Fixing Holes in an Automation and A/V Install
Custom electronics firm Seacoast Sound spends three weeks to reinstall this system.
May 27, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Although this Naples, Fla. residence was wired with systems during construction, that ordinarily bulletproof installation process was riddled with holes.

Cases in point:

- A single-room processor solution was included to serve the entire whole-home and two guest house controls
- Audio distribution that only worked when the “All On” button was pressed
- A muddled surround-sound area
- A phone/intercom system that worked inconsistently at best, in a concrete-laden home that also had poor cell reception

“This was really just a bad attempt at making something work, and it was done as new construction so there’s no excuse,” says Gene Howarth, president of Naples-based Seacoast Sound, which was hired by the home’s second owner to eradicate the errors.

Howarth had been asked by the original owner to assess the system’s value before the home went on the market, so he knew how much fixing would be required. The team at Seacoast Sound worked on and off for about three weeks to rewire, reprogram and reinstall everything, plus some additions, to integrate and function properly.

The first order of business was the basics, says Howarth, including networking and communications devices, like the Panasonic communications system that also controlled - or didn’t, in this case - the entry gate. “We pulled it apart, reprogrammed and labeled everything and put it back together,” says Howarth. Seacoast tackled the home network next, making sure WiFi worked everywhere so Macbooks and other computers had always-on access to wireless Internet and printers.

The installers then retrofitted commercial-grade dual-band cell phone range extender antennas on each of the home’s three floors as well as two outside. “It’s all concrete block and steel construction, which really impedes the cell signal,” Howarth says. “In the best possible spots, he got one, maybe two bars [before]. Now the signal’s maxing out.”

Ramping up the difficulty, Seacoast addressed the A/V and automation. The only vestiges of the previous installation for those systems are some of the speakers and their wires, and two 8-foot Middle Atlantic racks (see Before picture) that were soon stripped and ready for the replacement gear (see After picture).

Foremost, the single Crestron CP2 processor that had been installed to handle the main home and its guest houses was replaced by a PRO2 as master and two CP2E (adding Ethernet and expandability, too) slave processors. And that’s just for the main house, as a separate CP2E controls tech in each guest house.

Seacoast creatively retrofitted Cat 5 for the revamped Crestron system, spending “a lot of time exploring attic and crawl spaces.” An in-wall WiFi touchpanel and docking station was installed in the kitchen and dedicated to the multiroom music system, while six smaller Crestron touchpanels stationed throughout can access home controls.

Original speaker wiring for the 18 audio zones stayed but needed a lot of re-terminating, while iPod, satellite radio and CD sources were added to what was an FM-only distribution.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for and Electronic House magazine.

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