FAQs2019-06-28T17:56:22+00:00

Switch is committed to not only ensuring you get the best solutions for your home but that you and your family thoroughly understand how they fit into your lives. Do you still have questions? We’d be happy to answer them for you! Simply, fill out the form provided here or call us at 509-731-9234

What Is a Smart Home?2019-06-27T03:12:28+00:00

A smart home is a home outfitted with devices that can be controlled over an internet connection on one’s desktop, tablet, or smartphone. These connected devices can be appliances, lights, security systems, cameras, audio and video systems, televisions, thermostats, and even sprinklers.

Generally speaking, if your home has devices that connect to each other and to a network, it’s a smart home. The complexity of smart systems may differ somewhat from home to home, but the basic foundations are the same.

Why is home automation still not mainstream?2019-06-27T03:11:58+00:00

Home automation technology hasn’t gone mainstream for several reasons, but the main issues boil down into six categories: accessibility, affordability, security, privacy, reliability, and upkeep.

What is a smart thermostat?2019-06-27T03:11:27+00:00

A smart thermostat is responsible for controlling your home’s temperature. As with many smart devices, smart thermostats connect to your home network, giving you remote access and control over all the device’s functions.

These smart devices differ slightly from their programmable counterparts. The latter can merely be set to turn on or off at select times. A smart thermostat, by contrast, not only allows for easy scheduling and management but also studies your behaviors and adjusts settings accordingly.

Are all Z-Wave devices compatible?2019-06-27T03:10:53+00:00

Yes, all Z-Wave devices are compatible. You can buy Z-Wave products from any manufacturer and be confident that they will work with other Z-Wave smart home gadgets. The Z-Wave Alliance undergirds device interoperability, and the organization holds a vested interest in making Z-Wave the de facto standard in home automation.

What are the different operating standards for home automation tech?2019-07-24T23:24:38+00:00

The primary operating standards for home automation technology are these four: Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). However, they aren’t the only ones you’ll come across as you create your smart home. Other standards, or protocols, include X10, Insteon, Thread, and Universal Powerline Bus (UPB).

What are the benefits of home automation?2019-06-27T03:09:45+00:00

The benefits of home automation typically fall into a few categories, including savings, safety, convenience, and control. Additionally, some consumers purchase home automation for comfort and peace of mind.

What wiring do I need for a home automation system?2019-07-24T23:24:59+00:00

Most home automation systems require neutral wires to be installed at switch outlets. Even if your home doesn’t have proper wiring, though, you may be able to set up a smart system that runs on batteries.

Which devices are most commonly controlled in a smart home?2019-06-27T03:08:46+00:00

The most common smart home connected devices fall into four categories: lighting, climate control, entertainment, and security.

1. Smart Lighting
Smart lightbulbs and related accessories tend to be fairly easy to install and use. They also offer advantages such as timers, schedulers, and motion-sensing capabilities.

2. Smart Thermostats
Thermostats are also commonly automated, as attested to by products like the Nest and ecobee3. Like smart lightbulbs, smart thermostats are relatively easy to install and use on a regular basis.

3. Smart Entertainment Devices
Smart home connected devices in the entertainment category run the gamut. They include smart speakers, smart televisions, and even smart movie projectors. Some of these devices come with hefty price tags, while others are available at affordable price points.

4. Smart Security
Smart home connected devices for security also span the spectrum. You might purchase a smart security system in its entirety from a single provider, or you might cobble one together with smart security cameras, locks, and motion sensors from several different companies.

5. Don’t Forget the Smart Hub
Homeowners who purchase smart home connected devices in more than one category typically end up purchasing a home automation hub, too. Common hubs include Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Echo, and Google Home. These hubs simplify day-to-day use and management.

What are the elements of a home automation system?2019-06-27T03:06:06+00:00

At the most basic level, home automation systems are made up of three elements: a smart device, a hub, and a connected application.

While some smart systems work with just two of those above elements—a single device that works directly with an app or a hands-free hub that controls smart gadgets—most systems work through all three.

Are Smart Homes affordable?2019-07-24T23:25:09+00:00

Smart homes are affordable—as long as you set a budget before venturing into the world of home automation. As a general rule, the home automation cost for a simpler setup will be substantially less than a complex setup.

