Home automation is in demand. Whether it's as complicated as a fully automated home theater system with programmed lighting scenes or as simple as a single-room lighting control, homeowners are looking for ways to make their lives at home easier to manage and more convenient. "
According to a recent survey conducted by HAI, ... the most popular home automation applications cited were lighting control, energy management, and temperature controls," says Jay McLellan, president of Home Automation Inc.
Home automation technology is on the brink of change. For the past 25 years or so, systems have been based on X10 powerline carrier technology. Manufacturers say this works well for simple communication operations, but more sophisticated home electronics have placed greater demands on powerline carriers. Many manufacturers have begun looking for the next generation technology that will meet the future needs of more complex and integrated home automation.
"The industry recognizes that we can't continue to build our whole-home automation and lighting control based on a 25-year-old technology," says Mark Walters, director of engineering for Leviton.
Next-gen technology could take one of several possible shapes, but for the present, manufacturers stress the need for education among all building pros. "Sometimes that's a difficult proposition -- to take yourself out of money-making work for a day or two to attend a home automation training session," says Greg Giaque, media specialist for Lite-Touch. But Giaque points out that by learning about home automation systems of all types, can offer their clients something of while making some extra money themselves.
"Remodelers really need to educate themselves," says home automation installer Larry Dashiell, owner of HomeTech Systems Inc. in Santa Rosa, Calif. Dashiell is also an executive board member of the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association CEDIA offers a wealth of information home automation industry, including lists of CEDIA-certified designer and members, on its Web site at www.cedia.net.
Dashiell recommends that remodelers get in touch with CEDIA-certified members in their area. "Interview these pros, find one you're comfortable with, and partner with that installer to educate yourself, and also to educate your clients, on the possibilities with these systems," Dashiell says.
The Consumer Electronics Association also offers a library of information on home theaters and home networking on its Web site at www.ce.org.
Pass & Seymour/Legrand. Designed to allow distribution of audio signals to an unlimited number of locations, the A-BUS Distributed Audio System operates off a single Cat5 cable. Up to four volume controls connect to a centrally located distribution module, which also allows the equipment to be controlled from any room in the home. (800) 223-4185. www.passandseymour.com.
Lutron. Available in three different versions, the HomeWorks total home lighting control system provides programming and control of lighting and other home electronics from keypads located throughout a home. The hard-wired 8 series and 4 series systems are ideal for new structures, while the wireless series is suitable for new and existing structures. Wireless series systems can stand alone or be used in conjunction with 8 and 4 series systems. (800) 523-9466. www.lutron.com.
LiteTouch. The Scenario Single-Room Controller now features a Master Off button and a built-in infrared receiver to allow the system to be accessed using a Universal Remote Control. The lighting controller can be programmed for four individually dimmable lighting loads and four preset lighting scenes. (801) 486-8500. www.litetouch.com.
Greyfox Systems. The Greyfox Intercom Module for home communications features a modern look and easier installation than previous modules because it's based on Cat5 cabling that connects to a home's structured wiring. The system supports up to 12 indoor, one main, and two outdoor locations and features simultaneous monitor function at multiple stations and mute at each station. (877) 473-9369. www.greyfox.com.
IntelliNet Controls. Now available for integration with the maker's IC/RS3000 distributed audio and automation control system, the DH2 Digital Hub provides more control options than the previous hub and connects other IntelliNet devices with a home's LAN network. Its black metal, surface-mount housing allows it to be placed in areas not appropriate for in-wall installation. (888) 888-8049. www.intellinetcontrols.com.
Shell Energy Services Company. The Shell Home-Genie integrated home management solution provides Web-based remote access to most household systems and devices through a home-computer broadband Internet connection. The system lets users control heating and cooling systems, lights, and selected appliances and permits monitoring of select areas of the home using the HomeGenie Wireless Camera. Users can access and control these systems remotely. (866) 677-4355. www.shellhomegenie.com.
HAI. Featuring larger buttons, a thinner profile, and cool-blue-toned backlighting, the HAI Omni Controller, model 33A00-1, can be programmed to control a home's temperature and lighting and can also be accessed via telephone and Internet. The controller can be flush-mounted. (800) 229-7256. www.homeauto.com.
Jackson Systems. Able to control up to 20 zones in a home, the automatic Comfort System Zone Control can help eliminate 8 to 12 degrees of temperature difference between upstairs and downstairs rooms, the maker says. Its thermostat and motorized zone damper control each zone. (888) 652-9663. www.jacksonsystems.com.
UStec. Designed to meet any structured wiring need, the ProLAN Series of tecCenters enable whole-home distributed audio and video, telephone, lighting controls, computer networking, security, broadband access, and a file server. (800) 836-2312. www.ustecnet.com.