Getting Started with Home Control
There’s work and school and an after-hours dinner meeting and soccer practice and piano lessons and calls to return and bills to pay … and that’s on a slow day. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in this day and age. The last thing you need to be bothered with is your house. Too bad it demands so much attention: All those lights to turn off, doors to lock and shades to shut. Running a household is a lot harder than it should be.
Draw the Line
Thank goodness for home control systems. With the touch of a single button, you can operate everything from the lights and thermostats to the sprinklers and security system. Your stereo system and televisions, gas fireplaces and ceiling fans, garage door openers and swimming pool heaters—just about anything—can be operated conveniently from a home control system. It isn’t difficult to imagine the possibilities, but unless you’re rolling in dough, it may not be financially feasible to bring all those wonderful ideas to fruition. For most people, its better to focus the home control plans on just a few core areas—like the management of lighting, security and audio components.
Settle on Systems
One of the best ways to determine what types of systems to control is to identify your family’s biggest problem areas. Do the members of your family forget turn off lights and lock the doors when they leave the house? Or maybe you and your kids can’t see eye-to-eye on what type of music to play over the stereo system. Domestic conflicts can also ensue over the computer and TV, and what parent doesn’t battle with his or her kids to get into and out of bed on time? A control system can help you handle these and other common household issues with ease. For example, instead of traipsing up the stairs to yank your teenagers out of bed in the morning, you could simply press a wake up button on the keypad in the kitchen to snap on their bedroom lights, raise the window blinds and blast reveille over their speakers. And if you’ve had it with all the tedious switching off and turning down of things before bedtime, one command from a control system could synchronously lock the doors and windows, shut off the lights, turn down the thermostats and close the garage doors. Even arguments over entertainment systems can be settled with a control system. It can divide your home into individual entertainment zones, enabling a single stereo to play different types of music simultaneously in different areas.
Choose Your Weapon
After you’ve identified the types of systems you’d like to operate, you’re ready to pick out the controls. Commands can be issued to systems from a variety of different devices, including handheld remotes, wall-mounted keypads and portable touchpanels. You can use a combination of controls or stick with one flavor. For example, a handheld remote makes sense in a media room, where you’ll primarily be operating the entertainment components from the couch. A home systems installer can add commands for lights, window treatments and other amenities to the clicker. In other rooms, a wall-mounted keypad can provide a convenient way to set the lights and music as you walk into the space. Finally, a portable touchpanel is probably the best choice for families who need to see information, such as the song titles of a CD collection or the current indoor temperature, before turning on the music system or modifying the settings of the thermostats. Some touchpanels can also display images captured by surveillance cameras, pages from the web and digital pictures, giving you even more bang for your home control buck.
Room for More
Remember: Even if the systems and controls you select today aren’t perfect, you can always add on to your home control system later. For example, if one day you install a security sensor in your toolshed, it can easily be programmed into the control system by a professional home systems installer. The same is true when you buy a new piece of entertainment gear or order a motorized roller for the shades in your home office. As long as it’s electronic, it can usually be monitored and managed from a home control system.
By Lisa Montgomery, senior editor for Electronic House magazine. To see more articles from the editors of Electronic House magazine about the connected home visit www.electronichouse.com.
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