Navigating the levels of home automation

There are many misunderstandings about what constitutes a home automation system. The most important issue with whole-home automation is the structured wiring package. Look for a package that allows your clients to expand to all of the elements of home automation at any time during construction, or in the future.

The basic elements of automation begin with integration of lighting, security and HVAC control. Numerous products can control these systems, and range from single-system integration to installing three different systems and tying them together with one control system. Under this type of integration, it is common to have window or door contacts trigger the air conditioning to shut off if left open for a long time. Another example of integration is to use the basic security motion sensors as light switches after sunset.

The next level of home automation is home theater. A home theater should be integrated to include motorized black-out blinds, and controls for lighting, components, HVAC and volume. A system that controls these items will allow the end user to turn on everything with the touch of a single button, control the chapters on a DVD, change the channel on the HD satellite, pause a movie when the doorbell rings, and put the front door camera view on the TV screen.

Security and nanny cameras are important parts of the next level of home automation. Also, Internet cameras that can display views from off-site have forced integrators to create networks with the prewire that will allow for flexibility in the future. High-speed Internet allows the client to see his house, turn on lights or set the heat level in his winter home prior to leaving the airport on a ski trip.

The sophistication of pools, fountains, whirlpools, water features and fiber optics has created a new level of home automation high-end clients are reaching for. If spending $100,000 or more for pool and landscaping, a client will want to showcase these features through the ease of home automation. When party mode is on, the system should: set interior lighting levels to display artwork; showcase different elements of the kitchen, bar and game room; illuminate outside pathways; showcase outdoor artwork; and create mood by turning the pool blue or purple with fiber optics while the negative edge creates a soothing sound.

Distributed audio and video systems are the final aspects of home automation. One wireless remote can control all these elements, while sending specific music to each room; the dining room can have classical music and mid-level lighting, while the game room features the playoffs on the plasma and surround sound. Accent lights can change every three minutes to showcase a different piece of sports memorabilia, and gentle sounds of calypso music can play on discreetly hidden speakers on the patio.

Systems like these are on display in many homes throughout the country. The key to offering this level of service is partnering with an integration company that can exceed your expectations.

The fact is that most home automation technology has been in use for many years and will operate smoothly with the proper programming. Not all clients will go to the levels described here, but you and your technology partner will be ahead of your competition if your clients know that home automation is here to stay and is becoming a more accepted feature that adds value to a home. Separating and describing each system at the right time over the course of construction can lead to money in your pocket and satisfied customers that will enjoy entertaining and showing off their high-tech home to all their friends.

Once you realize that if you can plug it in, turn it on, or watch and listen to it, that it can be automated, you can separate your firm from all the others in your market.