In our gadget-obsessed culture, where iPads and Internet TVs are becoming the norm, it's not surprising that homeowners are demanding more technology in their homes. Consumers have been integrating technology into their homes for years, whether it's through motion detectors that activate outdoor lights, a programmable thermostat to trim energy bills or creating a theaterlike movie watching experience by positioning speakers strategically around the room. But most of these applications focus on a single function and aren't connected together.
Meeting Technology Expectations
Remember the Jetsons and their tech-powered home? "We're not getting shuttled out of the shower, but what we do have is much more valuable and much more practical," says Matt Carter, a South Carolina-based consultant and electronic systems contractor who does outreach for trade organization Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA). "It's the ability to walk out of the house and have the system armed and lights off with one button on your phone."
Creating a Connected Home
So while you can call an electrician to upgrade your wiring or a plumber to fix your clogged toilet, who do you call to create a "connected home"? Try an electronic systems contractor (ESC). ESCs have come a long way from installing entertainment systems and home theaters. These skilled technicians help homeowners plan and connect technology to do everything from enable home entertainment systems to stream content from the Internet, link their smart phones to their alarm system or monitor their electricity usage from their television.
Seamless Home Entertainment Experience
Forget the clunky speakers. An electronic systems technician can build a system that stows speakers in the walls and ceiling while creating an audio experience that has been optimized for the way our ears hear sound and puts a flat-panel television on a lift that pops up from a cabinet. That same system can integrate Internet connectivity, allowing the users to stream movies instantly or play online video games.
Lower Your Power Bills
Can you imagine pressing a button on your smart phone as you're leaving work, alerting your air-conditioner to begin cooling so that it's 72 degrees when you arrive? Or using your smart phone to simultaneously turn off all the lights and water while arming the alarm system as you're pulling out of the garage? Or having a programmable thermostat that responds to sensors that can indicate when people are in the room? Rising energy costs and demand for eco-friendly living is spurring demand to use smart technology to make homes more efficient. An electronic systems technician can create an online dashboard that tracks energy usage. "It can tell you when you're being efficient and when you're not," Matt says.
Customized Lighting Solutions
Instead of a dimmer, try a light switch with a transistor that reduces energy consumption in addition to softening the light. That same technology can be linked to a smart phone that lets you turn on the lights when you drive up so that you never have to go into a dark house.
The good news for homeowners is that these projects are becoming scalable for most budgets. Depending on what hardware your security system already includes, for example, a link to a smart phone could be as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars. Basic house-wide system infrastructure starts at about 5 percent of a home's value, Matt said. For those on a limited budget, an electronic systems technician can help homeowners develop a comprehensive plan that can be implemented in stages, choosing upgrades strategically so that the system can be expanded over time.