Did you leave the lights on? Check online

/ Source: The Associated Press

Imagine coming home and, with the push of a single button, turning on the lights, turning up the thermostat and flipping on the TV. Another button might shut off all the lights and turn down the thermostat when you leave.

Starting next month, Best Buy Co. will sell a "ConnectedLife.Home" package that features a computer with software coordinating a high-definition TV, light switches, a thermostat and two remote cameras — all included in the $15,000 price tag.

The components talk to one another over the home's power lines and through a wireless network.

Controlling all this is a black Hewlett-Packard Co. computer that looks as if it belongs on the rack with the rest of the stereo gear. Using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Center system, the PC will record shows and send them to any TV in the house, along with photos, music or home video. Third-party software called Lifeware lets the user control the lights and thermostat.

For another $19.95 a month, users can access the system over the Internet, so they can check on the house using the two video cameras or adjust the thermostat while on vacation.

Best Buy, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer, is working with security companies to integrate the system with home security services.

Other appliances — like the laundry machine — also can be added. When clothes are done drying a message might flash on the TV screen, or the owner could set it to fluff until the TV show is over, said David Hemler, a company vice president.

The package, initially for sale through the company's Web site, won't require drilling holes into existing homes. The $15,000 price includes installation anywhere in the United States.

Hemler said Best Buy has avoided using proprietary devices to make sure they communicate well with one another, but he acknowledged that earlier attempts at networking more than just computers have left homeowners frustrated.

"People are right to have a healthy skepticism based on what the industry has delivered in the past," Hemler said.