Control Yourself

Home automation systems make life easier, but where do you get these systems, and how much do they cost? We've got answers.

The good news is you don’t have to spend anywhere near six figures for a home-automation system. “Buddy’s system certainly isn’t typical,” says Chima Gale, co-owner of 360 Media Innovations (, which installed Buddy Valastro’s elaborate system. “We can do a baseline system that controls multiple functions—HVAC, lighting and security—for around $2,000.” He adds, “Our typical customer is going to spend somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000,” plus installation.

New Jersey is headquarters for two leaders in home automation:

Dayton-based Somfy systems, which recently launched TaHomA—Total Home Automation system; and Crestron, headquartered in Rockleigh, with offices all over the world. Each has entry-level systems:

TaHomA by Somfy
Somfy, manufacturer of most motorized blinds and awnings, expanded its product offerings this year by introducing TaHomA ( With a focus on what it calls “the energy triangle,” the system enables the homeowner to control window coverings, lighting and thermostats with a computer, iPad or iPhone, either within the home or remotely.

TaHomA is not a security system, nor can it control audio or video yet. “This first version provides the essence of what home automation is all about,” says Steve Iommi, product development manager of integrated home controls at Somfy Systems. “It works the fundamental systems of the home—the parts of our everyday life that need to be managed.” Using the system, he stresses, homeowners save money by becoming more energy efficient.

TaHomA can be programmed to lower southern-facing window blinds during the heat of the day in the summer but raise them during winter months, thus reducing A/C and heating costs.  Multiple “scenes” can be programmed to specific times of the day to optimize the home’s natural and artificial lighting, heating and cooling needs. For example, daytime mode, when most are at work or school—lights off and heating or air conditioning set low—becomes evening mode when everyone returns home.

According to Iommi, TaHomA is designed to be as simple to use as an iPhone or iPad. “It’s very intuitive,” he says. “If you press this button this happens. It requires a minimal amount of instruction.”

And it’s nowhere near the $100,000 price tag of Buddy Valastro’s system. “If you were to put in an entry-level system—one that controls key window coverings, manages the lights and the thermostats—you’re looking at $2,000 to $3,000 installed,” says Iommi.

Iommi encourages homeowners to visit the company’s interactive website to experience its features. “Play around with a virtual TaHomA,” he says, “and see how easy it is. We’re convinced that, if you can work an iPhone, you can work TaHomA.”

Prodigy by Crestron
A recognized leader in the industry, Crestron makes the Prodigy system (, one of the first home-automation systems. There are more Crestron systems installed in homes worldwide than all other brands combined. The success of Prodigy, says Crestron marketing communications director Jeff Singer, is due to its simplicity, its affordability and its expandability. “You can get a system starting at the $2,500 to $3,000 range,” he says, then add on as needs and budgets progress.

Like other systems, Prodigy allows the homeowner to control lights, thermostats, security and entertainment functions with the touch of a button. It’s generally wireless (unlike Valastro’s, which has some 10,000 feet of hard wiring to command central), which means the basic start-up program is simple to install and requires minimal wiring.

Prodigy is designed to be a starter package that gets added onto, says Singer. Crestron’s products are open platform; homeowners can easily add new devices to the system as technology changes. Since all the automation components are made by Crestron, everything is designed to work together seamlessly.  “It’s all very customized,” says Singer. “You can start small and go as big as you want.”

As with other home-automation systems, Prodigy is controlled from a touch screen or smartphone, allowing homeowners to turn off lights while sitting on the sofa or turn up heat on the way home from work. Specific mode settings can be programmed, which helps conserve energy and ultimately save money.

Many other companies make noteworthy home-automation systems, including Lutron and ADT. Even Elan—Valastro’s choice—has an entry-level home-automation package. Gale suggests homeowners contact a local systems integrator— someone who can connect the systems, program them and assure they’re user-friendly. Most will do a no-cost initial consultation. It’s easy to start, says Gale. “Just Google home-automation.”


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