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Understanding Home Automation Options

Submitted by Nest Bend on

Karen:  This is House Talk on 104.5 FM 1340 AM and, the place for talk. I’m Karen Malanga, your host, and I’m so excited, I’m always excited but today in particular I have Mike Steinbach here with Siteplan, and he is our go-to guy for home automation.

Mike:  Well, home automation for one is a pretty broad spectrum of devices that communicate together for one in order to make a whole house operate. So when we see things in like in the news or on TV about whether it be Alexa, changing lighting by voice or changing basically any function that can form and do multiple tasks at once. And that’s through several different aspects of shades, lights, between pools, spas, motorized windows, your audio/video system, everything integrates together in itself.

Karen:  What’s a motorized window?

Mike:  Actually we have a few of them there that are in houses that have got a really high pitch and they want to let all the heat out of the house for one.

Karen:  Oh, so high windows.

Mike:  It’s really window in it and there’s a motorized crank on it and it basically just opens up anytime that we see that the temperature is getting too hot in the room it’ll actually start pulling out the hot air, and then other windows can bring in fresh air as well.

Karen:  So if I’m understanding you correctly, let’s say let’s use automate as a verb I guess, it could be a verb, when you automate a house so that requires this whole network that works together and that’s really that’s what your passion is, isn’t it?

Mike:  It’s everything actually, because everything ties together. So a really important thing that people need to understand about the home itself before they start adding all these devices into their home is how strong is the actual network that you’re putting these devices on and how does everything communicate. So I go into a lot of homes where there is either some sort of broadband service and as your service provider and they provide you with a particular device like a modem or router, things like that. And I always get the call, “I always have to turn this thing on and off.” Well, that’s because it locks up. And so power cycling these devices is starting to become normal for us, but it’s actually not normal to do for your devices. So what we do is we actually have to focus on a good infrastructure of a network first before we start adding all these different devices.

Karen:  Well, that makes total sense.

Mike:  Yeah, right.

Karen:  I just don’t think I’ve ever thought of it that way.

Mike:  So for example your home we had to put in a new modem, we put in a router as well. And what you’re getting in the very beginning was only about 15 megabits per second. Well, the minimum is 50, but nobody really knows that if they’ve had service for a very long time.

Karen:  And you don’t check on it if you’re me.

Mike:  Right, and a lot of people don’t. And by putting in a good product because now you’re streaming music throughout the house, and if we had left older product that’s in place or some broadband companies have their own product, and it’s not very stable, well then you’re going to be listening to music and it shuts off.

Karen:  Sure.

Mike:  And then you’re like, “Oh, I got to go reset this thing again.” Well, we want to stop people from having to do that, and so we provide a good network in the home itself or in the business so that everything can communicate and it’s like having a traffic cop there, so he’s directing traffic, he’s doing a great job, but if he shows up late one day and then traffic’s a mess and that’s what happens when you go reboot stuff.

Karen:  That’s a good analogy. So I probably had a lazy traffic cop.

Mike:  He showed up every once in a while.

Karen:  Well, it’s been fun working with you and having you help me with my old house, 1929. And it’s fun too just being a little bit more automated. And I know my house is the tiniest tip of the iceberg for what you provide, and you can take it from new construction all the way to updating an old house like mine. So you’re kind of the perfect Central Oregon guy.

Mike:  Yeah, and we do a lot of retrofits and the beauty of that is we have to stay away from the terms of everything’s wireless now. Well, one as we just explained that just kills your network if you have older product in place or devices that are designed to communicate very well. But remember everything wireless has to have power, so even though your phone’s wireless you’d go home and you plug it into an outlet to charge it up. So understanding what you can do with wireless technology is something that people need to be educated on a little bit. So when everybody says everything is wireless I have a wireless speaker, that’s great, you’re communicating to it wirelessly but it’s still plugged in somewhere.

Karen:  It still has to have power.

Mike:  It has to have power, it has to turn on.

Karen:  Otherwise you could have these all off the grid and be listening to your saunas which you couldn’t.

