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A mass market for intelligent homes

Jul 2011 Smart Homes | Comments Off on A mass market for intelligent homes
A mass market for intelligent homes

No longer the preserve of the rich and famous, rapid advances in technology have brought intelligent automation systems to a growing number of homes and work places, allowing control of everything from lighting, heating, communications and entertainment at the touch of a button. Marie Parry looks at the options available.

Whether you are upgrading an existing wiring system or starting a brand new domestic or commercial building project, there is a home automation system that will deliver the right solution while meeting the required budget. From RF wireless control of lighting and heating through to the all-singing, all-dancing, interactive multimedia systems, smart technology is here to stay.

Intelligent energy saving

By intelligent control of lighting and heating throughout a home using wired or wireless home automation, it is possible to make significant cost and energy savings. For instance central heating systems, rather than heating the whole house, can be split into different zones so that rooms or areas are warmed as and when they are required. In the same way lighting systems can be controlled so that the right light output is delivered when and where it is needed.

Wireless control

To enjoy the benefits of home automation in an existing home or business premises with minimum cost and disruption, a wireless system is the answer. Complete control of the heating, lighting, shutters, blinds, gates, garage doors and appliances can be done without the need for additional cabling or cutting into walls.  Wireless systems operate on the more reliable, higher frequency radio band – 868MHz – which makes the system less susceptible to interference from other transmitting devices.

Receivers are simply fitted behind the light fittings or into suitable installation boxes, and the transmitters are powered by battery so no additional power supply is required. Switches can be mounted on glass, wood or walls and can be moved or relocated freely, offering total flexibility to the customer. A typical installation can be completed in no more than three days.

Heating, switching, dimming, control of shutters, window and door opening can all be quickly and easily set and adjusted from a one touch centralised RF control panel, operating at a distance of up to 200m. Programming is very straightforward – the transmitter is easily connected to the receiver with the push of the corresponding buttons on the appropriate devices. Wireless systems can also be operated with portable devices, or a dedicated RF remote control. An in-built clock provides the ability to set daily/weekly switching programmes and also to simulate occupancy when the house is empty – setting the lights to come on and curtains to close in the evenings, for example – giving total peace of mind.

Because of the ease of set-up and installation, wireless systems are a very attractive proposition for electrical installers who can offer the system to customers as an entry level smart home solution.

Wired for sound

Operating at the other end of the market is the wired home automation – or BUS – system.  This high-specification technology allows a myriad of different functions to be operated throughout the home or the work place remotely via a computer or mobile phone – even where is there no-one on the premises. With the click of a mouse, a quick text or the sound of a voice, any number and combination of commands can be set in motion to operate the gadgets in a home – lights switched & dimmed, heating regulated and curtains and blinds set to create the desired ambience.

Wired systems offer total control over the number of features and appliances to be managed, as well as the configuration of the controllers that will operate them – from wall switches, voice control units, touch screen panels and IR remote controls.  Sensors, switches and actuators all interact with each other to deliver commands in what is effectively a bespoke system.

Because everything is set from the computer via a simple program, it is possible to change or modify the settings of any device connected to the system – such as creating or modifying lighting mood scenes, or varying the time it takes dimmers to fade up or down. It is also possible to add units at any time, providing ultimate flexibility to adapt the system to suit changing needs and requirements.

With the touch of a button it is possible to regulate the heating and lighting; close the shutters and gates; see who has arrived at the front door; dim the lamp in a child’s bedroom and set the coffee machine percolating.  The options are endless.

Save money and energy

Whichever home automation system provides the required solution, what they have in common is a means of reducing costs and saving energy – the complete control and regulation of your heating and lighting that a home automation system offers means energy is only consumed when needed. With the 2016 deadline that will require all new dwellings to be ‘zero carbon’ looming, it is within everyone’s interest to embrace the technology that is helping to shape the future of our homes and work places.