By electrically future-proofing your house at build stage, you could easily avail of many home technologies as they come on stream down the line.
Is it a toy for big boys or does fitting your house with smart technology make practical sense? If new technology can facilitate the more efficient operation of your home, then it should be worth considering. After all when you consider the many new demands we make on today’s homes – greater energy efficiency, to act as an office and home and be able monitor our children to name a few – then the benefits could far outweigh the costs.
Home automation is the integration of all devices on a network which can be controlled simultaneously or individually from anywhere in the house (eg if you are in your living room or cinema room, press play for the DVD on the remote, this in turn could turn on the television, play the DVD, close the automated blinds and dim the lights to a preset level, raise the heating – all with one touch of a button).
Once you have completed your designs, and you know where you want all your bedrooms and living space, installing a smart technology system in your house can provide you with a very useful management system. From security to off-site heating and lighting control, smart technology can give you an incredible level of control over all your house’s operating systems. Smart wiring your house is particularly easy for the self-builder as it requires no ripping out of walls or floors. And if it is done with an eye to future developments, the systems in your home could be easily updated as new systems and products come on the market.
Creating a network
If your budget does not stretch to a fully integrated system but you might be interested in it in the future it is essential that you at least get the cables installed now.
- Structured cabling is the backbone of any system. It allows the integration of audio, video, data and lighting. With a well-designed and installed infrastructure, you can develop a smart home system at your own pace.
- At design stage you should carefully plan the wiring. The correct cables must be located where needed and the proper cable installed. A place in the house needs to be picked to bring all the cables back to and this is where your operating system will eventually be kept.
- Home networking is carried out at the first fix wiring stage of your build. The cable work can be done by an electrician or a qualified engineer. At first fixes stage arrange for a home networking company to instruct on or install the required high bandwidth cables to all the rooms with the main connection to a home networking chassis and you are on your way.
- The laying of cables should be structured in such a way as to make it easier to upgrade in the future.
- If the remote and keypad controls are the brains of the intelligent home, the nervous system is based on high quality cable. The main cables that are used are coax, speaker cable and CAT5 cable.
John Traynor MD of home automation specialists, Acoustic Images says: “CAT5 is inexpensive and allows limitless signals to pass trough it, with special adapters you can send high definition over long distances. It relays signals to control devices such as TVs, Sky boxes etc, to controls for opening and closing blinds, as well as controls for lighting. Our priority starts at the beginning of an installation to ensure the location and type of cables are all present and correct”.
While fibre-optics are being suggested as another way to go for cabling needs, industry wisdom says that the CAT5 and CAT6 cable will be the standard for many years. John Traynor of says CAT5 and CAT6 cable will be around for a long time as all the products that are being sold today or are in planning for the future are CAT5 compliant. “As new products come on the market it will be simple to introduce them in to any automated home system connected with CAT5 or 6.”
A good control infrastructure is topped off with a good remote control system. It takes considerable planning and forethought to create a good intelligent home infrastructure, but it is simple to use.
Lights, music, cameras and computers are all separate systems that can be tied together through the central control processor, and can be modified as desired with a single key press by remote, from any room. The cables are brought back to a single location in the house (a ‘comms room’) that may exist under the stairs or in some discreet place. The engineer patches these cables in through the central control processor and programmes the remote.
Giving consideration to your intelligent home features at an early stage is important to integrate with the overall decor and functions of the home. Some of the more popular control systems are offered by companies like Living Control and Crestron. A backlit panel offers greater clarity, so is recommended, and colour screens create a good visual environment to use the controls in. There may be an upper limit on the number of controls that can be run through one processor (for example, eight connections only) so the home builder needs to be sure how they want to deploy the multi-room effect according to their system’s capabilities.
Lights and cameras
As your activities vary, your lighting requirements do too, so a number of presets will help to make that transition to the most effective and personal scheme instantly effective. It’s even possible to send a text message to the system to turn on the lights and heat, if you so wish. Your system can also have the capacity to transmit images to your mobile phone or computer over a mobile internet network
Total control doesn’t have to stop within the rooms of the house. In the garden, the Freespace system from Bose is a rugged speaker system for year-round outdoor performance. The design qualities enable the weather-resistant speakers to blend in with any garden environment. Music can be controlled through the unique Bose ‘uMusic’ system, which, when you upload your CD collection to it, learns the songs and the
types of songs you like, and creates play lists based on your preferences.
John Traynor of Acoustic Images explains that “home cinemas start at about €10,000, multi room audio or video would also cost about €10,000 each and lighting control costs about €5,000. Prices to fully automate your home start at about €20,000 and can rise considerably depending on size and number of peripherals.”
Automation in Action
A home theatre creates an exclusive domain within your living space, where the reality of your surroundings is suspended and you’re immersed in a total entertainment experience.
Regardless of the size of your home, you may have concerns about how a personal theatre will transform your living space. Retractable screens and ceiling or bookshelf- mounted projectors allow you to switch a multi-purpose living area into a theatre at your discretion. You may also choose to design a dedicated home theatre room with a wall-mounted screen. Whatever the case, creating a theatre that complements the personality of your home should be a fulfilling experience; the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
Projectors and speakers allow for high quality picture and sound to match that of any cinema.
Audio can be routed to any room in the house, so you can play cds (stored on a music server), radio, iPod and sound from the television, all managed from the same remote control. There are different types of speakers available; in-wall, on-wall, in-ceiling, floor standing, and these have to be taken into consideration in the design (ie If I want in-wall speakers do I have enough space behind the wall to accommodate?). Speakers that look like pictures and photographs are also available or you can create a custom look to suit their own tastes.
With the arrival of High Definition TV and High Definition (HD) DVDs, it is imperative to have the proper cable routed to every television around the house in order to see the benefits on your Plasma or LCD. HD cannot be sent over standard coax cable, so special adapters send HD over CAT 5 to the televisions. You can then watch any of your video equipment, DVD, digital box, video and security camera on any television
around the house.
Coax and CAT5 cables routed to each camera and bought back to a central hub allow you to view any camera on any television or wall mounted touch screen. You can also view images remotely on a mobile phone or computer.
Lighting and heating
Lighting and heating are an integral part of integration. Lighting can be incorporated with the security system, (eg if the alarm goes off all the lights in the house come on). Your lighting can be used to set a mood in a particular room with one touch of a button. You can switch on and off your heating remotely if you want to have the house warm when you arrive home. If you have electronic gates or a garage you can also trigger the lights to come on when you arrive home.
Source: Build Your Own House & Home