Mike:  You have to have a network which plugs into power by chance, so if you’re a service provider or you run everything off solar, but that would be pretty expensive too.

Karen:  Sure. So you specialize in creating the foundation, making sure in a retrofit that the home has the basic needs or needs to be upgraded so that it can work with all these different things that you’re going to provide, whether it’d be security systems, sound systems, everything. I know that there’s so many things that can be automated these days that I don’t even … I just don’t even think about. I’ll go into some homes that I’m showing, you just push a button, all the curtains go down and up, everything just happens automatically, the coffee goes on, or you can push a light and it’s for the party and all the party lights go on. It’s really fun what you can do.

Mike:  Correct. And there’s a lot out that you can do, but really most importantly is making sure that you have the products in place to do those things. There’s a lot of third-party manufacturers that build product that we in the industry call them just trinket controls, things you throw in a keychain basically.

Karen:  Okay.

Mike:  We consider that. And unfortunately people feel like if it doesn’t work we’ll buy something later. And it’s kind of the wrong approach, we have to make sure that whatever we install has to work and has to work for a very long time. And because we’re a small niche and this industry is growing so big the last thing that we want to have are a ton of service calls because things don’t work.

Karen:  You want to do it right the first time.

Mike:  Exactly. And usually you’re going to have more of an expense in the beginning, in the front, but you’re going to have less frustration so you’re not going to have to have somebody on speed dial every time you walk into your house.

Karen:  Well, I know that when you came to visit my house my children were ecstatic because I finally got rid of my CD collection. It’s like this is crazy. Anyway, it’s time for us to take a break. You’ve been listening to Mike Steinbach with Siteplan, our go-to guy for home automation, and we’ll be right back.

This is House Talk on 104.5 FM 1340 AM and, we’re back. And in our previous segment we were visiting with Mike Steinbach on the actual networking foundation that provides terrific home automation. I think I’m getting that, right Mike?

Mike:  Yeah, sounds great.

Karen:  But now when I do go in and I’m showing homes to potential buyers and the blinds are on a remote control and there’s the party lights like I mentioned earlier, what am I really seeing here and what could I learn when I’m walking through these homes or look for to be better able to provide my buyers with information that possibly isn’t anywhere on MLS?

Mike:  That’s actually a really good question, because there are homes that have been built a while ago that have all these automation systems in there, and mostly you’re going to find them in luxury homes. And in a luxury home application people are typically leaving the system there because that’s how the house runs, as far as the lighting, the shades and everything. And then they might leave equipment that’s in place as well and that’s part of the sale of the home. So what we look at there are times where we’ve been asked to come out to homes and take a look at them, because number one you have to know what you’re getting into. And as a realtor it’s hard to understand everything that’s going on and what is in place.

And that’s where we like to offer services to come out and say, “This is what you’re getting. This is the product. This is a great product, it’s working great. Is it serviceable, yes or no? Is the company that did it still around?”

Karen:  Yeah, it could be at the end of its life.

Mike:  It could be at the end of life. And not very often do we see systems that are at end of life with the exception that they can be upgraded and then there’s other additional features that are available. So we like to look and see what actual company has acted … either the company has installed the system or what system is in place to make sure that (1) is it serviceable, like who has controlled programming of this place, and is it available, because not all the time will you get a home and I’ve run into this a lot where there’s a system in place that only the person that programmed that system is the only one that can access it and be able to make changes.

Karen:  And that person’s gone.

Mike:  That person’s gone, or the company is gone. Luckily throughout the years I’ve actually found every person that I’ve actually had to come across and I get the information from them. At that point we update the system and you’re fine. But the end result of that is if you don’t find that person who’s done it, and these are some particular systems, not all, that has to be reprogrammed, and so that’s a heavy expense when you’re buying a home. Number one I’m going to buy this home, it’s a great luxury home, it does all this fancy stuff.

Karen:  And you like all the bells and whistles and that’s incorporated in the price, the perceived value.

