Home Automation systems are great, when they work …

Lately we have seen a couple of instances where home automation systems have been a nightmare for the home owners.


But what is home automation?  

The term refers to computerised control systems installed to remotely operate electrical items in your home, such as lights, power points, heaters and other appliances.

In some ways it’s difficult to explain exactly what home automation is, because it can be almost anything you want.

Typically these systems will have pre-programmed modes for common situations.  For example you can hit a “goodbye button” as you leave the house, which could lower the heating thermostat, turn on the outside lights, open the garage door and set the security alarm.

You can also make your own programs to suit your particular circumstances.  For example you might create  a mode for when you watch a movie on TV.  The lights in the room could dim to a certain level, the automatic curtains close and the surround sound system turns on.


Problems with old systems

There are many fun and convenient things you can do with home automation, but when things go wrong with an older system, it’s definitely not fun.

One popular home automation system that was reasonable widely installed a few years ago now seems to have disappeared completely.  Googling the product name brings very few results.  The manufacturer’s website has no mention of the product.

Good luck with finding parts and someone who is familiar with that system if repairs are required.

Another well known supplier of home automation products is still around and still selling the product, but the components can be quite expensive.


What could possibly go wrong?

One of our clients reported their lights coming on by themselves and flickering.  We suspect a fault in the dimmer module that controls the lights, however the client will now need a specialist technician to confirm the fault.  The cost of new parts is likely to be over $1,000.

Another client their went away on holiday for a few weeks.  While they were gone the home automation system turned on the garden sprinkler system and never turned it off. Two neighbouring properties were flooded.


Specialist wiring

Most home automation systems require specific power wiring and data cabling.  So even if you decide to pull out the home automation system, it probably won’t be cheap or easy to revert to a normal wiring system.

If you are thinking about buying a property with a home automation system installed, do a bit of research to find out if spare parts and local technicians are available when the inevitable repairs are required.

Be aware that problems with a home automation system could be expensive and difficult to fix.


The future

There is a new generation of home automation devices that don’t require specialist cabling or highly trained technicians.  In fact, the control modules are wireless and can just be plugged into an existing power point.  Stay tuned for a future blog post where we’ll explore this cheaper and easier alternative in more depth.

In the mean time if you have any electrical problems at you home, including with a home automation system, please  call your Launceston electrician, Mance Electrical on  6331 4711.

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