Home automation is a new territory, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. There are some lingering questions about which technologies to choose for the long term, especially if you’re just starting on these upgrades. You can spend a lot of money and time experimenting, or you can start with this guide.
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The Backbone: The Internet
One of the first major decisions to make is where and how to wire the internet in your home. High definition video, gaming, and computing function are best on a line coming directly from the wall. Wi-Fi can offer powerful signals with wide bandwidths, but it may not have stable uptime in a home that has a lot of hallways that twist, turn and bend into smaller rooms and spaces.
Several wireless access points can be stationed around the house to carry a stable signal. You may also want to run a Category 6 cable throughout your home, which allows for more data and helps to future proof for infrastructure upgrades. Ideally, you will utilize a combination of both: hardwiring your office or the living room to get the stability where it counts, and Wi-Fi for the less important applications.
Utilize the Proper Protocols
Protocols are where a home automation specialist earns his or her pay because all of these devices have to “talk” with one another to provide real value.
If you’re starting from scratch, Z-Wave is a decent solution. There are many products available that use this protocol, and its lower frequency doesn’t conflict with other network traffic. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity offers familiar solutions in homes equipped with the right infrastructure. However, adding devices to the crowded frequency will ultimately hurt their performance.
Bluetooth offers some excellent applications around the home where remote access is unnecessary, such as management of your home’s energy levels. You could then use Z-Wave to monitor lighting or security systems remotely.
Add Features You Want
Which features are most important in your home? Many attractive possibilities are not very practical for your current lifestyle. How do you make these tough choices?
A quick checklist to consider:
- Will the upgrade contribute to your life in some meaningful way? Automated locks or thermostats would be examples of practical upgrades with real benefits.
- Is there a financial incentive for installing it? There are several ways to recoup the costs of appliances, including rebates from manufacturers or the electric company.
- Will you use it? Often, we invest in new tech because it’s new and shiny and not for its day-to-day value.
Consider Home Accessibility Upgrades
Another important consideration is accessibility when you’re not around. If your home has an entryway, automated locks offer safety and security. Especially when coupled with high definition cameras, which also offer a deterrent for thieves. You can also improve access to music or video you own with a home media server.
Accessibility is all about giving you access to your home’s most important features. As you’re renovating, look for opportunities to improve your home’s best qualities.