The Block NZ 2012 winner Ben Crawford and his fiancé Kylie are building their dream home. Share their proud moments and pitfalls here every week.

When I was growing up, the television show Beyond 2000 was must-see, destination viewing. It was the early 90s and I remember sitting round the telly with mum and dad, all of us amazed at the gadgets they predicted we might be living with in the 21st century.

The slightly scary thing is we're 15 years beyond the turn of the century now, a fact I'm rapidly reminded of as I vainly pluck grey hairs from my temples with increased frequency. But the exciting thing is, those concepts that seemed so futuristic are now commonplace and more affordable.

When we started designing our house, home automation sounded fantastic. It was definitely a nice-to-have but other items were given higher priority because we thought automation would cost a fortune. But when Kylie and I went to the Home Ideas Centre in Parnell we found out otherwise.

As we wandered the labyrinth of corridors, packed to the brim with everything you could ever need in a home, we come across the econnecx booth. After reading through all of the information, it seemed that for around $3000, we could have a full econnecx system installed. This would then allow us to control heating, lighting and security with the touch of a button from our phones or computers, anywhere in the world. Plus, we could set up schedules so our house would function automatically.

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It seemed a little too good to be true, though, as other options we'd looked at cost considerably more. As we investigated the system, we found econnecx doesn't use external hardware controls, like expensive light switches or touch screens. Instead, you use your computer or phone and the wiring already in your home. Pretty clever, if you ask me and we eventually decided it was a must-have.

You need an electrician to install the system. So a few days before our first fix, Kylie and I sat down with our sparky, Matt Slater from EAV, to customise what we wanted to control via econnecx.

First, we decided to fully use the security functions available. That means we'll be able to remotely open our house from the econnecx app and check if the alarm is set or not.

Ben looking through the electrical plan with electrician Matt Slater of EAV to confirm which aspects of their house they wish to control through econnecx. Photo / Ben Crawford
Ben looking through the electrical plan with electrician Matt Slater of EAV to confirm which aspects of their house they wish to control through econnecx. Photo / Ben Crawford

Great for peace of mind, but practically we can let in tradespeople and lock up after them, for example, without handing over a key. Or if we have guests to stay and they arrive before we get home, we can let them in.

Then we added additional security benefits by asking Matt to enable some exterior and internal lights to turn on and off at set times. Once we move in, we'll then pre-programme the on and off times, even setting them to alter automatically based on the seasons and whether it's a weekday or weekend.

Maximising the energy savings an automation system provides is a no brainer. Since we've built such an efficient system with our structural insulated panels, it's ridiculous to then waste power through old-school lighting and heating control.

While Ben and Kylie will set up their home on automated schedules, they'll still be able to turn lights and appliances off and on manually too. Photo / Ben Crawford
While Ben and Kylie will set up their home on automated schedules, they'll still be able to turn lights and appliances off and on manually too. Photo / Ben Crawford

So our heating system, towel rails and under-floor heating will be connected to econnecx, allowing us to schedule them to turn on and off when they're needed based on our daily routines.

For example we can set them to turn on before we get up, turn off when we leave for work then be back on again before we get home and shut down for the night when we go to bed.

Finally we decided to set up all our standby appliances, like TVs, stereos and chargers, to turn off while we're not at home, saving a surprisingly large amount of power every day.

Kylie trying out the econnecx mobile app - with a simple push of a button they'll be able to control their lights, heating or home security from anywhere in the world. Photo / Ben Crawford
Kylie trying out the econnecx mobile app - with a simple push of a button they'll be able to control their lights, heating or home security from anywhere in the world. Photo / Ben Crawford

It felt very futuristic confirming these automated features that will enhance our lifestyle and bank balance. And it seems surprisingly easy.

Matt installed the central control box by our main switchboard in no time at all. It's ready to wire in the appliances and circuits once they're fitted. He will then set up the econnecx app for us when we move in.

However, after seeing how simple the interface is, it will only take a couple of minutes to customise the schedules and create our own automated home - very Beyond 2000.

That reminds me, I must ask Matt which button makes the bed for you.

• Find out more about Ben and Kylie's dream home at ourdreamhome.co.nz

For more information on the Kiwibank First Home Buyer's Guide visit: kiwibank.co.nz and search for "first home".