October 27, 2009
by Lisa Montgomery
For most of the year, the 4,000-square-foot custom lake house stands quietly, a tranquil respite nestled between southwest Colorado’s San Juan mountain range and Electra Lake. Its owners visit the vacation home occasionally, typically during the summer months when it’s scorching at their primary Florida home.
In the winter, it sits and waits patiently for their return, doors armed and locked, shades pulled tightly across windows, every light fixture dark and thermostats set back to conserve energy.
What resides behind the placid facade, though, is a powerful home control system that enables remote access, affords a simplicity the homeowner and builder demanded, and allows its occupants to better commune with nature.
Home—Away from Home
It’s a lonely existence for the house during the cold winter months, but that can change in an instant. Conveniently from the computer at their Florida residence, the owners can log on a secure website to “wake up” the house from its winter nap. Navigating an interactive control menu with their mouse, they can activate certain lights, adjust the thermostats and raise the motorized window shades.
Usually, though, they’ll leave all those electronics alone, using their Control4 4Sight remote monitoring software to simply check up on the house while they’re gone. Should a houseguest on a ski weekend forget to turn off a light or the music system, for example, the owners can switch those devices off remotely with a quick point and click.
The owners’ requests are communicated via a secure Internet connection to a Control4 automation system. The system’s robust processor manages the home’s lights, thermostats, radiant floor heating system, whole-house audio system, motorized window shades, and security system. The Control4 system also responds to commands issued by cell phones, so the homeowners can get the house ready while they’re en route.
Simplicity is Bliss
As they approach the 10-acre property, engaging the preprogrammed WELCOME HOME command sets the lights in the mud room, kitchen, great room and dining room, adjusts the thermostats and activates a series of MechoShade motors that lift the shades away from the glass. In an instant, the house looks and feels as if they never left, says Rick Gaskell, founder and president of custom electronics installation firm Cobalt Automation in Durango, Colo.
As the owners settle in, they can listen to their favorite music. And like everything else, control over the tunes is quick and convenient. Cobalt installed numerous Control4 keypads throughout the residence, which provide the owners with one-touch access to all the key electronic systems in their house. To operate the whole-house music system, for example, the owners press the MUSIC button and choose the source they want to hear: iPod or satellite receiver. There’s no cover art or alphabetical listing to scroll through when choosing a song, a common selection procedure of many whole-house audio systems. They just listen to whatever happens to be queued up at the time.
It’s a pretty basic setup, Gaskell says. After all, simplicity was essential in this project, and since many of the materials used in the house were chosen with deference to the environment, Gaskell didn’t want to overdo it with the electronics.
Blending Technology into Nature
The music travels to in-ceiling Boston Acoustics speakers serving six listening zones, including the covered deck outside. The outdoor speakers were aimed downward rather than into the yard so the audio wouldn’t disturb the surrounding wildlife.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.