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When John Leggett began building homes in Houston 10 years ago, the latest home tech gadgets were motion-detecting security systems and a built-in surround sound system featuring an iPod dock.
Today, manufacturers are beginning to offer more internet and smartphone-connected devices, appliances and systems that promises to transform the way homeowners live and interact in their homes. As Houston homes undergo this technological revolution, homebuilders and remodelers must prepare for and construct “future proof” homes that can handle the technology of tomorrow.
“Today, there’s an app for everything,” said Leggett, president and CEO of Houston based On Point Custom Homes.
This so called “Internet of Things” phenomenon ranges from simple appliances, such as smart slow cookers that allow users to monitor their cooking from work, to more complex home automation systems that control everything from the lights, sound system and security system through a smart phone or tablet.
Eventually, these smart homes will automatically open the garage door, flip on the lights and turn up the thermostat as soon as its residents leave their offices to head home. More of these smart devices will be built-in to the home, such as countertops with wireless charging mats and AV closets that serve as the central brain of home automation systems. These futuristic homes also will have more diagnostic features, akin to how modern cars alert drivers of low tire pressure or an engine failure. Dryers can remind users to clear out their lint catch, water heaters can warn users about sediment buildup and air conditioners can notify users about Freon leaks.
This emerging technology often starts in the luxury market, pioneered by custom builders like Leggett. However, over the coming years, the idea of a “smart home” will become more mainstream, trickling down into production homes, Leggett stated. Already, homeowners are purchasing a bevy of products that allow for Do-It-Yourself home automation, like learning thermostats, Wi-Fi connected light bulbs and smartphone-controlled door locks.
“the DIY home is really taking off,” Leggett said. “That’s going to help us get to the smart home.”
Leggett encourages homeowners to consider prewiring their home for burgeoning technology. Prewiring can cost between $4,000 and upwards of $20,000, depending on the home size, but can increase resale value and give future homeowners more flexibility with their technology. All new Houston homes are required to have prewiring from the breaker panel to the attic to allow for the installation of solar panels in the future.
Leggett also recommends remodelers and new homebuilders install “flex pipes,” an empty PVC pipe that’s placed inside the wall in strategic places. This allows future contractors to fish through new technology wiring without tearing out the walls. Until wireless technology becomes more robust that residential Wi-Fi can handle office level systems and Bluetooth has extended range, prewiring will still be important.
“Homes need to be more flexible,” Leggett said. “Technology is going to change. It’s better you spend the extra money now to prewire than spend more later to cut up your walls.”
Article courtesy of Paul Takahashi with Houston Business Journal