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Today’s Show:

Home Automation for Beginners

Over the last few months we highlighted Home Automation companies that were on the high end side. While these system are what we all dream of, almost all of us can’t afford them. However, there is no reason that we can’t have a fully functional home automation system without breaking the bank. When we read an article at Electronic House entitled Home Automation FAQs for Beginners we thought it would be a good idea to talk a bit about Home Automation for beginners.

According to the author, Julie Jacobson the most popular systems installed in homes are:

  • Security Systems – Ara built out a capable system after his home got broken into. Motion Sensors, Lights, Macros, Whole House Audio are all components of the system. The only limitation is that the system is not monitored. However, If someone breaks in an email and text message is sent to Ara’s cell phone. Works great unless you are sleeping or not next to a cell phone. The alarm is Ara’s voice telling the intruder that he is caught on video and the police have been notified. If the break in happens at night all the lights in the house get turned on as well.
  • Whole House Music – You can use Sonos, Airport Express and others for a low cost approach. You will need some way to tie them into your home automation system. Ara’s home automation system can communicate with his Mac via Macros. Or as long as you use iTunes, you can use your iPhone’s Remote App to send audio anywhere you have a remote speaker. Apple’s new Airplay system will allow speaker manufacturers to sell speakers that can communicate with Apple’s Airplay protocol. The will make it trivial for people to build ad hoc whole house audio.
  • Lighting Controls – No more will you have to re-program your timers for daylight savings!
  • Energy Management – Having lights that turn off after a pre-defined interval will save you money, so will programming thermostat!


The systems we highlighted previously are quite expensive! However, you can get started for a less than $500 and gradually work your way up. The important thing here is you have to get started. Ara’s is into it for about $2500 and that includes the remote speakers for the whole house audio. The plans Ara has to finish it out will bring the final cost up to about $3000 when its all said and done.

Examples of Home Automation Use

From the article:

  • Press the “Vacation” button on the keypad and the system automatically sets back the thermostat, arms the security system, and turns the lights on and off at random to simulate a lived-in look.
  • When a delivery man rings the door bell, your cell phone lights up with his picture and opens up a two-way conversation. Trust the guy? Unlock the door remotely and lock it up after he leaves.
  • Touch the “Baseball” button on your iPad and the TV automatically displays the current games, maybe the scores, and maybe even your fantasy team stats.

Wrapping Up

The key here is that you have to start someplace. Start simple with a few lights a motion sensor and a thermostat. Build from there. Its our opinion that you should also have a PC to run your system. This is where the real power comes. You can build elaborate macros, triggers, and scenes.

Download Episode #442

Posted by The HT Guys, September 9, 2010 10:54 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.