If you stop to think about it, we are actually living in the era of “The Jetsons.”

What years ago seemed possible only in the distant and fictional future is actually happening now. Smart technology is enabling us to control our homes with a touch of the finger, and it’s becoming increasingly affordable and accessible for a variety of budgets. Whether you want to automate your entire home or start small, your smart phone is the key to your smart home.

Glenn Shultz, owner of Shultz AV in Solana Beach, serves North County residents and beyond, and helps his customers automate their homes on both a small and a large scale. “What we are doing for our clients is automating their lights, and their cameras for their surveillance systems, the front door locks, their heating and air systems, their thermostats,” Shultz said. “People are wanting to be able to monitor their home while they aren’t there, remotely, through a smart device. When they return home, they want it all on one platform. One button, and the lights come on and the music comes on. And one button to turn the whole house off at night.”

On a smaller scale, Shultz said there are solutions for problems such as people perpetually pulling out of their driveways leaving the garage door open. “People can control their garage doors remotely,” he said. “If it’s left open for a period of time, it will close automatically if the sensor doesn’t go off.”

Ken Kerr, president and CEO of Home Controls, says that home automation is indeed for everyone. “Home automation is no longer just for the rich and famous as many people still believe,” he said. “Technology has advanced to the point that it is completely available to middle class homeowners and easily installable by handy people.” Home Controls, in San Diego, is a stocking distributor that provides products, advice and technical support in the home automation, security and home systems industry.

“Home automation is about the comfort, convenience, security and energy savings that simple home automation devices provide,” Kerr said. “Some of the most popular recent home automation devices are smart remote controlled door locks, wireless video doorbell/intercoms, and easy control of lighting, security and other devices by an automation controller hub, all through your smart phone. And, they are all affordable.”

Cox Cable has recently gotten in on the action with the launch of Cox Homelife, a personalized home security and automation system for its customers. Packages begin at $29.99 and include around-the-clock professional monitoring, battery and cellular network backup, smoke and heat detection, water and flood monitoring, carbon monoxide monitoring and unlocking and locking doors. Customers are able to access via touchscreen pad, web portal or mobile app and receive text and email alerts. Enhanced packages include live and recorded video, 24-hour continuous video and the ability to control appliances and thermostat.

Buyers Beware

With an influx of products on the market, consumers should be cautious and do their homework before buying.

For example, doorbell cameras have gained popularity in recent years, but Shultz advises consumers that Wi-Fi cameras have some issues. “The Wi-Fi front doorbell camera devices have a hard time with interoperability or communicating remotely,” he said. “A solution is to hardwire all your devices and to have the least amount of devices on the Wi-Fi as possible.”

Kerr says that quality is key when purchasing home automation devices. “As in any industry, in home automation there are good, well-made products that are reliable and easy to use, and there are poorly made products that will wear out soon and be troublesome,” he said. “That is why it is a good idea to get some qualified advice before purchasing a product.”

He cited examples of products that consumers should research before buying. “There are some flood control devices that look easy to install and are very inexpensive, but they are poor quality and don’t work very well,” he said. “And, there are some intercoms that are easy to install and of high quality, but there are others that are high quality but very difficult to install.”

Shultz said navigating the world of automation can be tricky. “Put these systems in place to enjoy your life and add more time to your day,” he said. “You don’t want to work at it, you want it to work for you.”

Looking Ahead

On the horizon is fiber optics, which will be available soon for greater bandwidth making home automation even more reliable. “The networks are going to get faster,” Shultz said. “If people are considering a remodel, they should consider network wiring to handle the faster speeds that are coming at us soon.”

Kerr says home automation is becoming easier to use and install and more and more devices are becoming internet controllable. Whereas at one point in time it was exciting just to be able to open your garage remotely, current capabilities have upped the ante. “Never come home to a dark house that is smart enough to know when to turn certain lights on automatically based on when the sun sets each day or when you open your garage door,” Kerr said. “It’s very nice to use a remote control for your TV, but it’s just as nice to turn on your A/C from your car on the drive home on a hot day or have a smart phone notify when your children get home from school. It’s all about awareness that smart homes are here and easy to make happen.”

By Laurie Sutton