FACE IT, not everyone is cut out for a do-it-yourself project. A professionally installed home automation system—from a service provider or a custom integrator—saves time, brings peace of mind, and provides the kind of reliability that comes from a professional with training and experience. Higher-end installed systems enable a more sophisticated level of customization, including the ability to work with a broader field of products and systems. Most importantly, if something goes wrong, there’s someone to call who knows your system inside and out. For customers who want broader, more customize control options than a DIY smart home system can offer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best higher-end professionally installed systems on the market.
Control4 sees itself as the glue that brings connected devices together in an integrated home control system. While more smart devices today can be controlled by an app, Control4 goes a step further, enabling lights to come on and the heat to kick in when the door lock opens, for example. “Our products can listen to products and events that happen in a connected home and tell other things what to do, based on the preferences of the homeowner,” says company CEO Martin Plaehn. You may want your lights to illuminate a path from the hallway to the kitchen after a door unlocks, but only if it’s after dark, and a Control4 integrator can make that happen. The same system could turn off all the lights in a home with a single button while locking all the smart door locks in the process. Customers with second homes can monitor and control their vacation home when they’re not there. Control4 has had customers close the shutters on a beach home in advance of a coming storm.
Elan Home Systems
ELAN Home Systems has been designing innovative, award-winning multi-room audio/video and home control systems since 1989. The ELAN g! Entertainment and Control System puts homeowners in control of entertainment, security, climate, lighting, and more—with elegant keypads and touchpanels or from any location with their favorite Apple or Android mobile device. Automation systems start with the $800 g1 controller and scale up from there. “ELAN has a long history of industry firsts, including the first mobile app for home control, and today we are continuing that tradition and giving our users greater choice and our integrators increased selling power,” said Core Brands director of business development Joe Lautner. “We’ve designed it to be the easiest and most user-friendly control system around, and the easiest to install and configure as well. Your world, made simple.”
Crestron, known for its robust and expensive wired control systems with corporate-grade reliability, has come out with an affordable wireless system that starts at $3,000. “Technology has evolved,” says Delia Hansen, senior residential marketing manager, and “wireless home systems can be much stronger and more reliable than ever before.” A $3,000 Crestron Pyng starter system for one or two rooms comes with four in-wall dimmers, wall-mounted wireless keypad, two battery-powered keypads, a thermostat, and a hub. Crestron offers app control through a smartphone but recommends a dedicated keypad or touchscreen controller for a smart home system because smartphones and tablets tend to “walk away” when family members use the devices for other things. And, Hansen says, when homeowners are talking on the phone or reading an article on a tablet, they have to: exit that screen to open the control app, which can be an annoyance when you just want to turn up the temperature. A keypad, on the other hand, is “always connected,” she says. An advanced Pyng system ($6,500): includes eight in-wall dimmers, five lamp dimmers, two in-wall keypads, one thermostat, three battery-powered keypads, a Yale wireless deadbolt lock, an occupancy sensor, and a hub.
Savant Systems launched 10 years ago using an operating system based on Apple’s Mac mini, and familiarity with the Apple OS makes it a logical starting place for home automation for those with iOS devices. Personalization and simplicity are hallmarks of the Savant experience. Homeowners can add their own photos of people or rooms “or anything they identify with” to customize the app for their own use, says Tim McInerney, director of product marketing. Savant systems tie together modern “smart” devices and legacy “non-smart” devices through a combination of IP- and Wi-Fi-based products and controllers. A Savant installer can design a system that manages products such as a window shade, a gas fireplace, and a universal remote control for a home theater—and make them all controllable from an app. Savant systems start with the $799 Smart Host for control of up to 12 rooms of IP-based or Wi-Fi devices, with control modules for non-IP devices starting at $250 per device. Systems are expandable to include control of video and audio sources, thermostats, lighting, and HVAC systems. The more powerful Savant Pro line ($4,000 and up) controls larger systems, including music for up to 144 rooms or a video tiling system in which nine video feeds can be shown at once on a single large-screen TV.
Universal Remote Control (URC)
URC began in the audio/video world where it consolidated a coffee table full of remotes into one. Now, it owns the largest code database for control of audio and video gear. URC has branched out to offer broader control of other products in the home—its own and those from other companies—that homeowners can control through a keypad or app: lights, shades, security systems, thermostats, door locks, network cameras, and more. All of the systems can be viewed and controlled by URC’s remote controls, keypads, and touchscreens, and via apps on mobile devices. A URC remote paired with a controller starts at $899 in the Total Control line that’s sold through home systems integrators. —L.M.
Over the past couple of years, service providers (cable/satellite/Internet providers, as well residential security installation firms) have moved into home automation as a way to increase their monthly revenue streams. Systems including AT&T’s Digital Life, ADT Pulse, and Comcast Xfinity are installed by the providers and sold in packages of prescribed products. Users pay up front for the hardware and a monthly service fee for monitoring is billed as part of a service contract.
For example: AT&T’s Digital Life, available in 82 markets, includes packages for door control, video cameras, water detection, and energy management. The video camera package ($99 plus $9.99 per month with a 2-year contract) includes one camera. Subscribers can choose to have the camera capture video or take a snapshot when motion is detected, and then view live feeds or previously recorded video via an app on a smartphone. The energy package ($199, plus $4.99 per month) comes with a light switch, thermostat, and smart plug, allowing you to manage lights and temperature—and set schedules—from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.