Home Automation

By: Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford working on laptop computer.

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Technology has had an enormous effect on the way we live, and this is especially true around the home. In this episode we take a look at several systems designed to automate the home and make it more comfortable, more attractive, and more efficient.

There are several ways to approach a home automation system, from a stand alone video door answering system that can monitor the front door, to automated lighting. There are even extensive whole house automation systems designed to control all the major systems your home including lighting, HVAC, security, audio, and video.

Home Automation

Blake Jochum of All Pro Sound showed us a condo in the Florida panhandle with an extensive home automation system that incorporated both hardwired touch pads and wireless touch screens to control everything from the security system and motorized blinds to the heating, air conditioning, and home entertainment system. Such an elaborate system requires some extensive electrical wiring be done before any walls are covered with drywall.

If you’re looking for a more affordable approach to home automation for an existing house, consider a wireless home lighting control system that can be easily installed in your home without tearing out walls or rewiring. The StarLite system replaces your existing wall switches with new dimmer switches or keypads. Once all the dimmers and keypads have been installed and set up to communicate to the controller, you’re ready to go.

Video door answering system

Video door answering system for your home.

The wireless system uses radio frequency technology and your home’s existing wiring to create a central lighting control system. The system provides over 100 lighting scenes, 512 dimming levels, and 50 timed events. And it can be integrated with your home security system, electronic blinds, and thermostats.

Depending on how many bells and whistles you want, you can spend from $500 to $5,000. It simply depends on your imagination, budget, and needs.

Whether you choose a wired or wireless home automation system, you might consider a wireless home network system to help you monitor and control your home’s systems over the Internet. David Owens of Southeast Technical Solutions tells us that for $150 a homeowner can set up a basic wireless home network.

Producer's Notes from Allen Lyle

This is one of the toughest shows we worked on so far this season. There simply is too much information out there to condense it all into 30 minutes. Couple that with the fact that we weren’t doing any remodeling in this episode . . . well, I think you see my point.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some pretty cool ideas we covered and a lot of information, too. I imagine we’ll be doing a follow-up, possibly next season, since technology changes quickly.

The automatic blinds were pretty impressive, particularly in the condo where we taped the segment. But, it was definitely a high end residence, and not a feature the average homeowner would purchase.

Wireless computer router.

Wireless computer router.

However, there’s a pretty neat alternative to automatic blinds or shades that raise and lower at the touch of a button. Many companies are producing automatic tilting blinds. They won’t raise or lower, but they’ll open up to let the sun in or close to block it.

The great thing about these products is that you can install them without having to do any wiring. You simply plug in a remote wireless unit into a nearby electrical outlet and the remote control does the rest.

I recently acquired one for my eight-year-old daughter’s room, and she loves it. The one drawback is that you are limited to the sizes available. I wanted one for the large window in my living room, but couldn’t make it happen.

You can find plenty of options by Googling the words “automatic blinds.” Bali makes some in different colors and materials such as wood, vinyl, and faux wood.

The CentraLite system made a lot of sense to me for existing homes. The biggest drawback of automating your home has always been the extensive re-wiring. To have a wireless system that is able to accomplish so much was simply an inevitable invention.

Central controller for home automation system.

Central controller for home automation system.

But my first thoughts are how much energy are you REALLY going to save, and what is the lifespan of these wireless switches? Well, to answer the first question, you can save a lot, but it’s all up to you. The American Lighting Association tells us that 50% of the electrical energy used for home lighting is wasted. That means we tend to forget to turn off the lights way too often. By using the dimming effect, though, you may be amazed at what you’ll save.

According to a recent study by the Louisiana Energy Conservation Project, if you were to dim your lights by only 10%, you would save 10% on your energy bill and increase your bulb life two times. Dimming the lights up to 50% will save 40% on your electrical consumption and increase your bulb life by a whopping 20 times! In fact, when CentraLite first came on the scene nine years ago, houses that got this system installed still have not changed a light bulb.

As for the second question, those switches have no moving parts and are rated to last the lifetime of your home. Not bad.

Other Tips From This Episode

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
DIY dust collector

Home Automation

If you tackle your own home improvement projects, chances are you’re going to create some dust. To capture the excess dust and keep it spreading all over garage or workshop, grab a box fan and an air conditioning or furnace filter. Attach a furnace filter to the backside of box fan with a little duct tape (make sure the filter covers the entire fan), and you’ll have created your own makeshift dust collector. When you’re done, remove the filter, take it outside and gently tap the dust free. (Watch Video)

Best New Products with Danny Lipford:
LG SteamWasher

Home Automation

This new washer/dryer pair from LG have remote monitoring capabilities that allow you to check the laundry cycle from any location in the house via remote. The remote displays the progress and remaining time on the washing, refreshing, and drying cycles. The washer doubles as a steam washer, so clothes can be cleaned without water or detergent, using less energy and water. The washer sells for $1,500 and the remote monitoring package is an accessory that’s about $100 more.

Around the Yard with Tricia Craven Worley:
Lawn Mower Maintenance

Lawn Mower Maintenance

It’s important to have your mower blade sharpened before the mowing season arrives, and keep it sharp throughout the cutting season. Keeping mower blades sharp helps maintain a healthy lawn. Dull blades tear rather than cut the blades of grass, making your lawn look brown. To ensure that you always have a sharp blade available, buy an extra one. When one blade gets dull, replace and immediately sharpen it so you always have a spare.



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