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I just got a Google Assistant or an Amazon Echo. Will it work with home automation products?

Yes. Your voice-controlled assistant can operate and program your lights, thermostat, door locks and some other devices by taking voice commands from you. In order to operate lights, you'll have to have a Lutron dimmer/switch/outlet installed where the standard switch for the light you want to control used to be. And of course, if you want to operate your thermostat, door locks or other devices, those smart devices will have to be installed in place of your standard t-stats and locks, etc. However, you do not need to have a voice controlled assistant to have home automation. You can program and control all your home auto components from your smartphone or tablet. And many of them can still work together without the need for a voice-controlled assistant.

What components will work together? There are so many brands, it's hard to tell which ones to get.

The number of automation products on the market right now is truly remarkable, and it can be hard to figure out what works with what. We offer only products that are compatible with each other, and with the most popular voice-controlled assistants. Lutron for lighting automation; Nest for thermostats, smoke detectors and cameras; and Sonos for wireless music speakers. These products are designed to work together, and they all work with the top 3 voice controlled assistants (Apple, Amazon, and Google). For more on these products, go to our Products page. 

Why not use smart bulbs, like the Philips Hue, instead of Lutron switches to automate my lights?

The Philips Hue bulbs are a neat product: you can operate dimming, scheduling and even change the colour of the light right from your smart phone or tablet. They have a couple of drawbacks, though. First,  if you turn off the wall switch that operates the light where your Philips bulb is installed, the bulb won't work. So you MUST control the bulb with your phone or with voice commands. That gets a little annoying when you just want to walk into a room and turn the light on or off the "old fashioned" way. Second, if you have a room with 8 pot-lights and you want to automate them, buying 8 Philips bulbs will be much more expensive than installing a Lutron automation switch or dimmer where the standard wall switch used to be. One up-side to Philips bulbs is in ceiling fan applications where the fan and lights are not wired separately. Installing smart bulbs in that scenario will give you independent control over the light and fan. 

Which voice-controlled assistant is the "best" one for me?

The Apple HomeKit, the Amazon Echo, and the Google Assistant are the three leading voice-controlled "assistants" or "hubs" on the market. They are essentially a voice-controlled lap-top computer. Instead of typing or using a mouse and reading results on a screen, you make voice commands and get the results back in computer-generated speech. Which one is "the best"? Apple HomeKit seems to have the best control panel for all the devices it controls, and is the easiest to set up initially. 

Google Assistant and the Amazon Echo are very similar. They both can set reminders and alarms, add to your shopping and to-do lists, automatically read the news feeds you've selected, control your lighting and other smart home devices, and with multiple units, both can work as wireless hands-free intercoms. Having used them both in my home, the Amazon app is slightly better than the Google Home app in its organization. But the Google Mini has a better speaker, and executes internet searches more effectively. As a result, we offer the Google Mini in our packages. 

We will gladly set up these items to control the home automation components we carry, and we will answer any questions you may have regarding these assistants as part of our one-year free support and instruction. 

I'm not a very "tech-savy" kind of person. Can I still use home automation products?

Absolutely yes. We install and set up all your home automation products on your phone, tablet or lap-top, and we can even program your lights and thermostat to your specifications. If you don't have a phone or tablet, we can provide one and set it up for you. We also take the time to patiently show you how to operate your components and get the most out of their functionality. Because we know that at the beginning there will be lots of questions, we provide one year of free support and instruction for any systems or components we set up and install.  You don't have to understand the technology inside and out to get lots of utility and convenience out of it. And you won't be on your own with a system you don't understand.

Can I still use Lutron lighting automation products the way I use a standard switch? Can I just walk into a room and turn the light on the "old fashioned" way?

Yes. All Lutron switches, dimmers and remotes work like normal switches as well as having automatic control capabilities. You can just switch the light on when you walk into a room and switch it off when you leave.  You don't have to carry your smart phone around your house to operate your lights. Using your switches manually will not affect their ability to be controlled automatically. And, you can set up your Lutron dimmers to remember your favourite dimming level and set your lights to that level with a single push of a button, right on the switch itself. This is great if you have very bright LED lights in a small space and you want them to come on at 75% every time.

I live in an apartment, condo or retirement home. How can home automation benefit me in such a small space?

The benefits of home automation aren't just for big houses with lots of rooms. Even small spaces can be enhanced with home automation. You can automate the light at the entrance to your apartment to come on when you drive up to your building so you don't have to fumble around in a dark apartment when you come in with your hands full of groceries. You can program your thermostat to reduce the temperature while you're away on vacation. You can use a smart door lock to let in the delivery man when you're away without having to give anyone a key or a code to enter. Have an electric water heater? You can save significantly on your electric bill by not running your water heater at peak times, or at night while you're not using hot water. If you're on the ground floor, you can set up a camera to watch your back patio and keep your items and door secure. Elderly relatives can have the security of knowing they can call for help even if they can't get to their phone. There are many ways home automation can benefit your small space. Call us to discuss options and get a free, customized quote.

