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January 1, 2016

What level of home automation is right for you?

Know your options—home automation isn’t just for tech experts anymore.

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Say “home automation” and some people conjure futuristic-looking controls, invasive wiring and big budgets. But the world of home automation has gotten easier to install and more accessible, as well as decidedly wallet-friendly. Although budget, time and needs all come into play, generally speaking, there’s something to meet every home-automation aspiration. Here are different options to help you find the level of home automation that could work for you.

Keeping it basic: One-device automation

Home automation means different things to different people. In general, the most basic do-it-yourself home automation options are plug-and-play: For around $100 you can get an easily installed smart switch that can do a number of things, such as turn a device like a thermostat off or on at predetermined times, or turn on a light before you get home at night. A basic home-automation set is a great place to start if you’re not sure how much of your home you’re willing to entrust to remote control. The basic one-device switch is generally controllable either with preprogrammed settings or an app.

Moving up: Home automation kits

A step up from the one-device option is a DIY home automation kit. You can either purchase a main hub—the main control unit—or buy a kit that includes the hub and a limited number of proprietary or third-party sensors or gadgets. Using those, you’ll have control of a predetermined range of home functions, such as lighting, security, and HVAC. Depending on the hub, more sensors or controls can be added as needed, helping to alert you when someone’s left a garage door open, or turn on the porch light just before you get home. These, too, can generally be controlled either in the home (through a control panel or remote control) or via an app.

If you’re focused on DIY, thoroughly investigate how you can add on to a main hub or build from a single sensor. Many hubs can be used with third-party add-ons, but some cannot. If yours is not compatible, you’ll have fewer choices if you expand your home automation system in the future. In addition, the best of these DIY kits allow you to seamlessly integrate the hub and sensors into one control system that “speaks” a single language.

Going all-out: Professional systems

If you want a home with maxed-out automation and integration, you might consider a professional home automation system. While these cost more, they offer added convenience and more features, such as control of irrigation systems. In general, a professional home automation company will match a system to your needs and take care of installation, too.

Control options are usually similar to DIY systems—via in-home access or an app. Bear in mind that home security systems might come with a monthly monitoring fee.

Don’t forget your appliances

Many of the newest appliances are controllable via an app or in home; some even have keypads that can be programmed to family members’ particular preferences (think an individual playlist from a music system, or an oven that turns on via your command).

Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.