Find out what's new in smart home technology.
By John RihaMore in Home Improvement
Controlling your home with app-titude
Most manufacturers of whole-house automation systems have jumped on the app bandwagon with programs that allow you to adjust appliances, review surveillance footage, tweak temperature and humidity settings, lock (or unlock) your front door, and a host of other controls — all from any remote location.
Unfortunately, most apps are proprietary for that manufacturer’s controls and devices. Fortunately, that’s changing, and the home automation industry is moving toward system controls that are brand agnostic. In the mobile department, apps for Windows®, Windows CE, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are leading the way, and the open-sourced Android market is starting to heat up.
An app sampling:
• Control4 My House. Whole house audio, video, lighting & HVAC control from your iPhone or iPod Touch. The app requires a Control4 home automation system. The app is free, but Control4 requires you to buy a Mobile Navigator’s license for $300.
• iPhone for Homeseer. A free app that offers full control over systems installed by Homeseer.
• CF iViewer. A free app with full control and feedback from your home automation system onyour iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, including live status information about your home’s temp, lights and energy consumption.
• HMControl. iPhone-based control of your Z-wave home systems.
• HAI Snap-Link Mobile. Mac iOS-based app that offers full system control over automated devices from HAI. Price: $49.99 (HAI also has apps for Windows Smartphones).
Energy management is another hot home automation topic. With a full array of energy consumption data available via touchscreen, energy-aware homeowners can keep tabs on hot water usage, solar gain, HVAC output, and temperatures throughout the house. Control functions let the owner adjust temps and other variables to lower energy use.
“It’s the Toyota Prius dashboard effect,” says Greg Rhoades, Assistant Director of Marketing for home automation giant HAI. “If you can see how much energy you’re using you’re probably more likely to reduce that energy consumption.”
Manufacturers like HAI are already moving toward the next step, which is to work with utility companies so that residential energy-management software and hardware can work with real-time cost data to automate home systems for maximum efficiency. For example, if your local utility signals that energy costs for certain off-peak hours are the lowest available, the home system can respond by adjusting heating appliances, such as a high-capacity hot water heater, to power up at that specific time. Similarly, air conditioning might power down during peak pricing, if only for a few minutes, to trim costs.
Bells and whistles? Sure—imagine your console screen can run graphs comparing your energy usage this month to last month’s, or last year’s. Or that you can chart your energy consumption versus national averages, or use the data to display your personal carbon footprint. The engagement possibilities alone are a gateway toward better energy management.