Home Automation Helps You Live Like a Jetson
CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO SEE WHAT A JETSONS HOME LOOKS LIKE IN 2012
While the average automated home doesn't have to be that elaborate in execution, home owners can still automate a large number of the natural functions of their home relatively inexpensively and many of us are living with some degree of automation already.
None of this comes cheap of course, and custom home automation systems can cost you from $2,000 to way over $1 million.
"We have done systems that are $5,000 all the way up to $250,000 and I know that in our industry there are systems that are $1,000,000 plus," says P.J. Aucoin, sales manager for the Calgary-based Home Concepts Inc. "Our average systems these days are $50,000-$100,000."
The most popular systems on the market now turn your smart phone into a remote control for your entire house. Through a specialized app, you would be able to do everything from program your DVR to turn the outdoor lights on, lock doors and arm your security system from anywhere. These apps usually have a subscription component of $50 with installation costing around $2,500 for a 2,200 square-foot home.
Rogers Smart Home Monitoring operates through an app at a much lower monthly cost, but doesn't provide the level of customization that could be offered through a smaller independent service provider. Like their internet, TV and home phone services Smart Home Monitoring, and the features you receive are offered through packages for a monthly price. In this case, there are three packages to choose from costing $34.99, $43.99 and $52.99 per month (Hardware, such as the interactive touchpad used to control the system at home or externals, like security cameras) cost extra.
Features include home security, temperature lighting and small appliance control, water-leak, fire and corbon monoxide monitoring, two-way voice communication and the ability to set your own rules for the system, so your home responds only when you want. The system may be affordable, but it's limited in its scope depending on the plan you choose and other systems can be room or zone specific, extend to the pool or backyard, allow you to control your home theatre and can generally get much more complex.
"What I tell people is that the easier a system is to use the more expensive it is," says Aucoin. "We specialize in the medium to large system designs and installations but systems can definitely be affordable for the average person, there just isn't as many bells and whistles and it becomes a little harder to operate."
If you're looking for a system that's easy to use, look no further than a system Home Concepts built in Bearspaw, Alberta for $133,000 US. The system won them a silver medal From the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) in 2010.
It featured a system that would light up the footpath when you pulled into the driveway, play your favorite music when you entered the room and turn the TV on when your favourite show began. Kids are protected from falling in the hot tub by a motion sensor that activates an alarm that plays your voice warning, "You're not supposed to be here!"
has 18 audio zones, six security cameras and 11 high-definition video displays. There's even a 106-inch drop-down TV in the master bedroom and a 119-inch projection screen in the estate's home theater.
The home's major rooms have touchscreens, keypads, video displays and speakers, allowing you to control the lighting, climate and security systems while enjoying cable TV, Blu-ray, AM/FM radio or songs from your iPod. You can also control the system, unlock the gates and view the security cameras from anywhere in the world using your PC, iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad.
"Top of the line systems incorporate many subsystems within a home (HVAC, Lighting, Security, Irrigation, Security Cameras) and automate those systems," says Aucoin. "HDMI distribution is becoming a must have as well. The price of a system is mainly determined by the amount of control, the number of TV's and Audio/Video sources, quality and quantity of speakers and the amplification power of a system. As these numbers grow, the amount of programming on the back end increases significantly. Custom order and specialty design products can also increase the price."
If you can afford the million dollar or multi-million dollar systems, you are only limited by your dreams. One example built in California in 2010, converted both the living and dining rooms into a disco with the push of a button -- complete with laser lights, plasma video screens and a 110-decibel sound system.
Blackout shades cover the windows, video projectors drop from the ceiling and a back-lit waterfall pop ups behind the bar as state-of-the-art speakers and subwoofers, hidden behind "acoustically transparent" fabric, play the tunes for party goers.
Speaking of party goers, the guest list can be very exclusive and secure. Invitees must enter through a foyer that includes an LCD display and a flip-down mouse and keyboard that visitors use to sign in, while the all-seeing-eye of a video camera snaps a photo of them, like the pictures you can buy after departing amusement park rides. When your guests go to the two washrooms, they will surely be entertained by the plasma TVs hidden behind the mirrors in both bathrooms.
Oh, and don't worry about the neighbours: this set-up includes floating acoustical ceiling treatments and special floors and walls designed to minimize sound transmission to the other apartments in the building. The whole set-up cost the penthouse apartment owner a cool $300,000 US.
The amount goes even higher if you want to include a cinema-quality home movie theatre. A home owned by an engineer and technology company investor had such a theatre and many other bells and whistles that many would say put it over the top. It included a recording studio/karaoke room, 21 climate zones, 17 audio zones, 13 HEMI video zones, built-in Wi-Fi and 16 closed-circuit TVs. The home's pool, spa, lights and motorized window treatments are also part of the automation system.
The owner can also spy on any of the home's residents, or keep an eye on the children while their parents are away. Special microphones and day/night cameras allow the home's owner -- using any of the house's touchscreen displays -- or even by logging onto the Internet while away from the house -- to monitor the kids or anyone else. Users can customize the system by choosing up to three combinations of specific cameras and microphones to monitor at anytime, giving the home security that may rival a small Las Vegas casino. All of this carried a price tag of $1.8 million US.
But if you want a major system, you have to make sure you have the capacity for at least one thing before you start installing anything. "Wiring," says Aucoin. "The most important part is to make sure you wire for everything you think you might do and consult a professional that is always learning and staying up to date on current and future technologies."
None of this should dissuade you from considering an automatic home, particularly if you are a technophobe."What we've found with our new systems is that they are so intuitive that the clients usually know how to operate 90% of the system before we show them," says Aucoin, who predicts a bright future for the automation business as technology becomes more sophisticated and more affordable.
"We are seeing more and more wireless products. I see automation becoming just as regular as a refrigerator as the younger generation moves into adulthood. I would like to see HDMI solutions that are more affordable and more reliable, streaming and the network infrastructure of neighborhoods improved, so that streaming technology is more efficient. In the seven years we have been in business, we've seen technology make leaps and bounds and the price drop significantly when it comes to achieving and surpassing what we use to do. As new technologies emerge older (but still great) technologies become more affordable and more common."