Home Automation 101: Home Automation Options

Home Automation 101Your home works for you – in a standard home, there’s no central hub. You have to go to each object and tell it what to do when you want something done. You have to go to the coffee maker, select the settings, change the filter, add the grinds and then press the button to make it start.

You have to press a button to turn on the television and you have to walk to your thermostat to adjust the settings from cool to warm. In an automated home, you can do all of these things and more, without having to physically walk to the location of each object to give the commands.

What Can I Automate In My Home?

New home automation options are emerging all the time, so telling you exactly what you can automate is difficult. A rule of thumb is that if it has a button to turn on and off and it has options to adjust it, you can probably automate it. Electronic devices are an obvious choice. Your home theater system, security system and your heating and cooling systems are prime candidates for home automation. Appliances can be automated, as can the lighting in your home. You can even automate your doors, windows, drapes and blinds in a similar way you would to a garage door.

How Do I Control My Automated Home?

Controlling the automated components in your home is dependent upon how those components are set up. Some things can be controlled via your mobile phone, tablet PC or personal computer. Other systems require the installation of touch screen panels or switches. Some systems run on timers and schedules, while still others are dependent on certain actions to set them in motion (for example, a motion sensor could detect someone in the room and automatically turn the lights on).

How Does Home Automation Work?

Your home automation system is dependent on having a network. Just like the computers in your home form a network that allows them to communicate with each other, with other networks of connected computers and with the Internet, your automated devices need a way to communicate with each other and with you. This is accomplished via Bluetooth technology, your home Wi-Fi network, mobile phone networks or through proprietary methods developed by individual manufacturers.

Choose the Integrator and Components

Before choosing to automate your home, you’ll need an integrator. This is the hub that sets up the network for your home and allows all the devices, appliances and components to communicate with each other. It also determines how they communicate. An automated coffee maker using Bluetooth technology will be nearly useless (without advanced tinkering on software protocols) if your integrator uses Wi-Fi. The integrator comes first and the components to automate your home come second.

Selecting a Protocol

When you select a home automation system, your needs must be evaluated. If you’re looking to automate one or two relatively simple things (like turning lights on and off on a schedule) and don’t have a large budget to work with, a system like X10 allows you to do it yourself. The protocol for X10 can’t handle heavy lifting, so if you intend to automate more than one or two home functions, you’ll likely have to make a bigger investment in another integrator.

ZigBee and Z-Wave are two commonly used protocols, utilized by manufacturers and integrators Crestron, Control4, Schlage, and D-Link. Both are aimed at those with a healthy budget for household automation and most components require professional installation.

Crestron is generally considered to be top of the line in terms of quality integrators and components, while Control4 is nearly as good but with a lower price point. These protocols easily handle more tasks and more intricate home automation, so if you’re interested in automating your entire home, consider one of these two protocols.

Putting Together an Automated Home

You’ve figured out which parts of your home you want to automate. You’ve decided how you’d like to control them and you’ve chosen a protocol that works for you – you’ve selected an integrator that does what you need it to do and bought the components that you need to automate your home. So, how do you get all this stuff together?

The simple answer is: you have to create a network and connect each appliance or component in your home to the network, which runs through the integrator. If you’re tech savvy and using a protocol designed for the DIY-er, there’s a good chance you can set it all up with minimal risk and injury.

The rest of us mere mortals, however, will probably need to consult a home automation specialist to avoid the risk of electrocution, fire, injury, fried components and wasted money — not to mention possible tears of frustration.

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