May 22, 2011

Smart homes in Phoenix area run by iPads, iPhones



David Wallace/The Arizona Republic Home builder Rod Cullum demonstrates setting an alarm with an iPad at the front door of the luxury new home development The Village at Paradise Reserve in Paradise Valley.


Instead, you may fire up an app on your smartphone, log in, press a button and hear the front door click open.

Homebuilder Rod Cullum is almost there. With his new luxury homes, the Village at Paradise Reserve in Paradise Valley, buyers still get a key to their front door, but they also get an iPad in their welcome basket.

How the iPad controls new luxury homes

Using that Apple iPad or an iPhone, homeowners can perform functions from viewing their security cameras to closing their window shades and turning on (or off) every light in the house. They can also let a visitor through the main gate or check to see whether a garage door was left open.

"You can be anywhere in the world and control your house from that iPad," Cullum said, adding that he chose an Apple-based Savant home-automation system. "I could be in my place in Utah and see if someone is swimming in my (Phoenix) pool. I could be in London . . . ."

Cullum, whose Paradise Reserve homes start at about $1.5 million, isn't the only homebuilder embracing smart-home features. Even homes starting at prices under $200,000 are starting to offer Web-based automated perks.

At Meritage Green homes throughout the Valley, homebuyers can use a smartphone application to adjust their thermostat and can see their energy production, usage and hot-water temperature through an app tied to their Echo solar systems.

And at Shea Homes' Trilogy at Vistancia in Peoria and Encanterra Country Club in Queen Creek, new homebuyers can unlock at least one door remotely, turn on a light and adjust their thermostat using a Schlage Link smartphone app.

Hal Looney, president of Shea Homes active-lifestyle communities in Arizona, recently demonstrated how a homeowner, while at work or away, can let someone in their home with a touch of the smartphone screen. People with second homes or vacation homes especially appreciate such automated features, Looney said.

Although new homebuilders look at home automation as a good value-added perk, homeowners don't have to buy new construction to get some of these features.

In the age of smartphone and computer-tablet applications, automated systems are getting increasingly affordable.

On the lower-tech end of the spectrum, homeowners can buy for less than $50 light switches with motion sensors that turn on automatically when someone enters a room and shut off when the room is empty. Faucets that turn on and off just by lightly touching the spout or handles are now sold at home-improvement stores.

Homeowners can buy automated irrigation systems that monitor local weather-service information and adjust irrigation levels to prevent overwatering. Several area homebuilders, including Shea Homes, include the automated WeatherTRAK irrigation systems to save water in communities.

And through a local home-automation specialist or Smarthome.com, homeowners can buy systems that help them control lighting, appliances and anything that can talk to a Web-enabled system through their smartphone.

The ability to control the main functions of a home from one Web-enabled device can make running a household a little easier. Think the Jetsons or Bill Gates' smart mansion, said to be nicknamed Xanadu 2.0. No home-automation system can cook dinner - yet, but it can turn on the spa on your way home from work and have your favorite song playing as you walk through the door.

"One of the things I think automation adds is just peace of mind," said Cullum, who has offered automated features in his custom homes for years. He likes the simplicity of the Apple-based Savant system, which was installed by Cyber Sound in Scottsdale.

"You don't have to keep track of so many things."

Adds Cullum: "They haven't figured out how to make it to do laundry yet. That would be James Bond cool."

Home automation

Want an automated home? Home-automation gadgets and systems linked to smartphone and computer-tablet applications are getting increasingly affordable. Here's a sampling of automated home features.

- Light up a room. Occupancy sensor switches, $20 to $40 at home-improvement stores, automatically turn on the light when someone walks into a room and turn it off when the room is empty. An energy-saving move, many homebuilders now install occupancy sensor switches in walk-in closets and bathrooms where people often forget to turn off lights.

- Unlock a door. Schlage Link is a system that lets homeowners control Schlage door locks, Trane thermostats, Schlage security cameras and plug-in lights or appliances via its smartphone application. Some local Lennar and Shea Homes houses include the Schlage Link system for new homebuyers. A Schlage wireless-keypad deadbolt starter kit, which lets homeowners unlock a door remotely, costs $299.99 plus an $8.99 monthly fee. A Trane thermostat, security cameras and plug-ins that allow lights and appliances to be controlled remotely can be added for an additional fee. For details, visit link.schlage.com.

- Adjust a thermostat. Locally, homebuilders Meritage, Cullum Homes, Trend Homes and Joseph Carl use the Echo solar system by EchoFirst. The system produces both energy and hot water and is tied to a smartphone application that lets homeowners adjust their thermostat and see how much energy they're producing and using in real time. For details, visit echofirst.com.

- Stop overwatering. Several local homebuilders, including Shea Homes, include the WeatherTRAK automated irrigation system as a standard feature in some communities. It uses local weather information to adjust amount of water needed to maintain one's landscaping. For details, visit hydropoint.com.

- Turn on a faucet hands-free. Shea Homes homebuyers can order an optional hands-free Delta kitchen faucet that turns on and off by lightly touching the handles or spout - even with an elbow. Homeowners can buy a Delta Pilar Touch pull-down faucet in stainless steel at Lowe's stores or at lowes.com for $312.79.

- Manage lights and appliances. Smarthome.com, which specializes in home-automation gadgets and systems, sells a whole-house Insteon control kit. It controls lighting and appliances via an iPhone (not included) for $1,101.45. For details, visit smarthome.com.

- Control a household. The Savant Automation, Control and Entertainment System, sold locally by Cyber Sound in Scottsdale, ties together a home's whole-house music system; intercom and video; security; lighting control; heating and cooling systems; security cameras; pool and spa controls; garage door and gate control to an iPhone, iPad or iPod control panel. The system lets a homeowner control all these functions remotely. Jon Summer, president of Cyber Sound, said installing the system starts at about $15,000 but can cost $100,000 or more, depending on the size of one's home. For details, visit cybersound.tv.

by Kara G. Morrison The Arizona Republic May. 19, 2011 01:26 PM



Smart homes in Phoenix area run by iPads, iPhones

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