What will it be like to live in the home of the future? No one really knows, but home automation expert Ben Clarke has a fair idea…
From voice-controlled temperature and lighting control to robots that vacuum and mop your place – the future seems to be packed with innovations designed to make our lives easier and more connected.
But how do you transform your existing home, with its little-old regular light switches, into a full-on tech-savvy haven with Alexa-improved automation levels?
We spoke to Ben Clarke, national manager of residential, smart space technology at Schneider Electric, to find out.
Ben, who also happens to be the home automation expert for all houses featured on Channel Nine’s The Block, offers up his biggest piece of advice for anyone interested in smart home technology: “Don’t feel you have to rely on professionals to set everything up”.
To get the best out of your smart home it’s advisable you have a certified installer and electrician install it however, once it’s in then it’s so easy to change and manipulate the technology to suit your lifestyle,” he explains.
Amazon’s Alexa is a voice-controlled home automation system. Picture: Eugene HylandFrom lights to temperature control, it’s easier than ever to set your home up to be responsive to your every command.
Even those in a rental home can benefit from some smart home technology, Ben explains:
“It’s really easy to add into an existing home – you can make your whole house come alive.”
“We’re doing more retrofits and renovations than ever.”
A smarter home
Imagine coming home after a long day to find the lights on so you don’t have to fumble for your keys in the dark, and the temperature within your house set to the perfect climate. Bliss, right? With geo-tracking your smart home will be able to tell when you’re almost home so it can disarm the security.
The smart home of the future will know when you’re on your way home. Picture: Eugene Hyland
Other benefits of the smart home of the future? “You can play your favourite show without having to wrestle with three remotes to get the system set up,” says Ben, adding, “We’ve got systems that tie in all the audio video (AV) into one app, so you can pop the telly on, close the blinds and turn the lights off in one hit.”
Once you’re ready for bed you can simply say, “Google, I’m ready for bed” and the lights and AV system will turn off and your bedroom lights will turn on.
Ready for some shut-eye? Your wish is Google’s command. Simply say the words “Google sleep” and all the lights and electronics will be switched off and the security will arm.
According to Ben, there’s technology that can make sure the iron is hot when you’re ready to iron your shirts the next morning, turn the fan on halfway through your shower and get your coffee ready for that first cup in the morning.
Smart home controls will make your home completely connected. Picture: Eugene Hyland
Ben explains, “These systems all have electronic meters built in, so you’ll be able to tell how much energy you’re using too”.
One of Ben’s recent installs, a home in Elwood, Melbourne, senses when the temperature changes: “So when it reaches a certain level, the blinds open to allow more air flow; if the temperature increases then the air-conditioner will kick in.”
“The house automatically senses humidity and motion.”
“It’s retrofit, which also means you can enhance the system later if you wish and you can keep an eye on your energy rating.”
Keen to get your home on track to automation but don’t want to break the bank? Ben says it’s easy to start small, adding more as you go.
You don’t have to get all your home tech installed at once. Due to the personal nature of home tech, costs can vary widely from person to person depending on the level of integration you’re after.
“To buy the technology outright you could be looking at less than $200 pre-installation,” says Ben. Environexus home integration tools such as the Nexus-Nero (which sets Alexa or Google Home up in your place) can cost between $200-$600 for some of the lighting controls. “A starting point of cost be as low as $200 (excluding installation) per switch you wish to automated. The home owner can just keep adding from there,” explains Ben.
The next steps
If you think all this sounds just a little too futuristic, think again.
According to Ben, it’s just a drop in the ocean when it comes to home automation and there’s SO much more to come. Watch this space.
Article by Erinna Giblin @ RealEstate.com.au