Home Automation


Home Automation is a catch-all description for any technology that allows you to control your home’s systems from a single location. For example, if you have an automated home lighting system, you can use it to turn on or off lights remotely—either from another room in the house or from somewhere off site, like the office.

More comprehensive and sophisticated home automation systems integrate all household electrical devices—HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), entertainment, refrigeration, irrigation, security, surveillance and more—enabling their operation and monitoring from a single source, most often a computer or wireless device. In addition to greater convenience, comfort and security, home automated systems provide the added advantage of energy efficiency. If you accidentally leave something on, you can turn it off from as nearby as an adjacent room or from as far away as another country.

Lighting & Appliances

When used as individual device controllers, photosensor, occupancy and remote control technologies have a proven track record of energy savings. They are also the first energy-saving applications in home automation systems.

Occupancy sensor technologies save the automated house owner energy and money by limiting lighting, appliance and space conditioning use when rooms or zones are unoccupied for a certain length of time. Photosensors adjust the lighting in a room to take advantage of daylight. When tied to a home automation system, heating and cooling systems can be adjusted to account for passive solar heat gains. Systems connected to a home automation system can also be turned on by telephone, so the home is comfortable when the owner arrives.

Load Shifting & Management

One energy-saving option is peak-load shifting. Many “smart” appliances are programmable, so that homeowners can take advantage of lower utility rates at times when the demand on the utility is low. More sophisticated home automation systems can “communicate” with utilities so that certain appliances—washers, water heaters, HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning), for example—are automatically deactivated during the peak demand periods.

Types of Controls

There are three types of home automation controls: individual control devices, distributed-control systems, and centrally controlled systems.

Types of Types of Controls

Individual Control Devices

Individual devices control only one appliance or function. Examples include programmable setback thermostats, motion detectors, occupancy sensors, photocell lighting controls, and timers.

Individual control devices have a wide variety of successful applications. These range from outdoor lighting to security sensors. The familiar television remote control unit often falls into this category. Remote control devices are not truly home automation devices, however, since they require conscious thought and human effort (however small) to operate.

Zoned & Programmable Heating & Cooling

Home automation systems can also control temperature within different zones of a home.

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These systems operate as programmable thermostats and regulate household temperatures on a room-by-room and zone basis, instead of the whole house. For example, rooms in which the family spends a great deal of time can be allotted heat on a more regular basis than seldom-used rooms. When hooked up to occupancy sensors, the zones are only activated when occupied. In one high-tech application, people carry sensors that are programmed to their personal preferences. The system reads these when people enter a room and adjusts the environment accordingly.