|Already in bed, but forgot to turn out the lights? That's no problem with the combination of the RemoteLinc controller from SmartLabs, which allows you remote access to your lighting system from your bedside. $50. 800-762-7846, smarthome.com|
Imagine walking into your home after a long day at work. The lights are already on, the temperature is perfect, and your favorite song is playing on the stereo — all accomplished by clicking a button on your work PC before you leave. This isn't an episode of The Jetsons — it's smart-home technology. And it's available now.
Whether for convenience, security or energy savings, automated smart-home technology solutions can be applied to just about any area of the home. "Our biggest hurdle is awareness," says Steve Lee, director of business development for SmartLabs. "If people really stopped to think about it, everyone has uses for smart-home technology.
There are lots of practical solutions, not just for showing off to your friends."
In the current economic environment, the biggest draw to smart-home technology is controlling major energy-consuming appliances. "There's technology available that will turn off devices to stop them from wasting energy," says Ryan Skelly, director of marketing at SmartHomeUSA. "Products such as Smart Strip actually allow consumers to see a cost savings within a couple months."
Installing smarter maintenance systems for these appliances that can program multiple startup and shutdown times — instead of just one for each — can save a significant amount of energy (and money) as well, especially for appliances such as swimming pools, whose pumps often run for hours unnecessarily, Steve notes. Programs also are currently in the works to allow utility companies to notify appliances of peak usage so these appliances can scale back appropriately, he adds.
Most of these products can be retrofitted to existing homes. Pre-wiring connections such as cable, Internet and telephone lines to each room provides greater flexibility, Ryan notes, but wireless options also are available. "Plug-and-play" kits make for easy DIY installation, while other, more-complex systems may require professional assistance.
One of the newest wireless products to hit the market is SmartLabs' SmartLinc, which allows worldwide access to your home via applications on your smartphone. You can turn on lights to give the illusion that someone is present, decrease the thermostat temperature to save energy or survey the area around the home.
Interior surveillance options may be equally appealing. "We've seen some creative uses for smart-home technology," Steve says. For example, parents may monitor light controls in their children's rooms, so if a child turns on the lights at 11 p.m., they know he or she is up late at night. This technology also can be used to program a gaming system so that it can only be played between 5 and 8 p.m.; otherwise, it's off.
"Some people may see it as too controlling," he adds. "But some may say, 'Hey, that sounds perfect.'"
Although it may sound intensive, those interested in smart-home technology need not be overwhelmed. "You don't have to do it all at once," says Steve. Ryan concurs, "Startup costs aren't as high as one would think. There are solutions for any area, big or small." But, Ryan suggests, you should conduct extensive research on applicable solutions or contact a technical support professional to discuss possibilities for your home before moving forward. "Lots of consumers go in one direction, then decide it won't work," he notes. "And it's a very costly mistake."
|Simple Solutions for Less Than $100|
|The Smart Strip Power Strip from SmartHome USA is designed to close the circuit to appliances such as computers and TVs when they're not in use to prevent them from drawing an idle current, resulting in energy and money savings. $40. 888-843-9103, smarthomeusa.com.|
|Security and comfort are afforded users of SmartLabs' I/O Linc Door/Window Sensor Kit. Used in conjunction with other INSTEON devices, such as lighting or thermostats, the sensor can alert residents to unauthorized entry, automatically set the home to a preset temperature upon entrance or other personalized options. $55.|
|You've seen motion detection devices used for security purposes. But what about a motion sensor system that automates routine activities, such as turning on lights or opening a garage door, when it detects movement? Enter SmartHome USA's Z-Wave RF Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensor, which can interact with other Z-Wave-enabled appliances in three different modes: alarm, lighting and binary sensor. $76.|