"Challenging" was how home automation installers Connected Living described the integration of traditional wiring with a HPM iControl system in a builder's showcase home near Plenty, north-east of Melbourne.

The complete home automation system was installed in the home of Michael Watts, director of building firm Edgebuild, almost as an afterthought, as the initial design was intended to only control indoor and outdoor lighting.

Traditional electrical wiring had already been roughed in when Connected Living was approached by Edgebuild to provide automated lighting control in the house, known as Happy Hollow.

Edgebuild's brief to Connected Living was to install a system that displayed new trends in home automation technology in this state-of-the-art, contemporary home.

Connected Living was able to integrate traditional wiring with the iControl infrastructure to allow the homeowners to dial in via their phone from just about anywhere to activate facilities such as air conditioning, lights, spa, window-washing system for the floor-to-ceiling feature windows and rooftop sprinklers for fire protection. In a rural area subject to bushfires, this was an essential means of keeping the home safe, given the extensive bushfires Victoria experienced this past summer, and especially at times when the family is away from their home.

"Half the house was already built - the electrician had to re-run cables throughout the house," states Connected Living's Sasha Apel. "Of course, the ideal time to put in automation is from the planning stage, well before you build. However, the retrofit that was necessary to integrate traditional technology with iControl proved to be fairly straightforward."

"Most home automation systems can only be installed at the start of a project. What we were able to do at Happy Hollow really shows the flexibility of the iControl system."

Homeowner and builder Watts is a happy man, both personally and professionally. Commenting on living with the iControl system, he says: "Originally, I wanted only a very limited system. But gradually we added more features. Once you use it, you no longer regard it as a luxury, but a necessity. The true value of the system is revealed when you're controlling more of the home.

"The best feature is that you can change any of the functions at any stage — you just have to alter the computer program, which is very flexible. Admittedly, it's something we should have considered sooner. There are obvious benefits in including home automation at the planning stage.

"What convinced us to expand the system was the ability to turn on functions in the house, like the air conditioning, by phone as well as using the programmable timer.

"Initially our thought for the system was if we were sitting on the beach in St Kilda, we could heat the spa and have the water ready for when we arrived home — so there'd be no waiting around. But it has the added benefit of minimising electricity use because you can dim lights and turn down the air conditioning as needed."

Home automation also provides Edgebuild with a tool to enhance the value of the homes it constructs for its clients. Watts explains: "Home automation is something that more and more people who are building homes are considering. I wanted to build a home that showcased this technology and now I can show it to prospective home builders."

Built as the Watts family home, the house features a contemporary design utilising local stone to highlight outdoor elements including the swimming pool and waterfall. With such cutting edge design and technological sophistication, the home has become a showcase for EdgeBuild to demonstrate what can be accomplished for their clients.

Watts adds: "We're now using it extensively in current projects and feedback so far has been very positive. You can quickly see the advantages of iControl".

HPM's iControl home automation system combines and controls the subsystems around the home such as lighting, security and energy management. The systems are extremely flexible, permitting devices to be added, replaced or upgraded at any time, providing a bespoke system which allows individuals to choose the functions they want their own system to maintain in their home.

Last Updated on Monday, 23 November 2009 21:00