SUNRIVER ST. GEORGE, A SOUTHERN Utah retirement community, now offers a home automation system that lets homeowners manage everyday tasks such as HVAC, lighting, and security over the same touchscreen panel or Web tablet that controls their cable television, home videos, and audio system.

SunRiver Development made its first foray into home technology about two years ago when it installed a fiber-optic network. The new home automation features promise to advance SunRiver St. George's reputation as a desirable, technology-oriented retirement community that keeps pace with the latest trends.

POWER HOUSE: Honeywell's low-cost home automation system offers an easy way to deliver integrated HVAC, home security, and lighting.
POWER HOUSE: Honeywell's low-cost home automation system offers an easy way to deliver integrated HVAC, home security, and lighting.

“We broke ground in 1998, and at that point we saw the technology coming,” says Darcy Stewart, managing partner of Sun-River St. George, who at press time said that about 850 units were occupied. The community will build out to 2,200 units over the next four years. Single-family homes start at $190,000 and run to more than $500,000.

A NICE PRICE SunRiver's basic system includes HVAC and security, and each feature plugs in to a Honeywell structured wiring system, which comes standard in every home. This basic system starts at about $2,200. An integrated home automation system used to cost in excess of $50,000. How can SunRiver St. George offer this so inexpensively?

Well, Honeywell partnered with home networking company In2 Networks, which makes an Internet control module (ICM) that converts the different protocols of the HVAC, lighting, and security systems and turns them into Internet protocol (IP), the communications standard of the Internet. The ability to communicate over IP lets Honeywell mix and match the most efficient components, as opposed to building expensive proprietary systems.

“What's really exciting about this is that in the past, if you wanted to have home automation, you needed to have one whole system—one company tried to make everything,” says Levi Bouwman, Honeywell's sales director of home builder national accounts.

“In the past, people basically had a mainframe computer with a central processing unit that controlled all the home functions, so if the power went down, you would have to reboot the entire system,” Bouwman explains.

“Now, if the ICM goes down, your lighting, security, and HVAC won't communicate with one another, but they would continue to work, operating independently,” says Bouwman, adding that if the ICM goes down, a homeowner would operate the lights manually until the ICM came back online.

Bouwman says another big selling point for builders is that the integrated system can be installed without having to change the trade contractor's routine. In the past, he says, integration was difficult because the HVAC person didn't want to be responsible for the security and structured wiring, or the security person didn't want to deal with the HVAC.

“Now, each individual trade is responsible for his portion of the system, which is integrated through the ICM,” says Bouwman. “This is a major ‘aha' for builders and developers,” he notes, adding that for homeowners, it's the same thermostat and light switch they've always dealt with, but now the two are tied together.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: St. George, UT.