meet your needs, but only if you are attentive to them yourself. The alarm system you forget to arm before leaving will not be armed when you return home. The thermostat will continue to keep your home comfortable, even if nobody is home to enjoy it. The lights your teenagers have only learned to turn on will remain on unless you turn them off yourself. This can be costly if a burglar or utility bill arrives.
For your home to serve you, it must be capable of controlling its various systems automatically, based on various conditions and events. Your home should behave differently when you are away for work than it should when you are away for a vacation. Your home should tell you when there are problems that require your attention, or notify you of events that concern you, such as the door to your private office opening. It should help you avoid wasting resources, and should offer you comfort when you are home.
Not all automation systems are the same, because they do not all use multiple types of automation. There are several types of automation: scheduled, event based, or conditional. Some systems operate by a rigid schedule only; an irrigation controller is an example of this- on and off based only on the time of day. Some systems are event based; an automatic garage door opener is an example. The event is you pushing the button or using the remote, causing it to open or close automatically. A thermostat is an example of conditional automation. While the temperature changes, multiple conditions exist before the thermostat turns anything on. If the temperature is higher than the thermostat is set for, and the heat/off/cool switch is in the cool position, then it will turn the air conditioner on. If only one of these two conditions exist, the air conditioner would remain off.
Automation systems can use schedules, conditions, or events as inputs. Essentially, an automation system is a computer, and its programs are simple if-then statements. If button one is pushed, then turn on light three. These programs can have conditional statements to modify the simple if-then statement. If button one and button two are pushed, then turn on light three. Some automation systems can integrate multiple independent systems. When integrated, the security system can control the thermostat and the lights, and vice versa; the automation system acts as a bridge between the various systems.
This may seem (and can be) tedious, but what it means is that your home can now react to you and a changing environment. It also means that the reaction of the home is adjustable by simply changing the program statements in the automation system. This means that your home will not only serve you, but it will serve you differently as your needs change. If are injured or ill, or as you age, your home’s software can be changed to accommodate your different needs. Perhaps a new position at work requires travel; your home can simulate occupancy, reduce energy consumption, and prepare the home for your return.
The primary step would be to work with a consultant to design your system. You need someone who is familiar with the various systems, technologies, and solutions. You should have a realistic budget in mind, and you should be comfortable sharing this budget with your consultant before up front. Your consultant should begin by asking you questions, learning about you, your habits, what your daily routine is, and how you use your home. You might wonder what this has to do with making your lights work, but your system should be custom designed for you. If your consultant does not ask you these questions, what kind of design will you get if all your consultant asks is your billing address? You should avoid the temptation to look through the parts list and start eliminating parts based on their price. If the design exceeds your budget, a good consultant will work with you to trim costs by removing features, not equipment based on price tags. Your consultant should also be able to advise you might items you might want to add later, when your budget permits.
When your system is installed, you probably will not have a complete understanding of how your system will work. The initial programming will reflect your anticipated activities based on your consultant’s questions about your normal activities. You should make notes of quirks or changes you would like to make; your installer should follow up with you after you have had about a month to explore your system. Software changes usually do not require a site visit, and your contract should cover software adjustments for several months after the installation.
To maintain the value you just added to your home, maintain contact with your installation company. Prospective buyers of your home might view an automation system as a drawback if they think they will not be able to alter the system to meet their needs. If your installer offers a service contract, seriously consider accepting it. Your system will have batteries to replace, software to adjust, and upgrades that will become available. Wait until your system is correctly adjusted before offering any referrals to your visitors; this will provide added incentive for your installer to ensure your satisfaction!