Not all smart homes are the same. Some include automation for nearly every electronic device, while others focus on addressing the basics. Neither way is necessarily better.

Does home automation increase home value?2019-06-27T03:04:53+00:00

Home automation does increase home value. More and more people want smart home functionality in their next homes. If your house is equipped with smart tech, you can most likely raise your asking price. You should work with a licensed real estate agent, though, to ensure your price falls within what the market can bear.

When is the best time to install home automation?2019-06-27T03:04:19+00:00

A great time to install home automation services is when you’re either building a new home or renovating an existing one—you get down to the wires in both cases. However, depending on the smart devices you want, you may be able to install them without the need for hefty renovations.

I’m building a new home. When should I call for home automation services?2019-06-27T03:03:49+00:00

If you’re building a new home, you’re in the perfect position to install home automation services. The best time to call in a home automation expert is prior to breaking ground. By getting the entire homebuilding team together, you can talk through questions and concerns to develop better plans and project timelines. Doing so gets everybody on the same page and united around your vision.

You might not have that option if the concrete has already been poured. Not to worry—as long as you request home automation services before the wiring and cabling go in, you’ll stay ahead of the expense game. The ultimate aim with home automation is to install neutral wires and Cat 6 cable before the drywall goes up. Once the drywall is in place, you face renovation expenses. You’re always better off to deal with wires and cables before the walls go up.

How can I save energy with home automation?2019-07-24T23:25:32+00:00

Home automation can help you save energy by ensuring your home uses resources like water and electricity more effectively, reducing waste throughout the home.

You may know that home automation can help increase your home’s convenience and security. But did you know it can also save you money? With home automation, you can make a small difference for the environment—and you see smaller utility bills as a result.

Is my information secure with home automation?2019-07-24T23:25:50+00:00

Some home automation devices employ best security practices, such as bank-level encryption, while others lack even the basic ability to change a default password. Your ultimate security will depend on which devices you use and how you use them.

Because of the potential security risks, many consumers refrain from investing in smart home technology. They worry about compromised data or hacked smart locks. The concern has been a prominent one for several years and will continue to influence smart home applications in upcoming years.

Luckily, you can still take steps to better safeguard your home’s digital security—even with smart home devices.

Does smart home technology work for businesses?2019-07-24T23:26:14+00:00

Yes, smart home technology works for businesses, at least in part. Businesses need more robust and scalable smart solutions, so they often turn to commercial applications.

The driving forces behind smart home technology adoption in the business world pertain to things like access control, security, climate control, energy management, and maintenance. If a business can catch a water leak or rebel HVAC system before it ruins the building or the annual budget, the business will be that much further ahead with its profit and loss statements.

Do I have to make my whole house smart?2019-06-27T02:59:15+00:00

No, you don’t have to make your whole house smart. You should weigh your options and decide whether to invest in standalone smart gadgets or a full-scale home automation network. Some people prefer the former, either because they’re new to smart home technology or desire connectivity for only one or two home functions.

Can I upgrade an existing or older home with smart home technology?2019-06-27T02:58:26+00:00

If you own an older home, you can still benefit from smart home technology. Most smart devices connect wirelessly, so your main sticking points will be coverage and connectivity. As long as you have Wi-Fi extenders or smart home connected devices that create a mesh network, you can enjoy the benefits of home automation.

How long does it take to install smart home technology?2019-06-27T02:57:41+00:00

The time it takes to install smart home technology depends entirely on what you’re installing and how many devices you’re working with. Generally, though, it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to install a couple of new gadgets, except in certain complicated situations. A set of smart lightbulbs should take only a few minutes to set up. Other smart home technologies, like smart thermostats, could take more time. Smart thermostats require disconnecting and reconnecting some wires. You can always spread out the setup and installation of your smart home device across a weekend.

Is home automation worth it?2019-07-24T23:26:36+00:00

Home automation is worth the investment, in most cases. To determine if it’s worth it for you, you should weigh the potential benefits—what you’ll save in time and money over time—against the up-front costs. Home automation services provide all sorts of benefits, some monetary and some not. Some systems save you money on utilities and water bills, some deliver safety, security, and peace of mind, and some provide comfort and convenience.

