Info & Answers
How and Why of Smart Home Automation
Make your home a smart home with these tips
A Crestron home automation touchpanel installed by The Source Home Theater
June 06, 2014 by Lisa Montgomery

Automation used to conjure thoughts of a house gone wild, where technology ruled the roost and the décor resembled a science lab. Fortunately, this stereotype has been shattered, thanks to improvements in the technology and a consumers’ growing affinity for home electronics. The bottom line is, automation can add real value to your home, and it’s a fairly simple process to have a system installed. Here are 8 helpful bits of information for anyone thinking about or in the process of automating their home.

1. Automation Boosts Efficiency
This refers to both efficiency of the systems in your house and the efficiency of your household. Because an automation system is able to control multiple devices, you can with one touch of a button set back the thermostats and turn off the lights, for example. You’ll get out of the house faster and save electricity.

2. Automation is Convenient
You’ll be able to monitor and manage all types of electronic devices (lights, thermostats, A/V equipment, motorized shades, security system, etc.) from the screen of a smartphone or tablet. The convenience alone is enough to inspire many people to automate.

3. Automation Delivers Comfort
Through its ability to actively monitor and manage various electronic elements, an automation system ensures maximum comfort. The entire environment—from the setting of the lights and thermostats, to the activation of music—is at your command.

4. Automation Provides Peace of Mind
A home automation system helps prevent potentially bad things from happening by enabling you to monitor parts of your house conveniently from tablets, smartphones, and other devices. You can check up on the house even when you’re miles away.

5. Shop for Gear
If you’re handy—or just want to window shop—many big-box retailers now offer automation systems designed to be installed by homeowners. A DIY system is the most affordable type of automation system.

Check out our FREE GUIDES on Home Automation, Home Audio, Smart Lighting, Wireless Speakers and Home Security

6. Roll it into your Cable, Satellite, Phone, Internet Bill
From the same company you pay for cable, satellite and/or phone and Internet service, you may be also able to buy a basic home automation or home monitoring system.

7. Start with Security
Many security systems come with basic automation features built in. Home protection is always important. If you can also automate the lights and thermostats, it’s a bonus.

8. Customization
It’s a beautiful thing when a smart home automation system can be adapted to fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. A custom electronics (CE) professional is able to tailor a system exactly to your needs.

More on home automation:
His and Her Home Automation
Timers and Schedules Put the Auto in Home Automation
What’s the Best Home Control System?

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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Comments (8) Most recent displayed first.
Posted by Stephen Gilstrap  on  07/18/14  at  05:01 PM

If I were you I would invest in an Omni Pro 2 by Leviton security and automation. This is a mid range type system with no fees for anything. The Omni Pro 2 is their flagship control system. If you have basic security wiring in your house and some other wires you can start with basic system and build on it overtime easily and do a lot of the work yourself. The main system is basically a security system on steroids. It can control lights, thermostats, audio, video, cameras, door locks etc. it is probably the most bang for your buck. It is also compatible with hundreds of products in the industry. I know you like to “tinker”, but unless you are absolutely sure of what you are doing, it will take a lot of time and patience and it will be like learning and mastering Greek.

The picture in this article shows a Crestron iPad dock. Crestron will be your most expensive option ever and is super high end. It absolutley requires professional installation and programming.

Posted by Chris  on  07/17/14  at  02:15 PM

Jeff you speak of automating climate, lighting, and self monitored alarm and not be tied to a single vendor.  You may want to take a look at Loxone.  While it a professional system.  It is fairly easy to configure and yet is highly configurable.

Posted by Darren Huang  on  07/12/14  at  01:42 AM

In my mind.
Firstly. Home automation has to be easy. Easy to use, easy to installation and easy to maintain.
Secondly.compatibility is important. It will give more choice for End-users.
Thirdly. A whole set of system will be the future, Now, Many big companies promote single device.
Fourthly. It has to be affordable so as to popularize.

Posted by Jeff  on  07/09/14  at  03:14 PM

Aaron…care to elaborate why I should get divorced and retire before attempting to dip my toes into self-installed/designed home automation? :P

Seriously, I want to understand the technologies and how they integrate and I don’t want to be tied to any particular solution/vendor.  As for technical ability, I wired my entire house with Ethernet (3000 ft of Cat 5e), RG-6 to a centralized distribution to my server room (furnace & storage ;-).  I have a server rack, patch panel, two GB ethernet switches, battery backups, etc.  I have a media server + 2 NAS devices serving my media to all TV’s/computers.

However none are technically enabled/controlled by an integrated home automation system (yet), but I’m okay with that.  I really want to focus the automation on lighting, power, HVAC controls and maybe simple security. 

I’m a little unsure if the existing electrical wiring/infrastructure is sufficient and if not what do I need to change/add?

What devices are best used for each application and the pros/cons of the various communications protocols (Z-Wave, ZigBee, Insteon, etc.)?

Also evaluating what the best “controller/hub” should be and what are the best touch/control panels to interface with the controller.

Next might be self-monitored security (if I can call it that) to be able to remotely check and lock doors and see what windows are open and even control the garage door.  I have similar questions about the devices/technologies used for these applications.. 

At some point later I’ll take media distribution to the next level.

I had hoped to start jumping in and just start evaluating some things, but I’ve had a few things break down that required extra resources to repair.

As to controllers, there are a couple of open source home automation controller systems that I just found and started looking at including openHAB and opensourceautomation that look somewhat promising, particularly openHAB.  It seems to have lots of support for different technologies.

Posted by Aaron  on  07/09/14  at  01:29 PM

Jeff.. good luck! you are going to need it. i hope you are unmarried and retired.

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