The Basics of Home Automation

Powerful software, cheap electronics, and imagination seem to be all working together to make automated homes within reach for most people. You don’t have to be a Bill Gates to live in a home filled with technological wizardry.

But with the available technology, what can the ordinary home owner do to automate his home?

Nothing Really Fancy . . . Yet

Don’t expect a Jetsons home just yet. You might be disappointed. Still, what home automation can do is pretty cool. The most amazing feature of home automation is that it allows you to control and interface with various appliances in the house using any smart device connected to the internet.

Want to keep the house warm and comfy before you arrive from work? No problem. Just use your phone to turn on the thermostat 15 minutes before you arrive. Worried that your babysitter is just sleeping when you’re not there? Check on your baby on your tablet PC even while in the office. Forgot to turn off the TV before leaving? Just click a button on an app.

Sure, the time will come when we’ll be able to use voice commands to operate just about any appliance in the house. But not just yet.

Getting Started

The home automation niche is a fairly young industry. However, there are quite a few options and if you’re just beginning to automate your home, you might be overwhelmed with all the available choices. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Forget About Future-Proofing

Don’t worry too much about future-proofing your system. Home automation systems rely on electronic devices that are fast-evolving. If you insist on getting the latest and the greatest, you’ll end up spending a small fortune on your system.

A better approach would be to upgrade as new affordable systems become available. Let the Jones’s carry the burden of the price of research for new technology. Buy what works at a reasonable price.

Start Small

There are systems that will only work if you purchase all the necessary pieces. And then there are those that let you assemble each piece and all the other parts will still work. It really all depends on what you can afford. If your budget is limited, start with just a few items. Lighting is one of the easiest devices to replace.

The Compatibility Issue

When you’re building your home automation system slowly, some of the older products may not work with the newer ones. It’s important that you make sure that the new equipment you purchase will be backwards compatible with your existing set-up.

How Home Devices Talk to Each Other

For home automation to work, you must have a means to communicate with your appliances. The most common way this is done is through the existing electrical wiring system of your home. Other systems will use RF or radio frequency. Some systems use a combination of both.


X10 is a protocol used in home automation. (There’s also a company that goes by that name.) When purchasing new equipment, make sure that it’s backwards compatible with older X10 versions.

You can start home automation for as little as $50 by purchasing a starter kit.

Sam Lindsay is an electronics enthusiast. He contributes to, a site that helps consumers make informed decisions when buying stuff.


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