Monday, June 16, 2014 / by Vanessa Saunders
I recently wrote a blog which mentioned that many luxury home buyers want smart home technology in the high end properties they are viewing. It's a growing trend, and I can see why. These days, homeowners can have remote control of practically anything in their house, not just cameras and burglar alarms. They can connect via an i-Phone or other smart device to regulate things like swimming pools, door locks, thermostats and HVAC. One central system I saw recently allows homeowners to press a single button to dim, brighten, or turn on or off lighting in multiple rooms, for dinner, movie viewing or other daily activities. What makes it remarkable is that if they program in the home's longitude and latitude, the system knows when sunrise and sunset occur throughout the year.
Likewise remote-controllable thermostats allow home owners to crank up the heat or AC before they get home from work or from a trip away. These systems can also sense when someone has left an exterior door open accidentally and will shut down the heat or air conditioning accordingly.
Pools and spa controls are also remote-controllable. Say you're at a restaurant and decide to have a dip in the pool before going to bed. Turn up the pool heater when your dinner arrives at the table and the pool will be lovely and warm when you get home.
Over the next few years, practically any appliance can be turned into a remote monitor. Put a pressure sensor in your refrigerator and know you when you're running low on milk. Light bulbs will tell you when they're about to burn out. Televisions will tell you when they are on so you know whether Junior is studying or just goofing off.
Prices for multi-feature smart home systems range from the reasonable to the outrageous. Basic systems which are tied to a home's existing burglar alarm, a few outdoor lights, a single-zone thermostat and the back-door lock with accessibly on a smart mobile device can be had for around $2,500. The price doesn't include security cameras or wall-mounted touch pads, but for $50 or $60 a month, provides basic services like controlling temperature, lighting and security. One drawback is that you can only operate it with your mobile device, so you're out of luck if you lose your phone or drop it in the toilet.
Bump up the budget to the middle of the range (five figures or so) and you get into lots more features which can accommodate a larger home. Using an iPad, the homeowner can arm or disarm the security system, control lights in a dozen lighting zones, views security cameras, and adjust heating or air conditioning from anywhere in the world.
A high-end system like the one which won a silver medal from the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association recently retails for around $300,000. It controls 18 audio zones, six security cameras and 11 high-definition video displays, not counting the 106-inch drop down TV in the master bedroom and a 119-inch projection screen in the home theater. Imagine pulling into the drive after a long day at the office. The system will light up the foot path as you get out of the car, play music you like when you step through the door, and turn on the TV when your favorite program is about to start. A motion detector in the hot-tub room will recognize when small children get too close and an alarm will sound as a recording of your voice says, "Hey kids, you're not allowed in here! Please leave."
Top of the line systems start at around $2 million, depending upon what the buyer wants. And the options are myriad.
Not all smart-home features need or use remote control. Programmable energy savers like the Nest Learning Thermostat can learn your schedule and adjust a home’s heating and air conditioning to accommodate your routines. Consumer Reports claims it can cut your energy usage by up to $180 a year. Also a money- saver: tankless water heaters. A traditional water heater with a reservoir keeps 40 to 80 gallons of water heated to 120 degrees twenty four hours a day and uses up to 30 per cent of the average home's energy budget. Tankless heaters provide hot water on demand without a reservoir. Best of all, you never have to worry about running out of hot water or have the water heater tank burst (they all will eventually if not regularly replaced).
Smart homes are getting more and more capabilities that make our lives saver, more convenient and more efficient. When I they tell me I can get my own Rosie, George Jetson's robot maid, I’ll be in.