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How to Buy Appliances

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Remodeling Value

Woods and Islands in the Kitchen

All About Feng Shui

Ceiling Fan Facts and Fallacies

How to Select Carpet

Buy the Fireplace of the Future

How to Hire a Contractor

Get Wired with Smart Technology

Divide and Conquer

Secret Storage Spots

Redecorate Your Home on the Computer

You Can Decorate with the Stars

Are Your Cleaning Products Making Your Family Ill?


Get Wired With Smart Technology

Ever thought of programming your stereo and alarm system from your computer? It's not so far off in the future. Thanks to technological development ten years in the making, "smart" or programmable home technology is becoming more practical and affordable. Many home builders are installing wiring to allow security, heating and cooling, audio-visual, and other systems to be controlled from a central location, says The Washington Post.

Let's say you're working at your computer while the baby sleeps in another room. You hear the baby crying on the monitor. On your way back from the nursery, you make a detour to the thermostat to turn up the heat. While you're at it, better turn down the stereo. Consider the same story using smart technology. Junior's cries come over your computer's speakers. Using your mouse, you lower the volume control on the stereo graphic equalizer on your computer screen, and then tweak the thermostat on your comfort control display. Pretty advanced, eh?

The good news is that what seemed out-of-this-world a few years ago is becoming available. What has made Smart Home technology impractical till now is the cost of wiring required to run it. Today, the price of that wiring, called Category 5 data- communications wiring, is down substantially. Category 5 wiring consists of four pairs of wires that can transmit voice and data signals quickly. Combine that with upgraded coaxial TV cable for carrying video signals from your TV and computer monitor, and you can wire your home for the smartest technology available.

The price of installing Category 5 wiring used to be exorbitant-- around 10,000 to 15,000 dollars. Nowadays, it's around 700 to 2,000 dollars, cheap enough for many builders to offer homes compatible with smart technology.

What's currently available in home command and control systems? In addition to centralized electronic controls for your home's systems, how about integrated security systems that detect intruders as they approach or enter the house, flick on floodlights outdoors, and trigger an audible alarm both inside and outside the home while notifying the police or security monitoring services? These systems include fire protection measures that detect smoke, shut off the furnace or A/C to prevent spreading smoke throughout the house, wake you up, alert the fire department, turn on the lights to aid your evacuation, etc.

The bad news is that most existing homes are not compatible with the technology, unless you're willing to tear out the walls. If you're planning a major renovation anyway, installation could be "wired in" to your construction plan. In the meantime, home builders are taking advantage of smart wiring to attract buyers concerned about home security and convenience.