To determine if home automation is worth it for you, figure out why you want home automation services in the first place.

What home automation systems are available today?2019-06-27T02:51:03+00:00

There are hundreds of smart home devices and systems on the market today, each with different specs and features. With so many options, you’ll need to ensure that the gadgets you add are compatible with each other or buy a smart hub that will bridge any gaps.

Generally, devices from the same manufacturer, like Nest or Insteon, will work with each other; it’s when you start mixing brands that compatibility gets trickier. Some popular smart home automation hubs are Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Google Home, and Amazon Echo.

What rebates/incentives are available?2019-06-26T21:15:04+00:00

Local solar rebates
Homeowners have access to rebate programs in many areas of the Golden State. These rebates can pay solar shoppers anywhere from $500 total to $0.95 per watt of installed capacity.

PACE solar financing: a leading CA solar tax credit
California has a great Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) offering in many cities and counties known as the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Financing Program. PACE financing allows homeowners to finance their PV installation and pay it back through their property taxes.

Net metering in CA
Though there have been some recent state battles involving net metering, this incentive is still available and is undoubtedly one of the biggest reason to go solar in California. In the Golden State, any solar homeowner will receive bill credits for their extra solar power at the retail rate from his or her utility. The capacity limit is 5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand for California’s net metering program – a statewide incentive.

DAC-SASH
The Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH) program provides upfront rebates to income-eligible, single-family homeowners installing solar panels. Homeowners must be customers of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) or San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to take advantage of the incentive.

The Federal ITC (solar tax credit)
When focusing on state-specific benefits of going solar, it’s easy to forget about the federal solar incentive that is making solar so appealing to homeowners across the country: the Investment Tax Credit, also known as the ITC. Now that the ITC has been extended through 2021, every homeowner who buys a solar panel system will benefit from a 30 percent discount on top of all additional state rebates and incentives.

How much does solar power cost?2019-06-26T20:53:29+00:00

Compared to the power you are buying right now from the electric utility, solar power can cost half as much per kWh. Example: Today you are buying electricity from the utility at an average of $.13/kWh and over time, you could be paying up to $.20/kWh as the cost of electricity increases over time (FACT: 4% annual increase in electricity costs based on historical data). When you produce your own power with solar, you could be paying $.08/kWh and you would NOT be subject to any inflation. You can lock in your electricity rate forever! Solar energy is not stored unless you have an energy storage component such as batteries. During the day, you will use solar energy in your home. If you produce more than you are using, you will sell that power back to the grid in the form of “store credit.” Then you buy it back at night or on days when you use a lot of energy. If you produce more than you use on average for the month, the extra amount carries over to the next month.

Will my homeowner’s policy cover damage to my solar power system?2019-06-26T20:46:27+00:00

Homeowner’s policies typically cover damage to your solar power system for normal causes just as they would for any other item attached to your home. Please check with your homeowner’s insurance carrier about your plans to install a solar power system and be sure you are covered.

How long will my solar power system continue to produce electricity?2019-06-26T20:45:24+00:00

Manufacturers typically warranty their panels to produce at least 80% of their rated capacity for 25 years. There are many cases of panels installed for 30 or more years that are still producing at high efficiencies.

I have lots of shade trees in my yard; can I still have a solar power system?2019-06-26T20:44:48+00:00

Shading can significantly reduce the efficiency of your solar array. Ideally, your site should allow full sun exposure to the system from at least 10am until 3pm, longer if possible. Though Switch never advocates the cutting of trees, sometimes minor pruning or thinning may be necessary. Some sites simply aren’t appropriate for solar.

How can I find out if my house is a good candidate for a solar power system?2019-06-26T20:43:45+00:00

When you contact Switch, our first step will be to look up a satellite photo of your property while we have you on the phone. Sometimes satellite photos are not up to date, but we can usually tell if your location is a good site for solar. If everything looks good, we’ll visit your home and conduct a thorough Site Audit using special equipment that allows us to project the amount of electricity a given system will produce on your site. We’ll discuss the actual location of the system, orientation, and any shading issues we find while there. When we’re done, you can be sure that your solar power system will perform as projected in the Site Audit.

