Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Automated Devices for Your Home


Find out about electronic devices that are available to automate your home, from wireless lighting controls to motorized window blinds. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Automated Devices for Your Home

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Watch this video to find out about automated electronic devices for your home, including:

  • Video door answering system
  • Motorized window blinds
  • Wireless and automated lighting controls
  • Remote heating and cooling controls
  • Wireless audio and video systems
  • Hinge door switch to turn lights on and off
  • Home security systems
  • Wireless home computer systems

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: Technology is an amazing thing. This week we’re going to plug some in to your home.

Announcer: Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford, the voice of home improvement, With projects tips, and ideas to help you improve your home.

Danny Lipford: Technology has had an enormous effect on the way we live, and that’s especially true in the home. I mean think about it, when I was a kid there was no home computers, let alone laptops, so when I had a paper to do for school, I headed to the library, not the coffee shop. There were no DVRs or VCRs so if I had a program that I wanted to see on television I had to watch it when it aired.

Well, this week we’re going to look at a number of processes, systems and products that are designed to automate the home, which can make it more comfortable, more attractive and a lot more efficient. And along the way we’re going to look at some really cool stuff that’s just plain fun. Stay with us.

When you think about home automation systems there’s a lot of different ways to approach it, from the very simple to the very extensive type of systems, and I found something that we’re about to install in this kitchen that I just love. It’s called a video door answering system. And basically you have a unit that mounts under a kitchen cabinet like this, then you have this unit that mounts right by your front door.

So when you have a visitor, they ring the doorbell, you’re alerted inside and because it has a camera built in. You can come over to this, tilt down the screen and you can see exactly who’s at your front door, and you can even talk back and forth to them. That’s really convenient and think of the security on that.

Also, we have a built in telephone, we have TV, and you can listen to your favorite AM/FM radio station. Now this is very simple because all you have to do is plug it in, run a wire to your front door, plug in the telephone, that’s basically it.

But to look a very extensive home automation system, we dropped in and visited with a friend of mine, Blake Jochum, who designs this type of system.

Danny Lipford: Blake this is definitely a high end place here.

Blake Jochum: Not your typical residence but really great place to showcase the automation systems that we have in here.

Danny Lipford: OK, All right. I guess one of the main parts of it are the control panels. And is this the main one.

Blake Jochum: This is, this is when you walk in the front door, we have the touch screen from here, and from here you can control the motorized blinds, the lighting, HVAC, the security, the audio/video system, and the water wall and water ball.

Danny Lipford: Now what about learning curve on this? I think immediately you think about it’ll take forever to learn how to use this thing.

Blake Jochum: You know if you think of it as from this one location I can use it to control my security, and now it’s turned into my security keypad. Or I can control the HVAC system, the heating and air conditioning system, and I control the three zones in this unit.

Or I, if I’m going to control my lighting system, I can go to the lighting and I can go right to the dining room, it controls the lights in the dining room, or turn all the lights on and all the lights off which is very convenient. If you’re thinking of it as different stations like that.

Same as the motorized blinds that can go in here, and we can control which blinds are open and closed in the house, and a lot of the automated system is set on a timed event so you can have blinds opening and closing at different times. Same with the light control of the house.

Danny Lipford: I can see where that can save a little energy with closing the blinds in the afternoon when the sun’s bearing down in the house.

Blake Jochum: It does that and you’re protecting artwork and furniture that way, too.

Danny Lipford: And I guess by having the central pad, you’re really kind of decluttering the walls of your home.

Blake Jochum: The interior decorators love that, because what we’re doing is eliminating the need for a keypad for security and a keypad for lighting, and a keypad for the audio/video, and you’d have a wall full of stations. And I’m condensing it all into one convenient touch screen.

Danny Lipford: Now that’s great. Now, what about controlling anything in the home from say another location? I hear that’s another advantage of home automation.

Blake Jochum: People really like that. They want to be able to call the house and actually trigger the HVAC system to be set to a comfortable level when they arrive. This is a vacation home, so if they’re three, four hours out, they can call the house and activate it and off they go.

Danny Lipford: Now that’s great. One thing that I really like is when you have speakers throughout the home, and you’re able to control that. But where are all your components set up in your home?

We’ve got them set in a closet right over here. Danny, here is the closet where we keep all the components that run the entire house. We’ve got the CD player, the DVD player, AM/FM tuner, as well as the processor that runs the automation system.

Danny Lipford: Man, you sure feel the heat coming out of this closet.

