Home Automation has been around for centuries. Many years ago, the wealthy had house-servants that would light candles, open and close draperies, open windows to cool and light fires for heating. Today, as in all things modern, we are progressing into the world of the future. It is possible to turn on your lights, open the shades, and cool or heat your house with the press of a button. To the home automation professional pressing buttons is passé. Today, with proper programming, homeowners need only let sensors and invisible command prompts do all the work. All you need to do is ensure you work with the best home automation professionals.
I hate to admit it, but the window coverings industry has been one of the last industries to fully embrace what is new in home automation. Recently, while attending a training seminar in Southern California, an instructor told my class that 50% of their dealers don’t even have a PC. I can only assume that the other 50% of their dealers are not up on all things ‘i’ with Mac applications. Basically, what was being said was that the typical window coverings dealer is not up-to-date with the technology available and, therefore, few window coverings dealers are able to deal with simple motorized window coverings, much less full home automation applications.
Here is the good news: the people who determine the direction of things in the high-end window covering business realize that they have fallen far behind other industries like home theater and lighting controls. They are now prepared to play catch up.
There have always been companies that specialize in home automation for window treatments but they have usually been ultra high end and do not typically integrate well with other systems. As a result, if your home automation professional preferred one particular company they would wire your home for that product line, leaving you stuck with the offerings of that company. Good for that company’s profits but not necessarily good for you. It’s possible that company’s product line fit your needs to a “T,” but that is also highly unlikely as their options were, and still are, extremely limited.
Therefore, leading companies in the window fashions industry are beginning to ensure compatibility of their products with various home automation applications and suppliers. Companies that have lead the window fashions industry with huge selections and original concepts are integrating their products with home automation applications. Companies have put a lot of research into the market and are making choices to ensure their products integrate with most of the Control Centers. These Control Centers, or Panels, are the brains of your system and are custom-programmed by home automation professionals. They tell all the systems integrated in your house what to do and when to do it.
For example, let’s say that when you get home you open the garage door to park your car inside. The Control Panel sees that you opened the door and it turns on the lights in the hallway, kitchen and sets other mood lighting in the living areas. It disarms the security system and turns on the wine chiller. It may close some window coverings and opens others, based on the season and the time of day. These systems didn’t know to coordinate all those tasks on its own, a LOT of programming was required on that system.
In the past, window coverings systems were not always fully integrated into home automation systems. Often, it was run on a parallel system. It worked, but not with the finesse that a true home automation system dictates. This is where some of the changes in the industry are coming from. Many professionals are using their skills within the window covering world and partnering that knowledge with modern technology and acquiring new skills within the home automation world.
What does this mean for consumers like you? Let’s face it, pseudo-home automation systems work, but they’re nothing more than a variety of independent systems that can not integrate and still require several control panels and interfaces throughout your home. But true home automation systems take all of your concerns into account, and are adaptable to them as you and your lifestyle change. Fully-integrated, one-system-does-it-all home automation can start as low as $15,000, but the average cost is somewhere around $115,000 and can soar into the mid $200,000 range pretty easily, depending on the equipment chosen. So, therefore, why would you use anyone but the best to assist you with each part of the project?
Would you really use a home automation computer programmer to select the Sound System that you want? Would you let him choose the lighting arrangement and types for each task or mood? Would you let him coordinate your fabric and determine what options are best for your window coverings? Not likely.
The window covering industry has caught up, and your design professional needs to be brought in EARLY in any home automation project. It’s our job to know the best types of wiring to use, how much, where to put things and so on and so forth as it relates to window coverings.
My recommendation would be to choose your window coverings expert as soon as you begin planning. They need to be there from the beginning to ensure all of your bases are covered. Any good home automation window treatment professional will include a consulting fee up front, but this will be well worth it when you see how smoothly things can run with their assistance.
You may have already chosen a home automation specialist to work with for your overall system, and he may have told you that he doesn’t like working with window coverings people because they don’t understand the complicated world of home automation. Again, this is our fault as window covering professionals. Though many of us are extremely qualified to work with home automation specialists, and actually make their jobs easier, we have not done a good job of educating them as to our willingness and capabilities to do so. Personally, I am actively working to expand my core of home automation partners, and I need to let them know about my skills in working in tandem with them. To make this easier, some of the really big players in the window fashions manufacturers community are ramping up with plans to promote their standardization within the home automation market. This will make it easier for window coverings professionals to establish and maintain relationships within the home automation industry. The more we create well-matched teams, the better it will be for consumers as the design, installation, programming and eventually overall use will be smoother and more effective in serving your needs.
Make sure that you hire the best in each specific field of the Home Automation Industry. Window Coverings are an integral part of that equation. Professionals from each field will be able to coordinate their efforts with everyone else, to the benefit of the end-user, YOU.