Common questions asked by new home automation enthusiasts are, “How reliable is the technology?” and “Should I invest in the technology now or wait?” The home automation industry has been steadily growing since the early 1990’s. Home automation technology use was limited to technology enthusiasts, largely because of the inherent growing pains the industry experienced.
As reliability increased, so did the number of users. Home automation technology expanded from being an expensive play toy to becoming a useful tool that could be used by anyone. As popularity spread, more and more manufacturers joined the fast growing market, making even more products available.
What Makes Something Reliable?
Reliability refers to how well something performs a repetitive function. If a light switch can be counted on to turn on a light every time you flip the toggle, then that switch is 100% reliable. If it only turns on the light 9 out of 10 times, then it is only 90% reliable.
Competition has forced the home automation industry to increase reliability. With more and more manufacturers joining the marketplace, reliability of the technology has increased out of necessity. Competing technologies such as INSTEON, Z-Wave, and ZigBee have raised the reliability standard even further.
Choosing A Reliable Product
The question is no longer, “Is the technology Reliable?” but instead has become, “Which product is most reliable?” Each technology has evolved to the point that reliability is pretty solid. Out of the existing technologies, X-10 powerline is probably the most unreliable, largely due to distance and phase limitations.
INSTEON has fairly successfully married powerline technology with wireless in their dual-band approach. Z-Wave is gaining fast acceptance as a standard because of their open-architecture approach that is attractive to new manufacturers wanting to gain access to the marketplace.
When choosing a home automation product, commonsense is the best guide. You wouldn’t buy a new car without test-driving it nor would you buy a new television without first checking out product reviews. Some home automation products work better than others.
Doing Your Homework
Before selecting a new home automation product, search websites (like About.com) for product reviews. Manufacturers will naturally tell you their product is the best, so look further. Read reviews from other home automation end users and find out which products work reliably for them and more importantly, which ones don’t. If you use a product and find it easy to use (or difficult), don’t be shy about adding your own review comments.