Holding Out for Something Better
Sometimes, it pays to wait. See how two homeowners used extra time to buy extra systems.
Dan and Jennifer Austin used some of their existing audio and video equipment, including this TV, which helped them afford other electronic amenities for their new 2,900-square-foot home. Photo by Scott Braman.
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April 01, 2005 by Lisa Montgomery

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get things right. Just ask Dan and Jennifer Austin. The couple spent two years designing their first new home—and that’s before they had even purchased the land to put the house on. “We went through every book imaginable and looked at no less than 1,000 plans,” Dan recalls. The extensive research helped them create a solid wish list. A few of the features the couple coveted were a kitchen that was conducive to entertaining and a master bedroom that was secluded from the rest of the house.

“We also wanted something that was contemporary but also comfortable,” says Dan.

With these elements in mind, the couple sketched out a rough plan for an 1,800-square-foot abode and hooked up with a homebuilder. Unfortunately, the deal fell through due to a dispute over the land. But it was a blessing in disguise. The Austins eventually found a larger lot, and by that time, they had saved up enough money to build a larger house ... and put in a few cool electronic systems to boot.

Technology was about the only amenity that the couple hadn’t considered. “We had seen technology in use in a few showcase homes, but we had never really thought of how it could apply to us,” Dan says. But after talking with their builder, Chuck Waldron of C&S Construction Ltd., based in Saratoga Springs, NY, Dan and Jennifer knew they couldn’t afford not to incorporate at least a few electronic niceties into their home.

Sensing genuine interest, Chuck hooked up the Austins with Michael Tangora of Tangora Technologies, a home systems installation firm in Delmar, NY. Having worked with Michael on several other projects, Chuck knew that it was important to get the Austins into Michael’s showroom as soon as possible. Within a couple of days, the Austins met with Michael at his shop and talked not so much about music systems and TVs as about their hobbies, routines and lifestyle. “Michael did a fantastic needs analysis,” says Dan. “He took the time to understand our likes and dislikes before presenting different options for our home.” One of those options was a whole-house music system. “I work in radio, so I’ve always been surrounded by music,” Dan explains. “And Jennifer shares my passion for having great music around at all times.” Another system that made sense for the couple was a high-speed network. This would ensure that Jennifer’s laptop, Dan’s laptop and a desktop PC could communicate with one another and access the Internet simultaneously. The final suggestion came from the Austins themselves. “A central vacuum system was something we knew we needed even before we talked with Michael,” says Dan. We have three cats and like to entertain, so we knew we’d get a lot of use out of it.”

Saving Without Skimping
Because they had held out for a better piece of property, the Austins had the extra cash to spend on electronics. However, their budget was still somewhat tight. Incorporating the TVs and stereo equipment they already owned was a big cost saver. “By not having to buy all new equipment, we saved money, which actually allowed us to afford a whole-house audio system,” says Dan. Michael simply connected the Austins’ cable box, CD player and AM/FM tuner to the Speakercraft EZ6 system that he installed to distribute music throughout much of the 2,900-square-foot home. The music travels to in-wall speakers in the master bedroom, master bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining room and patio. In each room, there is a handheld remote control that the couple can use to select and control the music source. It’s a much more convenient way to summon music to an area than traipsing to the great room where the equipment resides. The setup is obviously a hit with the Austins. “This is the system we use the most often,” says Dan. “We have music on in the kitchen every day, and it helps set the mood when we entertain.”

The high-speed wiring that resides behind the walls may be the least expensive electronic amenity in the house, but it gets its fair share of use. From anywhere in the home, Dan and Jennifer can surf the web at high speed and transmit documents to a printer in their home office. They simply plug their laptops into one of the six communications ports that Michael planted into the walls while the house was under construction. Should Dan or Jennifer move out to the patio where there is no port, their laptops join the network via a wireless connection. (However, Dan prefers to plug in to the wired network for a faster online experience.)

Sharing Their Experience
Dan and Jennifer were so pleased with their house that they asked their builder to enter it in a Tech Home contest in the Albany, NY, metro area. For three weekends, the Austins opened their doors to the public. “Dan and Jennifer stayed throughout the entire event to demonstrate to people how the systems worked,” says Chuck. It was a smart move. The Austins wound up winning the Mark of Excellence Award for the Best Tech Home. But they’re not quite ready to call it quits. In the works is another redesign. Within the next few months, Dan and Jennifer will convert their unfinished basement into a home theater. When that’s finished, maybe the Austins will put away their plans ... at least for awhile.

Equipment list

    High-Speed Wiring
  • OnQ structured wiring package
  • Multimedia wall outlets (6)
  • Network router
  • Whole-House Music
  • SpeakerCraft power amplifier
  • SpeakerCraft EZ6 music distribution system
  • In-wall volume controls
  • In-wall infrared emitters
  • Handheld remote controls
  • SpeakerCraft in-ceiling and in-wall speakers
  • Central Vacuum
  • Beam Serenity Series power unit
  • Beam power accessories
  • Direct connect power inlets (5)
  • Vacpan

Electronics Design & Installation
Tangora Technologies Inc.

C&S Construction Ltd.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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