Smart Home Infographic

What is Home Automation

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The definition of Automation:
A mechanical device, operated electronically, that functions automatically, without continuous input from an operator.

Everyday we are exposed to marketing trying to sell us new products that can function from our phone, tablet or computer. These innovative products are very cool indeed. Thermostats that you can control remotely, music that can stream wirelessly through speakers in your ceiling or walls, alarm systems that you can arm or disarm from wherever you are…all very good but let’s understand one important thing; this is not Smart Home Automation. This is remote access and although it can be very handy, it is very much as simple as it sounds.

If we take the definition of automation above, we can better understand what Smart Home Automation really is and what truly makes it smart. It starts with the basics of remote access, but the real value is not in controlling your home from afar. The true worth Home Automation is realized when one event triggers another and another to accomplish something where the sum is greater than the parts – and it all happens for you…not by you.

For our first example, let’s look at what happens currently in the event of a fire in your home. Your smoke detector goes off and triggers the alarm system to send a message to your monitoring centre. They, in turn, alert 911 to dispatch the first responders.

In a Smart Home, your smoke detector will go off and do all of the above, but it will also alert you in case you are not at home so that you can react. It can be programmed to shut off your furnace fan to slow the spread of the fire, turn your lights on to full bright to light a path to help anyone inside the house find their way to safety, and set the outside lights to flash on and off, alerting neighbours to the fact that there is trouble and helping first responders identify which house is in crisis. A series of events that happen automatically, which can actually save a life…now that is smart!

In a second example, you are away on vacation and your flood detector goes off when the laundry room pipes freeze and burst. You’re enjoying a Pina Colada until your phone alerts you to the fact that your house is flooding. You’re thousands of miles away while the water level in your home is rising and causing more and more damage every minute.

With a home automation system, you can rest easy knowing that your flood detector triggered a water-main shut off valve which automatically turned off the main water into your home, stopping the flood and minimizing the damage. Not only did you just save your home and its contents, you also bought yourself time to deal with this crisis.

In our third example, you are waking up the family for work and school on a typical weekday morning. Your clock-radio jolts you up and you get out of bed. Your switch on the lights and slam your eyes shut until they adjust to the light. Then you go from room to room waking your children and nudging them out of bed so that they are not late for school. After you are dressed you wake your kids again and put on the morning news while you get the family through breakfast and out the door.

With a smart home environment, your alarm music slowly increases to the right volume so that you wake up to the sound of music without the jolt. The music plays throughout a variety of zones in the house, which will wake everyone at the same time. The lights can be set to come on to 10% so that your eyes can see without being blinded. Five minutes later the lights brighten further so that you can get to up and dressed without lifting a finger or having to wake anyone else. Fifteen minutes later the music shuts off, the kitchen lights come on to a morning scene, the blinds open and the TV comes on to your favourite news channel. Your focus is on your day…nothing else matters because it’s being done for you. As soon as you leave the house and lock the door, the temperature adjusts, the blinds adjust, the lights go out, the TV shuts off and you are on your way to work and saving energy at the same time. What a great way to start your day!

The ways that Home Automation can enhance your life really depend on you; because a good system is built around what’s important to you. It’s definitely not a one size fits all scenario. Remote access is a nice feature but a truly smart home actually makes your life easier. That’s why we call it SMART!

Home Automation is now affordable and it can be designed in stages so that you can expand your features down the road as wants/needs change.

Want to know more? Call or email the Guru and we’ll design a Smart Home for you too.

A Smart Home Education

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I’ve spoken to enough people to know that most people really don’t understand what smart home automation is and how it can really benefit them. Mass marketing tells us that it’s the latest and greatest, and that you can now control your thermostat from your smart phone. Or raise the blinds from your laptop but at the end of the day, who really cares about that?


The questions should revolve around what is meaningful for you in your actual everyday life. Of course I cannot cover all the bases but let me offer a few examples that might help you to discover what I refer to as the true magic of Smart Home Automation.



You listen to it constantly. Now you can stream it from your phone, the internet, your computer…to any room in your house that you want, even the deck or patio.

