August 13, 2007
| by EH Staff
Everyone dreams of living a simpler life. Unfortunately, electronic systems have a way of complicating things. You know: All that button pressing you have to do just to watch a movie. Or maybe you’ve been spending too much time turning off all the lights before bedtime. And who likes having to get out of bed to close the garage doors and set the security system?
A United Front
A home control system can take care of these and other tasks for you. Placed under the command of such a system, your home’s lights, thermostats, security sensors, audio and video equipment, garage doors, motorized window treatments, and other electronic components can operate synchronously. For example, by pressing a good night button on a wall-mounted keypad by your bed, you could instruct your home control system to turn off all the lights, lower the thermostats and set the security alarms. While the ability to control multiple systems through one command is convenient, a home control system can do more than that. Depending on how it’s set up by a home systems installer, it can also automate functions so that no human interaction is necessary. The same good night routine, for example could be programmed to happen automatically at 10 p.m. every weekday evening.
Pushing Your Buttons
Home control systems come in a variety of styles, mostly defined by the type of interface they employ. Some systems utilize tactile-button keypads to send commands to a set of electronic components predefined by your installer. Other, more expensive systems feature a touchpanel that displays virtual buttons and menus on a touch-sensitive screen. Ergonomically, keypads and touchpanels differ, so you’ll want to find one that’s comfortable to your fingertips.
The design (labeling, layout and colors) of the tactile or virtual buttons will determine a controller’s ease of use. Based on the information you share with your installer, he or she will select a design for the keypad that best fits your needs. It’s important to be honest and upfront about your lifestyle; otherwise you might end up with a system that’s too complicated or that doesn’t provide the level of control you need.
You might even find that it’s most economical and useful to incorporate a combination of keypads and touchscreens in your home. Less expensive keypads are ideal for guest rooms, bathrooms, garages and outbuildings, places where you may want to control only specific elements, like the music and lights. Pricey touchscreens, on the other hand, are well suited for kitchens, dens, master bedrooms and other areas where you may need a greater level of control.
While the functionality of a home control system depends largely on how it’s programmed (which often hinges on your installer’s level of expertise), some systems are manufactured to be better at performing certain tasks than others. Many lighting control systems, for example, have the smarts to control multiple types of devices in a home. Naturally, though, a lighting control 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 also operate the lights and thermostats. Home protection will always be its specialty, making it a good choice if security is your top priority.
If you think you’d like your home to have more than two systems—say, a lighting control system, a whole-house music system and a security system—then it’s probably wise to place all three under the command of a single control system. That means you can probably hire one firm that specializes in systems integration to get the individual systems installed and working cohesively.
If you’ll be putting a control system into a home that’s under construction, introduce the systems installer to your builder, architect and other tradespeople as soon as possible. The information he gathers from those professionals will help him create a system that blends in with the architecture and the interior of the house—as well as with your lifestyle.