One of the joys of building your own home is taking full advantage of exciting technologies that are widely available today but that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
Homes today can be built with everyone in the family in mind. Smarter design techniques and tech allow for lots of possibilites. And why not take advantage of that, since you building it, build it the way you want.
Your new home can be a very entertaining space with ultra-high definition video, interactive gaming, 90+ inch flat-screen TVs and more. And it can offer the latest in home automation and integration. Everything from lighting, home security, climate control and more can now be controlled remotely from your iPhone, for example.
So it’s not surprising that, according to a 2016 New Home Source Insights panel discussion, about 91 percent of homeshoppers are interested in including smart home technology in their new homes, and that 30 million households are projected to add smart home tech through 2016 and 2017.
Despite these numbers, many of these options weren’t available just five years ago, so the obvious questions are:
- Where are we headed next?
- And how do I future-proof my new home, so it will work well with technologies that haven’t even been invented yet?
Clearly, we’re not going to become any less dependent on (or addicted to) technology. The pace of change and innovation will only accelerate. While you may not be able to fully imagine the next big thing (unless you’re the next Steve Jobs) you can pre-wire a new home in flexible and robust ways.
Ensuring that conduit and wiring (think of it as plumbing) for data and video is in place when you build a home is by far the most effective way to plan for the future. It will always be more expensive to upgrade a house for technology once the walls are put up. Building a strong infrastructure now for data will pay off in countless ways over the many years you’ll live in your new home.
“I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Man, I just pulled too many wires in this house,'” says David Pedigo, senior director of learning and emerging technology for CEDIA, the Consumer Electronics Design and Installation Association. “We’re starting to get to a point where builders, architects and interior designers understand that it does take proper planning and consideration. If you’re going to incorporate a digital experience, do it at the front.”
The abundance of wireless components on the market may make it seem like pre-wiring a house is a waste of time and money. Not so, in fact your home needs more wiring than ever.
Wireless works great for some applications, such as printers, but it just really doesn’t work very well with ultra-high definition video and hi-resolution audio. Video bandwidth is accelerating at a much faster pace than wireless capabilities, so much so that its outgrown copper wires. Thats right, we are now wiring home with fiber optics. And speakers will always need wires, sure there are great wireless speaker option now, but they still require a power source.
Chris Pearson, president of high-end home theater provider Service Tech in Austin, Texas, agrees.
“You need to hard-wire the data connections to all the electronics,” Pearson says. “Gaming systems are interactive, tying in families. People are Skyping. There is a ridiculous amount of content available. A lot of the apps you might want on a TV might not be 100 percent effective on a wireless network. Imagine a highway with no lane dividers. It’s just chaos.”
Beyond the need to pre-wire a house for current and future technology needs, even architects and home designers are recognizing the need to ask their clients about their entertainment choices. But, a good Custom Electronics Integrator specializes in best knowing how to integrate tech into your lifestyle, and can really help guide your decision making the best.
Consider at one time a video game only provided exercise to your thumbs. Now, there are Wii and Kinect systems that have players jumping, ducking and dancing around the room. That means more open space in front of the unit and consideration of where the sensors are to be placed and wired.
Then there are the TVs.
“If you don’t plan for big TVs, you’re up a creek,” says Tony Crasi, a custom home builder and architect in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and a past chair of CEDIA’s custom home builder committee. “If there’s a fireplace, it has to be offset or you put the TV on top of the mantle. If you don’t wire for it, forget it.”
While entertainment applications might be the most exciting area of home technology innovation, home automation is another area that’s expanding rapidly, now that the iPhone or Android smart phone in your pocket lets you handle everything from securing a dinner reservation to making a bank deposit.
“In the next couple of years, people will expect automated lighting control, heating and security,” Pedigo says. While those things are available now, we’re getting to the point that the cost will make it significantly more accessible to everyone. So many people have smart phones now. They don’t have to buy a separate device to control each system. They’re walking around with a $600 controller in their hand.”
Crasi says his customers are seeking a lot of home automation applications, particularly in the area of lighting and audio controls. What he sees becoming widespread next is climate control, done remotely from a smart phone or tablet.
In fact, it’s already happening. Nest is a digital thermostat created by former Apple executive Tony Fadell, known as the “father of the iPod.”
Designed to help reduce power bills, Nest “learns” how and when you use energy – when you make breakfast, take showers, head out the door for work or school and when you go to bed. As Nest learns these patterns, it makes automatic adjustments to maximize energy efficiency. It will even send you an e-mail reminder to change your furnace and air conditioning filters. Your home can be monitored and adjustments made remotely from a number of platforms – including, of course, iPad and iPhone.
Home automation can also help aging or disabled homeowners via motion sensors that turn on lights as they go down a hallway, reminders to take medication, or alerts to a family member that a loved one has fallen.
At our last CEDIA meeting, we saw things you haven't even imagined possible. There’s some cool stuff coming, practical stuff.
And that’s just what the professionals are talking about now. "It’s hard to imagine what might be the next innovation. Whatever it is, it’s going to need wires.", Pedigo says. The best place to put those is inside the walls when your home is being built.
In closing, the only one way to future proof a home is to work with a specialist in the field to design a layout for conduit to certain parts of the home, or atleast extra wires. So talk with your builder or GC, tell them you want to bring in a specialist. That way you insure if a new technology comes out in three to five years, you’re ready for it. We’ve pushed that for a decade now, not every home owner has agreed to do it, but they all eventually realize they should have. We always say it’s a lot cheaper to pull the wire now than go back after the fact and retro-fit it.
PS- Also, it's important to note that hiring a home technology specialist contractor insures you also have a relationship with them after you move in, for continued support of your systems, that is something your builder will not do for you.