Monitoring Your Second Home

October 10, 2015
Categories: Blog


The “Internet of Things” has been discussed for years; the connection and control of all kinds of devices through the internet. Imagine controlling your garage door, pre-heating the oven before arriving home from work and turning on the lights just before pulling in the driveway. It is now easier than ever to employ home automation in your Outer Banks home using a smart phone or tablet. While this is certainly a convenience for the typical homeowner for their primary home, it provides crucial control, security, cost savings and efficiency for investment property owners on the Outer Banks.

The options available for home automation are overwhelming for the typical home owner.  There are professionally installed systems available from companies such as PointCentral, or AT&T and ADT which also require monthly service fees. There are also systems and devices available for the “do it yourself” crowd through Amazon, Home Depot and Lowes, as well. When there are so many choices, how do you choose?

The first step in selecting a home automation system should be determining and prioritizing your goals.  Security and remote monitoring of your vacation property is a key benefit of these systems. Even if your property is actively managed by a company, home automation is a second line of defense. Your system can provide early warning for unauthorized entry, carbon monoxide, thermostat readings and even water leaks.

If you use VRBO, AirBnB or other vacation hosting services to rent to guests, being able to control the home remotely provides a key advantage. You can adjust the thermostat right before your guests’ arrival, both welcoming them to a warm or cool home and saving energy. Keyless entry systems allow you to control access for guests or vendors, and improve security by reprogramming the code after departure. This way there are no lost keys and potential for unauthorized access. Interior and exterior lighting is also commonly controlled with remote devices. Audio visual equipment is also a common application and remote devices help to simplify use of these systems for guests. The potential items to control remotely in your home is expanding exponentially! 

Once you have your list of goals and priorities, you will need to select a platform or technology that allows the devices to “talk” to each other and be controlled through phone and computer devices.  There are several available today and there is likely to be even more in the future. There are wired systems, cellular systems, wi-fi systems and some combined systems. Once you select a technology platform, select products that are compatible with that platform. 

The list below are the most common platforms available:


PointCentral is a home automation system that uses a cellular network rather than relying on internet connection. Because cellular networks are more reliable, you have remote control of all your locations from any cellular or web-enabled device. It doesn’t require an existing network.


X10 is one of the oldest platforms available and dates back to the 1970’s. Originally on the grid using power lines, it is now wireless. It is not the fastest platform available, but due to the amount of time it has been around, it does have a lot of products available to use with it.


ZigBee, originally developed in the 1990’s, is a low-cost, low-power, wireless network. Its key benefit is for long battery life devices in wireless control and monitoring applications.


Z-Wave is based on a proprietary design, now owned by Sigma Designs, who is the sole chip vendor.  There are over 325 manufacturers worldwide who make products using the chips in a range of consumer and commercial products. 


The Insteon platform was developed in 2005 and is a combined platform using power lines, Wi-Fi, or both. It works on a mesh network where all nodes are peers and can communicate with each other.  Recently, compatibility with Microsoft Cortana and Google owned Nest thermostats were announced, which could be an indicator of future industry direction.

For more information on home automation, check out PC Magazines article. Of course, you can always contact us at Xpert Home Services to discuss what home automation technology will work best for your Outer Banks Home.

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