I want to automate my home. Where should I start? Text

You can spend anywhere from a few hundred bucks to tens of thousands automating your house so it’s “smart” enough to send you an e-mail when your basement floods, close the drapes when the sun goes down and even sound like somebody indoors is talking when there’s really nobody home.  

Maybe that higher level of home automation is in your future, but you've decided to ease into it, starting small and building your system piece by piece.  
A good place to start is with your lights.In its most basic form, a home automation system will turn on at least some of your home’s lights once it starts to get dark outside, or just as you enter the building, or the moment you roust yourself from bed in the middle of the night for a quick trip to the powder room.

A starter system will allow you to wirelessly rig six to eight lights to a single remote control that you can use to turn them on or off from your master bedroom at bedtime, or that automatically shut off at 11 p.m. because that’s what you've programmed the system to do.

That’s handy because it saves you from trudging all the way to the basement or garage if you’re upstairs in your jammies before you remember that you left the lights burning in another part of the house.

But convenience isn't the only benefit of automating your home’s lights. You could avoid falls and other mishaps if your home is always illuminated by the time you walk in the front door. And a lighted home, one whose lights blink on and off at realistic intervals even when you’re not at home at night, can deter burglars.

Plus, automated lights could save you a little money on your electric bill if they automatically shut down when a motion sensor tells them nobody is in the room.

When you’re ready to make your lights a little bit “smarter” than that, you can add onto the simple system you already have. A next step: Program your home automation system to set “scenes” in your home for different events.

For example, your “good-night” scene might turn off the outdoor and garage lights, then your home’s first-level lights, and finally, all of the upstairs lights except the ones in your bedroom, all in succession. When you’re ready to turn in, you would simply press a button on your lighting remote control to turn off all of the lights in your bedroom at once.