October 20, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — Home automation technology is much more widespread throughout the new home industry today than one might think — and well within the reach of the average buyer.
“Home automation systems are no longer considered a luxury item, with nearly half of homes being pre-wired for additional home technologies,” said Dan Fulmer, CEO and founder of FulTechSolutions, Inc. based in Jacksonville, Fla.
“With technology ranging from a simple programmable thermostat to full home automation, builders need to keep up with their competitors by ensuring a quality infrastructure to handle additional home technology upgrades,” he added, noting that builders should consider pre-wiring homes with structured wiring or risk falling behind their competition.
Home automation integrates the control of three or more systems in a residence. Although a truly “smart home” integrates systems such as lighting, climate control, security and surveillance, and such luxury systems as automatic window shades and Jacuzzis through a central computer, each of these systems on its own is in demand by potential home buyers.
In addition, systems like multi-room audio and video, home entertainment systems and various applications such as pool monitoring and remote access are also home automation options that are in demand.
What to Offer? Think Comfort, Safety and Ease of Use
Every home buyer is different, so installing and displaying the automation options in spec and model homes that will pique a buyer’s interest can be tricky for builders.
With that in mind, here are guidelines to consider:
Technology options should not only enhance the ambiance, they should be approachable.
Think about the option in the context of comfort, safety and ease of use.
Home automation systems, when integrated properly, can control a number of systems through the use of touch screens, wall panels and a central computer. Tying systems like lighting control, security and temperature control to a computer systemd also enables home owners to control their property remotely.
For instance, before leaving the office a home owner can ensure that he will arrive home to find it lit, at a comfortable temperature and even have music playing.
“People are not only looking for comfort and security for their homes, they also want their technology to be easy, intuitive,” said Brian Post, president of LouisClark, Ltd., an Evanston, Ill.-based technology integrator. “For our clients, we utilize a myriad of remotes and touch panels that give feedback with the touch of one button.
It’s simple and easy to use.”
“An added benefit to home automation is the potential for energy savings for the home owner, which is a growing concern for buyers these days,” he noted.
Post also said that owners of second homes and vacation homes are relying on home automation systems and their remote capabilities to monitor the properties when they are not in use.
“All of our systems monitor homes in real time and contain back-up generator systems,” Post said. “If, for instance, our system detects a leak, the home owner and security monitoring system are alerted immediately and are able to avoid a potentially expensive repair by dispatching a service technician as soon as possible.”
Weather can be a factor in determining what automation options a builder should offerl. In hurricane-prone areas such as Florida and other states along the Gulf of Mexico, offering automatic hurricane shutters that can be operated remotely via the Internet is a logical option.
When choosing and installing options, “it is extremely important for builders to partner with experienced electronic systems contractors (ESCs),” said Post. Builders must “ensure that the ESC has the correct balance of IT and AV expertise to create a solid home automation system for your clients.”
“Additionally, it is imperative that builders include the ESC early in the design phase of the home, because it is much easier to place cables before the walls go up and a lot less costly to both the home owner and builder alike,” he said.
Choose Installer-Certified ESCs
Builders considering adding home technologies to their product line should consider ESCs with installer certifications as qualified partners and integrators.
“Most ESCs are more than happy to meet with a builder, his subs and clients to educate and discuss their systems’ capabilities and how they work,” said Fulmer. “A good integrator knows that educated builders and consumers can lead to additional upgrade discussions and further revenue.”
Home Automation — Builder Quick Tips
Become educated about the latest in home automation technology by visiting Web sites such as NAHB’s Home Technology Alliance.
Know your customer and offer technologies that will complement their lifestyle and enhance the ambiance of their homes.
Install a robust infrastructure by adding more structured wiring than consumers think they need.
Research potential systems integrators and visit showrooms to see first-hand what kind of systems they are capable of installing and how seamlessly the systems fit into the home.