Meritage dwellings nationwide come with a basic home automation system standard.
Merrick Ales Photography Meritage dwellings nationwide come with a basic home automation system standard.

In just a few years, home automation has moved from an after-market afterthought to a new-home must-have. Tech-savvy owners expect to be able to monitor and control their homes with 24/7 remote access to lighting, locks, HVAC, security features, and more.

As automation becomes an integral part of Americans’ lives, many builders are working to catch up with the growing field. Meritage Homes is ahead of the game by making wireless technology accessible to buyers at all price points with a basic system that comes standard with its homes. At a retail cost to the builder of about $450, Meritage equips its homes with Trane programmable thermostats that connect with Nexia’s Home Intelligence System for control of thermostats, lights, cameras, electronic door locks, and more through wireless Z-Wave technology. 

These offerings are in line with the features that consumers most want from home automation, according to a new survey from Lowe’s. The most important drivers are safety and security, followed by saving money on energy.

Nexia’s flexible open-source system can adapt as technology changes or users’ needs fluctuate, Herro says, a main reason why the production builder decided to partner with the firm. Via Nexia’s website, customers order the plug-and-play products, which are shipped to the home where owners install them. Everything from water valves and light switches to electrical receptacles and smoke detectors can connect with the system. Meritage takes no markup on the products, and about 10 percent of buyers are opting for these add-ons—a number that CR Herro, Meritage’s vice president of energy efficiency and sustainability, predicts soon will rise. “I think we’re right at that tipping point for home management,” he says.

CR Herro
CR Herro

Herro believes demand for smart homes is about to explode, much like smartphones did a few years go. “It enables your home to have a personal relationship with you,” he says.

Herro already is looking to the future when the home automation field likely will encompass intuitive capabilities such as enabling a home to communicate with utility companies to reduce usage during peak energy times. “I think this is the next phase—right now you’re pushing information to your home, but soon your home is going to start pushing information back so you can make better choices and so your home can adapt to you.”