Kevin Wright had an idea. Instead of building plain-Jane houses, he would create a name for his business, Kevin Wright Builders, by incorporating touches of technology into every abode he constructed, from $120,000 starter homes to $1 million estates. He would learn all he could about electronic systems, align himself with a knowledgeable home systems installer and introduce homebuyers of all economic levels to amenities like structured wiring, home theaters and whole-house music systems. The plan worked. Kevin and his electronics design partner Jason Jespersen of Premier Audio and Images have been blending technology seamlessly into homes in and around Muskegon, MI, for seven years, and they’re still going strong. One of their latest and most elaborate projects just happens to be Kevin’s own home.
On the drawing board for the new 6,500-square-foot abode was an architectural lighting system, an automated seven-zone heating and cooling system, a whole-house music system and a dedicated nine-seat theater. Having lived with a few modest systems in his previous home, Kevin was ready to take things up a notch. But the decision to go full bore wasn’t based solely on his penchant for cool electronics gear. The home would also be used as a showcase for his potential clients. “We put [the house] in a Parade of Homes and had almost 2,000 people go through it,” he raves. “It was a great way for prospective customers to see sophisticated technologies in action and discover how electronics and good home design can coexist.”
After the Parade
Months after the parade, the systems in Kevin and Kay Wright’s home are still marching on. In fact, those systems have become so entrenched in their daily lives, the couple can’t imagine living without them. “The lighting in particular is a huge convenience,” says Kevin. “For example, there’s a night-light in my son’s room that we can turn on and off from any keypad in the house. I can shut off every light before going to bed from a remote control and be notified of visitors by having the lights in the home office and theater brighten automatically.” These are just a few of the many features the Wrights are enjoying from their Vantage Q-Link system. It also enhances the beauty of the residence by adjusting the brightness levels of preset groups of lights. “More than 100 loads of lights have been grouped into scenes,” Jason explains. “There’s a lighting scene for when the Wrights have guests, another for when they are showing the house to clients, and other scenes that set lights in the theater for a movie, intermission and clean up.”
While each scene might alter the intensity of more than a dozen different lights, the Wrights need only touch one button to control them all. Several custom-engraved scene buttons are consolidated onto a keypad no larger than a standard-size wall switch. “This is one of the best features about the system,” claims Jason. “The keypads eliminate the need to clutter the walls with banks of traditional wall switches, something I like to call ‘wall acne.’” Adds Kevin: “Cosmetically, the keypads just look better.”
The eye-pleasing keypads aren’t the Wrights’ only means of control, however. Strategically placed motion detectors and floor sensors automatically snap on fixtures when Kevin or Kay walk into certain areas or step on particular sections of the floor. For instance, anytime Kevin or Kay get out of bed at night, floor sensors tell the Vantage system to softly illuminate baseboard fixtures to create a pathway from the master bedroom to the bathroom. Motion sensors, meanwhile, switch on the closet lights for the Wrights when their hands are full.
Conserving Their Energy
As beautiful as lighting can be, illuminating a large home can be costly. So can heating and cooling it. The Vantage system conserves both resources by keeping the lights at a dim level and automatically adjusting the temperature based on Kevin and Kay’s daily schedule. Seven thermostats are under the command of the Vantage system, giving the Wrights the ability to heat and cool portions of their home separately. For example, they might keep the theater at 65 degrees, the bedrooms at 70 degrees and the unoccupied guest rooms at 60 degrees. Temperature adjustments can be made at two interactive Vantage touchpanels, one of which is located in the master bedroom and the other in the kitchen. “If I’m in the bedroom, I can use the touchpanel to see the temperatures of the other six zones, make changes if necessary and even get a reading of the outdoor temperature,” says Kevin. “Here in Michigan, where the temperature can swing drastically from one day to the next, having that outdoor reading is particularly helpful.” The Vantage touchpanels tie the Wrights to the outdoors visually as well. They can call up views from four outdoor security cameras to check out the driveway, deck and courtyard.
Having a variety of keypads and touchpanels has simplified other matters in the Wright household, like finding the perfect song to play over the Russound CAV 6.6 whole-house music system. Jason fitted several keypads with a button labeled favorite. This command instantly tunes to Kevin or Kay’s favorite radio station and sets the lights to match the mood of the tune. “Music and lighting just seem to go hand in hand,” Kevin explains. “We especially like the favorite setup in our home office and exercise room. We can hit just one button and have the lights and music exactly the way we want them.”
Of course, the homeowners can always tune to a different station or play a CD by using one of the wall-mounted Russound keypads. Each of the home’s nine keypads is equipped with an LCD screen, which makes finding a particular station or song a breeze. The screen displays a listing of AM and FM channels, satellite channels and CD titles. The Wrights just tap the music they want, and the Russound system pulls music from the Russound tuner, the Panasonic 5-disc CD/DVD player or the Dish Network satellite receiver, which are all stowed in a special equipment room in the basement. In seconds, the song is delivered to the room’s in-wall or in-ceiling SpeakerCraft speakers. From there, the Wrights can use the keypad to adjust the volume, select something else to listen to or tell the system to play the song through every speaker in the house.
