Have you ever plugged a table lamp into a timer so it would come on at dark and shut off at midnight—to make it look like someone was home while you were on vacation? Then you have used home automation.
Home automation is simply a way to program any electronic device in your home to turn on and off automatically.
A home automation system allows those devices to “talk” to each other so they turn on and off in tandem. For example, you might program your outdoor and foyer lights to turn themselves on in the evening whenever you open the garage door.
You can also program your lights, stereo equipment, thermostat and even appliances so they turn on and off at specific times.
That’s why automated homes are sometimes called “smart houses.”
The most basic home automation systems control your lights. Next, you might have your stereo system play music through speakers in every room. Then you can add on your TV sets, so when you turn on the big game in the family room, it plays on every TV in the house.
Fancier systems let you set “moods” or “scenes” in your home. An example: A “goodnight” scene would turn off all of your home’s lights, lock the doors, close the garage door and activate night lights. Add a motion sensor, and gentle pathway lights might come on if you have to get out of bed for a middle-of-the-night trip to the powder room.
Go for the full package, and you’ll be able to send commands to your home via the telephone or Internet while you’re at work, out of town on a business trip or summering in the Northeast.
You can spend a little or a lot, depending on what you need, want and can afford.