According to a 2016 industry study by Zion Research, the U.S. market for home automation systems is growing by leaps and bounds. Valued at nearly $5 billion this year and forecast to nearly double by 2021, the home automation category encompasses products that help centralize control of such common household systems as lighting, HVAC, appliances, window treatments, entertainment devices, locks and other security measures. These systems provide homeowners with the benefits of convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and enhanced safety and security.


Electrical contractors need to keep on top of this growing, dynamic and highly connected industry, so following is a roundup of some of the most popular controls for the home, how they benefit homeowners, and the new opportunities they can provide for ECs in the residential sector. 


Apple HomeKit


Apple’s Home app can securely control all HomeKit accessories, enabling homeowners to turn off lights from an iPhone, see who is at the front door on an iPad, and control systems remotely through Apple TV. The system can control everything from lights, thermostats, windows and fans to air conditioners, locks, cameras, doorbells, garages and more.


For example, homeowners can set their lights to turn on when they drive up to the house, turn up the heat before they get out of bed in the morning, and use a motion sensor in the doorway to turn the kitchen lights on when they walk in. Apple HomeKit enables homeowners to “put their home on autopilot,” according to a company spokesperson.


Arlo Pro


According to a spokesperson from Arlo, a San Jose, Calif.-based division of Netgear, the Arlo Pro is the most current offering in the company’s popular line of residential security cameras. It uses motion and sound detection, is wireless and weatherproof so that it can be used inside or outside, and has video, two-way audio, a 100-decibel siren and a rechargeable battery.


The system can be expanded by adding more cameras as necessary. Compatible with such smart-home platforms as Samsung’s SmartThings, video can be viewed live on the Arlo app, and homeowners can be sent alerts when detection activates.


Honeywell’s Lyric 
T6 Wi-Fi thermostat


The Lyric T6 Pro thermostat products have connectivity and geofencing features that sense homeowners’ smartphones outside the home, saving energy and money. The system offers features such as automatic changeover between heating or cooling, the ability to learn and activate a homeowner’s preferences, smart alerts, and the ability to control and set scenes using the Apple Home app, Siri voice control and quick actions in the control center.


“Based on the evolving needs of today’s consumers, their homes and the contractors who help maintain them, Honeywell’s family of connected and nonconnected thermostats have been developed to help contractors manage complexity and maximize opportunities while providing customers with a variety of features,” said Nate Kraft, senior director, global connected home division, Honeywell, Morris Plains, N.J.


There are many more home automation products than can be listed here, and ECs looking to expand their business should research the various products that are available. 


Leviton Decora smart dimmer


Leviton’s Decora smart universal dimmers with Z-Wave Plus “support a wide range of load types, including LEDs, CFL and incandescents and are engineered to function with extremely sensitive, low-wattage light sources, ensuring that LEDs don’t glow when they’re off, and can be used in a three-way, multiway circuit by using a matching remote dimmer,” said Eric Gerrard, senior manager of distribution marketing and creative services at Leviton, Melville, N.Y.


The company’s family of Decora Smart solutions is fully compatible with Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings Hub, Wink and all other certified Z-Wave controllers, security systems, and gateways and hubs, ensuring increased communication range, network-wide inclusion and over-the-air updates.


Lutron Caséta Wireless


The Lutron app for Caséta Wireless enables homeowners to control lights, shades and temperature from a ­smartphone, tablet or Apple watch, allowing them to schedule their lights and Serena shades to automatically adjust at set times of day. System features include the ability to create up to 50 manual or scheduled scenes involving lighting and shades. The Smart Away option randomly turns lights on and off during the evening to give a home a lived-in look when homeowners are not there.


“The system works with a range of popular energy-­saving bulbs, including dimmable LEDs, dimmable CFLs, halogens, and incandescents, uses Lutron’s patented radio frequency [RF] Clear Connect Wireless technology for interference-free operation, and conveniently provides perfect light levels,” said Matt Swatsky, senior director of the Caséta Wireless business unit, Coopersburg, Pa.


“The connected-home revolution creates a huge opportunity for contractors to position themselves ahead of the competition by providing their residential customers with simple, affordable, energy-saving, and reliable wireless control of lights, shades and temperature with innovative solutions like Caséta Wireless from Lutron,” said Brian Donlon, vice president of sales for Lutron North America, Coopersburg, Pa. “Homeowners often turn to trusted, preferred professional installers for these types of solutions, and we want to see our contractor network succeed in this growing space.”


