Have you ever left home for work and wished you had turned the temperature down to save money and energy? Or leaving for vacation and wanted to set up a lighting schedule to mimic your normal light usage so it appears you are in the house? Well, now you can. Technology around the home is changing at a rapid pace, homeowners are now able to control everything from their thermostat to the bathroom lights without actually being there. There are many home automation products on the market, ranging in costs and features that will leave anyone’s head spinning.
We reviewed some of the most popular systems and are pleased to bring you our findings. With home security, lighting and HVAC controls, as well as home entertainment all at your fingertips, upgrading your home to a state of the art “Smart Home” is a great way to control all aspects of your domestic life from home or anywhere in the world.
Home Automation Demographics
Right now the home automation market is segmented into two key demographics. The first is home automation as an add on to a security system. Companies like Frontpoint, Vivint and ADT are all offering home automation packages. Currently, these are limited to wireless control of lights, locks and thermostats. The second segment is companies that specifically create home automation systems that can control the items listed above, as well as HVAC, garage doors, audio and video devices.
The main difference between the two segments is the security system avenue offers a low upfront cost and then your monthly security monitoring bill will be higher. Whereas the home automation specialists will charge a very high upfront fee to install the system exactly to your needs with no monthly fees (at this time). These systems can generally start around $2,000 and go up dramatically from there.
When it came time to review the home automation products on the market, we found that the value that is offered from home security companies exceeded the value from the specialists, so our top three choices are all offerings from the security companies.
Our pick for best home automation system is Frontpoint. This company is also our winner of our coveted annual Best Home Security System award and their monthly home security monitoring plans start at $34.99/month. The next step up in monitoring plans is the Interactive Plan ($44.99/month) which features remote light control, crash & smash prevention and GEO Services. For the full use of Frontpoint’s home automation, users can go with the Ultimate Plan ($49.99/month). This package includes wireless control of your thermostat, locks and wireless video. If you want to experience home automation controlled via your smartphone or tablet that works seamlessly with your security system and without large upfront costs, Frontpoint is your best bet.
- Like all Frontpoint products, easy to install and get started.
- History of excellent customer service.
- Self installed system leads to lower up front costs.
- Control your home alarm system and home automation from any computer online or via smartphone/tablet.
- No voice recognition software.
- No option to control audio/video equipment.
Interactive Plan $44.99/month – Includes home security monitoring and wireless control of lights. Does not include equipment.
Ultimate Plan $49.99/month – Includes home security monitoring and wireless control of lights, locks & thermostat. Does not include equipment.
Learn more about Frontpoint Security’s easy installation process by watching this short video.
Without a doubt, Vivint is a leader in home automation innovation and is very deserving of the #2 spot. You might ask yourself, “What is different between the home automation features of Vivint and Frontpoint?” Honestly, there really are not too many differences, but we feel that Frontpoint offers a better value. Vivint’s Smart Control package ($60.99/month) offers security monitoring and smart controls along with 1 TB cloud storage. As you can see, these are the same features offered by Frontpoint, but at a 35%+ premium.
- Very easy product to understand and use.
- Energy efficiency focus.
- Web-based security portal allows users to access their home security from any computer or smartphone.
- No voice recognition software.
- No option to control audio/video equipment.
- Professional installation means high upfront costs to users.
Vivint Smarter $39.99/month – Includes home security monitoring and you must pay a $399 activation fee.
Smart Protect $49.99/month – Includes home security monitoring and additional equipment. No home automation available. You must pay a minimum $99 activation fee.
Smart Control $60.99/month – Includes home security monitoring, smart controls and 1 TB of cloud storage. A minimum $99 activation fee is needed as well.
