No doubt about it, this is one enormous house. Measuring 12,000 square feet, it provides enough room for a dedicated home theater, a fitness center and a wine cellar. There is also plenty of space for lots of flat-panel TVs, built-in speakers and huge racks of audio/video equipment. Unfortunately, when the homeowners purchased the finished four-story residence three years ago, few of these amenities were included, save for a flat-panel TV in the family room and a modest whole-house music system.
That would all change, however. Over the course of several years, the family would give their plain-Jane house a complete overhaul, customizing it with new features, functions and tons of technology. (Click here to view a slideshow.)
Large and In Charge
Given the size of the residence, the family knew that managing it would be tough without some type of home control system. Their system would certainly need to provide a quick, easy means of operating the lights, thermostats, audio/video equipment and security sensors. But there were many other technologies the family thought their system should handle as well. “They figured if they were making the investment in a home control system, they didn’t just want it to operate one or two subsystems, but every single system in the house,” says Bill Charney of Advanced Home Audio in Shelton, Conn.
The AMX system recommended by Charney had the brains and the brawn to do just that. More than a dozen AMX touchpanels were installed inside the home to allow the family to operate the controls of their swimming pool and spa, an elevator, motorized gates and garage doors, moveable artwork, adjustable surveillance cameras and gas fireplaces. They would also be able to manage the watering schedule of a custom-designed irrigation system, the inventory of a computerized wine cellar and the fuel levels of oil and propane tanks.
In order to unite such a wide variety of systems under a single control platform, the Advanced Home Audio team installed a whole new highway of cabling throughout the already finished house. It was a tough exercise, given that the walls were already up, but “we were able to minimize the amount of Sheetrock we had to cut by fishing the cabling through closets,” says Charney. To that wiring backbone, the team connected nine flat-panel TVs, more than 30 pairs of speakers and 19 AMX in-wall touchpanels, and six remote controls, in addition to a slew of sophisticated processors that would turn this large home into a smart, sophisticated, well-managed estate.
Turn the Page
Given the sheer number of devices managed by the AMX system, the best way to describe this home’s amazing control capabilities is by discussing each subsystem. For many of its clients, Advanced Home Audio designs the control system to synchronize the operation of multiple devices, such as having the lights and music come on together as part of an entertainment scene or having the thermostats and motorized window shades adjust automatically at certain times of the day.
This family, however, felt more comfortable using the system as a dashboard, where they could gather information about their systems, set up their own schedules, and initiate the commands themselves. To facilitate this process, Advanced Home Audio designed a specific page of controls for each subsystem controlled by the AMX processor. Each page can be displayed on any AMX touchpanel by pressing the respective tab on the screen’s main menu.
Audio & Video
In the audio/video menu, the homeowners can direct their AMX whole-house audio system to deliver music to any of 30 listening zones in and around the house or video to as many as nine flat-panel TVs, most of which are covered with motorized artwork that rolls up and away once the set is turned on. All of the audio and video sources, with the exception of an iPod dock, are located in a huge equipment rack in a well-ventilated utility room on the second floor.
The beefiest component in the rack is a Kaleidescape media server. Boasting 16 terabytes of digital storage, it holds the homeowners’ entire CD and DVD collection, which includes more than 100 home videos. Either from a touchpanel or the screen of a TV, the family can peruse the massive entertainment library—which has been organized by genre, artist, album title and other information—then enter their selection and choose where they’d like that movie or music to be delivered: the patio, kitchen, family room or throughout the entire residence, for example.
The AMX distribution system supports other types of media besides DVDs and CDs. The family can access content from a Blu-ray player, cable and satellite receivers, an AM/FM tuner, a phonograph, and any iPod that’s hooked into the in-wall docking station in the kids’ playroom.
A connection between a Vantage lighting control system and the AMX home control system allows the family to brighten, dim and turn on and off more than 200 interior and exterior lights via the AMX touchpanels. The lighting menu also displays a handful of scene commands, each of which triggers a specific group of lights to illuminate certain areas, like the outdoor sports court for a game of evening basketball or the theater for a night of watching movies. Pathways, which illuminate a route between one room and another, can also be engaged from a touchpanel.
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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.