A smart conversation about home automation NZ
A smart conversation about home automation

A smart conversation about home automation

It’s the middle of winter in Auckland, and you’re packing your bags to head south to your Wanaka holiday home for the annual ski retreat with the family. You look up the weather forecast for your arrival and Wanaka’s been treated to overnight snowfall with temperatures sitting at a chilly 0° degrees celsius. You’ve got a few minutes up your sleeve before the Uber arrives for the airport so you use the time wisely, open your phone, and within a few clicks you’ve turned on the automatic heating for your holiday home and pulled the curtains and blinds.

Words by M A Building

Creating smart features in your home can be mistaken as too complicated or technical, but the team at Custom Digital here in Wanaka have made it their mission to make the technology in your home suited to your lifestyle and simple to use so you can relax and enjoy it. We’ve enjoyed working with Ryan and his team many times on building projects and know that you’re going to love our conversation with him about smart home technology.

Before we get started, can you give our readers an overview of your background and what Custom Digital offers home builders here in Wanaka?

I’m an Electrician by trade, during my apprenticeship one placement was at a factory working in industrial automation. Whilst overseas I worked on some residential projects where home automation was truly at its infancy and this is where I discovered my passion for automation. Custom Digital was established in 2011, it’s our job to make the technology in your home work together seamlessly to make your life easier - we take care of the complicated stuff behind the scenes.

Let’s start with the question we know everyone will be wondering - over the years we’re sure your team has installed some incredible advances in technology for the home. What’s the most technologically advanced job you’ve done and what was involved?

We have clients in Wanaka who have a passive home. They split their time between here and Australia and along with wanting to monitor every aspect of their home 24/7, they also want it to operate itself. Some examples of what the house can do - when the alarm is disarmed the house wakes up, turning on the water pumps and UV treatment systems, the septic tank system turns to full operation and the ventilation system ramps up. The shutters open, or if it’s later in the day, the lights turn on. This makes it simple for guests who stay, eliminating pages of instructions on how to run the house. The automation system will send an email to the gas company when gas bottles are nearing empty, if the water tank runs low the house automatically swaps to bore water. The irrigation runs off greywater from the septic tanks, if that is low it swaps over to rainwater and then to bore water. If the alarm is triggered, lights turn on, shutters open to allow occupants to exit and the gates open for emergency services. If someone arrives at the front gate, a notification is sent to the homeowner and an announcement is made over the sound system. When the house is armed and unoccupied during the winter, the shutters will open on sunny days to passively heat the house.

Let’s talk about home security, as you know we all love living and holidaying here in Wanaka because of how safe and neighbourly it is here. Even so, ensuring our homes are safe is key so what home security technology would you recommend for Wanaka?

We have more and more people asking about security systems and access control. A video door intercom lets you see who is at your door by visitors either pushing a button or from movement at the door. These are a nice introduction to home security. At the other end of the scale is a full security intruder alarm system. When the alarm is armed, the house is shut down and goes into ‘Away’ mode which may include the curtains and blinds closing, lights turning off and heating switching to standby. We can add a ‘Mockupancy’ mode where lights are programmed to turn on and off at specific times so your home appears to be occupied. When the alarm is disarmed we can add a ‘Welcome’ mode where the blinds and curtains open, lights turn on and depending on the time of year, the heating reactivates. Even your favourite playlist can start playing. You can control whatever you wish!

We’re big movie fans here at M A Building and we’re sure you’ve seen some incredible home theatres over the years. What are your top must-haves when designing a home theatre room?

Make sure it’s a dedicated home theatre room and lose the windows or at least have have blackout blinds and, of course, comfy seats! You need to consider the acoustics of your space. Not only do you need to ensure your speakers are powerful enough to produce enough sound to fill the room, but you also need to make sure your room is the right shape to deal with the sound waves. Ideally, the best home theatre rooms won’t be square. While this isn’t a necessity, I’ve found that rectangular rooms are best for viewing and acoustics. An improperly planned home theatre room will cause sound waves to bounce across each other, resulting in a muddy sound that’s difficult to distinguish. While many people probably won’t have the ability to reshape a room, this fact is worth bearing in mind if you’re starting from scratch and have a level of flexibility over the space you plan to use.

For clients at the beginning of their building experience, where can they start with home technology?

Come to a professional and ideally, contact us at the house design stage. We will design a system according to what is important to you and your budget. Automation in your home is very personal and everyone is different, it doesn’t necessarily have to be horrendously expensive. It can also be staged meaning it doesn’t need to be installed all at once. Start from simply controlling your Lounge audio visual system and the lights in that area to all the bells and whistles.

For clients who are thinking of upgrading their existing home to have more smart features, are there any barriers to retrofitting technology?

The biggest issue with a retrofit is the existing cabling – are the cables in the correct location, are they old? There are ways to work around this, and we’ve retrofitted plenty of homes, by pulling in new cables and/or using wireless products. There’s a huge range of wireless products designed specifically for retrofits.

What is Custom Digital’s top tech pick for making our lives at home easier?

Voice control. Being able to control the entire home with a voice command opens the door to more convenience and it will probably become a control mechanism that homeowners will rely on, and even expect, in the not too distant future. There’s so much technology available it’s hard to nail one down. In days gone by, home automation was associated with homes for the rich and famous but the industry is growing and people are becoming aware of how easy interconnected smart tech can make their lives and a big plus is that it’s getting cheaper. Yes, there’s a load of devices out there that you can control from an app, but it’s not a great experience when you have to open one app to control the lights, another to control the fan and yet another to lock the front door. Automation, designed and installed by a professional, makes all the apps and solutions work together seamlessly. And that is when your home truly becomes smart.

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