ADT Pulse Review
ADT is an established name in the home security system industry and have now entered into home automation. The same features offered by Frontpoint and Vivint are available through ADT Pulse: lights, locks and thermostat controls. What puts ADT Pulse securely into third place is the lack of equipment pricing data. We know from their advertisements that the monitoring package for ADT Pulse is $52.99/month. While attempting to secure pricing information for their more advanced plans that feature home automation, we were unable to find out details, but received this quote, “Each system is customized to fit the home and the needs of the individual or family. We are unable to provide an estimate for security without seeing the home.” This reminded us to point out that ADT is professionally installed which requires an in-home visit before you can get a firm quote on your security or automation costs (equipment and monitoring) so be sure to ask a lot of questions when they conduct their consultation at your house.
- GE manufactured equipment is some of the most reliable on the market.
- Real-time video allows you to see what your cameras see as events are happening.
- Motion sensors, thermostat monitors and video relays are all accessible through your mobile smartphone.
- Customizable plans allow you to access only what you want to control for your home automation system.
- No "Crash and Smash" protection on advanced features.
- No set pricing.
- Bad customer service.
Basic security & home automation plans start at $52.99 a month and that does not include equipment. We do not know home automation pricing and the only way to find out is to call ADT at (855) 305-9283 and setup an in-home consultation.
Homeseer is a top of the line product that stands apart from its competition because of its high-grade customer service. Homeseer has just about all of the features and functionalities you would look for in a home automation system, including voice recognition capabilities, support from most major media players (iTunes, Windows media player, etc.) and preset options that allow you to set your system and let it run on its own. For these reasons, we have chosen Homeseer as our Best High Tech winner.
- Offers advanced phone system that allows you to send emails as .mp3 attachments over the phone with voice recognition software.
- Wide range of features allows you to customize your home to your needs, without paying for what you don't need.
- Compatible with most Mac and Windows based systems and media players.
- Beautifully designed interface on touch screen devices.
- With so many customizations, you will pay high premiums for adding a lot of features.
- Somewhat complex to set up; you have to hardwire many features.
Custom Automation Starter Kit: $569.85
Thermostat Kit: $254.95
Door Lock Kit: $351.31
Garage Door Kit: $269.06
Water Control Kit: $561.08
Control4 is the brains that will get your “smart home” functioning. The Control4 Home Automation System is a fully customizable system that allows all systems in your house, from HVAC to lighting and audio/video, to talk to each other and allows you to control them all from a remote or your cell phone. Reviews on the Control4 system have all been extremely positive, but the one common complaint has been the price. Installation will usually require two people to come to your home for two days to install even the most basic features. With this, however, you know you are getting a professionally installed system that has been widely tested with very positive reviews for the service provided.
- Custom alerts and automatic lights.
- Settings allow you to dim lights and launch audio with the push of one button.
- Security systems can also be monitored with Control4 equipment.
- All aspects of your home are customizable and controlled, including HVAC (heating and air conditioning), Audio/Video, lighting, garage doors and other various sensors.
- Long installation times.
- No voice recognition software available.
- Very expensive.
Installation costs vary, but you should expect to pay about $2,000 for even a basic set up.
Control4 equipment costs are very dependent on how many features you want to control, but you should expect to pay between $2,000-$4,000 for equipment on top of installation costs.
Your total costs will likely range from $4,000-$7,000 when all is said and done.
Crestron delivers fantastic options that come at a slightly higher price than other competitors. Crestron has a powerful name in the global market, and since that name carries weight, they seem to think that allows them to charge higher premiums on their products. They claim to have the most “robust, scalable system” available. One thing this affords customers is great customer service and reliable hardware. Crestron Pyng is their standard home automation product and supports many different devices, touch screens, remotes and mobile apps.
- The touch screens have single-wire ethernet connectivity, which allows you to access Internet content such as email and stock prices, as well as controlling your home automation needs.
- There is a built-in voice control on the touchscreens and remotes and they can be programed to work with Apple's "Siri" voice recognition software.
- Beautifully designed touch screen that is easy to use and understand.
- Once the Crestron Pyng is set up, homeowners can modify settings and create new scenes from the app.
