Choosing a System
Home control systems come in a variety of forms and are mostly defined by the type of interface they employ. Some systems utilize a tactile-button keypad to send commands to a predefined set of components. Other, more expensive systems employ a touchpanel that actively displays virtual buttons and menus on a touch-sensitive screen. Ergonomically, keypads and touchpanels differ, so you’ll want to find one that feels comfortable to your fingertips. It’s also important to consider the arrangement, labeling and overall presentation of the buttons on the screen or keypad. If you can’t figure out the buttons, you’ll have a hard time operating your electronic systems.
Finding a Design
In most cases, ease of use hinges on the expertise of a home systems installer (you’ll need to hire one to put in your home control system). Based on the information that you, your builder, your interior designer and other tradespeople provide with, a home systems installer can design the buttons in a way that’s intuitive for you. The level of simplicity and convenience you experience will depend not so much on the functionality of the home control system but on the skills of the person who programs and installs it for you.
However, some systems are better at performing certain tasks than others. For example, many lighting control systems have the ability to control other types of devices in a dwelling. A home systems installer simply needs to program the system accordingly. Naturally, though, the system will be better at setting the lights than setting up music. The same goes for a security system that’s been beefed up to operate a home’s lights and thermostats. Protection will always be its forte.
Building a United Front
Depending on how you look at it, home control can be incredibly complex or amazingly straightforward. On the one hand, home control is a difficult concept to grasp because it involves the integration and command of so many different types of systems and products. On the other hand, the one-system-does-it-all approach minimizes the confusion of selecting and learning how to operate two, three, four or more separate systems.
If you think you’d like your house to have more than two systems, such as lighting control, whole-house music and security systems, then it’s wise to place all three subsystems under the aegis of a single control unit. And the best way to get all three systems working together is to hire one installation firm to handle the job.
Introduce your home systems installer to your architect, builder, interior designer and other subcontractors before the blueprints are wrapped up. The information he gleans from these professionals will help him create a system that not only functions well but that also blends in with and enhances the architecture and interior of your home.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.