Easier living through the wizardry of home electronics has remained an unfulfilled, but tantalizing, promise for years.
In development for more than a decade, whole-house automation systems have been held back by their high cost. However, prices have dropped dramatically during the past year, making it possible for sophisticated home electronics to become a common feature in new homes.
Home automation systems allow homeowners to control an array of house functions from a single control panel. Touch a button to operate heating, security, air conditioning, windows, lights or home entertainment systems.
When homes with the automation systems are built, all necessary equipment is tied into a single wire loop running throughout the house. Functions are controlled through a computer, which homeowners command through an easy-to-understand, wall-mounted key pad. Telephone lines are also routed through the computer so the system can be controlled through a telephone.
Builders can install either the Smart House or TotalHome systems for $4,000 or less. Only two or three years ago, such systems cost more than $10,000 and were only considered for the most luxurious homes. Plummeting prices mean home automation will soon be found in new construction of almost any price.
One quality of the systems is the ability to operate them away from home. If, for instance, you get to the office and realize you left the iron on or a door unlocked, you can call home and message the home automation computer to take care of the problem electronically.
The systems are also seen as having benefits to the elderly or the physically disabled. With an easy-touch keyboard, a person can open windows, turn on lights or turn off hot ovens.
Additional information is available from Smart House, L.P., 400 Prince George's Blvd., Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772-8731 and from TotalHome System, Honeywell Corp., Home and Building Control, 1985 Douglas Drive North, Gold Valley, Minn. 55422.