Manhattan and Vermont may seem worlds apart, but with just a few swipes of a finger on his iPad, Jim Macri can be in contact with his custom 4,000-square foot log home and several outbuildings in northern New England before he leaves his city digs. This seamless communication, facilitated by a Homeseer home automation system, allows Jim to heat up the vacation home, turn on a few lights … basically get everything ready as he and his wife make the 200 mile trek to their peaceful, seemingly tech-free respite.
Custom electronics (CE) professional James Macri (yes, he’s Jim’s son) of Oakwood Automation Systems, Huntington Station, N.Y., explains why his dad decided to add technology to an otherwise rustic abode: “They needed some type of HVAC control, especially in the winter. The house is warmed by radiant heat, so it can take almost a half day to get the temperature up to where it’s comfortable. Being able to activate the system remotely ensures that the house is ready for their arrival.”
After Jim saw how easy and unobtrusive it was to smarten up the heating and cooling system, he asked James for more forms of control. Lighting was a natural next step. With the same Homeseer app that operates the eight 2Gig Z-wave thermostats, Jim can activate select lights while on the road, and engage special personalized scenes that were programmed into the system by James. Ideal for a vacation home, there’s a scene that turns the lights on and off randomly to make the house appear occupied. There’s also a “Welcome Home” scene, a “Good Night” scene and a “Dinner” scene. Additionally, some lights activate automatically a half hour before sunset.
But even more beneficial to the Macris has been the integration of “bat squeakers,” devices that emit high-pitched soundwaves to keep away bats. As they were originally set up, the bat squeakers could only be turned on and off from a switch in the basement. “When my dad would walk outside with his coffee in the morning and didn’t want to hear the squeaking, he would have to walk all the way downstairs to turn them off.” With the addition of a Z-wave switch, the squeakers can be turned off conveniently from an iPad.
Admittedly, fitting even these basic bits of technology into a home that was already built was tough, and made even more difficult by its construction of massive cedar logs, pine floors and huge stone fireplaces. The size and mass of the logs make wireless transmission difficult; ditto for wire fishing. “We wanted the house to maintain as much of its rusticity as possible,” says James. “We used no keypads (even ordinary light switches were kept to a minimum) relying mainly on iPads for control and number of strategically placed Z-wave transmitters for wireless communication.”
The iPads, which roam around the house or can be docked on one of two LaunchPort charging stations, also operate a NuVo Technologies Grand Concerto whole-house music system—which happens to be wired into the house. Careful planning and implementation of this wiring network resulted in no damage to the structure. As for the speakers, James went with mostly bookshelf models, hiding them within the ceiling rafters.
The iPads are also the go-to screens for viewing important areas on the 200-acre property. Six wireless IP surveillance cameras from Y-Cam are positioned around the house as well as by the barn, poolhouse and car museum. These outbuildings are at least a quarter of a mile away from the house, but have no problem communicating with the Homeseer system, thanks to a robust Wi-Fi network. Peering at the screen of an iPad, Jim can check up on the horses, for example. The cameras can be viewed from anywhere on the property or even from their city house.
The only part of the house where James didn’t have to battle with logs and stone was the basement, which ultimately became the spot for a home theater. Still, the equipment was installed so that the technology wouldn’t overpower the room design. A 92-inch retractable screen from Da-Lite stays hidden above the ceiling and an Epson projector sits behind the back wall. JBL speakers are built into the wall. The rest of the equipment, including a Denon receiver, Panamax surge protector and power conditioner, plus all of the home automation and whole-house music processors, are stowed in a closet.
Technology may not be an obvious element of this log home, but it plays an important role in creating a comfortable, relaxing environment. Careful planning and implementation of the systems prove that automation, security and entertainment systems can exist peacefully within any type of home design.
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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.