Boomers living in the wired home
As boomers age, many seek the ease of remote-controlled entertainment, lighting, heating, and security systems
While at his home in Wellesley, Richard Kasper sometimes wonders whether he forgot something at his summer residence on Cape Cod.
Did he turn the thermostat down? Leave too many lights on? Is the garage door open?
Now Kasper can use remote-control “smart home” technologies on his iPhone to check whether he did indeed adjust the thermostat or dim the lights before leaving his Chatham home. With a few more taps on his iPhone, he can then make any necessary adjustments, such as closing the garage door or turning off some lights.
“The system is amazing,” said Kasper, 50, a building consultant and contractor. “I couldn’t be without it anymore.”
For years, tech enthusiasts have raved about the potential of cutting-edge “smart home” technologies that would allow homeowners to remotely monitor and run their everyday appliances and electronic systems with the simple push of a button. Now that smart-home era has arrived.
Propelled by the emergence of digital mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads, remote-control systems are increasingly being installed in homes for a variety of household items: television and sound systems, heating and air-conditioning units, lights, garage doors, security cameras, and other gadgets.
“The trend is pretty much exploding right now,” said Joseph Prentiss, president of Yankee Electrical Co. in Shrewsbury. “An iPhone, iPad, or other mobile devices are now effectively remote controls in your hand. Instead of having to get up to flick a light switch on the wall, you can just touch your iPad while you’re still on the couch.”
Costs for various systems can vary greatly — depending on how extensive, integrated, and high-end consumers want to get with their remote-controlled gizmos.
Brad Smith, owner of Audio Visual Design Inc. in Newton, said a basic, combined, and durable smart home system — one that can control lighting, heating and cooling units, televisions, sound systems, and garage doors — can be had today for about $10,000.
Though mobile devices and computerized gadgets are usually associated in the public’s mind with tech-savvy and tech-obsessed teens and 20somethings, the smart home trend is really being driven by older consumers. In particular, baby boomers are jumping into the smart home trend big time, as their children grow up and leave home. With their new lifestyle, boomers often want the most up-to-date technologies in their remodeled or reconfigured homes — and that often means remote-controlled electronic systems.
Boomers are also getting older, so the convenience of remote-controlled home appliances and other gadgets is highly attractive to them, Smith said. Boomers are also having various items installed in their parents’ homes, such as security-camera systems with video feeds, that can be remotely run and monitored on mobile devices and computers miles away, he said.
Prentiss said he’s amazed how affordable and easy to install the technologies have become.
Thermostats with radio-receivers, which can communicate with mobile devices, cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per device — with additional installation costs also running at about $100 to $300 per thermostat, he said.
Depending on the size of a home and the number of thermostats, a remotely controlled heating-and-cooling system can be up and running in some homes for several thousand dollars or less, he said.
Many people are also installing security-camera systems, inside and outside their homes, that can be monitored and controlled via mobile phones, tablets, desktop computers, and laptops.
The price of cameras is falling fast these days, running anywhere from $500 to $3,000, Prentiss said. Installation can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500 extra, he said.
Remote-controlled lighting systems, also with wireless receivers that communicate with mobile devices, are popular as well, Prentiss said. The purchase and installation of such systems can cost $2,500 and up.
Of course, remotely operated entertainment devices — including big screen TVs and multiroom sound systems — are hugely popular. But the sky’s the limit on costs for those items. Some of the more popular brand names for remote-run sound systems include Sonos, Nuvo, Savant, and Crestron.
Greg Childs, business development manager at Gallagher Home Builders Inc. in Concord, said the “remote culture” is here and expanding. “But it’s still a little complicated and people will need help with installations,” he warned.
Even a seemingly simple remote lighting system still requires installation of sensors, radio receivers, and downloaded mobile applications, experts note. And integrating multiple systems together is even more complicated.
But Childs said he’s “sure this will keep growing and really take off” — with both younger and older homeowners.
With two children, ages 19 and 15, Wellesley’s Kasper, who at 50 refers to himself as a “tail-end boomer,” said he now sees his empty nester years on the horizon — and he thinks people as they get older will increasingly demand remote-controlled items in their homes.
“It’s become much more affordable, and it’s convenient,” said Kasper, who plans to install remote heat controls in his Wellesley home. “I rely on the technology now.”