Home Security, Controls A Tap Away [Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.]
(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 03--"The Jetsons" days are upon us in other ways than flying cars and robot maids, with increasingly popular home security systems that integrate controls for the heat-and-air unit, door locks, window shades, water lines, and other household functions wirelessly with the ability for control by cell phone.
In the not-so-distant past, for even a basic security system with integrated controls, homeowners would pay as much as $30,000 for one of the cheaper systems, says Dane Burgess of One Source Innovations in Fort Smith. And you wouldn't control it from a cell phone, but with a wall-mounted device. Before the iPad, those wall-mounted touch screen displays could cost up to $8,000.
Smartphones and other advancements in wireless technology like Z-Wave have brought that price down and more accessible to an array of devices.
"Cost-wise, it's literally 10 to 20 percent of the cost it would've been a few years ago," said Burgess. "Almost every one of our installations now has some sort of integration and automation, and they are controlling it by phone."
The speed and ease at which these extra "whiz bang" technologies have come about lately amazes Pat Nolte of Alert Alarm Systems in Fort Smith. Nolte explained that while the security system is still valuable in protecting loved ones and property, bolting the new technology features on is a natural fit.
"Our customers love the new capabilities," Nolte said.
The security system Alert Alarm offers is a Honeywell brand that's controllable from any Internet access point or smartphone at a cost of about $37 per month. Other controllable options, such as lights, locks, appliances and thermostats for example, would be an additional $5 per month, Nolte explained.
Thermostat controllers that can be computer or remotely controlled are also available from power companies and home improvement stores, but they would not be integrated into the home security system. And other wireless interface technologies like Insteon, UPB (Universal Powerline Bus), X-10, and PLCbus are interchangable with Z-Wave.
"Pretty much anything the customer can dream up, if you can put a sensor on it, you can control it from your phone," Burgess said.
The most logical and popular options to remotely connect to a home security system are the lights, locks and security camera, or cameras. An option more likely to be used on far-away vacation homes, Burgess says, is the ability to control the water lines in the event of a freeze.
Z-Wave wireless technology is being used for applications homeowners never thought possible just a short while ago, Nolte said. The Honeywell system Alert Alarm sells, for example, can control up to about 60 devices. So, if a homeowner can't make it home to let the plumber in, from almost anywhere using a smartphone or tablet, he or she can unlock the door, disarm the security system, and view the home.
Dave Hughes of the Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders says all these "bells and whistles" are being placed in newer homes by the younger, more affluent and tech-savvy crowd. Older homeowners are more apt to simply want the basic security system with fire and smoke-detection. Nolte mentioned a security system feature that will save a customer money; with the touch of a single button the security system is armed, the thermostat is adjusted to a pre-defined setting, the lights are turned off and the door is locked.
The integrated security systems, Nolte adds, also allow connection to the smoke and fire alarms. In the event of a fire, the fire alarm goes off, all of the lights are turned on, doors are unlocked, and the HVAC unit is shut off to keep from feeding the flames.
"It's very effective, you just have to pay for it," Hughes said of the integrated systems.
For those planning to build a home, or remodeling, Hughes mentioned the annual Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders Home Show coming up at the Fort Smith Convention Center in late February. About 100 exhibitors will be on hand to talk about the latest innovations in home environment control and security at the exhibition hall on the weekend of Feb. 21-23.
(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)
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