Your home is made up of many different electronic systems: heating and cooling, lighting, audio and video, security and more. A home automation system unifies these various systems so that they work as one. One command from an automation system can instruct several of these “subsystems” to adjust to certain predetermined settings, levels and inputs. It’s a much more efficient way to manage your household than by manually manipulating each dimmer switch, thermostat and piece of audio and video equipment. The automation system, in essence, becomes your point of contact to and interaction with all things electronic in your house.
The lights in your home affect almost every aspect of your household: convenience, comfort, efficiency and safety. Needless to say, they are critical components to integrate with your automation system.
Pathways. Lights can be programmed via the automation system to illuminate pathways in and around your house, making travel to the bathroom in the middle of the night, from garage to the house and up and down stairways, a lot safer.
Efficiency. You can save money on your utility bills by having an automation system turn off the lights at certain times of the day. If you forget, the system still remembers.
Convenience. You can save time and manage your household better by pressing a button on an automation keypad, touch panel or mobile device to turn lights on and off.
Aesthetics. Your house will look more beautiful when the lights are automated to accentuate the decor, artwork or architecture.
Safety. Lights can be set to switch on and off in a random pattern to make your house look occupied when you’re away.
Audio and Video Equipment
An automation system can enhance the performance of your entertainment systems by making them easier to operate and helping them blend in better with the home environment.
Scenes. A scene is a command that’s been programmed into the automation system to launch a series of signals to a variety of different components. So instead of having to press a button on a remote to turn on the TV, another to activate the surround-sound system, and so on, an automation system can single handedly get all of the necessary A/V equipment ready to play a movie.
Ambiance. You’ll likely want some background music playing during a house party; an automation system can tell a whole-house audio system to broadcast a certain playlist to speakers within certain rooms (or throughout the entire house) simultaneously as it arranges the intensity levels of the lights—instant party atmosphere.
Routines. If music and video are part of your everyday routine; for example, you wake up to the morning news and exercise to Pandora, you can use your automation system to play what you want where you want it automatically at certain times of the day or when you touch a button on your iPhone or some other control device.
So much of what an automation system does revolves around the same types of settings you’d typically expect from a security system. Home, Away, Goodnight, Vacation are common commands issued by security systems, as well as from automation systems, which make a security and home automation a natural partnership.
Lived in Look. If your house will be empty for an extended period of time, a vacation command sent from your automation system can arm the security system, plus turn the lights on and off and move the shades up and down. However, unlike predictable timer-based on and off settings, an automation system can record a household’s random usage patterns over the previous few weeks and mimic those settings to make your house look truly lived in.
Automated Fix-its. When tied to an automation system, the sensors that watch over the conditions of your house can do more than just text you when there’s a problem. They can signal the automation system to do something about it. For example, should a water sensor detect moisture on the laundry room floor, the automation system could respond by cutting power to the washing machine and turning off the main water line.
Warnings. A security system can detect when someone has entered your property or home and sound an alarm. An automation system can add flashing lights and verbal warnings (played over the home’s stereo speakers) to the mix. If this reaction seems too extreme, the automation system can send images captured by surveillance cameras to your smartphone.
Monitoring. Sometimes just knowing the status of the systems in your house can provide valuable peace of mind. The user interface (touchpanel or tablet) of a home automation system can show you which windows and doors might be open, which room the kids are in and other helpful information.
Activity Tracking. What happened while you were away from home? Again, an automation system can show you by displaying a log of activity in and around your house during your absence. You’ll be able to track who entered the house and when, where they went and when they left—a great feature for parents of latchkey kids or those who have landscapers, pool maintenance and cleaning people visit the house.
Visual Inspection. Before you leave for work or vacation, your automation system can show you if a window is still open or a TV is still on. You’ll be able to lock up and turn off right from a touchpanel, tablet or smartphone
Motorized Window Treatments
Like a lighting control subsystem, motorized window shades are operated by wall switches and hand-held remotes. This approach is basic, simple and convenient, but you’ll realize more benefits when the motorized shades are tied to an automation system.
Daylight Harvesting. Why turn on all the lamps when you can use some of the natural sunlight to illuminate a space? Through the intelligence of an automation system, motorized shades can roll up when it’s sunny to supplement your home’s artificial lighting. The automation system can keep some of the lights off and at a lower intensity level to save electricity.
Temperature Control. Just as you can use the sunlight for supplemental illumination, you can use it to warm parts of your house. When the conditions are right, the automation system can lift the shades and set back the thermostats.
UV Protection. On the other hand, the sun can be very damaging to upholstery, artwork and other decorative elements. An automation system can instruct the shades to lower to protect your investments.
Cut the Glare. As part of a Movie macro the shades can lower as the lights dim and the A/V equipment revs up for a night of movie watching.
Privacy. The same Good Night command that shuts off the lights and arms the security system can tell the bedroom shades to lower.
Heating and Cooling Systems
Of all the electronic devices in your home, the most difficult to program is probably the thermostat. It’s also a device that’s often skipped over when you prep the house for bedtime and your departure. An automation system can both simplify the programming process and adjust the settings of the stats automatically based on certain predefined conditions.
Smoke Signals. In the event of a fire (signaled by the smoke detector of a security system) your home’s heating, cooling and ventilation system can shut down to prevent smoke from spreading.
Comfort Keeper. During parties, movie nights and other activities that involve a lot of people, body heat will naturally cause certain rooms to feel too warm. A Party command issued by an automation system can adjust the appropriate thermostats to a cooler setting, as it alters the intensity of the lights and activates certain audio and video components.
Quick Settings. If your home has multiple thermostats, a home automation system allows you to adjust them all from one user interface, like the screen of a touchpanel, iPhone or iPad.