Planning and researching for home automation is a daunting task. Especially in Singapore where the market is almost non-existence with the exception of a few players who charge an arm or a leg for implementation.
There are tons of variables to consider, including whether or not you’re going wired or wireless. What do you want to automate? What technology options are there in the market? Where can you get the products or services? Do you need to rewire or retrofit? Fret not, Domotics is here to help you navigate the labyrinth of options, and lead you on your path to automating your home.
DIY or Engage a Professional?
For many homeowners, the single biggest objection to hiring professionals to do the job is the cost. Professionals are not cheap. Though you bargain, discounts will at most be very marginal. And this is fair, because they will need to at least cover their cost to maintain their business operation.
For an installation to automate your lights, you can expect to pay about SGD5,000 and above for very basic features, most probably excluding your home theatre.
On the other hand, professionals are likely to perform a complete installation without fatal flaws. This is because they have relevant knowledge and some training to help them. One benefit of engaging professionals to install your home automation system is you can simply kick back and relax while they work on your roof. But you’ll still need to do your own testing after installation to ensure that nothing is broken in the process.
The DIY route is definitely the choice for homeowners who are more technically inclined. For geeks, it’s probably THE choice. Reason being, it gives a geek a sense of accomplishment to finally set up the home automation (I’m a satisfied and proud geek). The other important point is, you are the one who is going to live with the system, and you can always tweak the system to your lifestyle. Most importantly, the components required can be purchased at a fraction of the price to engage a professional.
Even though you may not have any knowledge on how to do it, what’s needed is rather simple. In fact, there are plenty of excellent step-by-step forums and YouTube resources that you can use to help you through the entire installation process.
What can you control?
Lighting: The most popular and common use of home automation since it is a technically and financially viable option. It’s no wonder, the most annoying thing that has ever happened to most people throughout all the terrible experiences in life, is getting into bed only to realize that a light has been left on.
Home theatre system: If you’ve ever bought one of those programmable, all-in-one remotes, you’ve taken part in a small part of home automation. A lot of home automation hobbyists will have the most intricate remote programmings you’ve seen. In today’s array of devices in typical TV console, it takes a few steps to turn on your TV, home theatre system, set the right sound mode and finally switch over to the Apple TV or DVD player.
Air-conditioning: You’re sitting at work in the air conditioning and you know it’s going to be a hot drive home. The last thing you want to do is get out of the hot car and into a hot house. With home automation, you can get your air conditioning unit and a couple of fans going just as you take off for the day. Of course, the same thing applies to heating and ventilation too.
Security: An automated security system in your home provides a far more protective and much safer experience than traditional methods. With cameras, you can view over the Internet, you can ensure nobody is taking off with your HDTV (or even keep an eye on the kids). You can have a motion sensor that sends you a text message if it notices movement when nobody is meant to be home, or if sensors on your windows sense the glass breaking.
What are the technologies available?
Some technologies like X-10, have been around for decades and work via home’s power line wiring. UPB is the next generation X-10 with an improved transmission rate and higher reliability. INSTEON is a wireless system, which is only available to US light switches (i.e 110V). However, INSTEON has recently announced that it’s going global. Z-Wave is a proprietary wireless protocol and yet, is currently supported by over 160 manufacturers worldwide. It is a system embraced by DIY community despite not being an open standard, probably due to its lower cost. Zigbee is another a wireless protocol (based on a IEEE 802 standard), which is slightly costlier than Z-Wave.
Do you need to rewire?
Most home automation require re-wiring. Yes! Even wireless systems require some form of re-wiring. This is especially so in Singapore, where a majority of the buildings do not have neutral wires in light switches. Apparently, most devices for wireless home automation like Z-Wave and Zigbee, require a neutral wire to be connected. There are some manufacturers who produce devices that do not require a neutral wire to work, which of course, come with additional cost.
The re-wiring effort is even greater if you choose a wired protocol.
Where can you buy them?
The home automation market in Singapore is not as established as Europe and US. The bad news is that resellers and distributors for home automation systems is almost non-existence in Singapore. A google search will reveal some resellers or installers, which may charge you a premium for a basic installation. For DIY enthusiast, I would recommend sourcing for brands and devices available in Europe due to the fact that they share the same voltage standards as Singapore.
Good luck on your voyage to home automation!