Home automation systems can monitor, manage and control a variety of different electronic components, including security panels, lighting keypads, thermostats, and whole-house music systems.
A HOME AUTOMATION SYSTEM is defined by the types of “subsystems” it is able to control. If it controls a few, it’s dubbed basic. A lot and it could be described as sophisticated. You’ll want to know which subsystems your automation system has been designed and engineered to handle out of the box and what upgrade options are available so you can determine how big or small to comfortably grow your system.
It’s also important to understand that just because a home automation system has been crafted to work with heating and cooling subsystems, it may not be able to control all makes and models of heating and cooling systems. Most home automation systems are very brand specific when it comes to the types of subsystems they can control. Here is a list of the basic subsystems that can be integrated with a home automation system. And don’t worry—manufacturers are happy to share this information freely with you and your custom electronics (CE) professional.
Lighting Control Systems
This type of system enables a home’s lights to be dimmed and brightened to certain levels to achieve energy savings, provide visual interest and set the mood for certain activities. When managed by a home automation system, the settings of the lights can also be synchronized with other subsystems; for instance, when the automation system tells the security system (see below) to arm, it can also shut off the lights.
Security is a big part of home automation; in fact, it’s often one of the main reasons homeowners buy an automation system in the first place. They want to protect their homes and family, and the fact that their security system can also manage the lights and thermostats is a nice extra. Still, there are tasks that these automation-capable security systems aren’t able to handle, so sometimes they are integrated with more extensive, sophisticated automation systems. The integration of a security system offers opportunities for your CE professional to devise some clever, creative automation routines. For example, the same sensors that trigger an alarm when motion is detected can be set up to switch on a pathway of lights during certain times of the day.
Heating and Cooling System
What most people notice immediately when their home’s heating and cooling system is tied to an automation system is that the thermostats they once struggled to program are now a cinch to set up. A home automation system, through its intuitively designed user interfaces (see page 34), simplifies the process of creating daily and weekly heating and cooling schedules, and lets homeowners view the current temperature settings conveniently from their smartphones, tablets, touchpanels and other devices (particularly handy in multi-thermostat households). Plus, when a heating and cooling system is integrated, the temperature can adjust automatically based on other conditions like if a room is occupied or not, or if your home automation system is in vacation mode, for example.
Whole-House Music System
A system that can distribute songs from a central rack of equipment to speakers located throughout the house and yard is a wonderful luxury. Fuse distributed audio into a home automation system, and it becomes even better. Now the same command that cues the lights and shades can also tell the music system to pipe tunes to your home’s speakers. Your music becomes even easier to manage, too, as you can control it from the same screen on your tablet, smartphone or touchpanel that you use to operate the other electronic systems in your house.
A common amenity in nearly every home is some type of media or home theater system. This could be as basic as a flat-panel TV and a couple of speakers in the family room to as complex as a full-blown dedicated theater in the basement with a 120-inch screen, video projector and 7.1 surround-sound system. Regardless of your home’s entertainment setup, if you can integrate it with your home automation system, it’ll be easier and more fun to operate. One command can tell the lights to dim, the room temperature to adjust, the drapes to close, the projector to rev up and the home theater receiver to switch to the appropriate settings. In seconds your home theater equipment—and the room itself—is ready to entertain your family and friends.
Swimming Pool/Spa and Irrigation System
Like a thermostat, a swimming pool system and irrigation system can be complex to program and schedule, and like a thermostat, setup is significantly simplified when the pool and irrigation controls can be placed under the aegis of an automation system. Plus, you’ll be able to set up your entire back yard for a party with ease. As long as you’ve also tied in your home’s lights and music system, a simple one-touch command can set the mood in seconds.