AMX touchpanels and an iPad app put all of the whole-home control systems’ commands right in the palms of the owners’ hands. And they don’t have to go far to find one. If the iPad happens to be hiding, mounted to the wall in every room is a 7-inch AMX touchpanel for convenient selection and control; a few other portable AMX touchpanels float around the house too. From any of these devices the homeowners can choose a source, like Rhapsody on the Sonos system, select where they want that music to play, and adjust the volume. Dohman programmed the control menu to simplify the process, so that it only takes a couple of taps to get the whole house humming.
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Black Boxes Banished … Almost
The only “black boxes” to infiltrate the house are Denon Blu-ray players in a few of the key viewing areas. The owners can pop in a disc on a whim, or there’s always that rack of gear in the attic that can feed video to any of 11 Samsung flat-panel LED and plasma TVs, including 61- and 55-inchers in the surround-sound areas and a 55-inch display at the outdoor bar.
This all equates to some significant travel required of video signals. A fast, open highway was essential, therefore, to ensure that movies, TV programs plus video from 18 surveillance cameras could reach their intended destinations without any degradation.
Fiber-optic cabling, the crème de le crème of high-bandwidth cabling, was routed throughout the interior and exterior of the house. A total of almost 18,000 feet of fiber is able to carry multiple streams of high-definition video to whichever displays the homeowners select by touching the appropriate icons on their AMX touchpanel or iPad. A fiber-optic video distribution system doesn’t come cheap, but Dohman says it definitely prepares the house for any type of technology that comes its way. “Currently, the most common video resolution is 1080p, but 4K is coming, and the cabling and switcher are there ready to handle it. The owners can just update their displays and they’ll be able to distribute 4K content to any and all TVs, just as they do 1080p now.” Another advantage: If and when the homeowners add TVs to the outbuildings on their property, the fiber-optic cabling will be able to easily pipe clear, crisp video to the far reaches of the yard. “I tried out a TV in their shed a half-mile away from the house and the video quality was as perfect as if the TV was right next to the equipment,” says Dohman.
Beyond Audio & Video
Although Dohman refers to the house as an “audio and video lover’s masterpiece,” there’s a lot more beneath the hood of the AMX system that just an entertainment engine. Packed with processing power, it also handles the home’s six-zone heating and cooling unit, the lights, motorized window shades and 18 high-def surveillance cameras.
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Rather than fiddle with individual thermostats to get each area comfortable—or to cut back to save energy—the homeowners can control the climate in one fell swoop from a touchpanel or iPad. They can view the current temperature of each zone, including the air-conditioned equipment area in the attic, before making a change.
The touchpanels and iPad app also display the status of the lights. Again, the homeowners can make adjustments on the fly, or engage one of several scenes that were programmed into the Lutron HomeWorks system and also integrate other systems. Some of the owners’ favorites are Good Morning, which brightens select lights and pipes audio to the bathroom and bedroom speakers; Goodbye, which switches off most of the lights; and Party, which feeds audio throughout the entire house and back yard, and triggers fixtures to highlight pieces of art.
No matter where the owners happen to be in their house or what they’re doing, it’s simple to operate the music and video systems, lights, thermostats and surveillance cameras. And with iPads, portable touchpanels and more than 20 wall-mounted touchpanels peppered throughout, the customized controls are never more than a few steps away. It’s a setup that’s made the once-skeptical homeowners true believers in the value of home technology, and in this case the second time was the charm.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.