Since the invention of the door lock (which allowed only certain people inside your house), homeowners have been eager to control their dwellings. The home automation market seems to be a tipping point in the art: Cheap microprocessors, easy communications, and ubiquitous smartphones make the "home of the future" a reality today. Here, we’ve ranked four home automation systems by varying degrees of ease.
The easiest system to use and install. Pros: Provides cameras, thermostat management, and outlet control. ADT uses its own router for added security. Cons: Though the provided touch screen is big and easy to read, the interface is tabby.
Price: Expect about $400 for installation, plus $48 per month for the basic package.
Controls door locks, lights, thermostats, and cameras via smartphone or touch screen. Z-wave wireless control modules are compatible with other manufacturers’. Emphasis on user-friendliness.
Price: $200 for installation, $69 per month.
Ease: Baby boomer–friendly.
Two basic modules, an outlet and a motion detector, are controlled via smart device. Crowdsource the control menu and share ideas with other WeMo owners, and the entire experience is customizable. (A sensor next to your bed can turn on the coffeemaker when you put on your slippers.)
Price: Around $50 per module; no monthly fee.
The ultimate nerdcore DIY solution: User-unfriendly, but master its secrets and it can do things other home automation systems can’t. A huge selection of control modules even let you run heavy appliances remotely (but is that a good thing?).
Price: $50 for the main module and $20 each for add-ons; no monthly fee.