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Best of the Best 2002: Home Electronics: Best Home Automation

Radio Advantage

Options for retrofitting a residence with a home automation system have been very limited for homeowners who cannot bear the thought of invasive, inside-the-walls wiring. One solution is Vantage Controls’ RadioLink, a wireless control system.

Vantage replaces a home’s traditional light switch plates with ScenePoint dimmers, which have built-in transmitters to send a digital signal quickly and accurately via FM radio frequency to a main control station. By using FM frequency, the signal can hop between 25 different channels if it encounters interference, just as a cordless phone searches for a clear channel. FM waves can travel up to 100 feet and are not subject to the same sound interference that plagues AM waves.

Each dimmer has a unique “address,” thereby preventing the main controller, called a C-Box, from sending a command to the wrong switch or the wrong home—a boon to residents of condominiums and townhouses. One C-Box can accommodate as many as 60 ScenePoint stations, and the dimmers can be programmed to operate devices throughout the house, including audio and video systems, draperies, blinds, security systems, and heating and cooling systems.

Vantage also offers a solution for installing automation systems in outbuildings such as pool houses, guest quarters, and stables. If you have RadioLink installed in the main house, you do not have to install another C-Box control station. Instead, a Vantage Enabler serves as the go-between so that switches in the pool house, for example, communicate with the C-Box.

Vantage Controls, 800.555.9891, www.vantagecontrols.com

Midas Touch

Working through your home’s existing electrical wiring, LiteTouch’s HomeTouch lighting automation simply rewires light switches and dimmers to same-size wall modules. The new controls can accommodate up to nine buttons, each of which can be programmed to control a single light, lamp, or group of lights. Buttons can also be programmed to create lighting scenes.

The HomeTouch system can control more than 100 timed events. The vacation control setting, for example, automatically turns lights on and off as if someone were home. If the system is programmed to turn lights on or off as the sun sets or rises, it can automatically make time adjustments as the days grow longer and shorter during the course of the year. The LiteTouch switches provide one-button control for turning off all of your home’s lights or for flashing the outdoor lights to scare away an intruder. HomeTouch can also be integrated to control some HVAC, home security, and other low-voltage electronics.

LiteTouch, 801.486.8500, www.home-touch.com

Command Center

Premise Systems’ SYS software controls a home’s automation systems much the same way that Microsoft Windows coordinates programs on a computer. SYS provides the bridge that enables seamless integration of a home’s automated lighting, home theater, security, climate control, and spa and sprinkler control systems. The software integrates the various systems into one interface that allows you to create an ideal living environment by customizing temperature, music, and humid-ity, for example, on a room-by-room basis without a bevy of large and complicated remotes.

As you add automation features to your home, the software will recognize the device and create a user interface. Because SYS is software, you can obtain secure remote access to your home via the Internet from anywhere in the world.

Premise Systems, 425.861.1108, www.premisesystems.com

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