But your spouse or kids like music too…but they like different music…no problem. You can stream your music to one room while they stream their music to another. In fact if you add a programmable door lock to your system, when you come home your music can start playing as you walk in the door.



Nothing beats sports on a large screen TV or movies with surround sound. We can tie all that together with your smart home system so that you can enjoy it in any room. Crowded counter tops in your kitchen? We can mount a TV right into your backsplash so you never miss the game, or a great recipe and the best part is you don’t sacrifice your counter space and it looks better than a big bracket on the wall of your kitchen. Add a doorbell to your system and you can customize your ring tone. Then when the doorbell rings, your TV pauses and you can see who is at the door on your security camera. Return to your program or let them in right from your remote control!



If your kids are young, nothing is worse than being woken up on a Saturday morning at 5:30 am because they cannot figure out how to adjust the 3 remote controls you have so that they can watch their favorite show on Treehouse. We tie all that together with a simple wall button. The kids simply push the button and the lights adjust and their show comes on. Simple enough for a 3 year old and you get to sleep in!

But wait, you have teenagers?! You are out, they should be home, you want to know they are safe but you don’t want to be that parent that is constantly texting them asking where they are. With a door lock as part of your system, you can get a text alert when they punch in their code. Being in the know offers peace of mind. Now if the door opens 17 times in the next 10 minutes, I’m guessing there may be a party going on in your absence. Now you can call your neighbor and have them discretely check on the house to ensure everything is OK while you are out enjoying yourself because you are on top of the situation.



Read any design magazine and you’ll find that lighting a room is incredibly important to the way a room looks and feels. It’s about mood, ambiance, and even energy savings. A smart home system can be programed with different settings that not only change the lighting, it will tie in with the time of day and time of year. Set your kitchen lighting for cooking different than eating, have a mood setting for your dining room. Have your blinds open and close to block or let in light depending on the time of day, and have that automatically change in the winter months when the days get shorter. Override the settings with the touch of a button if things change. Have your lights dim up to save on energy and to go easier on your eyes. It’s easy, it can all be integrated and it makes our daily experience more pleasurable.



We all want to protect our family and our property. That’s why we have alarm systems and smoke detectors and CO detectors. In the event of a fire, a basic smoke detector will sound and if tied into your alarm system, it will alert the monitoring station who will then alert 9-1-1. A smart home system can take this a step further.

In the event of a fire, we can program your system to shut down the furnace fan. This is essential in order to stop the flow of air, which will ultimately feed and spread the fire causing more damage than necessary. We can also program your outdoor lights to flash on and off so that the Fire Department or EMS trucks have an easier time identifying which house is in crisis…instead of trying to locate the number on the house.



You have a nanny, a house cleaner, a nurse or a handyman. They can each have a door code that let’s them in and alerts you when they come and go. Security cameras will allow you to see what they are up to while in your house if you choose. But the nice thing is that you can be alerted to when they leave, then if they forgot to lock up your house, you can do that remotely from your phone. This can apply to a garage door as well. Now you are locked up, secure and from far away.



Going to the cottage is fantastic. But when you arrive to a dark, cold, empty place in the winter, it takes a while to set up and settle in. After all that driving, wouldn’t it be nice to activate a program as you leave the city that will welcome you? Imagine arriving to a well-lit driveway and entranceway. The temperature is perfect, the blinds are adjusted to whatever is appropriate for that time of day, the gas fireplace is roaring and your favorite music is playing. All you have to do now is pop open a bottle of wine and relax.



It’s nice to have flood detection so that you know if there is water accumulating in your basement from a broken pipe. But knowing is only half the battle. If you are far away and in the know…that only creates anxiety. If you have an automated shut off valve integrated to your system, then when the flood detectors find water on the floor, the valve shuts off your main water intake so that you stop the problem before it spreads and causes major damage. Knowing you are protected is a great feeling.


There is so much more to this and I can go on for a while but I wanted to give you a picture of what can be done with a properly integrated smart home system. You can spend as much or as little as you like on a system but it should be easy to use and hidden out of sight (the cheap off the shelf systems sold at big box stores are often clunky, unattractive an difficult to expand). Your system should easily grow with your needs and be easy to program so that you are able to change your settings yourself. There are many brands on the market, some are compatible, others are not. Retrofitting a home is just as easy as wiring a new build in many cases. If you are not sure what you need, ask a professional and have a system designed specifically for your lifestyle.


