Home automation designates an emerging practice of increased automation of household appliances and features in residential dwellings, particularly through electronic means that allow for things impracticable, overly expensive or simply not possible in recent past decades.
The term may be used in contrast to the more mainstream "building automation", which refers to industrial uses of similar technology, particularly the automatic or semi-automatic control of lighting, doors and windows, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and security and surveillance systems.
The techniques employed in home automation include those in building automation as well as the control of home entertainment systems, houseplant watering, pet feeding, changing the ambiance "scenes" for different events (such as dinners or parties), and the use of domestic robots.
Typically, it is easier to more fully outfit a house during construction due to the accessibility of the walls, outlets, and storage rooms, and the ability to make design changes specifically to accommodate certain technologies. Wireless systems are commonly installed when outfitting a pre-existing house, as they obviate the need to make major structural changes. These communicate via radio or infrared signals with a central controller.