When it comes to home accessories, the future is here. Novelty seekers, armchair commandos, busy business moguls and people wanting a little extra security can now outfit intelligent homes and control them at the touch of a button.
Replacement plugs that receive radio signals or custom-installed intelligent home systems can make operating appliances including lamps, home entertainment systems and coffeemakers as easy as pushing a key on a remote. Industrial-strength connectors to control large appliances are also available.
Wireless home technology is old news in the United States, but it has been growing in popularity in Costa Rica in the last few years.
In addition to the novelty and convenience of being able to control a house full of devices with a single remote, many of those going wireless are thinking about security, vendors say.
Wireless security systems can automatically call out to preprogrammed numbers, allowing the user to take control of his or her own security, said David Baker, owner of Smart Home, which sells and installs wireless technology for so-called “intelligent” homes.
After receiving a security system alert, users can use cell phones to listen in to sensors at certain parts of the house or, if they have surveillance cameras, use the Internet to check out footage of the area, Baker said.
A growing feeling of lack of safety in the country has made security systems one of the most popular items sold by Smart Home (249-1840), based in Cuidad Colón, southwest of San José.
Wireless security systems are also popular with renters who want to protect their property and take their system with them when they move, added the British native.
Lights can also be dimmed or turned on and off remotely to give the impression that a house is occupied.
Smart Homes also sells programmable personal emergency systems. The systems, which include a necklace-like pendant and a receiver that can be programmed with up to four numbers, allow older adults or handicapped individuals to call for help at the touch of a button if they fall or become incapacitated.
Wireless systems vary greatly in price and complexity. Baker said his systems can be bought piecemeal and installed easily. A basic kit with a remote control, a lamp-controlling module and a receiver sells for $50.
A wireless security system with two sensors goes for $200.Automatic curtains can be had for about $150. Extra sensors and modules can be purchased separately.
On the other end of the spectrum, IESA ElectroGuanacaste (653-8513, www.iesacr.com), which sells everything from light bulbs to intelligent home packages, installs complete wireless systems.
A system with wireless-controlled lights, a security system and surveillance cameras costs between $10,000 and $50,000, said Marcos Ramírez, an administrative assistant for the company based in Playa Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
These systems, which allow homeowners to check on their properties by logging on to the Internet, are convenient monitoring methods for people who own vacation homes in Costa Rica, Ramírez said.