Bill Gates was an early adopter. Premier League footballers have been doing it for years – and now even teenagers moving into their first flats have taken it to heart. Home automation, that is…an addition to your property that’s rapidly becoming a must-have in today’s tech-savvy society.

Home automation is the use of one or more computers to control basic home functions and features automatically and sometimes remotely. An automated home is sometimes called a smart home and if you’re into convenience that could save energy and household bills, it could be a very smart choice indeed. No longer just about closing curtains and dimming lights at the touch of a button, smart homes save enough to make a real difference to bills and help conserve the earth’s resources.

What they do

A home automation specialist designs, installs, repairs and maintains smart home technology in your home. They will also be able to show you how to use them from an external device such as your smartphone.

That could mean anything from heat that changes to suit the individual guests as they move around the home, speakers that allow music to follow you whichever room you are in or simply lights you can turn on when you’re on the way home.

What they charge

No longer the preserve of Austin Powers-type international men of mystery or multi-millionaires, home automation has become an affordable option for many. This is thanks to the accessibility of technology and the fact that most of us carry a powerful computer (our mobile phone) around in our pockets – all wonderfully connectable via the internet and Wi-Fi.

Depending on the scope of your home automation project, you could get smart lights in three rooms that set a pre-programmed mood from a rich palette of colours from around £200. If you want to go the whole hog and demand full control of all your home’s electrics from anywhere in the world, expect to pay a lot more. Home automation systems are generally tailor made and your specialist will build a system around your budget and requirements.

What to ask

A few sensible questions to ask your home automation specialist are:

  • What kind of warranties do you provide?
  • What’s the training (and aftercare if things go wrong)?
  • Are you a member of CEDIA and what level?
  • Will the installers be registered electricians and provide paperwork?
  • Who exactly will install everything? (they also need to be fully qualified)
  • How will you go about designing the solutions for my home?
  • Which devices are included?
  • Can you give me a full cost breakdown?
  • How many and what type of interfaces do you propose?
  • How will you ensure no equipment overheats?
  • How will this work with wiring and cabling, exactly what changes are required to my wiring?
  • How will the different systems integrate?
  • How can the system you propose handle growth and change as technology improves and changes?

Trades to trust

CEDIA is recognised as a sign of quality standards in the home technology industry and its members are experienced industry experts. Home automation specialists who successfully complete and obtain their certification are recognised as having a high level of home technology expertise and work of the highest quality.

Any electricians involved should be registered and it’s a good idea to ensure they are members of the NEICI. Registered electricians work to the UK national safety standard (BS 7671) and will give you a safety certificate to confirm that their work has been designed, inspected and tested in line with that standard.

The law

Building regulations for England and Wales state that all electricians must work to Part P; this means they must make sure that the work is designed and installed to protect people from fire and electric shocks.

3 is the magic number

As always, try and get three quotes from three different smart home installers to ensure you pay a fair price for the job.

Certification and references

Don’t be shy about asking for any relevant certification, proof of public liability insurance and references or photos from previous jobs. If the smart home installer is trustworthy and competent, they’ll be pleased (and proud) to show you both.