How will I know if my system is functioning properly from day to day?2019-06-26T20:41:53+00:00

The microinverters used in most of our systems allow for online monitoring of the system for customers with internet access. For customers without internet access, simple monitoring equipment is available. Most inverter manufacturers these days offer internet connectivity features that allow ongoing monitoring.

How durable are solar panels?2019-06-26T20:41:03+00:00

Just like your home, solar panels are designed to handle a variety of environmental and weather conditions and continue operating at their designed capacity. Manufacturers subject their panels to industry standard minimum tests for loading, temperature cycling, and even hail impact to ensure their products will meet those standards. Some manufacturers take that standard minimum testing to an extreme to ensure their panels exceed industry minimums so that your system will function properly for decades to come.

How is the solar energy stored?2019-06-26T20:37:09+00:00

Solar energy is not stored unless you have an energy storage component such as batteries. During the day, you will use solar energy in your home. If you produce more than you are using, you will sell that power back to the grid in the form of “store credit.” Then you buy it back at night or on days when you use a lot of energy. If you produce more than you use on average for the month, the extra amount carries over to the next month.

What equipment does Switch use?2019-06-26T20:36:15+00:00

We’ve hand-picked the highest quality equipment after combing through dozens of manufacturers. When we choose a panel or inverter manufacturer, we look for things like warranty terms, financial backing, years in business, technology, R&D, and of course cost. We have dozens of customers who are more than satisfied and we know you will be too.

Will the solar panels last in strong winds?2019-06-26T20:14:56+00:00

Every solar power installation we do is engineered to withstand 170+ mph winds. This is not only for our own insurance, but it is a California Building Code requirement. We attach directly to the roof trusses to ensure a secure, long-term attachment of your solar.

How does an inverter work?2019-06-26T20:09:48+00:00

Solar power inverters convert DC power to AC power. All of the appliances in your home use AC power and most all of the world is powered by AC power (unless you live on an island). Without inverters, your solar panels will only produce DC power, which your home cannot use.

What maintenance is required?2019-06-26T20:09:21+00:00

Not much at all. You should rinse off dust and grime twice a year, but if you just let the rain do the work you might not even notice. Clean the solar panels regularly if that area of your home or business is known to collect lots of big debris or is a popular bird hangout.

Should I reroof before installing solar panels?2019-06-26T20:08:30+00:00

If you add solar to your roof today and then a few years later wanted to reroof, it’s not that expensive to quickly remove the panels from the roof, re-roof, and put them back on. In most cases, the amount of power that you would have saved by installing solar is greater than the cost to remove and reinstall the panels, so it would actually cost you more to wait.

If you plan on re-roofing this year, we suggest you go ahead and do it at the same time as the solar installation. This way, our installation team can work with your roofer and we can make sure that your roof warranty is preserved. It’s extremely common for roofers and solar installers to work together on projects.

What happens if the power goes out? Will I still have power from my solar panels?2019-06-26T20:07:30+00:00

Most solar power systems are connected directly to your home or business and the electrical grid. Some solar power systems have an energy storage component which provides backup power during a power outage. If you have ever been without power, you may feel that adding energy storage is critical to your home or business. Fortunately, there are many options we can provide for backup power such as the Tesla Powerwall.

How do solar hot water systems work?2019-06-26T19:46:14+00:00

Today, it’s likely that you have a traditional water heater/storage tank (big white, cylindrical tank) in your home or business. This tank uses a heating element to heat water for use in the shower, sink, washing machine, and other appliances. This heating element uses a LOT of electricity to heat water for you.

A solar hot water system uses the sun to heat water, reducing the costs of running the heating element. This saves you a ton of money and these systems last for a very long time.

I don’t think my HOA will let me install solar.2019-06-26T18:18:20+00:00

Incorrect! California has several laws designed to encourage solar access and prevent restrictions on the installation of solar energy systems. Specifically, the Solar Rights Act. It states that no HOA can restrict you from installing solar panels on your roof based on where they’re installed or how they look. Basically, you have the right to install solar panels and your HOA can’t tell you otherwise.

Most of the time an HOA will only ask for a layout of the panels on the roof.

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