Gone on holiday and forgotten to turn the lights off? You can log on anywhere in the world and switch them off. How 'green' is that?! Image Credit: Supplied picture

A house that takes care of its security and controls its energy consumption is no longer a far-fetched idea. Smart homes are a reality these days. But how about making your existing house — be it an apartment or villa — a smart home, with minimal investment? With mobile technology, this has become possible.

eHomes - MySyTy, an India-based company, has recently launched a smart home product in the Middle East. Unlike many other home automation systems, eHomes is wireless, which means the process of installation is relatively hassle-free. It can be retrofitted in an existing home to control much of your home using your iPad or smartphone. This means no matter where you are, you can control the lighting, cooling and heating, curtains and blinds, audio video systems, security sensors, remote surveillance of your home and in the process save energy. Your iPad or smart phone will show you minute by minute energy consumption on each of the power points or appliance.

"It works on your home wireless network and even on 3G/4G network, which means you are always connected with your home — no matter where you are. Imagine turning your heater or AC on 30 minutes before you reach home from a your pocket phone," says Kunal Grover, business technology evangelist, Synapses, which markets eHomes - MySyTy in the UAE. "A homeowner has the choice to install this system in his existing house with zero infrastructure damage and using existing switches and in less than 24 hours." The cost depends on the number of switches required, and it generally ranges from Dh30,000. "Depending on your usage, you can recover the costs from the savings on your electricity bills in less than 24 months," says Kunal. Danube Buildmart will distribute this product in the UAE.


See your home from anywhere in the world

Families with children will find this system particularly useful because of its surveillance capabilities. Connect it to cameras and you can keep watch over your home from anywhere. This feature can be of help to working parents who often have to leave their children at home with a nanny. The parents may be sitting in their office but they can keep an eye on the kids and even communicate with them using TV speakers. As the system can be operated using smartphones or iPads, it means the user can watch their home from anywhere. Now imagine you are on holiday abroad. Are you worried about your home attracting unwanted attention in your absence? "If you are abroad, for security reasons it is possible to create an impression that you are still at home," explains Kunal. "This can be done by controlling the home lighting and gadgets. For example, if you want to turn on the porch light at a particular time every day or switch on the radio for a few minutes, you can do so sitting anywhere in the world."

It also acts as a video door bell, so you can monitor the main door. All of this and along with emergency alerts just from your pocket phone (smart phone) or iPad, Synapses is giving away free iPads for its introductory launch and plans to make it a permanent give away, adds Kunal.


Save electricity, save money

Energy conservation is another area where this system can be helpful. In fact, eHomes claims it is possible to reduce electricity consumption by as much as 30 per cent by installing this device. "We waste a lot of electricity every day," says Kunal. "Usually, before you leave for work or go to bed, you switch off lights and audio-video equipment. But if you forget to switch these off, you end up wasting electricity and paying high bills." However, the mobile/tabletoperated system lets you monitor and control your energy consumption.

The eHomes device works on Android, an open source operating system developed by Google. "We put the entire control into secure internet connectivity," says Kunal. Using the controller, which can be operated with your television or any smartphone, touch pad or an internet-based system, you can manage your entire home systems. "This device gives you the flexibility to control the lighting and other electrical appliances while watching your favourite TV programme, right from the TV itself or using your iPad," says Kunal.

When you get precise information about your electricity consumption it becomes easier to reduce electricity bills and energy wastage. Since all the lights and electrical devices are one touch away, depending on your requirement, you can control their usage. Generally, you power off your computer but you don't unplug it or switch it off from the wall, leaving it on standby mode. But the equipment continues to consume power, which is called zombie charge. Using the eHomes device, it is possible to monitor such zombie charges, and reduce them by 15 to 20 per cent.

"If you look at the overall consumption, there could be a huge reduction of power usage depending upon your behavioural patterns," explains Kunal. The device comes with more than 200 pre-defined ambiences, which can be set by the user.


Make your property the smart choice

A property fitted with smart home technology is bound to generate interest among buyers, says Kunal. "By investing a small amount, you can put your property into a premier league. For example, if two apartments are on sale and one of them features a smart home system, buyers will be interested in the smart home, even if they need to pay slightly more. It is an add-on that will raise the value of your property in the buyer's eyes," concludes Kunal.

Installing a dimmer switch

1. First of all, turn off the power to the circuit you are going to work on. Never skip this step because apart from saving you from possible injury, it will also make sure the dimmer switch doesn't get damaged as you fit it. Now unscrew the faceplate from the existing switch, unscrew the old switch and gently pull it out. Make sure the circuit is off by using a voltage tester.

2. Usually dimmer switches come with wires that are pre-wired and pre-stripped. Take one wire each from the dimmer switch and the wall box and hold them side by side. Tighten a wire nut over the wires and repeat the exercise with the other wires. Make sure there is one dimmer wire connected to the wall wire, and the other dimmer wire connected to the other wall wire.

3. Wrap electrical tape around the wire nut where the nut meets the wire and repeat this exercise with the other set of wires to protect against a wire being accidentally grounded. Now carefully fold the wires back into the wall box. Screw the dimmer switch into its place properly after it is set in the box. Now take the new faceplate and screw it onto the dimmer switch. Ensure the switch is in the ‘off' mode. Then turn the circuit back on. Now it is time to test the switch. Slowly turn it on to make sure it's working properly.