Stepping into Imagine More’s Home Technology Experience Center is a little like stepping into Willy Wonka’s factory. Instead of rivers of chocolate and trees with sugar plums, it’s a world of sparkling lights and switches that control windows, TVs and doors, magically all on their own. All that was just upon stepping in.

Larry Stotland is a Home Technology Consultant and Designer at Imagine More. He was kind enough introduce me to the showroom and explain how each system and product worked together to create a home that seemed to be from the future. A single TV remote that could control everything from your sound system to what TV network you wanted to watch, an app that could control anything from your blinds to when your outdoor lights turned on in the evening. Each component worked together to not only implement an automated system that provided comfort and security, but also energy efficiency and an ecoconscious lifestyle.

Stotland and I sat down to chat about the advantages of smart home products and what they could mean for the energy conscious consumer.

What is a Smart Home?

“A smart home can mean different things to different people,” Stotland says. For example, some devices or products are more important to certain people. An automated light system may be more important to a young family with people coming in and out of the house at different times of a day, than it would be to an individual who lives in an apartment complex. The individual, on the other hand, may be more interested in an all-in-one automated entertainment system.

Today, any home that has appliances, lighting, climate control, TVs and more, that can be controlled remotely (typically from your phone,) is considered a smart home. The main categories of smart home devices include security systems, audio and entertainment systems, lighting, climate control and motorized window coverings.

How Does a Smart Home "Work"?

“Smart home devices can be as simple as a light switch on a wall or a Blu Ray player. Anything that can connect to the home network can be a smart device,” Stotland explains. Smart home devices rely on both the wireless and wired network to communicate with one another and create an automated home. Larry stresses the importance and integrity of the home network in any smart home, pointing out that certain devices (say entertainment systems) rely on hard wired systems to effectively work as smart products.

When asked how smart homes help in saving energy, Stotland pauses and then offers a thoughtful point. In order for a smart home to effectively be energy efficient and help conserve energy, the devices that are controlled by the smart home must be energy efficient. Along with this, the user must be aware of how to properly use their smart home system to achieve optimal energy efficiency.

For example, many Northern Colorado residences have windows with a western view. Motorized blinds connected to a smart home system can help with adjusting the heat and light that comes into the room. A home automation system can automatically, based on sunrise and sunset times, set up the shades to open and close at appropriate times to control the temperature of the room and avoid sun damage. Of course, the homeowner must be aware of what times are best to insure optimal energy efficiency for climate control and have Imagine More, or other professionals, program their automation system to correctly operate.

Where to Start?

Let’s rewind for a bit. Say you want to begin to automate your home and are looking to lower your energy bills. What does a typical home automation system look like and where to begin?

As stated before, a typical smart home has multiple subsystems that are all integrated into a single control platform which can then be controlled or programmed together, and controlled from devices like smartphones and tablets. Stotland and Imagine More install a system called Control4 that will bring all of the sub-systems of a smart home into a singular control system.

Control4 Panels
Examples of Control4 panels on various devices from Control4's website.

Would you start with something like Control4? That depends, says Stotland. There are two “categories” of smart home devices. There are those that are easy enough to install and are relatively straight forward, easy enough for someone without the technical know-how to install and implement. These are the DIY smart home devices, like a Nest, Amazon’s Echo or a Google Home. Most people can easily start using these DIY devices in their home. However, when it comes to combining smart systems and making sure they have the ability to communicate with one another, that’s when it starts getting complicated.

Say you want your front porch lights to come on 10 minutes before you arrive home and the heat to rise five degrees. For these two smart systems to communicate with one another, you’ll need a hub or a smart home system to connect them. That’s where the second category of smart home devices come in; the professionally installed home automation. Stotland suggests that for a more robust, connected and fully automated home, consumers look to a professional for installation and programming. Imagine More offers a starter system package that provides homeowners with a great head start to home automation, full training and installation. (Similarly, they offer a builder’s promotional package for home builders looking to integrate smart home devices into their newly constructed homes.)

So now that you have two options to start your smart home, what ecoconscious product should you start with? Stotland suggests starting with your light bulbs. It goes without saying that you should check to make sure your bulbs are ENERGY STAR® LEDs, but you can begin to save even more energy by installing a smart lighting system, like a smart light switch. “It’s inexpensive and a direct link to automating a light that you don’t want on all the time,” says Stotland. It’s an easy fix to making sure your lights are off when leaving the house or going to bed, thus saving more energy (and money!)

The Future of Smart Homes

Smart home devices are becoming more and more available, making them more mainstream and affordable. Stotland has high hopes that as the industry grows, home automation will become a staple in day to day life and grow to include more systems. As smart home devices become more affordable, so does the ease of keeping your home more energy efficient.

An imminent addition to the world of home automation is, surprisingly enough, your car. Even today, cars like the Tesla can communicate with your smart home system, telling your system to turn off the lights when leaving the house and unlocking the doors when you arrive home. Another smart device that may be making an appearing in the near future are smart wearables. These small devices that consumers can wear will monitor such things are your body temperature and heart beat and communicate with your smart home system to lower or rise room temperatures, lights and more. Nifty huh?

Advances like these can help conserve heat and light, and in general begin to help households across the nation converserve more energy.

A Few of Our Favorite Things

As a fun bonus I asked what were some of Stotland’s favorite smart home products. His answers? The smart home automation system Control4, motorized window coverings and last, but not least, his phone. “That’s where I control it all,” he says with a grin.

So grab your phones, think about what smart home devices would be most important to you and begin your journey to home automation and energy efficiency.

Imagine More offers lighting, home interiors, kitchen & bath, window coverings and home audio/video/automation. Their stores are located in Greeley, Longmont and Windsor. Visit their new showroom and distribution center at 4265 Greenfield Dr, Windsor, CO 80550. For more information, email Larry Stotland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit Imagine More.

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