Living in the Future - Powell, Ohio

It’s been said countless times that “Home is where the heart is.”  And while the sentiment is no doubt a favorite of greeting card companies and mothers everywhere, it’s probably more accurate to say that home is where the comfort is.  

It’s not surprising that being surrounded in comfort means different things to different people.  For every person who prefers luxurious fabrics and high-end finishes, there’s another who prefers soothing colors and the aesthetic achieved by walls filled with artwork.  But regardless of personal preferences, the idea of what constitutes comfort in present day 2008 (and really at any point in time) is intrinsically linked to technology.

After all, what is a home if not a reflection of society’s standard of comfort?  For the most part, there isn’t a household in America purposely going without electricity and indoor plumbing.  The 19th century saw the invention of refrigerators, telephones, dishwashers, ceiling fans and radios, all of which have been standards for years.  The 20th century introduced air conditioning, washing machines, televisions, microwaves, personal computers, Internet connections and digital video recorders (DVR)… all of which you’d expect to find in the majority of homes populating your neighborhood.

With that in mind, this month C Magazine had the opportunity to get a glimpse at the technological horizon.  Not only were we awestruck and impressed by what we saw, but we recommend that if the words “home automation” haven’t entered your consciousness yet, make a note of today’s date.  Someday, in the not too distant future, your grandkids (and perhaps even your kids) will stare at you in disbelief when they learn there was a time when homes ran without it.

By way of definition, home automation is the process of integrating your home’s lighting, energy, temperature, security and home entertainment in a way that makes your house easier to live in and more of a joy to use.  It should come as no surprise then that it cuts energy costs, lowers electric bills, and makes homes more efficient.  Because there’s some planning and creativity needed in the process, it takes a custom electronic professional like John Scott of Digital Home Designs (DHD) to make projects like the one showcased here a success.  “You’d be amazed at what your home can do,” said Scott.  “It used to be that anything affordable didn’t work well.  Now, we can do just about anything the customer dreams up.”

A quick tour around this house shows that he isn’t kidding.  With the touch of a button, Scott can make the system’s menu appear in any room with a television.  He can then make any number of decisions… maybe he wants to change the temperature on the 2nd floor, or play music in certain rooms of the house (and even outside), or even turn on the basement’s fireplace.  With the press of another button, he can even access the home’s 400-disc DVD changer and watch a movie on any screen of his choice.  He further demonstrates how the home’s interior lights are programmed to burn at 75% intensity during the day, and then dim to 50% at sunset as less light is needed.  When the house is in “goodnight mode,” the 2nd floor heats up to a pre-set desired temperature while the heat goes off on the 1st floor and in the basement.  Scott also programs motion sensors and the external audio equipment to give potential burglars a verbal warning that the house is protected.  Should the alarm actually be triggered, external lights flash and all interior lights go on.

And while the television menus are handy, DHD also incorporates Control4-brand touch screens, light switches and thermostat products so that the system can be manipulated on the spot in every room.  The Control4 brand is championed because their products are easy-to-use and designed with retrofitting in mind (older, pre-existing wiring will work with new system).  In fact, what’s most impressive is that the entire system is controlled by one remote.  “People buy complicated surround sound systems all the time and then never use them,” said Scott, “or sometimes a family has a really complicated remote and only one person is allowed to touch it.  Home automation solves all those problems.”

Considering the sophistication of the system, many buyers ultimately have price concerns.  Therefore, it should be noted that homeowners typically spend between $1,000 and $25,000, not including electronics.  And because many people don’t recognize the system’s true possibilities until after they have it installed, customers are usually encouraged to start small and upgrade over time.  “I see the same pattern time and time again,” said Scott.  “Seeing is believing, but experiencing will truly convert you.”