- The Hub is what you need to get started, but getting everything you want out of the system will add additional costs.
- Crestron does not sell direct to the consumer, so you will have to find an authorized integrator/installer.
- Crestron products having many customized options, but making changes to your setup can be time consuming and pricey.
Base Price for Pyng Hub: $599
Whole-House System: $2,400.00*
*System based on one room of lights, thermostat, door lock and mobile control. Larger homes will have additional costs.
mControl is slightly pricier than some of its competitors on a month-to-month basis. The entry price is a lot lower than other non-alarm system automation options, but you end up paying just as much with the $129.99 monthly cost. The good news is that this is a top of the line home automation system with a fun, easy to use interface.
- Advanced software allows you to customize settings to set lighting and HVAC control based on time of day.
- Compatible with large number of media devices which makes syncing all of your settings easy to do.
- Apps for smartphones are cheap and very functional.
- Sleek and stylish interface makes using mControl fun and easy to understand.
- Low installation costs.
- No telephone support from supplier, only individual location dealers.
- No user forums on website.
- Customer support seems minimal but is difficult to gage due to mostly self-installed systems.
Installation cost varies by dealer, but can be done manually with user guide.
Software cost $170
Nest is a smart thermostat that never stops learning about you, your schedule, and your preferred temperature settings. We’ve all left the house and forgotten to change the thermostat. With Nest’s mobile app and ability to sign in online, you can change your thermostat settings on the go. Nest now offers a Smart Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide Detector as well. The price of Nest falls about in the middle of other competitors, but if you’re looking for a modern looking, high tech thermostat or smoke detector you’ve found your match.
- Adjusts from anywhere.
- Simple installation.
- Sensors react to light, temperature, movement and humidity.
- Constantly learning.
- Leaf symbol shows you are conserving energy and money.
- Adjusts temperature when you sleep and has auto away.
- 5 Year Warranty.
- Programs itself.
- Only supports single stage cooling.
- Auto away feature can kick on when you are home.
- No keypad lock.
$99 (Smoke Detector)
PowerHome2 by PowerHome has voice recognition software, automatic and preset controls, and premium security features that will keep you feeling safe. There are a few drawbacks, however. Z-Wave (a pretty standard component for most home auto platforms) is not compatible with PowerHome2 software. The price is slightly lower than some competitors, so PowerHome2 might be right for you if your needs match up with what this system can do. There are no mobile apps for PowerHome2 either.
- Live chat option on website.
- Great for home audio and lighting.
- Extensive home security options.
- Low-cost option with plenty of features.
- Does not support Windows 7 devices.
- No mobile app.
- Does not support Z-Wave devices.
Software cost $99.00
Installation is generally done by the buyer, but can be done professionally. These costs vary by location and installer (DIY will always be cheaper).
Savant is easy to understand from the get-go and syncs automatically with all your iPads and iPhones. Savant brings you everything you’re looking for in home automation from audio, security, climate and lighting, as well as an in-home communication system that allows you to talk from your iPhone to the speakers in the house. Savant also monitors the energy output your home uses and offers you ways to cut costs, making Savant one of the most energy efficient models on the market.
- Energy efficient.
- Powerful integrated telephone system unique in the home automation market.
- If you're an Apple user, you basically already know how to control every feature before you even set up your Savant system due to your experience with other Apple products.
- Professional installation needed to set up system.
- Extremely costly.
Pricing Savant is difficult because it is all dealer-specific and based on what features and functions you’d like to use. The prices below reflect one example we came across in our research:
Wall-mounted iPad controller: $500
Control System: $3,800
Hardware and Installation: $8,000-$10,000
Price per device: $400 each
What Features Are You Looking For?
It’s important to ask yourself what your primary wish is for your “smart home”. Do you want home security features? Do you want to save energy? Think about what you want most out of your home automation system and see which of the companies have what you’re looking for.
Need help choosing a home automation system? Let us know what features you’re looking for and we’ll help you out!