People have long viewed home automation — the ability to monitor, program and control your home's lighting and entry locks, heating and air conditioning, and other systems — as a technology that's just around the corner.
The Home of Tomorrow has been a fixture at state fairs, industry trade shows, and Disneyland; but for years it remained always a little out of reach, except for those people who could afford to invest tens of thousands of dollars to hire a professional to install a custom system, according to PC World.
Well, consider that corner turned. Home automation is finally becoming both affordable and simple enough for a do-it-yourselfer to install and set up.
If you've never delved into home automation, I recommend starting with lighting control, not only because it delivers the most "wow," but because it can enhance your home's security and reduce your energy consumption. The wow factor comes into play when you can control the lights in any room in your home by using a remote control. Your home's security is enhanced when you can program your lights to come on automatically at various times while you're away to give it a convincing "somebody's home" look. And you can reduce your energy consumption by ensuring that lights turn off automatically when you don't need them.
A number of manufacturers are building lighting controls with radio frequency (RF) technology these days, but I'll concentrate on two of the biggest players: GE Jasco and Leviton. You can find their products in home-improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's, as well as on Amazon.com. As you expand your home-automation system, your lighting controls — the dimmers, switches, and receptacles, at least—will stay put; but you'll likely replace the master controller at the heart of your system when you want to control more than just lights.
The fun really starts when you pull all of the subsystems together and add a controller so that you can manage the system from your PC, tablet, or smartphone over the Web. When you open a door to a fully automated home (without having to pull out your keys), interior lights automatically turn on to illuminate your path. When you turn on the TV, the lights in your home theater automatically dim. When you leave the house in the morning, your thermostat automatically adjusts so that you won't waste money heating or cooling an empty house. And that's just scratching the surface of what's possible.
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