August 12, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
It’s easy to get swept away when planning for a home automation system. The systems are so robust they can do just about anything.
However, it’s important to keep a level head when designing a system for your house. Your custom electronics professional (CE pro) will be there to guide you, of course, but it never hurts to know what to watch out for yourself.
Here are some tips.
Overdoing it. “Designing a grand home control system can be a very intoxicating experience, and something you can easily get carried away with,” says Bryant Moore of Moore Audio Design, Matthews, N.C.
The sky may be the limit when choosing what type of devices to incorporate into your control system:
- Motorized shades
- Surveillance cameras
- Audio/video equipment
- Pool and spa controls
But you’ll get more use out of your system if you stick with what’s most important to you and your family.
Maxing out the system. We’ve all done it: purchased something that was soon one-upped by a faster, sleeker, smarter model. A home automation system is one technology that, thankfully, can keep up with the times.
Just be sure the system you have installed provides enough room for growth and modifications, advises Brian Duggan of Union Place, Excelsior, Minn.
Too few interfaces. Being able to control the lights, A/V equipment, thermostat and other devices from one spot sounds convenient, and minimizes the number of switches, knobs and keypads — known as wall acne — you need to operate your electronic systems. But Derek Cowburn of McCordsville, Ind.-based DistinctAV says having too few interfaces can pose a real problem, too, especially when it comes to lighting.
“Eliminating wall acne is important, by always put lighting controls in instantly accessible areas, not buried in a touchscreen display somewhere,” he says. “When you need the lights on in a room it should be a simple ‘whack the wall.’”
Lack of ventilation. Even today’s low-power equipment can get hot when they’re running, so avoid putting your gear where no air can get to it. A specialty equipment rack and mechanical cooling systems can promote airflow and prevent your gear from overheating.
Missing conduit. Chances are, you’re going to eventually want to add new wiring to your home. While your home is being built or remodeled, ask your custom electronics professional to install a 2-inch plastic conduit from the attic to the main equipment location (typically the basement). This will provide an open chase for the additional cabling, which is much easier than drilling into the walls, ceiling and floors.
“The conduit always gets used after construction — always,” says Cowburn.
Poor teamwork. “Everyone involved in the project needs to meet and actually speak to one another from the planning stage, through prewire and during the integration of the systems,” says Moore. If not, you might end up with systems that can’t communicate with each other, a bad thing if you’d like to be able to operate your swimming pool heater and pumps from the same keypad you use to set your home’s lights and music system.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.