You want an easy home automation system that unites the basic functions around your house — lighting, temperature control, locks, alarms, and maybe even some entertainment system control. You are not looking for anything too fancy, too complicated, or too expensive. So, where to begin?
Among the many choices in home automation available today, several features stand out as the most advanced, the most efficient, and the most useful for your basic needs.
6 Home Automation System Factors To Consider
When choosing a solid home automation system to protect and operate your house, consider these six factors before making a choice.
1. Full, Hub-Based Integration
The best modern automation systems tend to be based around central hubs that plug into Internet routers or gateways that allow for easy wireless connection. There are many advantages to this arrangement. It cuts down on the number of devices you have to use, it increases the ability of your system to manage multiple standards and equipment models at one time, and it makes interacting with your system much more simple.
Many of the major brand models now follow this hub-based system, such as AT&T’s Digital Life and the more utilitarian Lowe’s Iris. Hubs are more common with entertainment-focused automation and seen less in Home Security, but when available they are powerful, worthwhile devices.
2. The Latest Platform Support
When choosing a home automation system, pick a version that offers support for the latest platforms.
Do you use iTunes? Make sure the system works with iTunes if you want to play music throughout the house.
Do you have Windows 8 on your computer or phone? Double-check to see if a system offers support for the latest Windows platform. The same is true of Android or iPad support. Whatever devices you already own or use, your home system needs to support them. Then you can avoid buying extra, unnecessary remotes and skip out on the clutter.
3. Scripted Actions
Scripted Actions is a fancy name for the ability to program specific responses into your system. In other words, “If this happens, do this.” This feature takes a bit of technical expertise, but it is well worth the effort.
You can program alarm systems to send text messages to specific phones, program your lights to come on at a certain time every day, or program your thermostat to change based on the current temperatures no matter where you are. This also lets you program detailed functions on your control panels, phones, or remotes. If you want to develop your own version of the perfect, personalized system and do not mind tinkering with home automation logic, buy a system that allows for scripted action control.
4. Support for Multiple Standards
Home automation wireless standards are a mess. There is regular WiFi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, old X10, Insteon for lights — the list goes on. To avoid as many problems as possible, pick out a system that offers support for multiple standards.
The second part of this tip is similar: Buy your system — the basic hub or network — first, then start picking up compatible devices whenever possible. This will ensure that all your devices work with your system and prevent any annoying returns or replacements to find elusive functionality.
5. Mobile Apps
In today’s mobile age, it is inexcusable for a home automation system to not offer a control app for your smartphone. Windows, Android, or iOS, make sure your system has an accompanying app with at least basic functionality.
Good apps should give you just as much control as a control panel, but these are rare. Most will at least let you control temperature, security alarms, and maybe door locks or lighting. When picking out a system, search for screenshots or reviews of the app to see how friendly and usable it is. If your focus is more on appliances and entertainment, check for a smartphone or tablet app that lets you control these devices from afar.
6. Easy Sensor Placement
Many wireless devices come with internal antenna features that you do not need to worry about — they are contained and out of reach. But when it comes to home automation, home monitoring, and similar functions, you must install some new sensors throughout your house. Traditionally, this required an electrician or laborious drilling and positioning — along with an unpleasant bill and a lot of time requirements.
Forget that old method — new systems have much easier methods. If your primary interest is in monitoring or security, search for sensors that you can peel and stick to walls with handy adhesive, like the kind that FrontPoint offers. This saves time, installation bills, and damage to your walls.
These six factors to consider in a home automation system should keep you ahead of the game.
Photo credit: Gramophone Maryland