So you’re starting to think of some areas where home automation could offer some benefits to you, but how to go about choosing a system? There are many factors to consider; subscription, support, security, system expansion, and overall cost, just to name a few. While such a decision could become very overwhelming, using this article as a guide can help walk you through making this decision a little easier.
To help break it down, I have divided this article into the time-tested questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How to cover all our bases. I have put these questions in an order that makes for the best sense and flow of the article.
The first step is to put some thought into why you want this system. You may already have a clear reason why, thus the interest. However, maybe you haven’t stopped to ask yourself ‘why’, or at the very least it could be good to expand on it.
What is the overall goal of adding an automation system to your home? Do you have a specific concern about safety, security, or efficiency? Is it for your home, second home, or the home of someone close to you? Maybe it is for your business? Maybe you are going for the ‘wow factor’ of being able to control your home from you phone?
Answering these questions for yourself and your situation will begin to define the trajectory of how your home automation project comes together.
What do you want from your home automation system? This is more technically specific than why you want the system. What does it do? Are you looking for something that is strictly security; with cameras and door and window sensors? Are you more interested in efficiency or ‘wow factor’ components like light and HVAC control? Do you want to be able to setup scenes, or macros, where multiple activities are initiated by certain occurrences (such as motion, light sensors, etc.)? Maybe you need to keep track of your home remotely and have some very specific concerns that you require notification about should they occur, such as water leaks and carbon monoxide or smoke detectors going off.
Deciding what your home automation system will be will allow you to refine your search and list of products and vendors.
To further expand on your systems definition, you should ask yourself who you want to install, maintain, and monitor your system. These answers are not necessarily all the same. You could have a local automation company install and monitor your system for you, while offering you the flexibility to add on to your system on your own if you choose. You may opt to look into a company that offers ‘end-to-end’ service, such as ADT, who will install your system, monitor it for you, and perform service calls whenever maintenance or system expansion is required. You may even be of the independent spirit, and decide you are going to take this project on as a do-it-yourself project, and assume end to end responsibility on your own.
Whichever option, or combination thereof, works best for you is the option you should pursue. Just as much as each system is customized for each home, so too is the mix of services that go into that system.
Perhaps most important of all is ‘who’ will be using the system. If you are setting the system up for yourself, you may have a better understanding of the subtleties of a DIY system than if you have a significant other, children, elderly parents, or guests sharing in the use of the system. Having a professional organization behind the system to support you and everybody else could save you a lot of effort and frustration over time.
Where your system goes may be another ‘no-brainer’ to many people, but for others it may be a more subtle question. If your home automation system is going into your home, odds are you are pretty familiar with the house, your needs, the local services available, etc. If you are looking into a home automation system for a loved one, or a second home that is several hours (or maybe states!) away, the ‘where’ becomes much more abstract. If you are working with a remote location, being able to spend time there getting familiar with the location and its needs is the best approach.
If this is not an option, most companies offer localized support and contact information online. Another option is checking local business directories for your required services. If you are looking for a less expensive alternative, you can check the local Craigslist entries for people who work specifically with home automation or networking.
When your system is installed is entirely up to you, but keep an eye out for special pricing and offers. Many home automation companies will run promotions during the summertime. Even if the vendor you are looking at does not offer a promotion, it never hurts to ask. After all, everything is negotiable!
The other ‘when’ to consider is expanding your system. For many, a home automation system will be a project that grows over time, and having the flexibility to do so according to your needs will pay-off in the long run.
As with any major decision, it is best to shop around, and get multiple quotes. Ask lots of questions, its your salespersons job to answer them for you. A good salesperson can even help guide you and design your system with you. Conversely, a poor salesperson who can’t answer your questions or offers little to no help can be a strong sign that you would be better off avoiding that vendor.
Creating a clear idea of what you see for your home automation project will help make a lot of sense out of what could potentially be a very confusing exercise. Deciding what is best for your situation and before wading in can save you money, time, and effort; not just during the initial setup, but also very possibly over the life of the system. Adding these savings up will equal a much better overall experience with your home automation system for several years to come!