Anesthesiologist Tom Denker likes to keep tabs on his Heber City home while in South Dakota, where he still practices. But rather than calling a property manager, Denker simply pulls up an app on his iPhone to check security cameras, adjust lighting, monitor the lawn’s hydration level, or make sure the snow in the driveway is melted before hopping into his plane and flying to Utah.
Home automation—used to remotely activate and monitor systems ranging from lighting, media, and security to heating and cooling—is no longer the realm of the super-rich or super-geek. Today, home automation is more varied, more budget-minded, and easier to use than ever. There’s an app for everything from security to comfort, all of which are controlled with a finger’s touch on a smartphone or tablet screen.
Denker says the Savant system (the first home-automation company to build its entire platform on Apple’s operating system), already installed in his Red Ledges home when he purchased it last year, was a big selling point. “You can run it off any Apple product. We used two other systems (installed in previously owned homes) that had to be rebooted all the time, and that just didn’t work for us,” he says. “My wife wants it simple. She wants to turn it on and have it work. I want to be able to play with it.”
For those in Denker’s wife’s camp, the benefits of home automation are many. Can’t remember whether you closed the garage door or not? A smart garage-door opener will send an alert if the door is left up and can close it from anywhere. Smart irrigation systems conserve water with programmable adjustments for weather and seasonal changes. Ovens can be remotely preheated, and soon smart refrigerators will track both specific contents and how long each item has been there.
Many device brands are easily commingled using a single smart hub. This means homeowners can pick and choose apps, mastering each before adding the next and piecing together an automated home customized to their living patterns.
A good place for the do-it-yourselfer to start is a smart thermostat. The Nest thermostat costs about $200. But Danny Moreno, regional sales manager for VIA International (6415 N Business Park Loop Rd, 435.241.6825, viahome.com/parkcity), warns that installing multiple systems in large homes is complicated and will test the abilities of even the most dedicated home handyman or woman.
One of Park City’s newest developments, seven eco-friendly homes being built on Rossi Hill called Echo Spur (echospur.com), employs home automation systems to manage state-of-the-art radiant heating, cooling, solar panels, and irrigation via underground rainwater-capture cisterns. Cost of the system is rolled into each home’s asking price, listed at $2.7 to $3.5 million. Not cheap, but with the home automation built in, owners can count on future maintenance and energy cost savings. All with a tap on a handheld screen.