Blake Jochum: Yeah, we have cooling fans in here, as well as we’ve ventilated the door. And that’s something you really got to be careful for, is you got to ventilate your electronics. It’s a big deal.

Danny Lipford: I guess if the homeowners bought a new CD or DVD, they would need to get in here; but otherwise no real reason to actually access the closet. Now if they were sitting on the couch and they need to turn the music up a little bit, change a CD or whatever, do they have to come to one of the keypads?

Blake Jochum: No, they don’t. We have wireless touch screens, and from the wireless touch screens you can access all of the sub systems of the house. So from here I can enjoy watching TV, change the channel on the TV. But I could also work the motorized blinds, control the lighting, control the HVAC or even security system of the house.

Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s great. Now that’s wireless of course, the control, but I know this is a wired system. This is new construction, so you had the walls open made it a lot easier to run all those miles of wire I guess.

Blake Jochum: A lot easier. We can retrofit a job, but we’d prefer to do new construction, sure.

Danny Lipford: Well, without a doubt this is a very extensive job. What about a more basic system? What are you looking at in terms of cost on that?

Blake Jochum: Well, you know for a couple thousand dollars, you can get an automation system and do some basic things. And a lot of people can afford to do that. This system was much more elaborate, we’re controlling a lot of subsystems, and there were a lot of touch screens involved. So that’s what really pushed the cost of the system up.

Danny Lipford: I have to say, a couple of thousand dollars is a lot more in reach for a lot of homeowners. And you know when you think about the convenience, possibly energy saving, and just pure old fun, that’s not bad at all. Blake, this is a fantastic place.

Announcer: It’s time for this week’s Simple Solution from home repair expert Joe Truini.

Joe Truini: If you tackle your own home improvement remolding projects, chances are you going to be creating some dust at some point. Today I’m sanding some wood with a belt sander.

Now, these tools typically have a dust collection bag of some sort, but even the very best tools don’t collect 100 percent of the dust. So to capture the excess dust and prevent it from blowing all over the workshop, I’ve created a simple filtration device.

This is a 20-inch square window fan, and to the back side I’ve attached a furnace filter. Now, it’s important to choose a furnace filter that covers the entire fan, so you capture all of the dust.

A little duct tape holds it in place, and as you can see it captures quite a bit of dust, this is just from a few minutes of sanding. Now this technique is also great for when you are sawing or routing, or any job like that that creates dust.

And when you’re done, you can just untape it, bring the filter outside, gently tap it off to remove the dust, and bring it back in, and save it for your next project.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at a number of systems to make your home a little more automated. Now those systems can be as extensive as the one Blake showed us earlier, or as simple as something I discovered a few years ago.

Now this device is called a hinge switch, and it’s very much like the door on your refrigerator—you open the door, the light comes on, you close the door, the light goes off. Now, just think about how convenient that would be, say in the laundry room. When you’re carrying that heavy basket of clothes into the laundry room, the light comes on and you never have to worry about leaving the light on when you leave that room or a closet.

Now this type of device, as well as the system we looked at earlier, does require wiring to be routed inside the walls before the drywall is installed. But there is a system out there that is completely wireless that control all of the lighting in your home. And recently Bill Hambley with the CentraLite Company showed us a home that had one of these systems.

Danny Lipford: So Bill, tell me the real advantages of having an automated lighting system in your home.

Bill Hambley: Danny we’d like to talk about making the case for lighting control and that case is comfort and convenience, aesthetics, and ambiance in a home. Safety and security and energy savings and energy management.

Danny Lipford: Wow that’s pretty important these days, to try and save money on your energy bill at any way at all. And I guess if you can adequately control the lighting that’s a big energy user in the home.

Bill Hambley: It really is. You really have an energy management function in the house when you hit good night at night. A, it’s real convenient and you don’t have to worry about the kids upstairs. B, I know of that house are off and things haven’t been left on.

Danny Lipford: Well, I know that you installed the system in this home after it was already built for a number of years, and I know you used a wireless system. And boy, I bet that made the homeowner pretty happy, not having to tear out a bunch of walls.

Bill Hambley: Oh it was really practical to get a lighting control system in the home. Otherwise we’d be ripping through the walls and getting new wire in. But this way we just replaced a switch in the wall with a new dimmer, and once we got all the dimmers installed they start talking to a central controller and there we have it.

Danny Lipford: Now so all these different devices talking to a center control. What does that center control look like?

