How to Automate Your Home

Mar 27, 2013 control devices, controller devices, electricity, 0 Comments
How to Automate Your Home


Ever wonder how to automate your home? Well then, you’re not alone. Home automation is a growing industry. As a professional electrician that specialized in low voltage systems and controls, I’ve seen the industry explode from mostly commercial customers to an expanding client set of residential customers.

Everything started simple and has now expanded to my installing some of the same exact equipment in both commercial establishments and private homes.

There is so much information available about this subject on the web that it can become very confusing. Let’s take a look and I’ll try to make it a little easier to understand.

There are two questions that you will first need to answer almost concurrently.

What protocol do you want to use? And w hat exactly do you want to have automated?

Learning How to Automate Your Home

You can go protocol-less and just slap components together that operate either over the home network or wirelessly with each other. Or, in order to ensure that everything works together, will continue to work together, and that the system is expandable over time, you can choose one of the protocols that have been designed to make home automation easier.

You Can Ride Z-Wave

Z-Wave is the first protocol we’ll look at it. It’s fully backed by a worldwide organization that ensures that every component developed and produced that uses the Z-Wave communication protocol works with every other Z-Wave component. (This is known as interoperability.)

You can use this technology for just about anything electrical or electronic in your house. Control devices (those you use to control appliances, lighting, etc.) can look like futuristic TV remotes, like regular TV remotes, or they can even be one- or two-button remotes similar to what you use for your car.

Big A For Zigbee

ZigBee is another home automation protocol with the backing of a worldwide alliance guaranteeing interoperability of ZigBee devices.

As with Z-Wave, pretty much anything that uses electricity can be controlled from a central location. Also, the remotes can be as simple as a one- or two-button controller, or as advanced as a 7-inch touch-screen display that is connected to the Internet through your home network, allowing you to control everything over the Internet and/or through a mobile app.

If you only want to control a few lights and maybe an alarm system, you don’t really need to go with one of the established protocols.

I would, however, highly recommend using one of the protocols so that if you change your mind and decide to expand your system in the future, you can do so much more easily.

If you want more of an idea of what is available outside of these two main protocols, Here’s another home automation article that may interest you.

Choose the Right Contractor — or Not

Although I am licensed and certified to install home automation systems in both the residential and commercial spaces, I don’t do much traveling. So, you should find your own contractor IF you decide to go all out and have one of the more involved systems installed, such as the Crestron home automation system mentioned in my other Home Automation article.

Do some investigation on the Alliance pages to see what types of controller devices are available for what you want control over, some of them are wireless and some operate over your home’s Wi-Fi network. These you can likely do yourself as installation is rather straightforward.

However, if you’re comfortable with the tools you’ll need — cordless drills and a variety of hand tools — as well as knocking holes in walls and ceilings, you can save a significant chunk of change by doing the work yourself. There does, however, remain the issue of learning how to use your new system.

A professional installer will also include a lengthy training session on how to use your new system as part of the contract price. If you’re like me, though, you’ll have much more fun learning how to use the system simply by playing with it. If you got his route and have your home theater/entertainment system connected to it, I recommend earplugs, just in case.

A whole house home automation system can make things much simpler for you. It can also give you great peace of mind, by allowing you to make sure you reset the furnace/air conditioner and turn off the oven before you leave home. It can also allow you to make your home look occupied when you’re on vacation thousands of miles away, making it less enticing for burglars.

See? Learning how to automate your home is not as hard as you thought!


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Mike is a certified low voltage installer with over 10 years of professional experience in the field, much of it working for Cable TV companies. He also has over a decade of experience in the computer field as a network engineer and support specialist. Mike's hobbies include installing high-end audio and video systems.

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