Home automation systems provide many practical benefits, including improved comfort and lower energy usage. They are used to control lighting, heating, ventilation, security, entertainment, and appliances. Homes fitted with these systems are so advanced that many people call them smart homes. For years, their high cost meant that they were only used in larger homes. Home automation systems are now available to suit the requirements and budgets of most homeowners. While the advanced systems have a high installation cost, many basic systems can be installed without spending much money.
The benefits of home automation systems are different for each homeowner. Lights can be set to change automatically to suit the time of day. Windows and blinds can be adjusted in response to changes in room temperature, resulting in lower energy costs by reducing the need for heating and air conditioning. Home security can be improved by using remote controlled locks and monitoring systems. People with restricted mobility can benefit from using remote controls to operate the lights, windows, doors, and appliance.
The main system components are the central control unit, panels, sensors, and actuators. The central control unit is a computer that processes signals and sends out commands according to a program set by the homeowner. Panels come in many forms including keypads, touch screens, and remote controls. Temperature, motion, and light sensors provide the control unit with the information it needs to make decisions. Actuators carry out those decisions by controlling the amenities and appliances. The modular nature of many home automation systems allows them to be combined and used in many different ways.
Home automation systems allow for centralized control of all the lights in a building. With just the press of a button, every light can be quickly turned off or on. They can also be dimmed individually or in a group according to a lighting style that has been programmed into the control unit. Lights can be set to change automatically at certain times of day or if the outside light level changes. Motion sensors can be used to save power by turning off the lights if no movement is detected in a room after a certain time.
Temperature control is another area where home automation systems can provide many benefits. Sensors are placed in rooms and hallways around the home and send their temperature readings back to the control unit. Blinds, curtains, and shutters are then moved to change the amount of sunlight entering the home. This helps keep the temperature at a comfortable level. Air conditioning and ventilation systems can also be turned on if required, but the unit will try to control the temperature with passive means first to reduce energy costs.
Home automation systems are also used to improve home security. Gates and garage doors can be opened by remote control and door locks can be operated by keypad or voice commands. The systems can be programmed to create random lighting events for when the occupants are away. This random lighting is far more convincing than the predictable cycle of lighting timers. Panic buttons can be programmed to turn on selected lights inside and outside the home. Some systems can also call various phone numbers with a prerecorded message if certain events occur, such as when the alarm system is activated.
There are a number of gadgets that fall into the scope of home automation systems but are not widely used. Robotic vacuum cleaners do a good job of cleaning most rooms but they are prone to getting stuck and are not yet a substitute for an ordinary vacuum cleaner. Smart glass is a recent innovation that changes its opacity when an electrical current is applied to it. It could potentially replace blinds and curtains in the future, but its use is currently limited due to its high cost.