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'Smart houses' help organize your life


I have heard that one of the new smart home total automation systems can cut my utility bills by 25 percent. What security and convenience features are included in these energy-efficient systems?

New smart home automation systems offer you total control over lighting, security, heating, cooling, TV, stereo, cooking, appliances, etc. in your home. With precise room-by-room control over your furnace, air conditioner and lighting, you can cut your utility bills by more than 30 percent.

Besides saving money, an automated system (sometimes referred to as "smart house" technology) provides the ultimate convenience and security in your home. Some are so smart that if you are vacuuming, they automatically switch off the vacuum cleaner when the telephone or doorbell rings.

When your alarm wakes you in the morning (with a good morning message), the light and heater automatically come on in the bathroom. The coffee starts perking 10 minutes later and kitchen lights come on.

Twenty minutes later, your alarm system disarms and your outdoor lights come on so you can find the newspaper. Your morning TV news program is on when you get to the kitchen and the CD plays soft music. In the afternoon, if you leave work early, just call your house and tell it to turn the air conditioner on earlier and have another pot of coffee ready.

You have many options as to the sophistication and types of controls available. Most systems have several controls methods -- hand held TV-type remote, touch screens, remote from a touch-tone telephone when you're away. You can show the status of your house on your standard TV screen and control your house from your easy chair.

You can even program one system to recognize the voices of two family members. By simply saying "Party," the automated system switches on the CD player, adjusts the indoor lights for entertaining, sets the thermostat up and switches on the outdoor lights for guests.

Most of the systems are designed so control signals flow over the existing electric wiring in your home. Each appliance or light simply plugs into a small control module that plugs into the standard wall outlet.

Smart systems provide complete energy-efficient home security. Instead of leaving several lights on when you leave, a smart system automatically switches different lights on and off after dark to simulate a person at home. The lights are on less and you save electricity. Also, you can call and check to make sure you haven't left the iron on.

You can write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 578 showing a buyer's guide of home automation smart systems listing manufacturers, energy efficiency, security, lighting, convenience features and average costs. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope.

Will it save much gas to shut off the pilot light in the oven of my range? I don't bake very often.

Although it saves gas, it is not a good idea to turn off the pilot light in your oven. If the valve is a little leaky and doesn't totally shut off, gas can collect in the oven. Then when you go to light it next time, you may end up roasting more than just the beef.

If your oven always feels warm, the pilot light may be burning too high. You may want to set it down a little, but not so low that it blows out when you open the oven door. After you reset it, open and close the oven door several times to make sure it stays lighted.

Correspondence should be addressed to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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