Budgeting for Home Technology

Learn what your biggest costs will be and how to create a spending plan.

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As with any remodeling project you do on your home, it's difficult to nail down the exact cost of the project. Costs for an integrated home system vary widely depending on what you want.

If you start with a simple security system, you can expect to pay $1,000 to $5,000, depending on how many alarms you have on your doors and windows as well as the number of cameras you have installed. Whether the cameras are monitored by a large security company or if the cameras record to a DVR system in your home or to a cloud-based data holding system will also affect the cost. Add on lighting controls, fire and carbon dioxide monitoring and your costs will go up. "Custom automation can exceed $10,000," says Michael Pope, owner of Audio Video Interiors.

Expect to pay more for a fully integrated system that includes links to an automated HVAC system, automated window shades or blinds, and a state-of-the-art audio or TV system.

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How much should you cushion your budget?

While your eventual plans may include a completely automated house, you can build on most of the current systems over time. For example, if you start with a security system you can add the HVAC system later as long as the components are compatible, but even so, there are products that can link up your existing independent automated features so they all speak to each other.

"You don't have to buy a new TV or stereo equipment," says Joe Corona, owner of Corona Integrated Systems. "You just have to buy the basic guts of the system that you can add on to later," he says. That's why it's important to map out your long-term goals with a professional who specializes in home integrated systems. They can recommend a "brains hub" or processor that can handle whatever you want to add to it later.

What are your biggest costs?

The biggest costs involved in an automated home integration system are the main processor that powers the system. Expect to pay from $4,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of your home and what you want the system to do. Installation, programming and licensing fees are additional costs.

Some large security companies and utility companies offer packages that cost less initially but charge monthly fees to monitor the systems. You can save money by hiring a home integration systems company to create a system and install it for you after you shop around and purchase the equipment on your own based on their recommendations.

Cameras, radio-control light switches and wireless locks are readily available online for purchase at varying prices, but you'll want to be sure that they all speak to each other once they are installed. That's where a good, solid relationship with a professional with expertise in the field is the best thing you can spend your money on.

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