Smart Home Guru is a division of Home Guru Inc.



Turn Your Home into a Smart Home

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New smart home technology makes retrofitting a viable option for 2015

Breaking news: you no longer need to build a new house in order to have the latest in integrated smart home technology. Retrofitting your existing home is now a practical and affordable option.

Experienced home automation professionals are now offering a wide range of solutions designed to work around many of the issues you would have come across in the past when retrofitting an older home.

“Retrofitting has traditionally offered some serious challenges to having a functioning and energy efficient smart home,” says Justin Brooks of Smart Home Guru. “Extensive wiring and re-wiring was costly and inconvenient to install in an older home, making retrofitting an expensive, time consuming and messy project full of pitfalls and unexpected problems”.

But the days of retrofitting difficulties are over, as many companies are now offering wireless components specifically designed for retrofitting and upgrading existing systems. This new wireless technology is both effective and energy efficient, and offers smooth, clean and surprise-free installation.

Smart tech products entering the market this year include intelligent upgrades to your security systems, lighting, thermostat and smoke alarms to turn them into fully integrated smart components to your new or retrofitted home automation system.

State of the art wireless technology means 2015 is looking to be a great year to turn your home into a smart home!

Smart Lighting for Energy Savings and Convenience

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Innovative home automation systems allow us to have incredible control, ease and flexibility with the lighting in our homes. New home lighting automation systems are sassier than ever, with more features and ease of use like never before.

With home lighting automation you can pre-program mood lighting options for every room in your house. With the touch of a button you can have bedtime lighting, dinner party lighting, family game night lighting or any option you can think of. Once you’re settled on the sofa, just choose movie night and sit back and relax as the lights dim.

Set your system to turn off lights in empty rooms. Dim bulbs in rooms you want a light on in but are not actively using.

Motion sensors trigger outdoor security lights. Or program a vacation mode setting which randomizes lights on and off in your house to make it look like someone is home when you’re away.

Drift off to sleep with a gradually decreasing light, or create a slowly dimming night-light for kids. Alternatively, you can set an increasing wake-up lighting feature that simulates the sunrise on those dark winter mornings.

Smartphone access lets you see which lights are on when you’re not home. So you can adjust individual room lights remotely if you leave home in a hurry or realize you will be home later than you thought.

Your home lighting system can be completely integrated to interact and share remote access with your automated A/V, security and heating and cooling systems. So go ahead and set your lights to party mode and watch them dance to the beat of your music.

Five Home Automation Mistakes to Avoid

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Using multiple service providers:
If you are going to go to the expense to automate your home, do it right. Having a professional, experienced home automation service provider gives you access to the planning, advice and equipment you’ll need to minimize stress during installation, and to end up with a fully integrated, harmonious working system you will enjoy for the life of your home.

Going the DIY route:
While you may save a few dollars at the outset, buying home automation parts piecemeal and installing them yourself will most likely cost you more in the long run. You will need someone who understands the electrical, space and ventilation requirements – not only of the part you’re installing today, but also of any other automated systems you may decide to add to your home in the future.

Bad Planning:
With home automation, you don’t have to do it all at once. You can start small by automating one or two things that are important to you now, and then add to your system as your budget and your needs grow. Planning for what you may want in the future will allow you to save money and time by choosing systems that can accommodate add-ons.

Not recognizing the importance of integrating all the systems:
Yes – home automation is exciting. And there are lots of awesome devices on the market to add that cool-factor to your home. But where the magic really happens is with the integration of each device into a functioning system. Don’t waste your time and money on a bunch of cool gadgets that don’t work together. That smart thermostat is great, but it’s far better when it is integrated with your smart air conditioner and smart humidity monitor.

Buying Untested Technology:
As with any new technology, be wary of buying the newest thing until the glitches have been ironed out. The market is exploding with new “smart” gadgets, and many are being released before they’re really ready to be on the market. Take your time and wait to see if a product has been suitably tried and tested before you install it into your house and are stuck having to spend time and money to replace it.