Home Control
Home Control on a Budget
Unhappy about the high price of home control, a determined couple searches for an affordable option—and finds it.
A portable Control4 10-inch touchscreen presents a menu of control options for the lights, audio/video equipment and security system. Photo by Steve Bering Wegener.
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September 14, 2007 by Lisa Montgomery

Justin and Aimee Higgins did their homework before outfitting their new 5,000-square-foot home with electronic systems. They spent countless hours scouring the Internet and interviewing numerous home systems installers in search of a system that would be simple to operate, automate important functions of their home, require a minimal amount of cabling and, most important of all, would cost no more than $35,000.

Despite months of digging for a promising solution, the recently married couple had come up empty-handed. “Most people told us we’d need to spend at least $50,000 to get everything we wanted.” Justin recalls. “Still, we knew there had to be something out there for us.” So he and Aimee pulled up their bootstraps and dug in one last time.

Poking and Prodding
A chance discovery on the Internet led Justin and Aimee to a relatively new home automation company called Control4, a Utah-based outfit that claimed to offer affordable control solutions. What also intrigued Justin about Control4’s line of products was its ability to operate on a wireless mesh network. As the owner of a computer consulting and networking firm that designs and installs wired and wireless computer networks for businesses, Justin instantly understood and appreciated Control4’s approach to home control. So he and a colleague headed off to a Control4 road show, where they met with chief technology officer Eric Smith. “We asked him some very pointed questions about the underlying technology inside Control4 systems. The answers we received convinced us that not only did Control4 know its stuff, but the company was just like us—network engineers and software programmers. Plus, we could relate to the company’s business strategy because it was similar to our own.” Justin also confirmed that Control4’s pricing was significantly less than that of any other control company at that time.

All the poking and prodding paid off in more ways than one. At the end of the meeting, Justin had not only found the perfect system for him and his wife, but he had also discovered a new business opportunity. “My partners and I decided to launch a spin-off company and become Control4 dealers.” When he was ready to install Control4’s complete line of products, the timing couldn’t have been better: Justin would install his first Control4 system into his own home.

A Plan with Purpose
With the $35,000, Justin and Aimee would be able to afford not only a home theater but also a security system, a lighting system, a whole-house music system, and a combination of remotes, keypads and touchscreens to control them. As a Control4 dealer, Justin got a discount on the products, and his new company did all the labor for cost. But he and Aimee still watched their pennies closely. “We planned our electronics design around our budget instead of the other way around,” Justin explains. “When you do it the other way, where design dictates the budget, you can end up wasting your money on unnecessary items.”

Determined to stay on track, Justin and Aimee focused on features they could envision using every day. “We have a large music collection of more than 15,000 songs, both on CDs and downloaded music, so being able to enjoy our tunes everywhere in the house made sense,” Justin says. So did being able to have the lights turn on and off at certain times of the day. Another necessity for the energy-conscious couple was having their home’s four thermostats self-adjust according to the household schedule. As for security, they wanted events like an alarm going off or the opening of a door or window to trip the lights or transmit an email message to them remotely.

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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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