How a Smart House Works

Whether you think of futuristic cartoons from the 60s with nostalgia or chuckle at their cartoon vision of the future, some of their gadgetry forms the real backdrop of life in the 21st century. You may not have a robot maid, but you can live in a smart house that watches over your family, adjusting living conditions to keep you safe and comfortable. Behind the scenes, that smart house shares its automation technologies with factories and high-rise office buildings.

Networked Control

Along with traditional electrical wiring, smart houses include network setups that can rival the technology behind the scenes in public and commercial buildings. At their most complex, these systems prove easier to integrate into new construction than to add on to an existing house. In full setups, you'll find a computer control system alongside the traditional breaker box, sometimes powered by solar panels instead of the municipal electric grid. Extending smart-house control to every room makes it possible to tie comfort systems and thermostats in to computer programs that automatically reset air conditioning as outdoor temperatures rise and fall.

Remote Access

Smart-home automation can provide integrated remote access to everything from security cameras and lighting to temperature control and appliances. Some systems provide a unified remote control as well as a central touchpad. Commanding the devices in your home can rely on networked control of electric outlets or, if the devices you plug in include remote technology, you can tap in to individual appliances through a cell phone. For example, smartphone apps can enable you to control a washer through Wi-Fi and track the age of perishable foods in a smart refrigerator.


Smart-house technology can extend home security to include features that track children, pets and household employees. From cameras that watch over entrances and driveways to motion sensors that activate lighting, these security features can make life easier for your family, lighting the path to the bathroom or kitchen at night. At the same time, they can thwart attempts to gain unauthorized access. Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) tags in key fobs can identify individual members of the household as they enter the house. If a would-be burglar tries to break in, sensors note the attempt and the home control system notifies the authorities.

Other Considerations

How extensively you set up smart-house technology determines the functionality you get out of the system--and the money you put into it. These systems can cost as much as you want to spend and automate as much as you want to control. If you're building a new home and want to plan ahead for household integration, you can pre-wire for future use and save yourself the disruption and expense of a retrofit. On a modest budget, you can start with temperature control and basic security, reserving whole-house entertainment integration or lighting automation for later.

Photo Credits: Shauna Hundeby/DemandMedia

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