You don’t need to be a George Jetson or a Bill Gates to own a smart home these days. Rapid advances in home automation technologies over the past few years are making it increasingly possible for almost anyone to convert their home into a smart house. All it takes is a little bit of patience, planning and an understanding of how home automation systems work to make your home an intelligent one.
What Is an Intelligent Home?
So what exactly is a smart home? Definitions vary, but smart homes generally are homes in which lighting, heating, entertainment and security systems can communicate with each other and can be controlled centrally by you. Instead of you having to manually turn on a light, adjust the thermostat setting or tune your home theater system, you can do it all via remote control sitting anywhere in the house, or even hundreds of miles away via your smart phone.
How Smart are Smart Homes?
High-end smart homes, such as the $100 million mansion built by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, integrate a very high-level of automation and machine intelligence. Such homes are capable of automatically sensing and responding to individual requirements without much action on the part of the user. For example, a high-end smart house would know when you are at home, and turn on the lights and heat to your pre-specified settings, tune your TV to your favorite channel, have music that follows you from room to room, and automatically turn on the coffee-maker or other appliances for you.
Building Intelligence Into Your Home
In most other cases, though, when people refer to a smart house, they are speaking about homes in which lighting, heating, home theater and security systems are automated and centrally controlled. Many new homes that are being built are hardwired and enabled for home automation. It’s relatively easy to integrate such technology into existing homes using a technology known as X10.
Home Automation with X10 Technology
Developed in Scotland in the 1970s, X10 is a protocol that allows devices inside your home to communicate with each other over existing electrical wiring. An X10-enabled device can be controlled remotely from any part of the home. Many X10 devices these days are IP-enabled, which means they can also be controlled and managed over the Internet. So, an IP-enabled X10 light switch, for example, can be turned on or off using your smart-phone or laptop computer from anywhere over the Internet.
Home Automation Kits
Many companies, including most home alarm companies, these days sell easy-to-install X10 kits featuring remotely-controllable switches, dimmers, outlets and thermostats that allow you to convert your existing home into a smart house. You can replace all of your existing hardware with such kits to quickly automate functions such as lighting and heating. X10 kits are available for automating your security system, your home theater system and systems such as your underground sprinklers.
Tips for Home Automation
With a little bit of planning, you can convert your existing home into a smart home. Many of the home automation kits that are currently available are designed for do-it-yourself installation. Before embarking on a home automation project, keep the following tips in mind:
- Roll out your automation project in a phased manner.
- Decide if you want to do system-by-system automation or room-by-room automation.
- If you choose to automate on a system-by-system basis, decide which system you will automate first. Will it be your light, security, heating or your ventilation and air conditioning systems that will be automated first? Do the same sort of prioritization if you decide to do room-by-room automation.
- Decide what your budget is and stick to it. Home automation kits are not very expensive. However, the costs can quickly add-up without proper planning and prioritization.
With proper planning, your dream of living in a smart home can become a reality far more quickly and far less expensively than you ever imagined possible.