In the world of home technology there are options galore. You can spend a lot or a little, focus on audio only or buy into a system that will help you save energy. However, there are a few basics that every homeowner can benefit from, regardless of the type of house you live in. You might not be able to afford everything on this list of must-haves, but it serves as a good building block, offering suggestions that can make a real difference in the comfort, convenience and efficiency of your home. Contributing to this story are custom electronics (CE) professionals Bjorn Jensen of WhyReboot, Miami, Fla.; Christian Lawrence of Insight Home Solutions, Phoenix; and John Goldene of Digital Home Technologies, Palatine, Ill. In no particular order:
1. Universal Remote Control: This one device can simplify the control of even the most complicated of entertainment systems. It can do the job of multiple remotes, consolidating controls for your TV, stereo receiver, Blu-ray Disc player, video projector, even the lights. When programmed accordingly, all it takes it one touch of a button to activate multiple devices, readying a system for movie night in seconds instead of several minutes.
RTI universal remote
2. Lighting Control System: If there’s one system that packs a punch, it’s lighting control. From one package you enjoy greater convenience, comfort, energy efficiency, security and decorative appeal. Eye-pleasing keypads take the place of multiple light switches. And with custom programming, you can operate several lights at once from one button. Turning off all the lights before bedtime has never been easier. Are smart LED’s the future of lighting control?
3. Security System: Who doesn’t want to feel safe and secure at home? A security system not only provides valuable peace of mind; today’s systems can be easily and affordably expanded to automate the lights, thermostats and other devices.
4. Robust, Reliable Wi-Fi Network: So many electronic devices utilize Wi-Fi to communicate, transmit and receive that having a robust Wi-Fi network in your house is crucial. Without one, commands from your Apple iPad (see next must-have) might never make it to the intended A/V component. Learn more about wireless networks here.
Luxul Wireless Access Point
5. Control Apps: You use your iPad (or some other tablet) and iPhone (or some other smartphone) to text, email and surf the web. With new downloadable apps readily available, you can also use the handy device to operate just about anything in your house—lights, security cameras (see next must-have), thermostats, A/V systems and more. Pick the control interface to suit your mood.
iOS app for URC’s Total Control system
6. Surveillance Cameras: With designs so small and discreet, and amazing communications capabilities, surveillance cameras are a great addition for any home, especially ones that can communicate via the Internet (called IP cameras). Aimed at the front door, the back yard and hallways, images captured by these cameras can be viewed in real time remotely on a phone, tablet or computer. You’ll be able to see what’s happening at home even when you’re miles away. Questions when considering a home security system, here.
7. Whole-House Music: Whether you carry your songs on an iPod or stream (see must-have #10) from the Internet, music has become extremely accessible and more enjoyable than ever. Take your love of music to the next level by having a whole-house audio system installed. You’ll be able to pipe all that great content to speakers all over the house. It’s fun, it’s simple, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t put in a system sooner. More about wireless music systems, here.
Elan in-wall speakers
8. Smart Thermostat: Programmable ones are great … if you can figure out how to program them. The better option, and one you’ll kick yourself for not buying sooner, is a “smart” thermostat that can be monitored and controlled from a smartphone, tablet or automated to adjust according to parameters like time of day, the outdoor temperature, or if someone is home or not (per arm and disarm signals from a security system).
9. Motion Sensors: Sure, motion sensors are commonly used for security purposes, but these multifaceted devices can also trigger lights to lead guests from the driveway to your front door, to help the kids find their way to the bathroom at night and turn off the lights in closets, powder rooms and utility rooms. More about sensors for home automation here.
10. Streaming Device: Movies, TV programs, music and other content is ready for the picking when you have some sort of device that can harvest it. One of the most popular streaming and storage machines is Apple TV. This one component can satisfy the biggest of entertainment appetites.
More home tech ideas here: Starting with One Room
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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.