• Jason Frindt

What is a Smart Home?

What is a "Smart Home" and what is “Home Automation"?

Have you ever heard the term “Smart Home” or “Smart House”?




What is “Home Automation”?




What does this actually mean?


Whether you want to view surveillance cameras, control a light switch, or tell your voice assistant to make the house warmer...these (and many more) are considered ways to make your home “smart”. There is almost an infinite list of things you can “Automate” in your home. Mostly, if you can say it, you can have it automated. But at what cost?



Can I afford it?


Yes, you probably can...well...within reason. If you want to say “Alexa, launch a spaceship from my backyard…” you totally can. The truth is, the cost to send the command and a simple relay is quite minimal. But, a lot of consideration must go into the cost of more than just the Echo Dot and the $79 relay. You need the infrastructure, the launchpad...and of course..the spaceship. This could be WiFi, wired networks, or as simple as a Cat6 wire... The point is still, YES, you can afford it…and the cost is relative. If you want to control lighting, locks, and thermostats...expect a few hundred dollars with existing infrastructure. If you need someone to integrate, expect to pay between $80-$100 per hour for an expert. If you are starting from scratch, this can raise the price exponentially (Especially if you still need to buy the spaceship mentioned earlier). This cost will be relative to the size of the home and the list of devices you will need to make your dreams a reality.



How to make my home “smart”?


Whether you are remodeling, building a home, or just adding devices to your finished home, this is always possible. Each situation carries their respective challenges and has a cost associated with it. The first thing you should do is brainstorm all the things you use daily that could help simplify your life.


My wife and I have a new baby and some examples we use frequently (because our hands are already full):


Alexa, set the floor lamp to 10%

...play lullaby station in the nursery...

...play Curious George on Roku…

...remind me in 10 min to…


Each of these commands have a cost and a list of devices/cabling associated with it. Typically, you would invite one of our system engineers in to take a look and provide a free estimate to make this all happen. But, for the sake of knowledge, I will break one of these down for an attempt to help explain the infrastructure needed.


Let's use the “Alexa, ...play Curious George on Roku…


First, you need the almighty internet. I think we all know what that is. You need a modem, router, and wireless capabilities. Most homes have all this in one box provided by their cable or phone company. (Although, you may need to consider upgrading the provided hardware to more robust and capable equipment, based on the size of the home and project...but let’s stay on task for the moment).


You will also need the following:


  • Television (Not all models supported)

  • Roku

  • Echo (any of them will do)

  • HDMI cable


So, to quantify this ‘command’ with a cost...you can buy a $399 TV, $69 Roku, $49 Echo, and a $19 cable and YES it will work. BUT…(yes there is a but)...how well will it work? Do you want the TV to turn on automatically? Do you want one remote to control everything? How good is the picture? Is it big enough to see across the room? Does the TV need mounted? Is there power already behind the TV? Do you want the echo with a screen? Does the HDMI support 4k? Do you want surround sound? Etc...etc...etc…


I think you get the point here. This can all be done on a budget. But, if you want to truly automate your home, ‘Seamless integration’, truly hands free. I suggest consulting a trained expert, so we can ask the right questions to meet your expectations.


...a good example…


A homeowner can buy a Philips Hue light bulb and control it with their Alexa or Smartphone.

*As long as they leave the light switch on

**and know how to reset when it frequently falls offline.


If you want to remove the “ * ” then you should involve an expert. Even if for nothing more than advice and a consultation.



Wireless or Wires?


Even though a strong network with proper coverage is necessary to function day to day...the answer is wires. Every time. ...and no, I am not confused. Usually, when I say this, my customer looks at me like I have antlers. The truth is, most mindsets are “wireless is better”. Here is the fact: It isn’t. Only in a very few circumstances...mainly...when you cannot use a wire <or> the lack of a wire path to run the cable.


So, YES...use wires. Contrary to popular belief, a wire is ALWAYS better than wireless. Wireless is for portable devices and convenience <or> when there is absolutely no way to get a wire to the location in question. A wire will always be less burdensome on the network and more reliable. Especially when considering the amount of data transmitted while watching a movie.


Professional installation technicians like ours can easily find hidden wire paths in almost every home or business we service. Out of the 1000’s of completed projects, I believe there were maybe 2 instances when a wire was impossible to run and remain hidden (Without ripping open walls). So do yourself a favor and run that wire. It will be faster and more reliable.



The process…


Get us involved early and often. This plan should be started prior to picking a home or builder. Have your ideas ready. This will make the final integration much smoother.


A fly by of the steps:


1. Plan

a. Discover expectations

b. Review blueprints

c. Meet with the contractor / homeowner / builder etc.

d. Engineer a working system design (Have a plan)


2. Prewire

a. Run cabling to necessary locations

i. Remodel and New Construction - Easy and relatively inexpensive

ii. Retrofit - Can be costly and time consuming

b. Label everything...twice. 10 years from now you will want to know where this wire runs.

c. Install wall boxes, speaker bracket, panels….etc.


3. Trim Phase

a. Cut speakers into ceilings and walls

b. Wall plates installed

c. Cabling terminated

d. Panels completed

e. Racking installed


4. Final Installation

a. Equipment delivery and installation

i. Mount TV’s

ii. Install Electronics

iii. Make all cabling connections (HDMI, Network, Control, and Audio)

b. Programming and Testing

i. Program custom scenes and macros

ii. Test for full functionality


5. Delivery and Customer Training

a. Custom programming

b. Additional Testing

c. Adjustments and personalization



Support!


Buy products you trust. If (and when) they fail, a company is only as good as their support team. This includes manufacturers as well as integrators. There is nothing more spectacular than tech that works. There is also nothing more frustrating than the moment it doesn’t.




Jason Frindt

1/11/2021

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