May 03, 2011
by Lisa Montgomery
When the custom electronics (CE) pros at Procom Enterprises in Chicago met with the owners of this 9,000-square-foot home, the couple already had years of experience with home electronics. The problem was, the security and intercom systems in their home weren’t up to the standards of today’s technologies. The systems were out of style, antiquated and unsophisticated—and Eleni and Dimitri Bousis knew it.
During their first meeting with Procom Enterprises, the Bousis family had one simple request that they thought would breathe new life into their home: add a few surveillance cameras to their existing Ademco security system. But when the Procom crew noticed old-style intercom boxes hanging on the walls, they suggested updating that system, too. While they were on the topic, they threw out a slew of other ideas: a whole-house audio/video system, dimmable lighting and a slick way to control anything electronic in the house—including the original security system. After learning that these systems would require no unsightly black boxes or unattractive keypads installed within the living areas of their classically designed home, the Bousises took the plunge.
The additions sounded fairly straightforward. It wasn’t until Procom ran the first new line of high-speed cabling to the kitchen that the CE pros knew this would be one of the most challenging retrofit installations they had ever done. The RG-59 cabling that was already behind the walls wouldn’t be able to handle any of the new high-tech additions, so Procom had to install a completely new 16,000-foot highway of wire—this time, Ethernet-style Category 5e, which would carry not only data for computer networking, but video, audio and control signals. The real problem, though, wasn’t the amount of wire routed throughout the house, but in not disturbing the elaborate decor. The home afforded few areas where the Procom team could comfortably drill holes and fish wire. “We had to work around a lot of heirlooms, antiques and priceless collectibles, and since it was around the holidays, a slew of Christmas decorations,” says Procom president Jacek Zaworski. To make matters worse, the basement was completely finished, which left only the attic and the garage as open cable paths. “In order to get cabling to the kitchen and living room, we had to first run the wiring through the garage or attic,” says Zaworski. “Wiring this house would have been easy had we felt comfortable cutting into the walls, but we wanted to leave the house like we found it.”
Well, not completely like they found it. With the wiring in place, and only a couple of holes in the walls to patch up, Procom removed all of the satellite receivers from their current locations and placed them in an equipment rack in a basement utility room. A 19-inch Samsung LCD TV was added to the kitchen, and round in-ceiling speakers were installed in several rooms—painted to match the ceiling, of course. Last but not least, the old, bulky intercom boxes were swapped for sleek intercom keypads from OnQ. It was one of the hardest replacements, says Zaworski, as the OnQ keypads are half the size of the original intercom stations. Some existing light switches were removed, too. Their replacement: Control4 keypads that allow the homeowners to set the intensity levels of multiple lights simultaneously by pressing one button. For example, the watch tv button sets the family room lights for an evening in front of the 55-inch Samsung TV. Other lighting scenes include evening, dinner, entertain and goodnight.
Since Control4 offers an iPad app, the family didn’t need to pepper their home with keypads. The lights, security system and all of the audio/video components can be controlled via their iPad, as well as from a 10.4-inch portable Control4 touchpanel. The iPad also displays real-time video from the home’s eight surveillance cameras.
One area that received biggest upgrade, though, was the utility room. In addition to the satellite receivers that Procom confiscated from the family room, bedrooms and gym, the equipment rack holds an Apple TV, Integra audio/video receiver, 400-disc Sony Blu-ray Disc changer and Samsung Blu-ray player. With a connection to a Control4 matrix switcher and amplifier, audio and video from these sources can travel to 10 independent music zones and eight independent high-def video zones. Again, the family uses a Control4 touchpanel or an Apple iPad to choose a source, pick a song or video, and direct it to a specific entertainment zone. By the way this home operates, you’d think it was brand new. EH
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.