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Mon, Nov. 18

Ask the Contractor: ‘Smart homes’ advancing at fast pace

I love that homeowners seem to be on the energy conservation band wagon. Several homeowners have called this past week asking questions about “smart homes” and controlling our homes from a cell phone.

The resourcefulness surrounding new technology, the wonderment of seeing it in action and the fast pace at which advancement occurs remain the hallmarks of product design and application development. On the home front, high-tech monitoring and control tools offer consumers convenience, peace of mind and energy savings.

Smart phones, cameras and automation to manage household systems while away from home constitute a significant draw to some consumers building new homes or updating existing living spaces. Remote monitoring and control remain especially popular among retired, second-home and traveling homeowners, according to Alyson Davis, project manager for NJ Builders.

What appeals is the “idea of seeing your home while away and knowing you can check in any time,” explained E.W. Bratcher of B&W Fire Security Systems LLC.

The definition of a smart home landscape integrates everyday consumer undertakings and security measures. The common denominator is each aspect programmed and easily managed from afar.

Smart homes are great for families today. If we want to get a video text showing the kids safely getting home from school, “done.” Want the crockpot to start at 6:30? “Done.” Want lighting, temperature, (and other systems) ramping up when you are approaching home from anywhere at any time? “Done.” Want to dim some lights or see who’s at the door without leaving your TV program? “Done.”

Elements incorporated include smartphones, cameras, automation systems and wireless protocols, Davis noted, with wirelessly activated thermostats, light switches, cameras, smoke detectors and door locks often requested by consumers. Shades and blinds that “follow the sun” and whole-house audio control are among the implementable systems happening in our homes.

The technologies are maturing and there is a much wider range of options for whole-house sound and for home automation, and anything can be automated via schedule and/or events … right down to keeping an eye on your aquarium.

The formula is defining the level of “hands-on” or “hands-free” a household wishes to employ. There are so many options available today for fully customizing the experience that the choices can be both dazzling and confusing.

Things to consider before engaging the smart home are pricing, system decisions, servicing, and where to locate expertise for installation and maintenance. Central to decisions about purchasing smart home technology again are budget and what a consumer wants as opposed to what he or she needs.

“There will always be options for every budget, but today’s wireless technology has brought the cost of smart home features down to a range most people can afford,” Davis said. “It always comes down to money. Consumers will need to balance cost/budget with which aspect of the new technology would be beneficial to them to simplify their lives.”

Bratcher agreed, estimating prices at $200 to $500 for components. Consumer focus in decision making “should be ‘how can this system work for me — the home owner — now,’” Bratcher advised, citing additional considerations including whether that the company from which the components and systems are purchased will be around to service them.

Basic smart home systems can start at about $1,000 and prices go north from there up to hundreds of thousands. How big is the house and how big is the bank roll? One key to price is the level of convenience you want to experience. The greater the convenience and (the situation of) never having to touch anything, the higher the price. Budget is the key. It’s the age-old question: what do you want and what can you afford?”

Focus should always be on the needs of the homeowner, Davis advised, noting that even “more important would be whether or not the technology can adapt to changes… including changes in needs of the household and changes (updates) to the technology itself.”

Davis predicts that smart technology will enhance resale value of homes as applications become more standard, including remote control of kitchen and laundry appliances through manufacturers currently refining that technology.

It seems a lot of folks feel they are never going to sell and, of course, that is their intention and that is good to keep in mind; however, every home is sold sooner or later. People today like to “nest,” and studies consistently show that homes with these amenities already in place have a considerably higher resale value than comparable homes that don’t.

Conducting research about the technology and its longevity in products of interest remains important, Davis counseled, encouraging consumers to “make sure what you’re buying won’t be obsolete in a year.”

Finding professional assistance should be the approach for anyone except a sophisticated techie. If you are not experienced at this, you can really go up some blind alleys and cost yourself more than any presumed savings by going do-it-yourself.

From Bratcher’s perspective, consumers should “have a clear idea of what you want this new equipment to do before you just run out pick something off the shelf. The box it is packed in doesn’t know what your real needs are.”  

Google, Siri, Alexa, salmon in the oven, lights on, jazz music on and glass of wine poured. I will be home is 20 minutes.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 on KQNA 1130AM/99.9FM or 95.5FM or online at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry; meet your local community partners and so much more. It is a great way to start your weekend.

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