Is Home Automation for “Real People?”

Home automation, smart homes, home control – there was a time when these terms made us think of The Jetsons. Today, home automation solutions are offered by cable companies, security companies, Home Depot and even apps on your smart phone or tablet.

Although most people are familiar with the concept of home automation, there is still confusion about exactly what it means and whether a “regular family” can have a smart home. Simply put, home automation (or home control) makes doing basic tasks around the home easier. For example, instead of walking around turning off lights, you could press one button to turn off all of the lights in your home, program thermostats to automatically adjust the temperature at certain times, be notified when your alarm is triggered or there’s water in your basement, or view surveillance footage and enable/disable your alarm when you’re traveling.

The terms home automation and smart home really mean a home where multiple systems are automated. This is, in essence, a home control system, which allows homeowners to control all of the different systems in their home (audio, video, lighting, climate, surveillance, etc.) with a single, easy-to-use interface. A control system can be robust, complicated and expensive, but it can also be simple and surprisingly cost effective.

For homeowners who want to start on a smaller scale, or want to control just a couple systems – maybe lighting and audio – home control is probably well within their grasp. There are entry-level options and wireless systems that are great starting points and can be easily expanded later. The convenience of a home control system is wonderful. You can use your smart phone or tablet to turn lights on and off from your car or bedside, adjust the thermostat, or turn on music in one room or throughout your home.

ACT specializes in control systems. We offer control systems from Savant Systems because they are reliable, easy to use and easy to expand later. Homeowners love Savant Systems because the system can be operated using Apple® devices (iPad®, iPad mini®, iPhone®, iPod touch®, Mac® computers) or Savant’s own line of remotes and keypads.

A home control system can be surprisingly cost effective, and if you’re looking to control multiple systems in your home, it’s worth giving us a call to learn more.

What Saves Energy and Your Sanity? Lighting Control!

On hearing the term custom home electronics, most people don’t think of lighting control systems. This is unfortunate, because lighting control can add tremendous wow factor to a home, provide added safety, offer energy savings and increase a property’s value.

The thing homeowners like most about lighting control is the convenience it offers. Lighting control puts an end to those “turn off the lights” battles families have. Lights can be turned on and off or dimmed by the usual wall switches, and with smart phones, tablets or occupancy sensors. This means never walking around the house turning off lights other people left on, or never approaching or entering a dark home.

Lighting scenes and events can also be programmed with lighting control. Lighting scenes are pre-set lighting levels that can help set the mood for different situations, like entertaining, watching television or family dinner time. With the push of a button, lighting scenes are activated.

Lighting events mean that lights automatically turn on, off or dim at certain times of the day, or when something triggers them. For example, if your alarm goes off, it could trigger all interior lights to turn on and exterior lights to flash.

Lighting control also helps save energy and extends bulb life. According to Lutron, on average, dimming an incandescent or halogen light will reduce energy use by about 20%. Incandescent and halogen bulbs last up to 20 times longer when used with a dimmer, and LED bulbs run cooler when dimmed, which can extend bulb life. If you add shade control to the mix, you can save 10% on heating and cooling costs by blocking the sun’s rays in summer or letting them in during colder months.

Another thing homeowners love about lighting control is that it’s much more cost effective than people think. At ACT, we most often use a wireless lighting control system — Lutron’s Radio Ra 2 — that can be installed without the need to open walls or add any new wiring. It can be used for just a few rooms or throughout an entire home, allows scheduled events, can also operate shades, appliances and temperature, and can be controlled remotely (i.e. when you’re away from home) using mobile devices.

If you’d like to explore the possibilities that lighting control could add to your home, please get in touch with us. We think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

What Is Home Theater, Anyway?

When you think about technology in the home, does the term home theater come to mind? Home theater is a phrase that’s used a lot when it comes to residential custom electronics. But what does it really mean? Some people use it as a broad term to describe TV and movie viewing at home, while other people envision a private movie theater. The short answer is that home theater is both of those things.

At ACT, we usually use the terms dedicated home theater and media room. A dedicated home theater is just what it sounds like – a room with the sole purpose of providing an outstanding viewing and listening experience. A dedicated home theater is a room with a large screen, a great audio system, comfortable seating and often other fun features like theater lighting, a popcorn maker or a wet bar.

Most families today prefer a media room to a home theater. A multipurpose media room provides the best of both worlds – the stunning visuals, exciting audio and comfy seating of a theater in your family room or living area.

A lot of families like the idea of a media room, but balk at the thought of unsightly equipment in their living spaces. The technology for a media room can actually be hidden fairly easily. For example, if you’d prefer a large flat screen display to be hidden when you’re not using it, media mirrors, special artwork or custom cabinetry can be used. Speakers and sub-woofers can be placed discreetly, and components can be hidden in cabinetry or housed in an out-of-sight equipment rack. Take a look at the portfolio pages on our web site for examples of hidden technology.

When deciding what you want in the way of home theater, there are a few things to think about first. At ACT, we work with homeowners to choose the best solutions based on things like what they like to watch, who will be watching, how they think they’ll use the space, the size, shape and ceiling height of the space and of course, their budget. The size and shape of a room and your own preferences will lead to the right decisions about screen size and type, audio options and the components that will (or won’t) make up your system.

If you’d like to learn more about what would work in your home and what can be done within your budget, we’d love to come take a look and discuss options with you. Consultations are always free of charge.