Home automation systems are wonderful tools for managing the common routines of a household. Convenience is one of the main reasons people have home control systems installed. After all, who wouldn’t want the lights to shut off automatically at bedtime or the window shades to close whenever the sunshine gets too intense? Automation settings like these could be considered fairly ordinary—extremely helpful, definitely, but not all that creative or innovative. There are times, though, when homeowners and their custom electronics (CE) professionals push the home automation envelope by using their systems to perform some truly unique feats.
We’ve compiled 10 of some of the most creative home automation setups based on conversations with homeowners and CE pros. After you’ve covered the basics, don’t be afraid to step outside the box and do something special with your own control system.
1. Take a Tour
Many of our projects can take upwards of four years to complete, so naturally, the homeowners are excited to show off their automation system soon after they’ve move in. We create a House Tour button that sets the entire property to its most beautiful: the lights, projection screens and TVs that display preset content, fountains and even customized Pandora music to broadcast through the home’s speakers at the perfect volume level. – Jason Voorhees, Cantara Design, Costa Mesa, Calif.
2. Tone Down
For clients who really crank up the volume when they watch a movie, it can be difficult to hear the phone ring or an intercom call from the gate at the driveway. By interfacing the phone and intercom systems with a home automation system, the TV show or movie can pause temporarily so the homeowners can answer the call and invite people into the house. After everyone is settled, the owners press play on their home automation touchpanel to resume watching the show. – Jason Voorhees, Cantara Design, Costa Mesa, Calif.
3. Tee Time
You don’t need to head to the links when you have a golf simulator in your home. And, thanks to a clever control button that the CE pros at Digital Home Technologies, Palatine, Ill., incorporated onto an Elan g! touchpanel, the owners of an automated Chicagoland home don’t even have to wait for the projector to warm up before they start swinging. From a touchpanel on the first floor of the home, the owner touches a single button to activate the projector, audio system and golf training system that resides in a special room in the basement. By the time the owner makes it to the simulation room, the system is ready to go.
4. Scare Tactics
Who needs a shrieking alarm when you can scare intruders with your own voice? Motion detectors aimed at the backyard can trigger an announcement (but only after midnight, or whichever time you choose) to broadcast loudly over exterior speakers a message such as, “You have been photographed using high-definition cameras with motion detection!” – David Huse, Theater Advice, Dallas, Texas
5. Alone Time
Whether you’re truly by yourself or with only your spouse, an automation system can be set up to help you savor this precious alone time. Touch a button on your smartphone to dim the lights, activate the gas fireplace, close the motorized shades and play some romantic music. – David Huse, Theater Advice, Dallas, Texas
6. Mail Call
Stop needless trips to the mailbox (particularly aggravating for owners of long driveways). A sensor mounted to the lip of the box can trigger an automation system to play an alert (a chime, a verbal announcement, etc.) over the speakers in your house.
7. May the Force be with You
The owners of a home theater in Minnesota asked the CE pros at Admit One Home Cinema, Edina, Minn., to incorporate battery-powered light sabers into the entertainment action. When the owners hit a switch the sabers glow in either red or green and Star Wars-like audio effects play over the home theater speakers.
8. Spine Tingling Action
Who says your remote control has to look like a remote control? Or that a keypad must be mounted to the wall? To blend technology into a wooden paneled home library, the CE pros at Performance Imaging, Stamford, Conn., fitted the pushbutton controls for the room lights into the spine of a book. Located on a bookshelf near the entrance of the room, the controls are within arm’s reach as the family walks inside.
9. Liquor License
Keep the kids (or anyone else) out of the liquor cabinet, wine cellar or anywhere else you stash the booze by programming an electronic lock into your home automation system. A numeric code, which can be entered via the screen of the automation system’s touchpanel or iPad/iPhone app disengages the lock.
10. A Better Angle
For large rooms where TV viewing might take place from several spots—the couch, the kitchen barstools, the chair by the computer desk—a mount that allows the TV to be swiveled in different directions is a helpful tool. Take it one step further by having your CE pro install a swivel that’s motorized and can be controlled from a handheld remote.
This article was originally published on February 19, 2014 and updated on September 19, 2015.