How much does an intelligent home cost?
The question we are most frequently asked by homeowners is: “how much will it cost to automate my home?”
When you are building a new home and want to include automation in your plans, it is not an unreasonable question to ask, unfortunately, you might as well be asking “how long is a piece of string?” because there is no one simple answer to that question.
One way of understanding the costs associated with automating your home is to consider these costs in relation to the price of a traditional electrical installation and the benefits you gain over the lifetime of your new home.
“What will the cost of putting intelligence into my building be over and above a traditional electrical installation?”
The bare minimum
Firstly, if that traditional installation was only to be a light switch by the door and a pendant light or a handful of downlights in the middle of the room, then replacing that with a modern controllable solution is easy, the user experience is the same and the house will have some preparation work done for adding additional functions later, ‘nothing added, nothing taken away’. To do this is not really significantly more than the original cost. This, of course, will depend on your electrician and how much they add to the materials, but the costs might be 10-20% over and above those of a traditional electrical services installation.
The middle ground
The second option, a more ‘middle ground’ option, is where you take a base-level electrical installation and say, “I want to take advantage of lighting scenes, some fancy switches on the wall, and some additional dimming and be able to control of my house from an app”. Now, you can’t compare this really to the first option as the outcome is completely different. However valuable that might be to you, is up to you to decide – where we are already comparing apples with oranges. The cost is entirely dependent on the size of the house, the switches you choose (there are many different brands supplying these solutions, so it all depends on what you like), and the number of lighting and shading circuits you have. See our discussion of what you get from building control here to see what’s important for you. What is certain is that this option will add between 20-40% to the costs of a traditional installation.
The sky’s the limit
The third option, where we compare apples with artwork, is where you go the whole way, and decide to include the most up-to-date automation solutions possible today and say, “I want to enjoy all of the features, style and convenience of having an intelligent home that controls all the lights, heating, blinds, audio and media.” With this option, you are committing to energy saving and creating a home that will be future-proofed and will continue to add value to your lifestyle. For this option, you might typically spend 50% more on your electrical installation, but by adding speakers, control from a wall touch-screen, intercoms and all the other features you would like when you are living your best life, this cost could increase substantially.
Ivory Egg comment
Our suggestion is to be very clear about what you are interested in achieving with your home from the outset – where do you sit in terms of the three options discussed above? Talk to a knowledgeable installer and get it priced up. Remember to ensure you choose options that will give you the flexibility to add more automation at later stages should you wish to. Then, guard that budget like you would the budget for your windows and roof and don’t let it go. Then as the project progresses you can discuss adding other features that interest you, change the switch styles, or add greater flexibility and control.
Including advanced technology in your new home does not have to be a significant part of the build cost, but it should be well-scoped so you are clear about what is most valuable to you and your budget.
It’s not all about the dollar value today
Adding intelligence to a building is not all about the cost of the installation. If a new house is built today without any consideration of including automation technology, then the cost of introducing this technology later in the life of the home is just adding to the ‘technical debt’ of the building. We believe that not including automation technology in any new building now is simply deferring an even greater cost to the building later in its life when automation technology becomes imperative to meet the living standards of the day.