October 07, 2010
| by Lisa Montgomery
There are big homes, small homes, homes with lots of windows, homes with blue siding, curved rooflines, arched doorways …
Let’s face it. Most people strive to make their homes look unique. But with each out-of-the-ordinary feature that’s added, it can become increasingly difficult to find high-tech components that fit in visually.
Take exterior speakers. Sure, there are those “rock” models that look great in a garden or by the side of a swimming pool.
But what about the ones which attach to the exterior of your house? Most come in basic off-white, which can stick out like a sore thumb on blue or brown siding. Axiom Audio offers the ability to custom match your outdoor speakers so they blend in better. You can pick from four standard colors: spiced rum, cape cod grey, arctic white and almond bisque, or send a paint sample to the manufacturer to have the color of your speaker customized. This will add $60 to the cost of the $330/pair speakers, and four weeks to process. Besides looking good, the speakers are completely waterproof.
Traditional solar panels can also pose a problem visually, especially for homes with profiled rooflines like barrel-style clay roofs. SRS Energy has developed a curved tile that molds right to the surface, blending in and performing than a standard flat solar panel. According to the company, the Solé Power Tile is the first curved BIPV solar roofing tile to comply with national codes and standards. A complete system consists of 60 solar tiles, with an estimated production of 1,200 kilowatt hours.
Another burr in the side of most homeowners, particularly those who live in cold climes, is the chore of shoveling snow. Snow melting system for the driveway can be expensive and complicated to install, but there is a way to keep the walkway clear, at least. HeatTrak’s Residential Heated Walkway Mat. Measuring 20-by-60 inches, the thermoplastic material can be placed directly on top of existing outdoor surfaces, such as turf and cement. As many as five mats can be connected together to cover larger areas. Generating 300 watts per mat, the system melts snow at a rate of two inches an hour. Each mat costs $99.95, plus a $24.95 control unit.
Moving to the interior, one of the biggest issues homeowners face is figuring out the best way to display their flat-panel TV. There are several ways you can skin this cat: recess the TV into the wall, mount it so that it’s attached to wall surface, put a shelving system under the wall-mounted TV or plant the TV directly on a stand. Often, what you ultimately decide to do is totally different than your original plan. Products from both Bell’O International and OmniMount invite homeowners to change their minds without having to buy a completely new mounting system.
OmniMount offers another ultra-flexible flat-panel mounting option, perfect for people who can’t decide whether to hang their TV to the surface of the wall or recess it into a cavity in the wall. The Dual-Mode Installation system ($249.95) lets you install a flat-panel TV, up to 70 pounds, either way. And if you’re not sure where you’ll be sitting when you watch, no worries. The Dual-Mode mount lets you pull the TV out from the wall and pan, tilt and swivel it into position.
The Triple Play TCP-361 furniture unit from Bell’O offers three different configuration options. Measuring 47.5 inches wide, 58 inches high and 22 inches, deep, the unit can accommodate most flat panel TV’s up to 55 inches. If you’d rather, the flat-panel TV can be suspended above the stand. A third option is to mount the TV to the wall with the furniture placed below it. The TPC-361 will be available in the spring for $499.99.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.