Bill Hambley: Its really very simple, like the look of a wireless router in the house. Here we’ll go take a look. Danny, it’s just right over here.

This is a fairly new installation so the homeowner is still playing with it a little bit, figuring out what he wants it to do, where its going to be located. But that controller can be located up above a piece of furniture, maybe inside an armoire somewhere, so it doesn’t have to be out in the open. But while you’re playing with it and getting things set up, obviously you want to have it accessible.

Danny Lipford: But now this is enough to send all these signals all over a home.

Bill Hambley: Oh, yeah. And the best location is obviously in the center of the house, nearest to the center point, because then it’s going to send the radio signals out to everyone of the devices that we just installed in the house.

And then there’s your centrally controlled system. But inside that controller is a clock, in it you create a hundred scenes. And when I say scenes—like evening scenes, and entertainment scenes, and dining, and landscape, and so forth. And also the clock where I can have things turned on by dusk and dawn or an exact time of the day. And I don’t even have to turn on my landscape lights for instance.

Danny Lipford: That is pretty convenient. Now, this is sending a signal out and if you have a standard single pull switch for a dimmer, or whatever. You simply take that out, and the controller that you provide goes in that and it receives a signal from you.

Bill Hambley: That’s right. There’s a radio transceiver built into every one of the dimmers. And so once you do your simple installation and you’ve provide power back to it, make sure you turn it off before you do that, then they start talking to the central controller and you do some simple programming.

Danny Lipford: OK, you’ve told me all these things and what it can do. Show me how it works. Now this is a pretty impressive room and a lot of lights that have to be controlled.

Bill Hambley: It really is, Danny. It’s a great example of lighting control and what it can do for you. For example right here this was a double gang switch, just with single pull switches on them and now we’ve replaced it with a dimmer, a 3 button dimmer, and a one button dimmer. The neat thing here is now you can label the buttons to what exactly what you want them to control.

For instance here is the fireplace light. And it’s turning on and off the light in front of the fireplace. The homeowners create a pathway here to light a path from the living area back to the bedroom so it really makes it convenient for them to get there and then you can turn it off on the other side.

Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s convenient.

Bill Hambley: And they’ve created a living scene that actually turns on the lights exactly the way she wants to entertain guests here when they have folks over. There’s an art light that highlights or accents the art in this room.

Danny Lipford: I’ve never seen an art switch before. Pretty good.

Bill Hambley: Yeah, its really neat. But it just shows it’s just up the homeowners’ imagination, what they can do with all automated controlled system.

Danny Lipford: So the central control that we just looked at is sufficient to handle the signals throughout this house?

Bill Hambley: In most homes it is. Say two, three thousand square feet, that one controller will handle it just fine. In a larger home like this one, we do have some repeaters that carry the signal out even further down the hall for us.

Danny Lipford: Oh. OK then, that make sense. Now as far as security, just having more lights on anywhere is a deterrent from criminals and someone wanting to break in the home; but what are other aspects of this system that will make people just feel more comfortable at home?

Bill Hambley: It really can help that quite a bit by, any security system can send a signal to the lighting system, they flash lights in the case of distress. There’s an alert button, for instance, where if I’m out of town and my wife hears something go bump in the middle of the night, she can hit alert button, and the house is lit up like Fort Knox.

We also have a key fob remote as an accessory, so you never have to have to go into a darkened home again. You hit the key fob when you’re driving up the driveway and it lights a pathway all the way up to the house. A real sense of comfort.

Danny Lipford: Well, you’ve got all the answers to lighting needs and everything, but here’s a question by now our viewers have. This sounds like a very expensive system, but I assume with the retrofit wireless system it’s really made this a fairly reasonable option for people.

Bill Hambley: Yeah. Technology is really bringing down the cost. And you know homeowners can shop around for various systems out there, but in an average size home a homeowner can spend anywhere from 500 dollars to 5,000 dollars, depending on how many bells and whistles they want.

Danny Lipford: OK. It’s just like anything else like you buy. Well, I can think of a number of ways that I could really use these around my home.

Announcer: Let’s join Danny at the home center to check out this week’s best new product. Brought to you by The Home Depot.

Danny Lipford: Everyday it seems like there are more gadgets for the home. Even the laundry room is stepping it up a notch, just look at this new washer and dryer pair from LG. Not only is it available in a few new colors, it also has remote monitoring capabilities that allow you to check the laundry cycle from any location in the house with a remote. So whether you are helping the kids with homework or cooking dinner, you can monitor your laundry so you don’t forget about it.

