Home automation is a rapidly evolving market and an area of custom home design that should be addressed early in the design process. The key components of home automation include:

  • Structured Wiring
  • Equipment Room
  • Internet Connectivity
  • Lighting Automation
  • Video/Surveillance
  • Home Security
  • Home Theatre
  • Whole Home Audio
  • Smart Switches and Terminals
  • Swimming Pool Integration

The home automation budget can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously, this is a major budget consideration that should be thoroughly investigated and understood during home design. Even though the initial budget may be low, the future desired functionality should be discussed and incorporated into the design.

Structured Wiring – The construction of a new home is obviously the ideal time to install wiring into the walls of the home. Virtually every room in the home can have electronics that could be integrated into overall home automation. Although wireless technology is widely available, structured wiring for internet, security, sound, video, lighting, etc. should be planned for and installed during construction. A few thousand dollars during construction will ensure that future technologies can easily be added and integrated into the home.

Equipment Room – We recommend the inclusion of an equipment room into the design of our custom homes. This room, typically the size of a small closet, is centrally located to minimize the cable runs from throughout the home. Most of the electronic components of the home are then located in this “server” room so that they are not haphazardly installed in nooks and crannies around the home. We also route an air duct and return air from the HVAC system to the equipment room to ensure the longevity and performance of the home electronics.

Internet Connectivity – The structured wiring provides internet connectivity throughout the home. The DSL or Satellite external connection then connects from the exterior termination point directly into the equipment room and then is distributed throughout the home over the structured wiring. The home would also typically include a wireless network to allow wireless internet access wherever a physical connection was not readily available.

Lighting Automation – Extensive lighting automation is best addressed during the design phase due to it’s impact on 110 VAC throughout the home. The AC wiring of the home is drastically different when lighting automation is desired. The traditional AC wiring of a home is wired through the wall switches and receptacles, such that the flipping of the switch actually closes the circuit on the loop of electricity. With lighting automation, the wall switches become signal inputs to an automation processor that interprets the command and then may take several actions, rather than just turn on the light. For example, a single button near the kitchen could be labeled “HOME”. Upon entering the home, this button could turn on several lights, turn on the stereo and TV in the kitchen, raise or lower the temperature in a certain area of the home, start the hot tub, etc.

Our preferred solution is to work with an automation partner that provides both structured wiring as well as high voltage wiring and home automation systems.

Video/Surveillance – The cost of video cameras has dropped to the point of making them affordable for surveillance applications both inside and outside the home. These cameras can then provide audio and video signals which become available on any screen or monitor that is connected to the infrastructure of the home. They would also allow someone to log into their home automation system remotely to monitor their home from work or even portable devices that support internet connectivity.

Home Security – Monitored home security systems can easily be integrated into the home automation systems to further increase the effectiveness of the security system. In addition to sounding an alarm and alerting the local police department, the system could call the home owner, flash lights, begin recording of video surveillance, activate exterior lights, etc.

Home Theatre – Home Theatres are now standard features of many custom homes and do require spccial considerations. These would include where to locate the rooms, how to sound proof the rooms, multi-level flooring for stadius seating, size and shape of the rooms, materials of construction for optimum sound and viewing, speaker wiring and location of speakers, special furniture and enclosures, location of the equipment, location and accessibility of projection units, gaming and internet connections, architecture and décor, etc. The myriad of decisions necessitate the involvement of home theatre professionals during the design and construction phases.

Whole Home Audio – What is a Whole Home Audio system? It is a combination of the following: 1. playing devices (the source) that could be your Ipod, Personal Computer, CD Changer, or TV channel you currently watching. 2. Controllers (wired or wireless) strategically placed in the rooms to allow you to control the volume, change the tracks, and switch between sources. A more advanced whole house audio controller would also let you browse the library. 3. Speakers, hidden in walls, ceilings, your yard, master bath, bedrooms, and kitchen. Each set of speakers is connected to a separate amplifier (zone) to allow each of your family members to listen to their own music type and source. You can also set the system in to the party mode which will play the same music across all of your zones in your home.

Smart Switches and Terminals – Home automation systems allow programmable buttons to replace individual switches, such that a single button can replace the old light switches and cause multiple actions with a single button push. In certain areas of the home, a wall mounted touch screen would be used to allow complete access to the full functionality of the automation system and devices connected to it. The touch screens would typically be used by main entrances, in the kitchen, master bedroom and possibly the office. Full functionality would also be available from any personal computer logged into the system.

Swimming Pool Integration – The more recent swimming pool controllers can easily integrate into the home automation systems allowing the system to send specific commands to the pool to turn on water features, heat the spa, turn on lights or cleaning equipment, etc.