Electric Home Design is about planning how you want your home to function electrically – creating a space that enhances daily life and sets you up for the future
When planning a renovation, we often miss a key piece of the puzzle that is part of your every day, and when planned right, can work seamlessly to make our home living smarter, safer, more stylish and sustainable. This is a concept we call Electric Home Design.
We asked electrician Nathan Johnston of Johnston Electrical Services to help us break down the top 10 questions he often gets asked about Electric Home Design.
Why should I think about Electric Home Design?
“Electrical is a really big part of everyone’s home, but without a good electrical infrastructure a house is lacking,” says Nathan. It can be the difference between creating an average home and an amazing one. “You don’t want to get to the end of your project and find you don’t have enough power points or good internet and you’re not able to do what you want to do in your house.”
“Electric Home Design can add new and exciting features to a home. All it takes is talking to your electrician, because to me, it’s about understanding how the client wants to live in their home, and how their home can work for them, and making that a reality.”
Does Electric Home Design mean having a smart home?
“Electric Home Design is whatever creating a home that you and your family love,” says Nathan. “Whether that’s modernising the home with new switches and power points, making it a smart home, or just having a functional home with plenty of power points and good lighting.”
Should I consider smart home automation?
Smart homes are a great way to add convenience, comfort and control to your life. It can also help you save power and enhance security around your home. “Smart home tech is already in nearly every house at the moment,” says Nathan. “From something as little as an app-based doorbell to PDL Iconic smart-enabled switches, or a fully automated smart home using PDL Wiser Smart Home. It’s about helping people to create easier living within their homes.”
A smart home works for you, and the technology is increasingly affordable, and scalable, and systems like PDL Wiser don’t require any special wiring.
How should I budget for electrical?
Discuss your ideal electrical plan with your electrician in the planning stages of your build or renovation, that way you can set the right amount of money aside from the get-go.
While building or renovating, it’s a good idea to invest your money in things that you can’t do yourself. You can always save up and buy décor and furniture later, but having your electrician come back to add to and adjust your electrical plan later will end up costing you more in the long run, especially if they have to add new cabling or rewire your home.
Electrical safety solutions should however never be left for later as they protect you, your investment in your home, and your loved ones.
Create a smart home at your own pace
Nathan says smart home automation can be gradual too.
“Start with the things that you know you want to automate, like having your outdoor lights turn on and off at certain times, having your living room blinds automatically close at preset times, or having your bathroom fan and heated towel rail automatically turn on when moisture is detected and off when no longer needed.”
You can always add additional features as your lifestyle and needs change.
“PDL Wiser has made it a lot easier to do home automation on a budget.”
How do I create an electrically functional home?
A functional home is one that meets all your electrical requirements. “It’s crucial, as not enough lighting and lack of power points can really affect your enjoyment of your home,” says Nathan. It’s therefore key that you bring your electrician in on the project early, they will be full of helpful advice on how you can get the best out of your home.
He says good internet should also be a key consideration. “Many people make the mistake of running a whole house on Wi-Fi, but a hard-wired network system with connections in bedrooms, home office, lounge and anywhere there’s a TV or computer, as well as adding a good router/modem, will ensure everyone can be online at the same time without affecting each other.”
His other tips include upgrading to energy-efficient LED lights, installing smart-enabled switches and power points like PDL Iconic, and making sure your switchboard is easy to access, with appropriate safety features.
How do I know that my home is electrically safe?
“The switchboard can get overlooked because people don’t understand the safety of what can actually happen inside it,” points out Nathan. Your electrician will be able to guide you on this and explain to you exactly what each component does and why. It is definitely worth asking them to review even if you’re not necessarily undergoing a major renovation or building new because surprisingly, many homes don't have adequate protection in place.
Basically, you’ll want to be sure that your home has three levels of electrical protection: surge protection, fire protection and people protection
Surge protection will help to protect the investment you made in your valuable appliances such as fridges, washing machines and dryers from lightning strikes, power surges and voltage spikes.
Fire protection on the other hand will help protect your home against arc faults, one of the most common causes of electrical fires. Nathan recommends adding AFDDs (Arc Fault Detection Devices) to your switchboard as they can detect electric arc faults in cabling before they ignite and potentially cause a fire. They’re ideal for homes where cables could get squashed behind furniture, or with lots of appliances and devices plugged in.
You’ll also want to be sure that you have good-quality smoke alarms throughout your home.
Your electrician will install an RCD (Residential Current Device) or similar device to help protect the people in your home against electrical shocks.
How can good lighting enhance my home’s aesthetics?
Nathan recommends thinking about your overall style and the effect you want to create from the moment someone arrives. “In one house, we added a recessed LED strip to highlight a wall at the entrance, so the light washes right down it.” Outdoor lights are also a really great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal.
Lighting in kitchen
“For kitchens, where everyone gathers when you’re entertaining, I’m finding that people want a more modern look. So we’ll put in black switches and power points to match black tapware, add LED strips to highlight areas, or install a bold statement light.”
Good lighting will add to your home’s appeal, inside and out, and switches and power points such as the Iconic Styl and Iconic Essence ranges will complement your home’s style.
Does smart home automation mean lots of wall clutter?
Not at all! A smart home system like PDL Wiser runs off an app on your smartphone, or it can be controlled with a smart speaker. The smarts are wired in behind your switches and power points which are available range of beautiful colours and finishes.
“Some of the automation systems used to have touch screens everywhere and it did overcomplicate it,” says Nathan. “But with a system like PDL Wiser you can use your wall switches, as well as the app.”
Can I add to my home automation?
Yes – it is easy to add to the PDL Wiser smart home system because it doesn’t require any special cabling.
“I use PDL Iconic for smart homes because it gives that option to upgrade later on and we don't have to change the way we wire a house in any way,” explains Nathan. “In the back end, it’s just swapping out the old switch mechanism for a new, smarter one.”
How do I get started with Electric Home Design?
Grab a coffee, get comfortable and imagine yourself using each area of your home – what would enhance it? Sensor lights in the pantry? A two-way light switch in a long hallway? Garden lights that come on at dusk? Then, talk to your electrician about it.
“I’ll sit down with a client and their house plan and we’ll go room by room,” says Nathan. “We’ll talk about what they want to achieve in each room with lighting, air conditioning, connectivity, and any smart elements they might want to add.”
Planning is key
He recommends thinking specifically about where furniture and appliances might go too, to make sure you have enough power points in the right spots. It’s also important to not only think about how you’d want to use your home now, but what you might want in the future. Will the home office be converted into a nursery down the road? Or maybe your garage will be used as a multifunctional space where you can work on DIY projects, or maybe it’ll become a home gym? Talk through all these scenarios with your electrician to ensure you set yourself, your home and your family up for the future.
Electric Home Design Magazine
Room-by-room inspiration and planning advice