If my internet goes down, will my lighting and thermostat automation programs still work?

Yes. If you have programmed your lights, thermostat and other devices to do certain things at certain times, they will still work when the internet goes down. In fact, the programs will still be there even after a power outage. The only thing you can't do when the internet is down is access your home automation components from your smart phone or assistant. But you can still control your lights and thermostat manually, even without internet. 

Are home automation products safe?

We only sell and install products that are CSA and UL tested and certified. Our installers are licensed electrical contractors with a years-long reputation for expertise and safe, code-compliant installations.  You can trust that your home automation products will be installed properly and safely.

I'm building a new home and want to include home automation capability. Where do I start?

Generally, you don't need any special wiring to use the home automation products we offer. But it always helps to consult with us first, before you begin your project. We can match your ideas with the right products and make sure your wiring is set up properly for the easiest and most effective installation. Glenforest Electric is owned by a licensed electrician with a background in computer science and education. We have the knowledge to design the right system for you, and the patience to listen to all your ideas and requirements to get you the system you want. Feel free to call or email to discuss your project.

Which automation components do you recommend for my home?

A system with the following components will give you a very good automation experience, save energy and still remain flexible if your tastes change over time:

- Lutron automation switches to control outside lights and Lutron automation dimmers for all shared areas in your home. That would include living rooms, rec rooms, family rooms, kitchen, and hallways.

- Lutron plug-in lamp controllers and remotes for bedside lamps or living area floor lamps. Controlling these with a switch or in a lighting scene is a big improvement in convenience over turning each one on at the lamp itself. 

- Push button timers for all bathroom fans. These allow you to use your fan while you shower without worrying about forgetting to turn it off. A great way to increase utility but save energy at the same time. 

- Motion sensor switches for rooms you often enter with your hands full or where you only go for a short time. These include the laundry room, workshop, basement storage room, garage,  small bathrooms, gym and in some houses, the main entrance way. These motion sensors eliminate forgotten lighting and a lot of wasted energy.

- The Nest Learning thermostat and two Nest smoke/co detectors. The thermostat is a robust device that is just as easy to program as it is to use the "old fashioned way", and it can save you between 10 and 30% on your heating and cooling costs. 

- The Google Home Mini voice control hubs in 2 or 3 rooms. Not only are these convenient and fun, they also work as a wireless intercom for your house.

- Sonos wireless speakers. A "Play 3" in the main living/entertaining area and a single "Play 1" in a few other rooms. These speakers sound great (yes, everybody says that about their speakers but these really do sound nice - and this is a musician talking), and they put a world of music at your disposal in a really high quality playback format. The days of listening to Spotify thru your tiny, low quality computer speakers are over.

How long does it take to install home automation products? Will I need to have additional wires installed?

Most home automation systems, even for large houses, can be installed in one day without any additional wiring or cutting walls and/or ceilings. The most desirable and practical components on the market today are wireless. But in some cases, a new outlet or switch may need to be installed. Rest assured that we clean up thoroughly as part of our installation completion. Some extra time may be needed to install door locks, new LED fixtures or multiple cameras. Setup and instruction takes about 1 or 2 hours and can be done at a time that's convenient for you. An estimate of installation time will be provided to you with your free, customized quote. 

What happens if I want to upgrade when new automation products are available? Will I be stuck with my old system?

Most modern home automation products are wireless, and they don't need any special cables to install. That makes them easy to re-locate and eventually upgrade (if you want to). However there's no reason to believe that products which are 5 or 10 years old - or even older - will lose any of their utility even when newer products come out. 

Do I have to get my home automation products from a major cable or internet provider, like Rogers?

No. Home automation products and devices do not have to be installed by a big cable company. They will work for you as long as you have internet access. But you don't need have Rogers internet, and you don't have to have them install your systems. We offer more convenient and comprehensive lighting control, a great wireless home audio system, and all for prices that often beat the big chain stores and cable companies.

I already have a bunch of automation components, but I just need help installing them. Do you do that?

Yes. We can help you install home automation components you've already purchased. Our installation still comes with a 1 year support guarantee. However we do not warranty items we do not provide. So if you have problems with your devices, you will have to contact the manufacturer directly to return or replace defective items. Call or email with a list of items you'd like to have installed and we can provide you with a quote for installation. 

What is Glenforest Electric's service area?

We operate generally within Peterborough County and the Kawartha Lakes area, in Ontario, Canada. If you live within 50km of the city of Peterborough, you're in our area. Exceptions can be made for larger projects that are a little further away.  Worried that your internet connection isn't strong enough at your cottage? Ask us about internet signal boosters. 

I didn't find the answer I was looking for. 

Feel free to email or call us with any questions you may have. 

(705) 917 2880

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