This Smart House

The goal of home automation systems is basically to get your devices to “talk” to each other; a central controller, or hub, often facilitates the communication among devices. Control4 is a popular hub brand that acts as the brain of the house, keeping track of all the automated components, says Gordon Handley, owner of Portland Home Automation.

The three biggest players in home automation systems are Insteon, Z-Wave and Zig-Bee. Each works in similar ways but uses its own language.

Having a hub isn’t necessary if you only have a single automation device — individual setups can be as simple or as complex as you want, whether you want to turn off the basement light from your bed or trigger your favorite song to play as you walk in the door.

“Home automation systems can do so many things,” Handley says. “You can pretty much make it do anything.”

Modern home automation systems are fairly secure, though there is a risk any time you connect to the internet. For a thief, it’s much easier to break a window than to take the trouble to hack in and turn your stereo on.

While devices for the most simple automation systems — light switches, for example — start at $35 to $50, a fully automated home can easily reach $2,000 to $3,000.

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