Whether it’s learning your heating and cooling habits, or sensing that you’re not home, home automation systems are increasingly able to think for you. It’s a trend that’s sure to grow in 2014, says Matt McGovren, a brand manager for Nexia Home Intelligence, a home automation system being sold at Home Depot.
How can home automation think for you? If your phone knows where you are, it can tell your thermostat to turn on the air conditioning so your house is cool when you get home or tell the oven to turn on and start cooking your dinner.
It can also ease your mind. “A garage door opener is the number one request we’ve had from customers,” McGovren said. It would give you an answer when you’re driving to work and suddenly think to yourself Is the garage door open? Did I remember to lock the front door?
With a home automation system, you can use your smartphone to check and then take an action if the garage door is open or the front door is unlocked.
“That’s where this next generation of technology is – you’re changing things in your environment rather than just monitoring what’s happening,” he said.
Nexia is also working with two heating system manufacturers, Trane and American Standard, to offer thermostats that will let your HVAC dealer log in from his office and see what’s happening with your furnace or air conditioner.
That ability to monitor home systems from a distance can be a great benefit for owners of second homes. If you’re in Arizona and the heating system isn’t functioning properly in your cabin in Minnesota, a smart home system could send you a text saying your house is too cold. Then, you can let the repair person in by remotely unlocking the door, so he can repair the furnace before your pipes freeze and burst, flooding your home.
“We also want to add intelligence to thermostats,” McGovren said.For example if your thermostat has weather data and knows you’re usually home at 6 p.m., but it’s extra hot today, it will turn itself on earlier so it’s cool when you get home.
What does McGovren recommend for a homeowner who wants to dip a toe into smart home technology but isn’t comfortable installing a complex system?
Get a starter kit and add a front door lock and light kit so you can know when your kids get home from school and you can make the lights turn on when you unlock the front door after dark.
Once you’ve got those installed and running, you can move on to add a smart thermostat and door and window security sensors.