Custom Home Automation

The summer 2013 was a eventful period in my personal tech world. We have decided to renovate two bathrooms that are in dire need of attention. While my dad focused on the renovations, I decided to slowly automate electrical and electronic household equipments. This article will be the first of many posts on Home Automation.

Home Automation

There are many aspects to automating a house. If I have to be general, I would say it is the process in which advanced remote control devices were installed in place of traditional equipment in order to manage, control and expand from a centralized location. A light switch that can be programmed and managed using a computer or a smart phone is an example of a automation of a traditional switch. Yes, it cost a lot of money to replace items in a house to newer “smart” technologies. If you are looking for a rough figure, I would say an average Calgarian would have to spend around $6000 CAD to automate the entire house.

It is NOT a need, it is a want

If properly maintained, the traditional electrical fixtures could last for decades. There is no need to replace them. The automating a house is entirely a personal choice. While it may replace the older fixtures, the benefits can be far less compared to the cost associated with it. I am highlighting the cost because even after you installed the equipments, you may have to end up upgrading them every now and then. Added to that; since there are more complex circuity involved, the failure rate may be higher than that of the traditional units.

Where to start

I would recommended replacing your light switches that controls outdoor lighting. You will most likely have to replace one to three traditional switches with automated units. But before we you start installing, let’s look at the configuration options.

If you want to keep the costs to a minimum and you are not interested in advanced management, then companies like Belkin have developed units that will work with your existing wireless LAN without the added controllers. Their wemo products comes with free online access control from your smartphone or tablet. However, it lacks the online PC control component. This is geared towards the home users who are not technically inclined.

Then there are advanced systems which allow connecting several different units from wide range of manufactures to a central system. This allow the homeowner to control almost anything in the house from light switches to dog food dispensers. Similar to standards in WiFi (b/g/n/ac), the home automation also have few different standards. INSTEON, UPD, X10, Z-Wave, ZigBee and general purpose WiFi connected systems are examples of these. After doing an extensive research, I found the general purpose WiFi and Z-Wave compatible devices are the most easiest to find in the current market.


All smart homes (homes with extensive automation) should have the following

  • High speed LAN Network with wireless broadcast in b/g/n/ac (the router should be able to broadcast a strong single to all corners of the house)
  • High speed Internet connection; if you want to control the house over the Internet
  • A suitable location for controller(s); if you are installing an advanced centralized system
  • UPS (battery) power backups for all possible units (you cannot provide backup power to a single power switch, but you can to IP Cameras, routers, modems, etc)
  • Money, money and money…

After that, it is all about choosing which traditional units will be replaced. I will introduced you to WiFi and Z-wave connected products within next few weeks. A good place to start on buying products would be, SmartHome.

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