Many people remember watching movies and television shows, such as “The Jetsons,” where the characters lived in ultramodern, fully automated homes. Home automation is no longer a thing of the future. It is now a technology within reach of homeowners, which increases the value, safety, and efficiency of a home. Members of Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 51 years, explain the possibilities that whole house automation offer.
What is it?
Whole house automation is a central system that connects all devices in a home, facilitating communication between appliances and systems and offering homeowners instant control of these objects.
“Home automation makes life easier and can be tailored to a family’s lifestyle. It should be used in the places you live the most, including the kitchen, master bedroom, or home theater,” said Ron Lemke of Flanner’s Home Entertainment in West Allis.
What are some possibilities?
Lighting – There are many ways homeowners can control lighting, whether they decide to have the lights automatically turn on at a certain point in the day or they want the lights to dim when the DVD player is turned on. “Homeowners have the ability to control lighting while they’re at home or remotely. For instance, we have clients who like to be able to control the lights while they’re out-of-town so the home looks lived in,” explained Lemke.
Thermostat – With whole house automation, individuals can have complete control over the home’s temperature, being able to adjust the thermostat from anywhere in or out of the home. Homeowners can change the temperature from the comfort of their beds or in the car before they arrive home. They can also program custom schedules, so the thermostat adjusts the temperature according to the time of day, home’s occupancy, or activities going on at that point.
Shades or Blinds – Shades also can be automated to help control the temperature. In winter, they can be programmed to open on a south-facing wall to allow sunlight in or close during the summer months to keep a room cool. “Homeowners can also program drapery in a home theater to automatically shut when a movie is turned on,” said Ray Hoffman of America In-Home in Brookfield.
Home Theater and Entertainment – There are many components that make up a home theater. Home automation makes the process easier by selecting the proper inputs and outputs and powering the right parts. “Instead of dealing with three remotes, one touch screen remote can be programmed. Homeowners can simply press the ‘movie’ icon and everything necessary for movie watching, such as the Blu-ray player, screen, and speakers, will turn on. People no longer have to perform several steps to achieve a single outcome. It’s as easy as a push of a button,” said Hoffman.
Irrigation – Whole house automation isn’t limited to the indoors. Homeowners can automate their home irrigation system. They can set their preferences, choose the time of day they’d like the lawn to be watered, and even use moisture sensors to turn off the system when watering isn’t necessary.
Security System – Home automated security systems can alert homeowners of security-related events that occur – trespassers, water leaks, and more. “There are many possibilities when it comes to home security. Perhaps, homeowners choose to integrate their security system, so when they’re in the basement watching a movie, they’ll be alerted if someone is there. Maybe a message pops up or they can view the camera shot on the same screen as the movie,” explained Hoffman.
What are the benefits?
Safety – There are many ways that whole house automation contributes to safety. First, individuals have complete control of the security system. They can be alerted if there are any issues, monitor what’s happening in the home remotely, set the system at the touch of a button, and more. Automated lighting is also an important factor. Homeowners can have the outside lights turn on before arriving home at night, lighting their path and offering extra security. If individuals are out-of-town, the lighting also can be programmed to turn on and off randomly to make it look like they’re home.
Energy Savings – Home automation can cut energy costs and use. “With whole house automation, homeowners can track energy use at certain times of day and of particular appliances to adjust their use of those items,” said Lemke. Temperatures can be adjusted depending on the time of day and occupancy to cut down on heat and air conditioning use. Lights can be programmed to turn off if the room isn’t occupied for a certain amount of time. Unused electric devices can be automated to shut down. There are many options to keep costs lower.
Convenience – Whole house automation makes life easier. “It combines many functions into one system to cut down the amount of steps people have to take,” explained Lemke. Homeowners can control different aspects of the home from any room in the house. They don’t have to worry about whether or not they remembered to turn down the temperature or set the security system when they’re away because they can do it remotely.
Comfort – There are many ways to create a comfortable environment. “Homeowners can do things like stream music throughout the home. Or they can control the lighting intensity and color to evoke a mood and create scenes,” said Lemke.
How does it work?
Main Controller – The main controller is a computer. “We prefer to call it a central processor,” said Lemke. “It takes in all the information from the user interface and sensors, then processes it to complete a task.”
Interface – An interface is how you interact with the main controller. There are many interface options available – touch panels, keypads, remote controls, mobile devices, and the Internet.
Sensors – Sensors tell the controller what’s occurring in the home. There are contact sensors to tell if a door has been opened, motion sensors to detect movement, moisture sensors, temperature sensors, and more.
Control Methods – There are interfaces to interact with the controller and sensors that communicate with it, but how does the controller turn on the light or open the shades? Controllers can manage different parts of a home automation system with a variety of methods. Some examples include WiFi, which can be unreliable at times but is gaining popularity, radio frequency, a wireless option that allows homeowners to control aspects of the system in various rooms and outdoors, and relays, which send electricity to start motorized devices, including shades or projection screens.
Programming – Fortunately, homeowners don’t have to worry about how home automation systems work. There are companies that specialize in the installation and programming of whole house automation systems. “Before working with a company, do your research. Make sure you’re working with a business that has an established reputation and backs up its products, such as a Milwaukee/NARI member,” advised Lemke. “This is a good indication that they adhere to certain standards that have been established.”
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI’s Remodeling Guide,” call 414- 771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.