The options for home automation abound these days, from smart wireless speakers to high-end, house-wide systems that allow homeowners to remotely control their lighting, temperature, security, and audio-visual systems. Given the fast pace with which this technology develops, and the number of products flooding the market, New Yorkers who want to bring their apartments into the 21st century have much to consider.
Undertaking a major renovation presents an opportunity to enhance your apartment with automation, but it also means consulting a variety of experts, from electricians to A/V professionals to architects.
“We start by helping the homeowner prioritize what is most important to them, and then assemble a team of experts who design the home automation system that meets their needs,” says Fraser Patterson, CEO and Founder of Bolster, a New York City company that empowers homeowners to control their major renovation by delivering industry-leading expertise and a radically transparent online platform. “That way, they’re guaranteed to get the products that best serve their lifestyle.
Here’s what to consider when your renovation includes the installation of smart home technology.
“You’ll want to hardwire as much as you can,” says Michael Fasulo, a Bolster architect. “Think of it as future-proofing: It will help you have a more reliable system.”
Hardwiring provides faster speeds and greater dependability than a purely wireless set-up, but also requires opening up your walls for the installation. If you’re already planning a major renovation, you’ll be able to fit in this work more seamlessly.
Depending on the system you opt for, you’ll likely need to install neutral wires, which most smart gadgets require; often, apartment light switches don’t already have these. You might also need junction boxes to make room for additional wiring, as well as cable conduits, A/V wiring, Ethernet cables, and more, according to Lifewire.
High-end smart home systems like Crestron and Savant are customizable, allowing you to select which kind of conveniences you’d like.
“These systems are programmed a la carte, and written by computer programmers,” Michael says. “An A/V consultant designs all the components and wiring, and gives you a pull sheet that shows where everything goes. An electrician put the wiring through, and an architect oversees the design. You have to have a cast of characters who all know what to do.”
And with this investment, he adds, comes the ability to control just about everything in your home, from anywhere in the world.
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Standard: The quality of the finish is acceptable with attention to detail but reliant on big-box store sourced cabinetry, MDF etc.
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Low: Simple design, no layout or structural changes, elevator in building.
Medium: Average design, moving of some systems and/or structural changes, no elevator in the building.
High: Complex design, complicated engineering, lots of logistics (e.g. boom lifts, suspended scaffolds, etc.), dangerous working conditions.
Small: Changes to surfaces only (e.g. painting, tiling).
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Large: Small + Medium + Changes to the building's infrastructure (e.g. replacing all systems, walls, floor joists etc).
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Ventilation and cooling
The equipment that manages your home automation can generate quite a bit of heat, so it may be necessary to install additional ventilation to offset it.
Smart home tech gear is usually consolidated in one location, Michael says: “You might have a receiver that controls the whole apartment’s audio, a stereo component, server components that hold data, an audio video collection, and cable boxes. It gets hot, so you need to seriously plan for that.”
The heat can be mitigated by adding ventilation and cooling to the room where your equipment will be stored. The area may need its own air conditioning, as in many cases, fans aren’t enough to handle the increase in temperature.
Often, the same professionals who set up your home automation can anticipate how much cooling you’ll need, and whether fans or air conditioning will be sufficient. Note that even if your apartment has central air, it’s possible you’ll still need additional ventilation, as your smart home equipment might require continuous cooling.
“If you have a high-end system, it’s a good idea to have a mechanical engineer size it up to determine what kind of ventilation you need,” Michael advises.
Lighting and window shades
Installing home automation allows homeowners to fully customize their lighting systems, taking into consideration which kinds of scenes they want to set in different rooms and on different occasions. Greater control over lighting can also mean savings on energy costs, as well as enhanced home security.
Not only will smart home tech allow you to adjust the lighting in each room of your apartment from your smartphone or built-in control panels, it can also be programmed to be motion activated and to respond to the movements of the sun.
“Window shades can be automated and controlled by these smart home systems, with shades that can come on and off automatically at any time of day to block the sun,” Michael says.
Most homeowners who are integrating automation prioritize lighting control, he says, for the ease with which it allows them to set the mood throughout their apartments.
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Updating your home automation
Smart home tech is ever-changing, so it’s in your best interests to choose products that will be easy to update. Avoiding obsolescence is important not only to maintaining your own comfort but also to making sure your apartment’s automation is current when it comes time to sell.
To this end, Michael advises choosing systems that can be operated by smart devices rather than screens built into the walls.
“Be minimal with LCD touch screens. It’s invasive to replace them, and tablets and smartphones do a better job of controlling gear,” Michael says. “Or use touchpads with hard buttons that control lighting and shades. Those don’t tend to need updating very often, but touch screens change frequently.”
Furthermore, he adds, if you have to replace touch screens, you can end up with a mismatch from room to room in your apartment.
Instead, with good hardwiring and smart phone or tablet control of your system, installing updates should be stress-free.
Paying for home automation
If your home automation installation is minimal and not part of a major renovation, you may find you’re able to handle most of it yourself.
And for more extensive updates that involve opening walls to install new wiring, the costs vary substantially.
“If you want some kind of automated system to control your A/V, lighting, and security, that level of integration can cost from $20,000 to $25,000,” Michael says.
Of course, he adds, individual product choices can drive costs up as well—smart speakers alone can cost anywhere from the hundreds to the thousands. “Given the cost factor, many homeowners choose to roll this work into a larger home renovation, when multiple updates and changes are being made to the home, from a design, technological, and structural standpoint.”
“Our team works closely with homeowners to help them make these kinds of decisions,” Fraser says. “Whatever your lifestyle needs are, we’ll guide you through the entire process in order to realize your vision for automating your home with the most current smart technology.”
Every year, New Yorkers waste over $700M following the usual renovation process.
Bolster has uncovered the drivers behind these inefficiencies and has developed a proprietary solution that applies to every home renovation project. Bolster is the first company to bring radical transparency, analytics, and accountability to the entire process. They promise that every project is thoughtfully designed and beautifully delivered for a fair price, on time, and on budget. To start your major home renovation project, visit bolster.us