What is home automation? How much should it cost? What devices work best? Where should I start?
All good questions. Lets try answering a few.
Home Automation is simply automating simple everyday task through the use of timers, schedules, or triggers. Such as turning on the front door light at dusk, or only when it is dark, or only when it is dark and motion is detected between the times of 7pm and 10pm. How about turning off all your lights when you go to bed automatically. Receive alerts on your phone when your front door or windows are opened. Turn off appliances you think you may have left on. Unlock or lock your front door from anywhere. All these scenarios and more are possible now, and for a fraction of the cost it was years ago.
Home Automation does need to be expensive. Gone are the days when you had to have your whole home rewired, had to have a specialist programmer to modify your system, had no control of your home from outside its WIFI range, had to stick to one provider and their limited devices. Now you can start small and simply add devices as your budget allows or your expertise increases. With low product costs you can add big value to your home or just improve your lifestyle.
There are various devices operating in various protocols. The most popular and best solutions currently are Z-wave and Zigbee HA. Both these systems provide a mesh network. Similar to the design of a spiderweb you may say. Each connected device relays messages send from one device to another. This helps to make your overall system a much stronger and more reliable network. It also helps to extend the range of your devices past the maximum range of your control unit. Most people will try to stick to one protocol, as this will provide a stronger network, but sometimes other systems have better devices, so you may wish to mix and match. For example, while z-wave lights might make a stronger more stable lighting solution, you may want to use Enocean sensors. These sensors can operate without the need to ever replace batteries. Maybe you decide to use Osram Lightify LED's, a Zigbee platform, but use Z-wave modules for control of your powerpoints. This can provide a strong network for two communication methods, allowing you to use whichever platform provides the best devices for you needs.
For most people lighting is one of the most simple and effective tools to start with. It is easy to add a sensor light at your front door. No more running extra cables, just attach a battery operated sensor and a module to your light switch, then you can easy control when your front light turns on. Access control is another increasing demand of customers. Allow your phone to open your front door. Check if the door is locked when you are away, or set it to automatically lock after a given amount of time or time of day. Use RGBW bulbs to alert you of notifications, dangers, warnings, or just as mood settings. Use contact sensors on your windows and doors and get notified if they are opened. All simple installations, all beneficial in increasing your comfort and safety.