By Barbara Hobbs
Smart homes are the new buzzword for Triangle home builders. State of the art home technology automation and increased technical skills of users with their smart phones, iPads, Tablets, and computers have led to remarkable development of applications and equipment that enable homeowners to remotely control elements of house management that range from security monitoring to pet care, temperature control to baby monitors, and kitchen appliances to entertainment.
“The Smart Home has been a fantasy that most of us have harbored since The Jetsons…,” says Carley Knobloch, technology expert for the HGTV Smart Home. “ I think we all have a chore or two that we’d love a robot to handle, or safety worries that we’d love assuaged by an intelligent security system. So, as computers have jumped from our desktops to our pockets, and it’s become easier to make everyday objects “smart” and connect them to one another, it seems inevitable that the home would be a great place to start.”
WHAT MAKES A HOME SMART?
By definition, a smart home features automation with network-connected applications that are capable of communicating with one another, to control house systems like security, temperature, lighting, appliances, televisions, and other electronics such as garage doors and camera systems, and can be controlled remotely from devices like iPads, smart phones, and computers, or by a separate system within the home itself.
A server installed in the home is the hub of the smart home’s integrated system, aided by wireless access points throughout the house which extend the range for all internet connections. A smart home app combines the access to the home’s features. The up-front expenses involved cover the cost of the technological items (smart plugs or switches, door locks, appliances, skylights, etc.) plus the cost of the server installed in the home and of the integrator hired to connect the systems after construction.
HGTV’S SMART HOME 2016 IN RALEIGH REFLECTS INTEREST
There is no better home reflecting this modern trend in residential technology than the HGTV Smart Home 2016, built in north Raleigh by Homes by Dickerson. “We were very excited to be chosen last year by Scripps Network (parent company of HGTV) to build this home,” stated Brant Chesson, President of Homes by Dickerson. “We worked together to incorporate the best in smart technology to make this a unique home.” The latest in remotely operated features are found throughout the house – appliances, skylights, window coverings, media room components, a baby monitor, built-in charging stations, a house-wide audio system, and an air filtration system.
“In the HGTV Smart Home 2016 each product has its own proprietary app, which allows the most controls and options that the company provides,” explains Knobloch. “On top of this, we have a layer of home integration that brings it all together — many of the features (lights, locks, music, window shades, HVAC, and more) can be operated by one app making it easier for the homeowner, and allowing us to create “scenes” that affect more than one system. For example, a “Goodbye” scene allows you to shut off lights, lock the doors, and set the thermostat to “away” temperatures when you leave the house in the morning.”
Interest in this home was nation-wide, especially since HGTV was giving the home away. Between the exposure on their website and their television channel, HGTV brought the possibilities, the convenience and the practicality of a smart home automation system to the attention of millions.
TRIANGLE HOMEBUILDERS RECOGNIZE LURE OF SMART HOMES
Home automations systems are a definite attraction for home buyers according to Stephanie Miller, Sales Manager for Drees Homes. “About one third of buyers are looking for this feature,” Miller states. “We offer most of the systems for free. It’s called Z-Wave. Free door key pad, thermostat controls and lights in the kitchen and foyer. Then if they purchase the system through our Guardian Security System, they have access to those items through an app or website. Then they can control them from anywhere. They can also add the garage door opener and a camera for inside the home. We receive a lot of comments on our survey after closing that this is one of the features they enjoy most.”
Although costs of fully integrated smart home systems can be high, more and more homebuilders are offering these home automation systems to buyers. “We know home automation systems are not for everybody,” stated Chesson, “but Homes by Dickerson offers this feature as an upgrade because we know it’s growing in popularity. About 5% of home buyers for houses under $600,000 opt to spend the $5,000 needed to add these features while 20%-25% of purchasers of high-end homes over $650,000 include many of the automated systems which can cost $60,000 or more, depending on how many features are included on the system.” Once installed, the system’s cost is low, ranging from zero to an optional monthly fee that includes remote service from the integrator.
Ron Feinbaum, Senior Vice President and General Manager of home promotions for Scripps Networks, is optimistic about the future of home technology. “Costs vary widely by product, builder and region, but rest assured there’s smart home technology to fit just about any budget,” he confirms. “Whether you’re building a new home from the ground up or retro-fitting an existing home, the resulting energy efficiency helps offset the cost of going with the upgraded technology. And the good news is that, just like any new tech, it becomes more and more affordable as time goes on and additional options hit the market.”
Currently less than 1% of homes are fully automated. However, the trend for smart home features is supported by predictions that applications of home technology will climb to a $71 billion dollar market by 2020, an increase of nearly 30%. For eco-conscious homeowners and for those closely watching their electricity bill, smart home technology can bring financial benefits by adjusting the house temperature based on the homeowner’s lifestyle, saving as much as 20% on the homeowner’s heating and cooling bills.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR SMART HOMES?
Is smart home technology here to stay? Definitely. As with all other technology applications, it will get better every year and its uses will increase to include many aspects of our lives. As homeowners get used to the idea of the control and convenience of smart home technology, it will come to be expected, and homebuilders will routinely consider including the technology in residential construction.
Is it for everyone? The answer for this is absolutely yes. It is predicted that many homebuyers will consider smart home features standard within the next three to seven years just as granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are now de rigueur in kitchens. All age groups have grown to accept and adapt to everyday technology found in cell phones and computers.
Wish you had won the HGTV Smart Home 2016? Too late for that! Even though the winner (chosen from 83 million entries) decided not to take the home, it was quickly snatched off the market. It will, however, be featured in the Triangle Parade of Homes which will run the weekends of October 1-2, 7-9, and 14-16, 2016. Go take a look and see what you’re missing.