Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Is Home Automation Going Mainstream?

There was a time, not so long ago, when the concept of home automation was like something out of a science fiction movie. It suggested a home filled with robots and talking computers that could meet all the needs of the humans who lived in the home. These humans of the future would lead lives of luxury, free from all domestic work and secure in their homes that were protected by automatic ray guns and the like.

All this may still be possible, but only in the distant future. Although technology has made great strides over the past few decades, the time of the intelligent robot that is capable of responding in a human like manner to the demands of its master or a computer that can converse like a human being is still far away. But home automation is not.

Home Automation Is Here

Actually it has been around for longer than most people realize. Look at the toaster. It’s been around for ages. But when the first toaster appeared that automatically popped up the toast when it was done – that was home automation. Refrigerators that defrost themselves, cookers that turn on, cook food and switch off automatically – they have all been around for a long time. So home automation is not really going mainstream, it has been that way for a while.

But yes, it is now making big strides. An iPad can now be used to control a large amount of home equipment. The same can be done with a conventional PC or laptop. Networking allows for a person to be connected to his home from anywhere in the world, 24x7. And this too in real time with no delay.

The Smart Home

Home automation is now an integral part of new home design and of most home remodeling projects. And integrated system will be easier to use and less prone to fault than one that is haphazardly put together whenever a new piece of technology in installed in the home.

One of the major benefits of home automation is increased security. Integrated home security systems with motion detectors can inform you via your smartphone if there is a security breach at your home. It can also call the police automatically. Cameras will capture the likeness of the intruders for later use. Or you can log on to the cameras in your home when you feel like it to check on what is happening while you are away.

Music has gone digital and it is now possible to link libraries stored on computers and iPods to a home entertainment system so that any music can be accessed from any place in the home.

It’s nice to have a hot meal waiting for you when you come home. But your timings are not fixed so you can’t set the timer on the stove or cooker. But with home automation you can call home when you are an hour or so away and get the cooking started so it’s all ready for you when you reach.

Suppose you have left home and suddenly remember that you left the iron on or forget to switch off the stove. All you need to do is make a phone call and everything is taken care of. Or the home automation system can remember to send the kid a message at a fixed time each day to come home for homework or dinner.

The kitchen is a great place for home automation with new gadgets appearing every day to make food preparation simpler. And here is even a small robot vacuum cleaner that will move around the home by itself.

It’s not easy to define the current limits of home automation because now applications appear almost every day. Just keep in mind that it’s no longer science fiction and incorporate it into your home remodeling plans. Not only will it make life easier and more secure for you, it will add to your home’s value.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bay Area Remodeling Trends

Architecture is a regional issue. The design and feel of a home is heavily influenced by where it is located. For example, you would not expect to find a ranch style home in the North East or a southern mansion in the North West. The same applies to remodeling trends. Some designs and materials are more suitable for some parts of the country than for others. And once a few people in one region start remodeling their homes in a certain way, it becomes a trend. And following this trend is not just a matter of keeping up with the Jones’. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Generally speaking regional trends have value because they are proven to be right for the region in terms of comfort, looks and durability. So what are the trends in the Bay Area?

Bay Area Remodeling

Earlier it used to be people who had owned their homes for many years who went in for remodeling. While they still do, they are now being joined by fairly new homeowners who may have possessed the property for just a couple of years. This is because the spate of bankruptcies and foreclosures in the last few years made home buying affordable to a larger number of people. Many of these homes did not meet the ideal specifications of the buyers but the prices were so attractive that they bought them. After a couple of years their finances have recovered to the extent that they can now plan on remodeling to get their homes exactly the way they want them.

Among the hot trends in the Bay Area are:

Removing walls to create an open feel and give more space in the home. Among the most popular are removing walls that separate the kitchen from the rest of the house, especially the dining room or family room. This allows for the family to be more involved in food preparation and gets rid of the feeling that the kitchen is cut off from the rest of the home.

Bathroom remodeling is big. Even small bathrooms are now being remodeled to give them a spa like feel. And if the bathroom is big enough, then the sky is the limit. The two hot issues are the look of the room and the features. Should it be elegant and laid back? Or efficient to encourage people to go in and out quickly. Both are okay and it really is what the family wants that will decide the look of the bathroom. And for the master bathroom the old traditional tub is often being replaced by a large walk in shower with vast expanses of frameless glass.

Eco-friendly remodeling is another hot trend. It is no longer limited to simple things like recycled glass counter tops or bamboo flooring, although both are still popular. Low VOC paint and adhesives and energy efficient windows are increasing in popularity. Upgrading an old HVAC system to a modern one that is more effective as well as being more energy efficient is another popular home remodeling project. Very hot are “smart thermostats” that ‘learn’ living habits and set up the most efficient energy usage plans.

Custom remodeling is another hot topic. More and more people are looking for ways to make their homes more functional to meet their specific needs. Things like special phone and tablet recharging stations are great for those who are online a lot. Special built in lighting to give a home a unique look is also popular. And home automation is growing fast because of the time and labor saving options it offers as well as the enhanced security devices that are available.

The bottom line is that while it is a good idea to look at trends when planning a remodel, what you finally go in for should be what works for you.