An Added Bonus
Entertainment comes in more forms than just music in the Wright household, however. The bonus room above the garage was designed explicitly for fun, featuring a dedicated theater, a separate billiards room with kitchenette, and an Xbox-equipped game room for Kevin and Kay’s 6-year-old son, Denver, and his friends. Every room in the bonus area has access to the Russound music system, but it’s the 110-inch Draper screen in the theater that commands the most attention. Colors pop from the enormous display against the room’s neutral tan and black color scheme, while a pair of oak double doors keeps out unwanted light and noise from the adjoining spaces. Completing the theater are a ceiling-mounted Mitsubishi DLP video projector, a 7.1 surround-sound system with RBH speakers and subwoofer, a built-in rack of audio/video components, three tiers of black leather Berkline seats and, of course, dimmable lighting. The entire setup can be controlled from a handheld Universal Remote Control MX900 remote. If the occasion calls for it, the Wrights can distribute whatever is playing in the theater to any TV in the house. The extra units include a 50-inch Panasonic plasma with custom-colored Leon speakers in the great room, a 42-inch Hitachi in the master bedroom, a swivel-mounted 27-inch Toshiba in the billiards room, a 15-inch Sharp LCD above the whirlpool tub, a watertight 10-inch LCD in the shower, and various other sets in the kitchen, sunroom and exercise room. Pulling up a movie or satellite program is as simple as touching a button on a Russound keypad. The TVs also display shots from the outdoor security cameras, giving the Wrights a bird’s-eye view of the property from nearly anywhere in the house.
Practice What You Preach
Seeing technology through the eyes of his clients has given Kevin Wright a unique perspective on high-tech living. Although lighting control is still a relatively new concept to most of his customers, he felt that, as a builder, he should set an example by incorporating a sophisticated system into his own home. A sensational theater, scads of flat-panel TVs, and a distributed audio and video system round out the showcase abode. While the technologies in Kevin and Kay’s home are meant to inspire others and generate business, they’re also meant to be enjoyed, and that has come quite easily to the couple. Whole-house music, movies, lighting effects and keypad control are features the Wrights fully embrace as important parts of their household—added proof for his clients that technology does make a difference.
Lay of the Land
The C5 color touchpanels from Vantage afford Kevin and Kay Wright a quick and easy way to monitor their property. The touchpanels display real-time views captured by four outdoor security cameras.
Feeling the Pressure
Sensors planted beneath the floor in the master bedroom trigger on a series of lights when the homeowners step out of bed. Mounted at baseboard level, the lights lead them to the bathroom.
Audio’s Biggest Fan
A rack of entertainment equipment can generate a significant amount of heat. The Elan ZFAN keeps the components cool so that they run more efficiently. Resembling a piece of audio gear, the fan fits right in with the rest of the equipment.
On the Horizon
The Leon Horizon Series speakers in Kevin and Kay Wright’s great room were custom built to match the size and finish of their 50-inch Panasonic plasma TV. The speaker, which combines left, center and right channels in one cabinet, was attached horizontally to the TV.
- Russound CAV6.6 music distribution system
- Vantage Q-Link lighting control system
- Panasonic 50-inch plasma TV
- Leon Horizon 414 series speakers
- SpeakerCraft MT6 One speakers
- Russound R8DT subwoofer
- Pioneer DVD player
- Mitsubishi VCR
- Dish Network satellite receiver
- Harman Kardon AVR230 audio/video receiver
- Panamax MAX4300 surge protector
- Elan ZFAN cooling module
- Universal Remote MX950 remote
Kitchen & Sunroom
- Vantage C5 color touchpanel
- Vantage 4-button Brightouch keypad
- Zenith 23-inch LCD TV
- LG 20-inch TV
- SpeakerCraft CRS6 One speakers
- SpeakerCraft AIM7 Two speakers
- Hitachi 42-inch plasma TV
- Vantage C5 color touchpanel
- Vantage thermostat
- Vantage 8-button and 4-button keypadsv
- Vantage floor pressure mat
- SpeakerCraft MT6 One speakers
- Sharp 15-inch LCD TV
- 10.4-inch LCD monitor
- Vantage Brightouch keypads
- Russound SP-A8C speakers
Game Room/Billiards Room
- Toshiba 27-inch TV
- Peerless TV mount
- SpeakerCraft CRS8 One speakers
- Draper 110-inch screen
- Mitsubishi HC3000 video projector
- RBH MC Series speakers
- RBH 10-inch subwoofer
- Dish Network satellite receiver
- Harman Kardon 635 audio/video receiver
- Toshiba SD-6980 DVD player
- Panamax surge protector
- Universal Remote MX900 remote control
- Crestron MC2W control
- Acoustical Solutions acoustical panels
- Berkline 075 series seats
Electronics Design & Installation
Premier Audio and Images
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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.