Home automation devices offer remote control

  • Article by: MICHAEL J. SOLENDER , Charlotte Observer
  • Updated: February 9, 2013 - 3:00 PM

With these home automation devices, you can set it and forget it – or check up on it remotely.

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The Nest thermostat reprograms its settings for better efficiency, taking into account such things as times the house is empty.

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Turn off the lights, lower the thermostat and make sure the dishwasher isn’t leaking. You can run yourself ragged trying to stay on top of those little details.

But your morning rush hour doesn’t have to start that way. Using automation at home can be convenient. It also might help you cut your power bills and improve your sense of safety. Here is a look at some of the options for relaxing your routine without losing control.

Lighting

No more playing tag with the switches. Legrand makes a wireless system that uses radio frequencies to control up to five different “scenes,” or lighting combinations. Use those scenes to set a mood or for security, which means making the house look as if someone is home when you’re away.

The controls work for table lamps, ceiling fans and even small appliances. A bedside one-touch “panic” controller can make all the lights in the home flash on and off. Suggested retail price for the Event Controller and two dimmers is $490. Prices for whole-home packages start at $1,000 (www.legrand.us).

Do-it-yourselfers might prefer a one-box option such as GreenWave Reality’s Connected Lighting Solution. It has four eco-friendly LED light bulbs, a router and remote control for about $200. Instead of going room to room to turn off the lights at bedtime, press the control for “night,” and the job is done. There are also settings for “home” and “away.” Other optional programs are available (www.greenwavereality.com).

HVAC

Nest is a self-programming thermostat that its maker (same name) claims will lower heating and cooling costs — by up to 20 percent if used correctly. That can be significant, given that heating and cooling costs can represent up to 50 percent of the energy use in a home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

This device learns your schedule and begins reprogramming itself for more efficiency after about a week. The system senses when the house is empty and makes adjustments. Residents can analyze energy usage and adjust settings through an online account. The thermostat also can be controlled from a smartphone. Retail costs start at $239 per unit (www.nest.com).

Remote monitoring

Devices for remote monitoring can keep you connected to — and often in control of — what’s happening at home. Freevolve’s housEvolve Flood Prevention Kit has sensors to monitor trouble-prone areas around a washing machine, sump pump, water heater, kitchen sink, refrigerator or any other area of concern. Shut off the valves remotely when there’s a problem. Retails for about $500. Freevolve’s garage door controller, which sells for about $450 at retail, can tell you the door’s position and then open or close it (www.freevolve.com).

With Schlage Link system, having your teenager locked out of the house after school won’t be a problem. You get access to the locks from the Internet, using a computer or smartphone. Prices for starter kits start around $300 (www.schlage.com).

Centralized home control

Connecting several of your home’s systems to a centralized controller can be costly but also convenient, according to John Morgan, president of Urban Building Group of Charlotte.

Some of the systems that can be integrated include security, door locks, heating and cooling, audio visual, blinds and lighting, as well as some appliances.

Prices for home evaluation, products and installation can start around $13,000.

For control of multiple systems and options for programming, Morgan recommends Crestron (www.crestron.com) and Control 4 (www.control4.com), two top-rated whole-home systems.

Remote controls

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