What is a Wired Home, and How Do You Get One?

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Going beyond standard electrical for 21st Century living
In our on-demand world, being connected to information and entertainment around the clock is practically a given. But how do you bring 21st century convenience into a home from a completely different era?
To be sure, new builds offer the best opportunity for integrating high-tech home systems, but many manufacturers offer smart products to retrofit existing abodes. As a result, you can now

Going beyond standard electrical for 21st Century living

In our on-demand world, being connected to information and entertainment around the clock is practically a given. But how do you bring 21st century convenience into a home from a completely different era?

To be sure, new builds offer the best opportunity for integrating high-tech home systems, but many manufacturers offer smart products to retrofit existing abodes. As a result, you can now amp up your home's smarts, security, and value with options ranging from in-room conveniences to household-wide systems easily controlled from a single touch screen. Here's a sampling of solutions to mix and match in the creation of your very own wired home.

Getting and staying connected

Where there once was a single home computer, there are now several laptops wandering around, so stretching the reach of your household's data connection is a must and pretty simple to accomplish. Wireless broadband routers are relatively inexpensive and easy to set up, and can be password-protected for security's sake. You can also go the wired route, with a professional extending network connections to key points in the home such as living areas, kitchen-counter office spaces and guest rooms. Want to be really fancy? Get everyone in the household networked for easily shared data, dependable system maintenance and security.

Entertainment on demand

If you are entranced by your HDTV/DVR combination or can't go a day without your personal MP3 playlist, there are ways to add even more convenience to their entertaining delivery. Whole-house systems allow you to centralize all audio and video delivery equipment, load up your favorite music and movies, and then enjoy them from any connected point in the home any time. Zoned controls also mean that different folks can enjoy a range of entertainment simultaneously: jazz can serenade a casual gathering on the patio while a children's movie entertains in the living room and a vacation slide show rolls in the kitchen.

Lighting for mood, effect and safety

The advent of wireless home lighting control systems has made it easier than ever to integrate convenience, luxury and security into a homescape. Without tearing down walls or rerunning electrical wires, RF technology can make use of existing 110-volt home wiring for a retrofit as brilliant as the custom designs built into new homes. Convenient features for setting the scene include one-button vacation/alert, all on/all off and soft on/soft off modes, and security can be enhanced by setting indoor and outdoor lights to go on and off automatically. Even better, you can save money with dimming and overload detection that extend bulb life and conserve energy.

In wireless lighting control systems, the switch is the source of savings and style. Regular switches are replaced with models that can be operated by the control unit or via remote control, even from your car. Look for an open system design allowing integration with many other home automation solutions, including security systems, electronic blinds, thermostats and much more. CentraLite Systems offers several customizable, energy-saving residential options, including JetStream for retrofits or new builds.

Smart security and disaster prevention

Wired homes can also offer advanced security against both break-ins and breakdowns. Not only can you create a protective safety shell with such amenities as remote monitoring, but you can also be warned of such home front surprises as leaky plumbing or furnace that's about to fail. To ensure that you're alerted, motion-, moisture- and temperature-sensitive sensors placed in key areas communicate via RF technology with a base station for thorough, customized protection. System designs range from do-it-yourself additions to professionally installed solutions, and can keep you in touch with alerts via cell phone, e-mail or portable key fob.

Appliances that multitask

You can also tap into wired living by upgrading to an appliance that goes beyond the everyday with amenities to keep you organized and informed. Whirlpool's centralpark Connection Refrigerator is one example of this powerful trend, and becomes not only a hub for cooks and snackers but the place to charge up and plan with such options as a tablet computer, digital photo frame, message center, iPod speaker system and mobile phone recharging bay. Definitely a cool way to stay connected!

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weeklye-newsletter, visit the program's website.

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