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4 Smart Home Options -- Home Automation News and Review

Updated on April 27, 2012
Mobilinc Pro iPhone App activating SmartLinc home automation central controller - image credit: Smarthome
Mobilinc Pro iPhone App activating SmartLinc home automation central controller - image credit: Smarthome

Home automation via smartphone

If you've ever been on vacation or holiday and wondered if, before you left home, you adjusted your thermostat to an energy-saving temperature, you can appreciate home automation via smartphone.

If you're on the way home after dark and you want to turn on your home lights to welcome you when you arrive, check out home automation via smarthome.

Home automation is now easier than ever. Prices have come down and the number of automation devices on the market is growing by leaps and bounds.

What exactly is a smart home?

I'm a home smart home geek who has been watching the home automation scene for some time.

As I see it there are four ways to automate your home:

  1. Employ a professional home automation firm
  2. Add home automation to your security system installed by a home security firm
  3. Subscribe to a home automation service provided by your telephone service or cable provider
  4. Purchase your own devices and install them yourself

Employ a professional home automation firm

  • Pros: Many homeowners like the personal customizing that comes with hiring a professional to design and install a home automation system. A full-service home automation company is probably in your area. Professionals can offer the homeowner many options they may not have thought of. Installation and turnkey operation is the responsibility of the installers. No fuss, no muss on the part of the homeowner.
  • Cons: This may be ant expensive option. You may pay for consultation and installation although some firms offer initial free consultation. You may be presented with more expensive options. There may be a continuing service charge to operate the system, depending on the system you choose.

Add home automation to your security system

  • Pros: Home security companies have extensive experience in installing home security systems and providing services. Now many home security firms are expanding their offering to include not only security but home automation as well. Like the professional home automation firm, the security system firm provides personal consultation, installation and continuing service. No fuss, no muss. Some security systems use cellular service with battery backup that is not as subject to interruptions due to power loss as systems that rely on electric house wiring and telephone service.
  • Cons: You will pay a monthly service charge based on the number and type of devices you select for as long as you use this service.

Example: ADT Security Systems have been around a long time. The company has added home automation to their service offerings. Called ADT PulseSM, the system uses Z-wave radio technology and your broadband Internet service for controlling devices from your web-enabled smartphone. Only ADT-approved Z-wave devices are recommended.

Subscribe to a home automation service provided by your telephone service, cable provider or electric utility

  • Pros: Your telephone service provider, cable operator and power company are eager for your business. Many now offer a home automation service. They make it easy for you to sign up. The home automation market is expanding and they see it as a natural extension of their interactive services. You may find that your provider offers a discount on the devices you'll need to get started when you sign up for service.
  • Cons: A monthly service charge will be added to your usual telephone, cable or electric bill for as long as your use their service.

Example: Verizon now offers a Home Monitoring and Control Kit for $219 plus an ongoing service charge of $9.99 per month. You must be a Verizon broadband subscriber, either Fios or DSL.

The kit includes a Gateway device (to interface with the web), smart thermostat, 110v appliance switch, indoor camera, indoor light module, remote control (for pairing devices and operating devices remotely), and an energy reader (that installs at the breaker panel to measure total household power as it is used).

Additional devices are available for an added cost. Only the one monthly charge ($9.99) is required no matter how many devices are installed in your setup.

Verizon's Home Monitoring and Control is based on Z-Wave technology -- a designated radio frequency -- for communication among devices.

Purchase your own devices and install them yourself

  • Pros: You can set up your own home automation network to control practically any device in your home. The cost purchase the devices you need to start up is very low -- purchase only the devices you need to control your start-up system. You can add devices later as you want. This is the home automation of choice for the do-it-yourselfer. By doing it your self you learn more about the options available to you. You'll have much more flexibility to create your own personal system with dozens of smart home devices to choose from. You can control your devices via web-based smartphones and computers. There are no ongoing service charges (except for broadband Internet service.)
  • Cons: :Like any DIY project there'll be a bit of a learning curve to read and understand installation instructions.

Schedule and control your INSTEON-compatible devices from your web-enabled PC, phone or PDA | image credit: Smarthome
Schedule and control your INSTEON-compatible devices from your web-enabled PC, phone or PDA | image credit: Smarthome

Example: Insteon is the home automation system of choice for many DIYers. If you can read, understand and follow directions -- Insteon may be for you. With a wide selection of devices to choose from you can design and install exactly what you want when you want.

Let's say you want to control your porch lamp from your smartphone. You need a central controller and a plug-in lamp module that makes your porch lamp a "smart lamp."

Plug the central controller into a wall outlet near your Internet modem and router. Connect the router with the central controller using an Ethernet cable.

Insteon works by simultaneously broadcasting command and response signals over the existing wiring in your house and over a designated radio frequency. Because of this dual-mesh system, your Insteon network is highly reliable and flexible.

Choose your smart home option and enjoy the benefits

Whichever home automation option your choose, be sure not to miss out on the safety, convenience, and fun of a "smart home."

Have you tried any of these smart home options?

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    • John Dove profile image

      John Dove 5 years ago

      Hey Phil Plasma -- Thanks for your interest. I think a lot of people like you who gave home automation top priority, but now are seriously considering it because prices are down, and DIY is easier than ever.

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I'd be using the DIY version. Home automation has always appealed to me but it has never been a priority. Great hub showing all of the options, voted up and useful.