Mike:  Exactly. But can we get it serviced. Somebody may have cable but they want satellite. Well, we need to make these changes. We need to make sure we’re able to do this. And it can be very frustrating at the end to find this out later, so it’s always nice to be able to go in and say, “Yes, this is the product that’s in place, this is a company who specializes in this product, and it is serviceable at that point.”

Karen:  I think I remember one time I had you go out, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you were able … It wasn’t a product that had anyone in Bend left to service it, and you were able to find some piece on eBay. Am I right? Do you remember that? It was a long time ago, but you were able to find the missing piece and help upgrade the system.

Mike:  Yes, there was. Yeah, and I did find that piece and we put it in place. Because the client who had the home they took what they needed out of it but they took this one part that was necessary to get music for the house. So we’re like, “Okay, well, this is what we need to do and we found the piece and was able to put it in.” And now their house is working fine.

Karen:  So you’re listening to House Talk on 104.5 FM and we’re visiting with Mike Steinbach of Siteplan. So Mike continue on here, let’s do this.

Mike:  Well, the house has already been automated; it’s one find out what’s available. We do run into lighting system that if they’re older first-generation stuff that there may be an issue that needs to be addressed, and that needs to be addressed in the beginning to let them know what there might be an expense. And then not very often does it happen, but there are a couple of manufacturers and first-generation stuff that, oops, there’s a mistake. And we corrected it with a new product.

Karen:  Oh, yeah.

Mike:  Sure, that’s great. But the expense of that new product is kind of … it could be expensive too.

Karen:  I know there’s this one particular system that a lot of homes in Bend have, and it controls all the lighting and it’s the one where I get that party thing where they got party or a way, but it seems like the homeowners tend to goof that all up, so when you’re in there showing a home and you’re trying to figure out how to turn on the lights and they’re not always labeled, and it can be awkward or it doesn’t function properly.

Mike:  And that’s important too, and that will bring up to a project that I went to where a client they bought a home in the low part of the market, they never would have automated a home for some reason, but it’s in this house and you have to have it in some of these larger homes just to make it function correctly or make it work and make it efficient. We do successful systems all the time and they work great. One of the important things is it has to be engraved. If you’re doing an automation system that’s controlling lighting, every manufacturer has the ability to engrave every one of those keys.

Karen:  What does that mean? What do you mean by engrave?

Mike:  So when you go in you’re looking ahead says party or a word, there needs to be a name on there.

Karen:  Now that would be very helpful.

Mike:  That says what it does. And we’ve gone into places where that is not there.

Karen:  Oh, me too.

Mike:  And it’s very confusing and you can’t expect somebody else to figure this out either, so we go through that process like, “Well, these need to be engraved.” And we contact a manufacturer and that stuff gets done. But that is a spot where someone has neglected to … I always say that they’ve neglected to finish that project, because it needs to have the information that’s there.

Karen:  It’s kind of like labeling a fuse box in the garage.

Mike:  Exactly, yeah.

Karen:  If it’s not labeled that’s kind of a problem too.

Mike:  Yep.

Karen:  It’s sort of the same idea.

Mike:  You just kind of go through and just hit everyone until you find the one you like.

Karen:  Yeah, well, we need to take another break. That’s part of House Talk and being on talk radio, so you’re listening to 1340 AM and 104.5 FM, and we’ll be right back.

Okay, we’re back with House Talk on 104.5 FM 1340 AM and, we’re visiting with Mike Steinbach of Siteplan. And we’ve gone over a lot of interesting pieces and parts of home automation and having your home network all in place so everything can speak to each other. I think one thing that I’m always passionate about is music. I love waking up to music. I love having music on and throughout my home and into my backyard, which by the way I think you’re coming to my house to put in some exterior speakers one of these days. So can you talk to us a little bit about music systems and maybe take us through the basic system type thing if there’s such a thing all the way up to how creative can you be with music?

Mike:  Oh, yeah. Well, from the basics obviously I guess we all remember we just had an amplifier and we had some big tower speakers and we play music and we cranked it up really loud.

Karen:  And some people still do that.

