Complete Home Automation Systems Buying Guide

Whole-House System
Implementing a complete home automation solution enables the total achievement of your desired lifestyle for your home environment. Before deciding if you should consider a whole-house automation solution, we encourage you to first review our discussion on the key benefits of complete home automation systems in the home automation primer. This will provide you with some base information helpful in defining your own key buying decisions.

In order to determine if you should consider a whole-house automation solution you should review the buying decisions for your highest priority home sub-system. Then if you would like the flexibility to extend your initial sub-system to one or more other areas of your home in the future you'll likely want to consider at least one whole-house automation system for your initial sub-system. Especially if your initial sub-system is one or more entertainment systems. Even if you have no plans to ever extend your primary sub-system, you might want to consider the benefit of having this feature if you decide to sell your home in the future.

    Start your process of consideration for a whole-house automation solution by answering these questions:

  1. Do I want a whole-house automation system I can self-install in my home?
  2. Do I want to control my whole-house system with the same remote or user interface from my entertainment system?
  3. Do I want to control my security system with the same remote or user interface from my entertainment system?
  4. Do I want to also control lighting and climate (i.e. room temperature) from my whole-house system?
  5. Do I want a whole-house system I can monitor and control via the Internet?

You Answered YES to Question 1

A "self-installed" whole-house automation system is generally only achievable by using your home PC with appropriate home automation software as the master controller for the system. Connections to entertainment, lighting, climate, and security systems are typically via a USB or serial connected interface. Your PC will also have to be setup as a web server if your desire remote control via the Internet.

Your selection of home automation software will govern the features and type of sub-systems you'll be able to control. We suggest you consider HomeSeer v2.0, and Home Control Assistant v8.0 (www.hcatech.com) software.

You Answered YES to Questions 2 and/or 3 and/or 4

In order to install a whole-house automation system providing a consistent operational interface for the entertainment system and one or more other sub-systems (e.g. lighting, climate, security), you will need an automation product line that either provides the devices to automate the other sub-systems or provides an interface to the other sub-systems. The whole-house system will also need to integrate sub-systems from other manufacturers into it's own user interface, which may involve handheld remotes, desktop or wall-mounted touch screens or LCD displays, and wall-mounted keypads.

These whole-house automation systems are typically sold and installed by a Dealer who is trained and certified by the manufacturer. In many cases the entry-level controller of a whole-house automation system provides the universal remote function at a price competitive with stand-alone universal remotes. So, even if you never add-on to your initial system there will be no front-end cost penalty. Provided below are links to whole-house automation systems product manufacturers for your convenience.

You Answered YES to Question 5

When evaluating whole-house automation systems look for a master controller that can be accessed from the Internet. This will either require the controller to have a built-in web server function or a link to the manufacturers front end web server which is accessible to the homeowner. The latter is a portal-type capability usually with an associated annual service charge.

    Complete Home Automation Product Companies (ordered by decreasing cost):

  1. AMX Whole Home, Crestron Home Systems
  2. Vantage Legrand, Life/ware from Exceptional Innovation
  3. Control4, HomeLogic Systems, Residential Technologies Inc. (RTI)

For relevant Complete Home Automation Systems product reviews click here.