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Home Automation: Ingenuity in Action

By Deborah Harkins


While you’re away, the system can make your house appear occupied: Shades can be raised or lowered, curtains opened or closed, and exterior lights turned on, at the appropriate time of day; this wizardry saves energy, provides security, and protects valuable furniture and rugs from the sun’s damaging rays.


On your way home you can prep the house for your arrival. Using your cell phone (or that BlackBerry, laptop, or Treo), you can, with a click, change the system’s setting from “unoccupied home” to “occupied home.” Which means that whatever you’ve chosen to have happen will happen. The entryway lights can go on. The house’s temperature can rise or fall to a comfortable 72 degrees. The pool water can heat to the temperature you’ve chosen as ideal.


The system can be set up to alert either the homeowner or an appropriate technician when disaster threatens. Sulpizi, whose company has been designing, installing, and servicing integrated technology solutions since 1995, tells this happy-ending tale: One of his clients had switched oil companies, but had left town before completing the paperwork necessary for getting a delivery from the new company. “While he was away, the oil level went to low,” Sulpizi says. “Ordinarily, he would have found out days later, when owner-installed alarms activated. In this case, he got a timely alert on his BlackBerry and straightened out the problem in hours.”


To install heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, Amnet ( has long tapped Encon Heating & Air Conditioning (, a Connecticut firm that has provided installations and service to the high-end market since 1969. Both Mike Croteau, Encon’s manager of controls installation, and Alex Sulpizi note that many homeowners choose systems they see in magazines (because certain features seem appealing). They declare, however, that the most sophisticated and useful systems are those that are customized to the owner’s home and lifestyle.


Happily, home automation offers even more wizardry—many ingenious systems, easily controlled by touching a computer screen—when the homeowner’s in residence. Simply tapping one graphical screen can let you change the temperature in any room; monitor all the surveillance cameras, sensors, windows, and doors in the house; control all your exterior and interior lights; turn down the heat in an unused guest wing; turn on the satellite radio or play your favorite music (uploaded from all your CDs and even vinyl records) everywhere in the house; unlock the front door while you’re out in the backyard; and even more.


Deborah Harkins, a long-time editor at New York magazine, is now a free-lance editor and writer based in New York City. Mike Croteau is the manager of controls installation at Encon Heating & Air Conditioning, a provider of heating and air conditioning design, installation, and service for residential and commercial customers since 1969.


Alex Sulpizi is the Founder and President of Stamford, CT based Amnet Systems, a recognized leader in the design and installation of easy-to-use control systems for the entire home and innovative technology solutions or businesses.

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