The remote monitoring displays the progress and remaining time on the washing, refreshing and drying cycles. All you do is plug the monitor into any electrical outlet within the home.

The washer unit within this pair also has a real new cool feature. It actually is a steam washer. So clothes can be clean without water or detergent, which means it uses a lot less energy and conserves more water.

All of these features do have a price. The washer goes for around 1,400 to 1,500, and the remote monitoring pack is an accessory, it’s about 100 dollars more.

Announcer: For more information about the products featured in this segment, visit our website at todayshomeowner.com.

Danny Lipford: We’ve looked at a lot of stuff today, both wired and wireless to control the systems and devices in our homes automatically. Now, one thing that many of these items have in common is that they can be programmed or controlled with our home computers, which are now wireless thanks to Internet hot spots, like this one at this restaurant.

Now, what if you wanted that same convenience at your home, but you weren’t a computer expert. Well, recently we talked with one to see how to get thing started.

David Owens Basically with a wireless network it take away that restriction of having a wire and you being placed in one central location. I can take my wireless network, my laptop, where I can go to my backyard, sit in my hammock on a Sunday afternoon, and just surf the net.

I can pay my bills, I can shop. Now that’s a big plus in my book. I saved over 600 dollars last Christmas alone shopping on the Internet. Setting up a wireless network is not as hard as someone might think it is. It’s basically getting the right terminology in your head, by getting the right hardware, and placing it inside the network. You can really get away with a wireless network at about 150 dollars.

This is the easiest way to set up your access point, everything is a wizard. Now this is set up with SES, which stands for Secure Easy Setup. Click here to start after you put it in, it’ll auto run. Now, the good thing about this wizard is, tell you step by step, and give you a picture. Make sure everything is connected, your network switch or your router, and of course there is monitoring software that you can use.

Really focusing back on the security, we always want to look at maybe an intrusion detection system which you can purchase. All types of different software vendors out there. There are some free ones, but be careful with the free ones on the Internet.

What an intrusion detection system will do, it will allow you to go in and see who’s trying to access your wireless network. Now, you don’t want these people on your network. You don’t want them, only you. It’s your network, you pay your bills, you do everything you need to do on it. Not your neighbor, not your neighbor’s neighbor, someone just driving by.

There’s different types of encryption methods we can use with wireless networking. As far as your home, it all depends on you. It depends on you on how secure do you want your information.

Danny Lipford If you’re a technical novice, like me, David recommends boning up a little bit on some of the technical terms before you go shopping. An Internet search for WIFI, for example, will lead you to definitions that can really help simplify the process.

Now, he also told us that you can improve the coverage of your home wireless network by simply adding a larger antenna. And as we saw in the wireless lighting controls earlier, a central location in the home is the best way to get the most coverage in your home.

Announcer: Let’s head outside for Around the Yard with lawn and garden expert Tricia Craven Worley.

Tricia Craven Worley: Some of us have gardens that we have to mow the lawn all year round, and some of you were lucky enough that you only have to do it seasonally. And in either case, it’s really important for really beautiful lawn to keep your mower in tip top shape.

Now, I myself keep a spare blade handy. So when the blade that I’m using currently gets dull, I can just switch it out. And the important thing about a sharp blade is that if the blade is dull, it will have a tendency to tear the grass and split the ends of the blades, just like your hair gets split ends, so if you haven’t cut it properly.

The other thing I like to do is keep it really clean underneath the deck. Be sure that first of all that you unplug the spark plug, and if it’s electrical make sure that’s it’s unplugged as well. And just lift up underneath. As you can see, I’ve already taken the brush and cleaned out under here and gotten all this grass out there.

It tends to clog the blade, and it interferes with getting rid of all this icky grass is that this has a tendency to spread seed and disease to other parts of your lawn, and you don’t want that. You want a nice green healthy lawn.

Danny Lipford: Well, when we started our research on this subject, we were overwhelmed by the amount of technology that is now available for your home. We only just scratched the service with looking at the extensive home automation system that Blake showed us and the wireless lighting controls, that was pretty neat. And Dave shared with us some great ways that your computer can really help you around your home.

I mean just think the technology is there right now that will allow you to sit in your backyard, in your backyard and monitor and control virtually everything in your home. That’s a pretty neat idea.

But you know there’s so much on this subject that we were not able to cover, we’ll have to revisit this one again. I’m Danny Lipford, we’ll see you soon.