DO I REALLY NEED HOME AUTOMATION?
This question quite rightly comes up time and again amongst home owners, electricians and builders. When we're being asked about it, the conversation often starts with something like:
I really don't need all the latest gimmicks
It's far too expensive for me
I can't see any real advantages
The subject of home automation is nothing new – products have been on the market for over a decade now – and yet most people out there haven't got a clue what a house of the future might look like.
Forget intelligent fridges...
The first thing I used to associate with a house of the future was the intelligent fridge which automatically ordered milk from the supermarket when you ran out. But let's be honest: who really needs that? No one.
At least not yet anyway. The media's not done us any favours here – most people shy away from these over-exaggerated examples of so-called smart homes. And quite rightly so, we're simply not ready for them, the change proposed is too radical and not sensible.
...we rather talk about real life at home!
Let's talk about people's actual life in their homes – what they want and the many ways in which home automation can fit in with their daily routine and enhance their quality of life.
Point 1: Everyone's different
Everybody has individual needs and ideas about life at home. Home automation can make a positive difference to anyone. What's important is to know what's available, and then to decide for yourself what you want.
Point 2: Life never stays the same
Our daily routines and life are constantly changing and so does how we use our homes. Sure, at the moment your young offspring might just use their bedrooms for sleeping in, but in a few years time the same bedroom will also be their office and lounge. They no longer want to play in the living room. A few years further down the line and their room may become your study or a spare bedroom. Wouldn't it be nice if your home could easily adapt as your requirements change.
Point 3: Forget technology
Do you prefer to think about how you want to live, rather than exactly what technology you'd like to be surrounded by? Unfortunately much too often our attention gets drawn to specific switching protocols, a display technology or something like that. Don't be lead astray, instead keep focusing on functionality.
Point 4: Don't be put off
Don't let yourself be put off by the jargon spouted by experts. Your own house of the future can simply be a good thing which will give you great enjoyment and flexibility for years to come. It is not those experts that have to live in the house, but you!
Get to know the options:
It's important to know all the options you've got for smart home installation, so do some research and ideally visit a few houses and get to know features that you like.
Here are a few everyday examples of how home automation could work in your life:
The PIRs that are used for my lights also guard my home during the holidays, without this dual function I would need to buy a separate alarm system.
I put my doorbell on silent when the kid's are having a nap – the lights blink instead to let me know if there's someone at the door.
The heating in each room is individually controlled the way I like it, I never have to worry about turning the heating up for Christmas day or down when I go on holiday.
At midday, the blinds on the south facing windows of my house come down automatically before it gets too warm inside and curtains close for privacy at dusk.
I've got a "Leaving the house" switch which turns off all the lights in the house and arms the burglar alarm. If it is dark the outside lights stay on for 5 minutes so I can get to the car or walk down the drive.
If the garage door's still open an hour after sunset, I get a call on my mobile to remind me to shut it.
The lights which are turned on by a motion sensor are automatically dimmed after midnight, so I'm not blinded on my way to the toilet in the night.
I can remotely turn on the heating so the house is not cold when I get home from holiday and my wife can have a hot bath.
Did anything from this list appeal to you? Pick and choose what YOU want
Fair enough, some of those ideas may sound pretty gimmicky to you. That's not a problem. Home automation is like Pick 'n' Mix at the cinema. Simply pick out the features that appeal to you, and leave the rest.
Your house of the future can be flexible, and if you opt for a modular solution like Loxone, you can always upgrade at a later date.
When I'm giving people tours of my house, the first thing I usually say is "I'll show you everything we've got set up, and you can just pick out what you like. Simple."
Putting it in perspective
One of the most important tasks when trying to make a decision is to put things in context, especially with costs.
The thermostatic bathroom tap cost £300. So should I really skimp to save £100 on a few spare cables?
I spent £8000 on light fittings, switch plates etc. Is it not worth paying £500 to be able to control them all perfectly?
My car has individual temperature controls for driver and passenger, parking sensors and a head-up display... Do I really want my house to be more 'stupid' than my car? Where do I spend more time? Which will I have for longer?
I could buy some state of the art electric curtains or blinds for £500. For less than £80, I'd be able to set them up to automatically shade the house, maybe even saving money on air conditioning costs.
A stainless steel video intercom system would cost me more than £1200. The Miniserver costs just £450.
There is always a budget. Bear in mind that there are things that can easily be upgraded at a later date and those that cannot. Make sure you save on the right things.
Invest for the future
Saving the best advice until last:
Whether you want to go all out (hopefully with Loxone!), or just to install the basics, you're investing in the future.
Don't skimp on the electrical installation. Wire everything centrally. Build a BIG distribution board. Then you can adapt or extend your home automation system at a later date. Who knows what direction things like energy management will go in the future. Be prepared for whatever happens, and don't let anyone talk you out of it.
Still unsure about something? Just ask!
It would be a miracle if no one had any questions after reading this article. That's why our team is ready to answer any questions you might have – via Facebook, email, or the phone. Take us up on our offer of advice and information straight from the experts, with no pressure to buy anything from us!
And as always... we value any feedback you might have, just post a comment. Finally, have fun looking round the rest of the website, and with your very own house of the future!