September 3, 2017
We now live in an age where almost everyone owns a smartphone, but are smart homes in line to be as ubiquitous as the convenient handheld device?
At Tahoe-Truckee, there's been a lot buzz surrounding the smart home movement, which is growing each year, but some might still be unclear as to what a smart home actually is.
In short, the term "smart home" typically applies to homes that incorporate some type of automation. A smart home component could be anything from having your thermostat adjust automatically, to just pressing a button on your phone to lock your house and arm your security system when you're away.
"For the custom homes, it's almost a must have," said Mike Herman, COO at Oliver Luxury Real Estate, which has offices throughout the basin and several smart home properties. "Some of the younger generation of people that are building some of these custom homes that have grown up with technology, it's just a natural fit for them to integrate that into their home.
"The majority of the new, custom homes that are being built have those features. Whether it's thermostat, AC, lighting, security, cameras. All of that. That's what we're seeing."
Most homes are set up on a centralized control system like Savant or ELAN Home Systems. Another popular control system is Nest, which was purchased by Google in 2014.
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Herman said the smart homes he has on the market have varying features, with some being fully integrated and others just having more simple features like a smart thermostat.
"We have anything from motion sensors that detect if you're home so it can adjust the thermostat to electronic shades," he said. "I've had several people who come to view a home and only want to view ones that are smart home features."
The growth of remote monitoring
Epic AV Automation (EAVA), which has one of its offices in Truckee, has been in the business of home technology since 2005 and sells smart home features of all kinds. Aside from the more traditional features like lighting or cameras, EAVA has been taking some of its innovations beyond just convenience.
"We started rolling out what we're calling a mechanical monitoring solution," said Scott Ruzich, co-founder of the business.
"What we're doing with that is putting in an intelligent water control valve on the water main of the house. That valve has intelligence and communicates with the control system that monitors water flow. You can adjust it to home or away settings so there will be either a high or low tolerance for measuring gallons-per-minute."
Ruzich said that once the threshold the homeowner has set is surpassed, a notification will be sent immediately, and the valve will shut off the water.
"We have several homes that in the trial phase of this now," said Ruzich. "This doesn't necessarily completely eliminate the risk of water damage, but when you have something like this installed, it could mean the difference from just having a cleanup with a mop to having thousands or millions of dollars worth of damage."
Herman added that the Tahoe-Truckee region is ideal for this type of monitoring. He explained that a lot of the homes he's sold are actually second or vacation homes, so remote monitoring is almost a requirement.
"You need to be able to monitor the home when you're away," said Herman. "If there are power outages, snow storms or any other weather event, people want to be able to access cameras and check the thermostat, or anything like that."
A significant — but valuable — investment
More along the lines of installing smart home features, Blue Lake Home Theater (BLHT) has been operating in South Lake Tahoe for five years, and they see more smart home technology being used by their clients and plan on expanding their integration of smart home features.
BLHT offers anything from security cameras to home theaters. The company specializes in installation of almost anything electronic that could be integrated into a smart home system.
"We don't provide full smart home integrations just yet," said Rick Penny, COO at BLHT. "That's definitely something we'd like to begin to offer within the next year or two. More and more people are getting on board with that technology, and it's something I've seen more of."
Smart home integration can be a significant investment, but it can also make a home much more valuable.
"I probably average selling one or two smart homes each month," said Herman. "I saw a home that sold for $100,000 more that an average home of the same size because it had all of the smart home feature built in."
Herman and Ruzich both said that smart home technology and homeowners incorporating such technology will only increase over time. Although most people have to weigh the overall cost and benefit, Herman and Ruzich agree that over time, the technology will become more advanced, affordable and available to more people.