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April 17, 2015

Home Automation

Home automation can offer convenience, comfort, energy savings,  security, entertainment and more for your home. By using a smart phone, tablet or computer to monitor or control home automation functions in your home, you create a smart home that can be as simple or as complex as you want.  

For example, you can begin by simply replacing incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy-saving LED bulbs. For equivalent light output, the LED bulbs use only a fifth of the electrical energy of incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer.

By replacing the incandescent light bulbs with “connected” LED bulbs, such as the Connected Cree LED Bulb, you can take “smart” a step further by being able to individually control each bulb via your smart phone or tablet and turn it on, off or dim. You can also turn driveway or house lights on or off from your car and check the status of lights after you’ve left home to see if you remembered to turn them on or off. Using the control application on your smart phone or tablet, you can also program the lights to automatically sequence on and off during the day or night when you go on vacation.

By using color tunable LEDs such as those found in the Hue Personal Lighting System, you can not only turn the lights on or off, but also choose from a wide palette of colors. Great for ambiance at parties, special events, or just to help set the mood when you’re home.

By adding a motion sensor to the control system of your smart lights, you can program lights to go on when you approach your home, open a door or enter a room. As a safety or security measure, you can have the system send a text alert to your smart phone that a sensor is triggered and lights turned on, alerting you to possible unauthorized entrance into your home.

One of the more valuable home automation devices is the smart thermostat. Saving as much as 30% on your annual home energy use, the smart thermostat allows you to set the desired temperature without the system running for longer than needed. Google’s Nest learning thermostat learns your family’s routine and only supplies heat or A/C when needed, such as when someone is home. The thermostat also provides a setback feature that lowers the home temperature at bedtime.

The Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat does all that and adds a geofencing feature. This feature works like this: you set a virtual fenced area anywhere from 500 feet to a 7 mile radius. When your smart phone leaves that area, the thermostat goes into an away mode, setting back the temperature. When your smart phone enters the fenced region, the heat or A/C turns on so your home is comfortable when you arrive. No need to waste energy heating or cooling your home when you’re not there. You can also automatically control window curtains or blinds, such as those from Somfy Systems, to help maintain comfortable temperatures in your home.

Security is an important feature of your smart home. You can detect unauthorized activity in the home by use of motion sensors, door switches, and pressure pads. Security cameras can also detect motion within their field of view. Depending on the security system, text alerts can be sent directly to your phone or tablet for your action. In addition, lights can be turned on, audio alarms activated, camera recordings started or, if you are paying for professional monitoring, the service can be alerted for their action.

Additional safety features could include temperature, smoke and carbon monoxide sensors and flooding detectors. Security cameras allow you to keep an eye on the interior and exterior of your home. Smart door locks can report their status and be remotely locked or unlocked, all viewed on your phone or tablet.

Other great money-saving smart home devices allow the user to control their sprinklers in response to soil moisture sensors or turn the water heater on or off while away.

The various home automation devices are becoming more popular and easier to install and operate. The downside is the wide range of control signal formats used, many incompatible with each other, has made it very difficult to integrate their monitoring and control into a single app or program. Home automation hubs such as the Smart Things Hub or Sage by Hughes Hub do this by accepting the various formats and displaying their monitoring and control on a single device, typically a TV, smart phone or tablet using a single app.

So automate your life and your home, save money, live safely and securely and take that first step to join the home automation revolution--just by screwing in a light bulb.