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As you create your plan for home automation, consider:

  1. Lighting: It’s more convenient to turn off your home’s lights from a single switch than to have to run downstairs if you forgot one in the garage or family room. Add outdoor lights to the console, too, so you can control them from indoors. Also, consider energy-saving, mood-setting dimmers, and sensors that will activate lights when you enter and leave a room or get out of bed in the night.
  2. Entertainment: You can program speakers in each room of the house to play the same music throughout the house from a single iPod, radio station or stereo, or to direct different tunes to various rooms. You can also program your home’s TV sets so they all show the same program, and you’ll never miss a minute of a football game when you move from room to room.
  3. Security: Automated homes can turn a few lights on and off at realistic intervals so it looks like someone is home. Sophisticated systems can turn the lights on when you pull up to the driveway or open the front door, or when the house “senses” movement. High-end systems can even activate programmed voices to “speak” loudly enough for an outdoor intruder to hear if a sensor triggers the lights to come on.
  4. Monitors: You can use a home automation system to hear or even see what’s going on in your children’s rooms when you’re elsewhere in the house. Some systems even let you log onto a Web site and view your home while you’re at work, or while you’re out of state. This is a favorite feature for seasonal residents who might not be able to check on their homes in person for several months a year. Some systems even “sense” problems like a flooded basement and will send a message to the homeowner’s voice mail or e-mail. 

The more components you add, of course, the more expensive your automated system will be. But adding a little bit at a time in a planned way that ensures every piece can “talk” to all the others, can make this useful technology more practical and affordable. 

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