Setting Up a Smart Home

One Touch Automation presents the third installment of the Smart Home series by Molly Edmonds, origionally published on

Here are some examples of smart home products and their functions.

Cameras will track your home’s exterior even if it’s pitch-black outside.
Plug your tabletop lamp into a dimmer instead of the wall socket, and you can brighten and dim at the push of a button.
A video door phone provides more than a doorbell — you get a picture of who’s at the door.
Motion sensors will send an alert when there’s motion around your house, and they can even tell the difference between pets and burglars.
Door handles can open with scanned fingerprints or a four-digit code, eliminating the need to fumble for house keys.
Audio systems distribute the music from your stereo to any room with connected speakers.
Channel modulators take any video signal — from a security camera to your favorite television station — and make it viewable on every television in the house.

Remote controls, keypads and tabletop controllers are the means of activating the smart home applications. Devices also come with built-in web servers that allow you to access their information online.

This keypad will send a message to your lamp.­These products are available at home improvement stores, electronics stores, from technicians or o­nline. Before buying, check to see what technology is associated with the product. Products using the same technology should work together despite different manufacturers, but joining up an X10 and a Z-Wave product requires a bridging device.

In designing a smart home, you can do as much or as little home automation as you want. You could begin with a lighting starter kit and add on security devices later. If you want to start with a bigger system, it’s a good idea to design carefully how the home will work, particularly if rewiring or renovation will be required. In addition, you’ll want to place strategically the nodes of the wireless networks so that they have a good routing range.

While the networks claim that the products are easy to program and use, about 60 percent of homebuilders who have installed home automation devices hired professional help [source: Regan]. If you’re looking for a technician, check if they have CEA-CompTIA certification. This certification is the result of a partnership between the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), and it represents proficiency in installing, maintaining and troubleshooting any vendor’s home networking equipment.

The cost of a smart home varies depending on how smart the home is. One builder estimates that his clients spend between $10,000 and $250,000 for sophisticated systems [source: McKay]. If you build the smart home gradually, starting with a basic lighting system, it might only be a few hundred dollars. A more sophisticated system will be tens of thousands of dollars, and elements of home theater systems raise the cost of a system about 50 percent [source: Gloede].

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