Home automation may sound like something straight out of an episode of The Jetsons, but it really is possible for today's average homeowner to automate a variety of household functions through the use of z-wave technology. Whether you're interested in controlling just a few outside lights or you'd like to manage everything from light switches to thermostats to door locks, z-wave technology can help you update your home, control its security, and increase its energy efficiency.

What Is Z-Wave Technology?

In a nutshell, z-wave technology is wireless, radio-frequency home automation technology that allows all sorts of devices in your home to talk to each other. Those devices can then be controlled from a central, web-based terminal—usually software on your smartphone or tablet, but most can also be accessed from a standard website. All manner of devices can be equipped with this new technology, and those that can't—an older, beloved table lamp, for example—can simply be plugged into a standard wall outlet that has been outfitted with a z-wave compatible receptacle.

What Are the Advantages of Z-Wave Technology?

Other than being able to lord your Jetsons-like status over your neighbors, z-wave technology gives you simple, immediate control over your home regardless of whether you're lounging in front of the TV or on vacation thousands of miles away. Instead of setting timers for lights before you leave for a trip, plug lamps into receptacles that are controlled by z-wave switches so you can turn them on and off from your smartphone. For homeowners concerned about energy costs, replacing standard thermostats with their z-wave counterparts can save quite a bit of money on utility bills. Even if you have the best intentions of turning the thermostat up before you leave the house every morning, it can be easy to forget that step if you're already ten minutes late. A z-wave thermostat allows for remote temperature adjustment, so you don't have to worry about the air conditioner or furnace running all day with no one at home.

If you rack your brain every morning trying to remember if you armed the security system before you left the house, a z-wave system would allow you to double-check for your peace of mind. And if you did indeed forget, a selection on your smartphone will remedy the situation. If you live alone or have a spouse who travels frequently, a big plus for z-wave technology is the ability to set up vignettes or scenes that, with one selection from your smartphone or tablet, tell the house what you'd like it do. You might, for example, set up a bedtime scene that tells the house to turn off certain interior lights, lock all the doors, and arm the security system. An arrival scene could turn on select lights and adjust the thermostat to a more comfortable temperature. Finally, another tremendous advantage of z-wave technology is that once you decide to automate your home, you are not locked in to using one specific brand over another. Hundreds of devices across many brands are z-wave compatible, so you have the ability to choose the ones you like and that fit your budget.

How Does a Homeowner Get Started with Home Automation?

Home automation systems can seem complicated, but they really aren't as daunting as they might appear at first. If you're relatively handy and have a basic understanding of your home's wiring, you can do most of the switching from standard to z-wave yourself. But if that's not your cup of tea, there are professional companies and electricians who can do the work for you. Regardless, one important thing to remember is that you don't have to automate everything in your entire home all at once. Home automation—and z-wave technology in particular—is not an all-or-nothing deal. Start with what is most important to you—energy efficiency, for example, or home security—and build from there as you have the desire and the means. Whether you'd like to control your entire home from your smartphone or you just want outdoor floodlights that turn on and off automatically, z-wave home automation gives you plenty of flexible options.

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Sources: Digital Trends; Z-Wave Alliance; z-wave.com.

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