What is Home Automation?

April 25, 2012

The very broad, general definition of home automation is the automation of basic household tasks and activities. Most often these are repetitive tasks we do over and over again which can simplify our life by having them done automatically.

The traditional, workhorse home automation products include things like your garage door opener, coffee makers, lawn sprinkler systems, pool pump and heaters – even automatic pool vacuum cleaners which keep the surface areas of your backyard pool clean.

Digital Home Automation

What’s changed in recent years is the increased use of digital home automation. With digital automation different automation devices can communicate with each other using your home Ethernet network. Many of these devices work wirelessly over you WIFI network so that additional wiring is no longer required.

With digital automation comes the ability to centrally control many of your home electrical devices. Once connected to your home network you can then remotely control devices using your internet broadband connection. “Homes of the Future” are becoming a reality as the technology improves and simplifies.

HVAC Automation

Your home thermostat is the control center for your heating and cooling. It’s no surprise then that there are many new electronic thermostats on the market which allow connection to your home network. Once connected, you can manage your heating and air conditioning system remotely along with making it part of a larger home automation system.

Many heating and cooling contractors offer these smart thermostats as optional equipment. They are also readily available from many local home improvement and online stores. Not only do they provide convenience but also help to better manage energy usage.

Lighting Automation

Complete lighting control systems are becoming less expensive and easier to install in homes. With digitally controlled light systems you can define different levels of lighting for different times of day and for multiple rooms. You can connect lighting controls to different kinds of room sensors so that lights turn on or off if someone comes into the room or leaves. Lighting can also be controlled by a home security system so that lights come on if a security sensor is triggered.

Natural lighting is also a part of a complete home lighting control system. This includes devices for curtains, shades, blinds and awnings. The number of electronic control devices for home accessories continues to grow.

Security Automation

Previously mentioned lighting control systems can be a part of an overall complete digital home security system. Other kinds of security sensors could be added for fire, gas and water. These systems could notify you remotely, wake up the entire family for evacuation and call your local emergency services.

A slightly different kind of security automation is for your health. Health monitoring devices are becoming available which can track your body’s health condition. Data can be sent via your home network’s internet connection to your doctor’s office so that they have the most accurate and complete data to diagnose your conditions. Obviously, privacy concerns are an issue.

Home Entertainment Automation

Home Entertainment is a whole topic of its own. However, it’s also a part of a complete home automation system. The control of home televisions can be used for video feeds from cameras located around your home. Cameras can also be placed outside on your property so that you could switch to a view of your kids playing outside while inside watching TV.

Home Robotics

A slightly different form of home automation is home robotics. Robotics is different in that devices are mechanically controlled instead of just electrically controlled.

Vacuum cleaners are one of the most popular robotic products advancements. The Roomba products by iRobot have been available for quite some time. They have also become quite efficient in their ability to clean carpets. Engineering improvements in newer models have allowed them to clean up to four rooms on a single battery charge.

A favorite robotic product in our home is the Litter Robot. This can be especially useful for homes with multiple cats. We had already tried the automatic “rake style” litter boxes, but they never did their job effectively. Once we found Litter Robot and easily trained our cats to use it, we never looked for a different product. It just works great!

Outdoor home robotics has so far been most effective in the pool with automatic pool vacuums. Anyone who has regularly vacuumed their backyard pool would probably pay anything to have this chore automated. From reports, it appears these products are doing their job.

Other robotic advances have been made with lawnmowers and gutter cleaning. Another popular advancement is robotic toys and hobbyists. Prices continue to drop making it more affordable for the average home owner.

Will we all someday have a robotic maid in our homes, much the same as the popular “The Jetsons” television cartoon show? Too soon to know, but progress continues to advance in that direction.