Welcome to the House Smarty!

So you’ve finally had it with programming and reprogramming your light timers throughout your house. Or maybe you wish your home’s thermostat knows when you are home before cranking up the heat. Perhaps you’d like your door to unlock as you walk up to it or have your porch light go on when someone else does. What about having visitors recognized and announced automatically when they ring your doorbell? Or maybe you just wish your home was a little bit smarter and could anticipate your needs. Welcome to the House Smarty where we talk about the world of home automation where all this and much, much more becomes possible.

Traditionally, home automation was the domain of the very wealthy or the super technical. Adding smarts to your home required custom, high-end systems sold and installed by dealers licensed by manufacturers like Crestron or Control4 that were, and still are, incredibly pricey. On the other end of the spectrum were the scrappy, do-it-yourself style systems that invariably looked awful and were difficult to use. They sometimes worked properly but often did not. One might be able to look past an ugly X10 light switch on the wall but, when that light inexplicable turns on at 3AM, it’s hard to justify keeping it! (In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been there.)

Fortunately, in recent years, home automation has turned a corner. New wireless protocols like z-wave and zigbee have been introduced to the market, components like switches and sensors have enjoyed a marked increase in quality with a decrease in price, and perhaps most importantly, system creators have recognized the importance of usability to the average consumer. Switches look and operate like switches… reliably, beautiful touch-screen based systems are now available on tablets that cost less than tank of gas, sharp looking mobile apps allow complete control form the tiny computers we carry in our pockets, and companies like Amazon and Google have made voice control standard and mainstream.

Today, using affordable and reliable building blocks, you can build the smart home of your dreams, limited only by what you can imagine. Some technical know-how will always be required, but having a guide to show you the way will help tremendously. In the coming weeks, I hope to take you with me on my journey of discovery through the world of home automation as I discuss the basics and undertake various projects around my (and a few willing guinea pigs...er friends’) house.

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