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Pros and Cons of Investing in an Electrical Home Automation System

Thanks to home automation systems like Control 4 and the Nest system, our homes are growing smarter. But what advantages and disadvantages do these electrical upgrades offer to the average homeowner? And how can you decide whether or not the investment makes sense? Take a look at the pros and cons of this rapidly growing industry to discover if home automation can enhance your lifestyle.

What is a Home Automation System?

These electrical control systems allow homeowners to monitor and operate various elements of their home from a central panel or by using mobile phone and computer apps while away from the house. Systems commonly wired into popular home automation systems include:

  • security systems
  • door bells and door locks
  • lighting
  • home comfort systems like heating and cooling
  • home entertainment systems, including audio and visual components
  • irrigation
  • intercoms
  • window shades

Prices range anywhere from $5,000 and up, depending on the size of your home and the limitations of the system. Low cost, focused options like the Nest programmable thermostat offer very basic automation, while more involved systems like Control 4 start at the $5,000 level and move up.

Pros of Investing in Home Automation

We live in a digital age, and have gotten used to surroundings that react instantaneously to our desires and comfort level. From remote controls to apps at our fingers tips, modern families want their home systems to respond quickly and efficiently. If possible, we want things to operate behind the scenes while still allowing us the flexibility to customize and tweak as necessary. High quality home automation systems allow homeowners to control and customize electrical systems with minimal effort.

You should be able to save energy with this type of electrical system. Although you do need to use additional electricity to operate the computer and maintain communication between other household systems, the amount of power potentially saved far outweighs the typical usage.

Automated systems that keep track of your temperature settings, and combine that information with real time weather and calendar data, allow you to keep the rooms in your home comfortable with minimal energy usage. A few examples of how your home automation system can help to cut energy usage include:

  • keeping temperatures lower at times when your house remains empty
  • setting different rooms at different temperatures to properly reflect your lifestyle
  • avoid heating the rooms you're not using or distributing lower levels of heat to rarely used areas
  • shutting off lights when rooms are left empty
  • powering off appliances and computers when the house is empty
  • monitoring your energy usage and offering comparisons based on seasons, time of day and other useful data

A home automation system can also help to keep your home secure, providing peace of mind while you are away for the day or on an extended vacation. With direct access to your home monitoring system, either through your smart phone or laptop, you can even operate an intercom or answer the doorbell with an audible signal that detracts burglars.

Properly used irrigation systems extend the life of your plants and turf, saving you money and improving the overall appearance of your property. With a well organized home automation system, your irrigation controls can be monitored and operated from anywhere, allowing you to tweak the schedule at any time of day. Hands on controls can also be switched to a fully programmed operation that takes into account temperature, weather patterns and precipitation—making your lawn and garden irrigation a snap to handle.

Cons of Investing in a Home Automation System

Perhaps the biggest issue with this electrical upgrade is functionality. Depending on the type or brand that you install, it may or may not do all of the above functions. Several products offer limited combinations, such as automation of your lighting, climate control, door bells and security, without offering access to your home entertainment or irrigation system. Find out exactly what is offered in the package before spending your hard earned money, and discuss installation options with an experienced contractor to be sure the system will work in your home.

Many of the latest home automation packages also come with a monthly subscription fee. A limited number of features are offered at no charge, but a monthly charge must be remitted in order to access the full functionality of the system. Similar to the monitoring fees of your home security system, these subscription charges can change and your system will only be fully operational when your account is paid in full. Ask about any monthly charges and make sure you understand your obligations when signing a contract with any home automation company.

Because this type of residential electrical system operates on power, it is vulnerable to outages and brown outs. Consider how dependent your family will be on this system and try to come up with a back up plan should the power go down. Brown outs continue to be an issue in certain states and heavy storms have resulted in lengthy outages across the country. Be prepared.

These systems also operate via the Internet, accessing stored data through a cloud and communicating with various electrical systems in your home through wifi. If your Internet service is spotty or unreliable, this type of system may not work well. Rural communities often lack the technical services to support a full home automation system, such as high speed Internet and reliable service in any weather. Consider the dependability of your Internet provider—both the home based access and your mobile network.

For greater convenience and a higher level of control within the electrical system of your home, consider home automation systems. But be aware that these products have limitations and your property or lifestyle may not be well suited with brands on the market today. Talk to a knowledgeable contractor and get a feel for the pros and cons of electrical home automation systems before making the investment in this rising technology.

Posted by: diana
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