Mike:  You can still do that, there’s definitely some really good product out there now from amplification to speakers. What we see now a lot of our architectural type speakers, and those are something that’s pretty flush with the walls or ceiling themselves and try to blend into the architecture itself.

Karen:  So you don’t really notice them.

Mike:  You don’t notice them, but it needs to sound, it still needs to sound good. And having the right speaker in the right place really matters. And there’s a lot of manufacturers just like for everything, right? So any order from amplifiers, receivers, to speakers. And everybody’s hearing is a little bit different, so there may be something out there that people want to listen to and you play it and it sounds great, but then you AB it to something else, to another speaker line and it sounds even better. So we’ve actually were able to experience that with one of our clients where they’ve had a theater all the time and they love it and they do it every year, and we put in a sound system for him and he called to let me know that it was the best sounding sound system he had ever had.

Karen:  Isn’t that a great compliment?

Mike:  It was, and we knew the products that they were working with before so we knew roughly about like what their ear was like and what would they appreciated in the sound itself.

Karen:  Really? So you notice those nuances.

Mike:  Yes, we do. Because there’s a lot of different manufacturers that you can just throw a stick in and hit one, but you can listen to certain things and tell whether or not it’s right for the space.

Karen:  Just like the differences in the sounds of an acoustic guitar.

Mike:  Exactly.

Karen:  Vastly different.

Mike:  Yep, it’s a huge difference. So the systems now, what we’re dealing with is when we have the system before where we had a receiver or an amplifier, hooked a pair of speakers, everything was done really well. So we had either a turntable or a CD player, and we had more true forms of music. Now we have less amplification and we’re trying to get more sound out of it, and that’s where the difference of efficiency of speakers comes in with the amplification. But we’re also streaming now, so now we’re streaming audio. Everybody wants to get the best quality of streaming audio, and unfortunately you don’t get it from typically with Spotify or Pandora or any of those streaming applications, but you can make it sound really good. And if you have a really good speaker in place you can hear those subtle differences that really make up the vocals and the instruments that are in those areas.

So we look at these things to where we have streaming application, we need to be able to have a speaker that’s efficient so that we can use X amplifiers that we can power up X speaker and make it sound really good and fill the room up. And with some of these homes one of the important things that we always say is that the more speakers you have in an area the lower the volume the fuller the sound. Because remember before we have two, and we just turned it up as loud as we could to hear it everywhere.

Karen:  And there were usually too unlike concrete blocks with a wood plank.

Mike:  Oh, yeah. Because there’s science behind that, and as far as like keeping a little bit on natural wood and keeping it elevated with the energy of the signal does, there’s a ton you can get into, so audio files are really fun to talk too and they really get it and understand like what you’re trying to do.

Karen:  So I didn’t know that about the more speakers and then the less volume but the richer the music sounds.

Mike:  The fuller the area because you’re going to fill that area more. And we look at that out for a lot of outside applications or rooms that are like everything’s an open concept, so kitchen, living room, all those areas, like I just want a pair of speakers. Well, that’s great, but it’s going to create a hotspot especially when you have guests over. So the volume level goes up with people when you try and turn it up a little bit too where if we evenly spaced some things, like we have four speakers in the great room and a pair in the kitchen, things like that, they can really fill that gap.

Karen:  Mike, we’re going to have to end our program and I think we need to have you back on House Talk, because I’m getting all excited about the sound systems and we’re not able to quite finish. But anyway you’ve been listening to House Talk. I love doing this program. And thank you so much for listening. Mike, it’s a pleasure having you today.

Mike:  Oh, thanks for having me.

Karen:  I’m your host Karen Malanga with Remax Key Properties and Our trivia question today is going to be something audio, so what’s a good word when it comes to audio?

Mike:  What’s the frequency of THX?

Karen:  Okay, that’s our trivia question. What’s the frequency of THX. For those of you that come to and give us the answer, I’m going to have to look it up, you’ll get two tickets to the movies. So thank you so much again, visit and thank you for listening to 104.5 FM 1340 AM and, the place for talk.