The Smart House

Control lighting, security and all your other systems with a single interface.
By: Kristen Hampshire

How convenient would it be to use your cell phone to turn off lights you accidentally left on at home? What about pressing a single button on a remote control that cues up music and adjusts the air conditioner for "party mode" before guests arrive?

All this is possible with an integrated home system that allows individual systems—lighting, HVAC, entertainment, security—to communicate so they can be controlled with a single interface. And because you no longer need a bulky box on the wall to house the interface, prices for the systems have come down.

The whole idea of systems integration is to configure a smarter house that can "think" on its own so you can control systems conveniently while at home or away. Just like a car's interior lights automatically turn on when a door is opened and headlights automatically turn off if a car has been parked for a while, a home can function automatically if it's programmed.

Here are two ways to sync the systems in your home.

  • Set for security: Program lights, security and climate control (HVAC) to work together. If you go away for a week and set the home to "vacation mode," lights will turn on and off at various times of the day, the security system will be armed and climate control will be set to save energy. Upon returning home, systems can be reset with the push of a button. Systems can be programmed so you can watch security cameras from a phone or a computer.

  • Programmed for entertainment: Integrate all media and operate it from a single touch pad or wireless device. This is especially helpful if you stream content from many sources—cable TV, satellite radio, whatever. Integration allows you to access all sources at a single touch point.

Before you integrate, be sure to discuss your goals and lifestyle with a home-integration specialist. What do you want your home to "do" for you? What controls would you like to consolidate? For example, do you always want outdoor lights to turn on at dusk? Or do you want those lights to turn on only when you leave home? Explain how and when you use systems in your home so the specialist can streamline your home operation.

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