Smart Home, home automation, home control – whatever you call it, it’s a thing. In the U.S. and Europe it’s a big thing, with the likes of Apple climbing on board as more and more houses get fitted out with devices that control energy usage for heating and cooling, hot water, lighting, security, home entertainment and so on. It won’t be long before your fridge starts ordering food from the grocery store.
The Smart Home is Here!
Smart Home Control (once known as Home Automation) means the ability of a house to automatically perform tasks on your behalf.
For example a security alarm may be turned off from your smartphone to allow trades people to access the home, and turn it back on when they leave. Or the fridge may detect food being taken out and automatically orders their replacement.
Smart Home Control not only offers complete flexibility for the homeowners in respect of how they control their devices and enjoy their homes but some significant energy saving possibilities as well.
More and more new builds overseas are incorporating home control technology as an essential part of the design
As the systems become more common homeowners looking to buy a house are starting to pay a premium for having the systems built in. Adding a system like this helps homes reach higher Homestar energy efficiency ratings and 6 Star + ratings are worth approximately 9% more in New Zealand now – and likely more in the future.
Increasingly, people buying homes are now not only considering buy price but running costs and home control is control over power usage.
If you think this kind of stuff is just for high end architect designed homes, then think again because systems start from just $2400 plus GST fully installed.
If you’re not up to speed with the technologies being applied to homes coming through – we have smart homes, smart watches, smart cars so why not smart homes? – then you need to get your head around it. The changes on the horizon are mind-boggling.
Combining home batteries with cheaper solar power installations, homes are going off the grid: generating their own power, storing it during the day to use during the night.
And it can all be controlled from your phone!
Communications delivery has changed. High Speed Broadband is rolling out to a street near you (and hopefully your street!); streaming services for TV, movies, music and more is taking over from traditional TV.
People are moving from landline telephones to just having mobiles but you still need internet delivered to your home by cables for truly fast speeds.
If you have UltraFast Broadband (UFB) you will likely need to upgrade your WiFi routers to ones that can handle the new loads. No point in having 100mbs coming into your house if your old router spits the dummy at 1ombs.
If you're working from home consider using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony - it's much cheaper
Cables, at least for the moment, are useful as they're faster still than WiFi, especially if you're working from home and using VoIP telephony.
Explore the different packages to see what works best - mobile/broadband, landline/mobile/broadband, Power/broadband packages, 'naked' broadband (no phones with the service).
If you are building or renovating now is the time to look at pre-wiring. This is the general term for running cabling through the framing timber before you panel the walls; that’s cabling for telephone, television, music, home theatre and internet needs, plus a lot more besides, including now lighting, security, cooking . . . welcome to the era of the smart home!
A remote controller, likely to be your smartphone these days, gives you total control over the lights, music, temperature, energy management, and general ambience of your home, applying preset levels to all with the touch of a button or changing on the fly.
Buyers are increasingly expecting to see pre-wiring in new builds, and doing so can add both value and saleability to your home. The beneﬁts can be huge and the cost minimal. New technologies now available will enable the following:
Remote use of your smart phone or PC to control heating, lights, music, and even ordering and cooking food.
Sensors and actuators to operate home security/CCTV, and control gates, lights, music and garage doors automatically.
Digital music options, allowing you to choose from your own collection or to subscribe to online streams or archives.
TV streaming via your internet, whether TV shows, movies or live sport.
What do you need to pre-wire for?
Music. New technologies allow for music to be delivered to zones within the home and even to zones within a room, using pre-wired cabling and/or the home wi-fi network.
Flush-mounted speakers can be plumbed into the walls or ceilings, or you can set up wall sockets for your free-standing speakers.
Weatherproof outdoor speakers can also be wired in.
All entertainment source equipment can be stored in one place, behind closed doors and be accessed from either a wall-mounted keypad or a touch-screen remote control.
Computers are increasingly playing a role here, with hard drives being used to store music – no more loading CDs or DVDs.
Or you can run it all from an MP3 player in a dock or specialist music storage and playback systems.
Home theatre. A dedicated room is can be a great add on, because then you can devote the entire space to the ‘movie experience’ – lighting, surround-sound, big screen, comfy seats, etc. – but even if space is tight you can plumb the living room with specialized wiring for speakers and TV or digital projector.
Lighting. Lights can be controlled via keypads or remotes, and presets can set a personalized ‘scene’. In a smart home your house can tell what time it is, so at 8.30 pm, say, you could dim the lights to a preset level of 60 per cent.
Who should pre-wire your home?
Specialist installers are a must, and it’s advisable not to use just one company for all the wiring. Consider using specialists for each of the following: electrical wiring; alarms/security cameras; telephones/data/aerials; music and home theatre. Discussing your house plans with your local home automation specialists early in the design process will help ensure the system meets all of your needs. Here are a few topics for discussion.
How many areas will have audio or automated lighting; what rooms are most important to you?
Carefully plan the locations of wall plates and sockets for appliances and speaker connections; they should be practical and unobtrusive.
Home security may involve electrics to gates or other outposts of the property, as well as wall-mounted controllers and/or handheld remotes.
Which rooms will contain computers? Even if you’re considering wireless internet access for home use it is recommended you pre-wire with computer cable (such as Cat5e or Cat6) for possible future requirements.
Speaker cables need to be screened from electrical and computer cabling in order to minimize interference.