Nest


According to Gene LaNois, head of the professional channel for Nest Labs, Palo Alto, Calif., Nest offers applications that automate a broad range of residential systems. Among those is the Nest Learning Thermostat, which uses sensors and algorithms to learn a homeowner’s schedule and preferences. LaNois said that it has saved homeowners worldwide more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours of energy since its 2011 introduction. Because a fire can overtake a room in less than five minutes, the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm uses a Split-Spectrum Sensor to detect fast-burning fires, smoldering fires and CO, and message a homeowner’s phone.


“The Nest Protect can automatically communicate with the Nest Thermostat, shutting down the HVAC system in the event of an alarm with no wires needed for that communication,” LaNois said.


For additional security, the Nest Cam Indoor security camera provides a 1,080p HD livestream of a home 24/7, while the Nest Cam Outdoor features a weatherproof, industrial design and has gained a large audience of electricians based on its 110-volt power source.


ECs can benefit by becoming Nest experts.


“If you become a Nest Pro and sell and install Nest products, you’ll get professional pricing and terms, exclusive training and tools, live VIP support, customer referrals to help your business grow, and leads as part of our installer network,” LaNois said. “Nest products work great by themselves but also work with hundreds of other connected products in the ‘works with Nest’ ecosystem such that, for example, your washer and dryer can work with your Nest thermostat to avoid running cycles during energy rush hours.”


Ring


“Ring video doorbell is a dual-powered, Wi-Fi-enabled, HD video doorbell with HD video recording initiated by the device’s motion-sensing technology,” said Jamie Siminoff, chief inventor of the Ring DIY home security solution. “With its two-way audio, homeowners can easily speak with anyone at their front door, even if they’re not home, and all videos are stored in the cloud, which can be viewed in the Ring app.”


The product helps to prevent break-ins and deter crime by giving burglars the impression that a residence is occupied.


“Everything a homeowner or contractor needs to install the doorbell is contained in the packaging, which includes a mounting bracket, screwdriver handle and bit, installation screws and anchors, micro USB charging cable, and a setup guide,” Siminoff said.


Sylvania Smart Home


Encompassing a motion sensor, wall-mounted switch, and a range of popular indoor and outdoor residential lamp types, including A19, BR30, PAR38, indoor/outdoor flex strip lighting, undercabinet edge-lit panel light, and “garden spot” outdoor strip lighting, the user-friendly Smart Home controls residential lighting systems are compatible with such popular platforms as Amazon Echo, Iris by Lowes, Logitech, Nest, Samsung SmartThings, the Sylvania app, Wink, and WeMo.


Home lighting is becoming increasingly more personalized.


“Our focus is on providing Sylvania smart indoor and outdoor lighting products that are flexible, enable the seamless control of brightness, color and color temperature, are easy to install and use, and that can create new revenue options for contractors,” said Aaron Ganick, head of smart business at Sylvania LEDVANCE, Wilmington, Mass.


Because they are wirelessly dimmable and can be controlled individually, offering simple control capability and space design flexibility, Ganick said ECs should consider smart lighting on behalf of their residential customers.


“We recommend that contractors think beyond simply being a provider of lighting products and position themselves as more of a solutions and value-added service provider, because connected lighting not only positively influences decor and mood but delivers the benefits of convenience, energy savings, and control,” he said.


Yale smart locks


Yale Locks & Hardware, Monroe, N.C., has a line of smart locks that are operable using voice control. Yale Real Living deadbolts and levers with Z-Wave or ZigBee are compatible with the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Tap, when used in conjunction with a Samsung 
SmartThings Hub or Wink. This allows Yale Z-Wave or ZigBee users with a compatible hub to lock their door and check current lock status. Voice commands such as “Alexa, lock my front door,” or “Alexa, is my back door locked?” will trigger automatic responses or actions.


“The popularity of Amazon [Echo] clearly demonstrates a strong consumer preference for voice control and the Alexa integrations make controlling a smart home easier than ever,” said Jason Williams, president of Assa Abloy’s U.S. division, which includes Yale Residential.