Home Automation and Our Changing Lifestyle

We hardly notice the impact home automation has had on our lifestyle. At first glance, it appears that home automation began with incorporating electronics into small appliances. For example, microwaves cook food in minutes and coffee makers greet you upon wakening with a freshly brewed  cup.

A closer look reveals that home automation has been around for many years, creating homes that help us with routine tasks like cooking and washing clothes. According to Wikipedia, home automation is “… automation of the home, housework or household activity …  to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security.” Wikipedia also points out that the help provided by home automation makes it possible for seniors and the disabled to stay in their homes longer.

Home Automation without Computers

Like many advances in materials and design, automation began in commercial and industrial buildings before becoming commonplace in our homes.  We have become accustomed to these advances in home automation and the impact they have on the way we live.

  • Temperature sensors turn our heating and air conditioning systems on and off.
  • Dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers wash and dry for us. All we have to do is load and empty them.
  • Motion sensors turn exterior lights on and off, and timers turn interior lights on and off.

Home Automation with Computers and the Internet

The popularity of smart phones has created a revolution in home automation. Remote control devices are no longer needed for most new home appliances. They have been replaced by Internet apps that let you control home appliances wherever you are.

For technology adventurers, multiple devices may already be connected in sophisticated systems which interact without human intervention. These systems provide a unified dashboard, but buying and installing them is complex and costly.

There is a downside to this convenience. If you can monitor and control devices and systems in your home from anywhere, you may be opening the door for others to do the same.

How would you feel if Google were to monitor your home activities, sell the gathered data to  advertisers and display ads on your home thermostat? It’s not such a far fetched possibility. Google bought the company that created the Nest thermostat  for $3.2 billion dollars.

According to the website, “the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your schedule, programs itself and can be controlled from your phone.”  If you are concerned about a thermostat which knows your schedule, or if you’re curious about home automation and data privacy, watch the online video featuring Deborah Hurley, a Harvard University privacy expert.

What Automation Strategy is Right for Your Home?

For most homeowners, the best way to start is slowly. Stay focused on the problem you want to solve and consider products with automation as you look for a solution. What value does the latest home gadget offer? Will it save time or make things easier? Will it conserve energy or water and save money?

Here are some home systems which have automation features:

  • Heating and air conditioning – Smart thermostats like  the Nest Learning Thermostat, and smart heating “control systems” like Cosy, from the UK which features a wireless thermostat, changeable modes (Comfy and  Slumber or Hibernate) and protection from from freezing.
  • Home security – Started out with motion sensors which notify homeowners/security companies of possible problems, added 24X7 surveillance camera monitoring, and now includes remote locking of exterior doors and windows.
  • Home safety – Started with smoke detectors and now includes carbon monoxide detectors. Devices can monitor almost everything from water leaks and well pumps to swimming pools. Even seniors have personal medical alarms which call for help in case of an accident. Integrated dashboards provide one place to monitor everything.
  • Lighting and shading – Automatic timers no longer needed. Smart phones turn lights on and off. Even the closing and opening of window shades and draperies can be automated to take advantage of natural light.
  • Kitchen appliances – Help you shop and cook, like the new refrigerators with automation, which track what’s in the refrigerator and tell you how to cook it.
  • Home offices, entertainment and family communications – Your digital devices can be integrated into a seamless communication system. Central storage of music allows you to listen from anywhere at home.
  • Miscellaneous products – Automated systems water your plants and lawn, even feed your pet. Soon domestic robots Roomba, will do the chores you don’t like to do!

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About Dennis Turmel

Dennis Turmel has maintained buildings for many years, with 20+ years at the Eagle Tribune and of course, his own homes. He enjoys working with homeowners to solve problems, or even more fun, update their homes so they'll enjoy them more. Dennis pefers helping home owners with routine home maintenance, to minimize costly repairs and of course, there's less stress.

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