Technology can help create a house that is able to adapt to life's changes - whether caused by changing family composition or the changing abilities of family members.
Home automation systems, or smart house technologies, are systems and devices that can control elements of your home environment such as lighting, appliances, security and mechanical systems.
These systems can be used to improve safety, expand usability and make life easier for people of all abilities.
Developing For Consumers
And home automation now being developed for the consumer market provides even greater benefits to people with physical, sensory and mental disabilities, allowing them to live more independently.
Automation can handle many simple and repetitive tasks.
Lights on your front porch can automatically turn on when the door is opened, to illuminate your path as you go outside. Or an automated security system can be set to turn off all the lights, lock the doors and turn down the thermostat when you go to bed.
Programmable thermostats that use computer chips allow you to reduce your energy consumption and, by extension, your heating and cooling costs.
You can program the thermostat to turn on in the morning just before you get out of bed, turn down when you leave for work and turn up again just before you come home.
Fire And Other Emergencies
Nobody likes to take chances with the safety and the lives of loved ones, so it is important to be able to both detect an emergency situation and get help when needed.
Automated homes can be equipped with alarms that are wired to work with several devices throughout the home.
When triggered, smoke and fire alarms can activate telephones that automatically call a pre-programmed number for assistance. This is particularly important for seniors or people with disabilities.
Personal monitoring systems are also useful for people as they get older - especially if they live on their own. The user summons help by pressing a button on a wireless pendant or bracelet.
A home automation system can be a part of a new-home design and construction or placed in an existing home without extensive re-wiring.
Some devices can simply be plugged into existing electrical outlets. However, for more complex network installations and for integration of multiple hardwired devices, it's best to have the systems installed by an electrician.
From Simple To Sophisticated
Automated systems can be simple and inexpensive or sophisticated and pricey.
Most basic home automation systems on the market cost approximately $3,500. Although part of the cost can be offset by energy savings, the payback period can be lengthy.
If you are considering a home automation system, contact a reputable company to ensure you get a system that meets your needs for today and tomorrow.
Do your homework when choosing a home automation company - get more than one estimate and ask for a list of references.
Home automation can provide people of all abilities with greater control of their environment and increased independence. It can also help conserve energy and save money in the long run.
To help learn more about home automation, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a free About Your House fact sheet called Accessible Housing by Design - Home Automation.
For your copy visit us online at www.cmhc.ca or call our toll-free number: 1-800-668-2642.
(Mark Salerno is district manager for the Greater Toronto Area at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. You can reach him at 416-218-3479 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)