In years past, one might have thought that having an automated smart home was something out of a Ray Bradbury science fiction story. However, that is no longer the case. Efraim Vaynman, founder and owner of Automated Abode, offers home-automation services at an affordable price in the New York/New Jersey area. Home automation allows you to control the lighting, temperature, entertainment systems, appliances and safety and security systems in your home, all from a console on your phone, although according to Vaynman, the field is “moving towards voice commands.”
His wife, Dvorah, shared her thoughts on the benefits and everyday convenience of having a smart home. She said, “I was not at all a smart-home person. When we first met I did not at all like the idea of having things in my house that talk to me…and then I had a baby and it was the best thing in the world.”
She described the convenience of being able to care for the baby while simultaneously doing basic things like turning on or off the lights. As she put it, “It helps to have a third hand.” She further described situations when she truly came to appreciate having a smart home. For example, once they went on vacation, forgot to turn off the lights and were able to turn them off remotely. Similarly, they can always be sure that the door to their house is locked no matter where they are. They can conveniently and easily let a delivery person into the house, watch them on their phones and then lock the door behind them when they leave. Dvorah sums it up: “It saves a lot of money in terms of lights being off at the right time and it is just really comfortable, peaceful and easy.”
Not only is a smart home comfortable, but even the installation of the technology is done in a way that is comfortable for the client. Originally wary of smart devices, Dvorah appreciated that they were able to automate their home “step by step, so it wasn’t suddenly…the entire house was smart. We started with lights and we saw how I felt about it.” She believes that the idea of gradually automating the home could be very comforting for those who are unfamiliar with smart homes and have reservations about the process. “[Clients] could start small and figure out their comfort zone and figure out what works for them and then with time as they get comfortable and their needs change…they can add products and automation that work for them.”
Efraim not only sets up the system but, “together with the service comes the tutorials. I show the client how everything works.” Automated Abode’s main goal is to set up the smart home such that the client does not constantly need to adjust the programming. However, “should you need to change it, for example, you want to have a special schedule for Shavuot night,” Efraim will teach you how to do it. It is this empowerment, Efraim states, that sets Automated Abode apart from other automation companies: “Some of the very high-end businesses will actually kind of lock you out of your own house. They will you say you need to call your programmer to change anything,” and dealing with the programmer can be expensive, frustrating and inconvenient.
Dvorah added, “The idea is to give people control of their own houses and their own spaces in a way that is comfortable and efficient. Efraim programs the home and then teaches people how to use it. He walks them through it so they are able to use it on their own.” However, she expounded, “this autonomy does not preclude homeowners from calling Efraim for troubleshooting or to request another home visit, but the idea is to give people control.”
How do you create smart homes? Efraim explained, “The first step for most consumers is to do an on-site consultation to assess the home and see what is possible to do and what equipment will be needed,” since every home is built differently. Efraim advises that when building a new home it is best to wire it in a way that is easily compatible with smart-home features. However, even older houses can be retrofitted for smart-home technology. Efraim continued, “We install all the other components you need, but are missing. But we don’t tear down walls. If wires do need to be run, then we push them through the walls. It is a simple process and most of the time can be done in a couple hours.”
Automated Abode not only offers its services to high-end clients, but seeks to make this technology available to everyone. Efraim realized the time was ripe for this sort of business because of the change in the market. Previously consumers would have to pay a large sum for each individual light switch and home automation was extremely expensive, but now most products like light switches and thermostats are mass produced so it is cheaper. The ubiquity of smart homes, essentially, is lowering the production cost of the products, which leads to products that “are more flexible…which allows them to be compatible with many systems. This allows a person to create a very functional smart home for a fraction of the cost,” Efraim said. Automated Abode makes smart homes an “affordable luxury.”
Another benefit of Efraim’s custom installation is that he is sensitive to halachic issues that come along with having an automated home. One of Dvorah’s favorite features is Shabbos Mode. “Right before we light candles we turn on Shabbos Mode,” which regulates their lights to turn on and off according to their Shabbat schedule and sunrise/sunset, regulates their thermostat, places their blech on a timer according to mealtimes, and more. Shabbos Mode also turns off sensors that might be problematic on Shabbat, making the house “Shabbat-safe.” Shabbos Mode also shortens the erev Shabbat to-do list and alleviates the erev Shabbat stress: a really “smart” idea for a shomer Shabbat home.
By Sara Schapiro
Sara Schapiro is a rising sophomore at Stern College for Women and a resident of Bergenfield.