A dedicated home theater with all the trimmings can run upwards of $100,000. For that amount of money, you’ll have one fantastic room for settling in and watching big-screen blockbusters. Allocating so much cash for a dedicated cinema might be wise for a family of movie buffs, but for Kelly and Sydney King, putting all their financial eggs into that one high-tech basket would have been downright silly. “We’re just not a theater room kind of family,” Kelly explains. “We’d rather watch movies in a more casual atmosphere.”
A Reality Check
Besides, there was so much more the Kings wanted to incorporate into their new 5,000-square-foot home. Having a system that could play music throughout the house was a top priority, as was having a robust security system and a high-speed computer network. A few of those amenities, the Kings discovered, would come standard with their home, thanks to an arrangement between their builder, Grant Luttmer of Luttmer Custom Homes of Salt Lake City, UT, and home systems installation firm Safe & Sound Systems of Draper, UT. As part of the builder’s technology package, the Kings would receive from Safe & Sound Systems a central vacuum system, a high-end structured wiring system, and a GE security system with integrated fire and carbon monoxide protection—amenities would add less than $20,000 to the cost of the home. It was a solid offering, but it lacked some of the entertainment features the couple had their hearts set on.
To learn what other features they could afford, the Kings met with Craig Stulce at the Safe & Sound Systems technology design center. There, they were introduced to a broad spectrum of possibilities. “As we do with any client, we talked with Kelly and Sydney about how they planned to use each room of their house and how electronics could fit into those activities,” explains Stulce. “After that initial meeting our company put together a system based on the Kings’ wish list, complete with ballpark prices.” Working off that plan, Stulce and the homeowners started to prioritize, adjust and omit features to reach a budget that Kelly and Sydney were comfortable with. “We went pie in the sky and then reeled everything back down to reality,” Kelly recalls.
The Kings’ high-tech reality tacked on an extra $70,000 to the $20,000 they had already spent on their builder’s standard fare of electronic upgrades. The additions included a sophisticated whole-house audio and video distribution system, three high-definition flat-panel TVs, a pair of surround-sound systems, a bevy of audio and video components (including a media server, XM radio tuner and 400-disc DVD changer), dozens of in-ceiling speakers, and a home management system that would allow the family to control every electronic device from multiple handheld remotes and built-in touchscreens around the house.
“It was important to us to choose systems that we could envision using every day, versus putting in systems just because they were cool,” says Kelly. With Stulce’s guidance, the Kings were able to key in on several technologies that would truly enhance their lifestyle. “We have music going all the time,” says Sydney. “Kelly likes to listen to XM radio stations in his office, and when the kids get home from school, they’ll cue up a song on the media server to play in the family room. Then, when it’s dinnertime, we might put on something we all like.”
A similar scenario unfolds when the family watches video. They can view recordings on any of the home’s three DVR satellite receivers (one for Mom, one for Dad and one for the kids) or movies loaded in the 400-disc DVD changer on any of the home’s nine TVs. Finding a good movie or song is a piece of cake, thanks to the Control4 audio/video distribution system. Using a Control4 handheld remote, the Kings can pull up their music or video libraries on the screen of a nearby TV. From there they can navigate to a program or album of their choosing and tell the system where to deliver it. And with three satellite DVRs, there’s always a receiver free to record something onto. “If I’m going to record a Jazz game on my DVR, the kids can still record whatever they want on their DVR,” Kelly explains. “And if the boys are playing games on the TV in the rec room, the girls can be watching something on the family room TV, and I can always go to the bedroom to watch my recordings there.”
Although the system feeds a steady supply of entertainment content to the family, nothing detracts from the home’s clean, modern decor. Most of the equipment, except for a DVD player in the family room and one in the master bedroom, are tucked into a central equipment rack in the basement laundry room. The wiring that Safe & Sound installed while the home was being built transports the audio and video signals all over the residence, traveling as far as the speakers perched above the hot tub on the deck outside the master suite.
As easy as it is to turn on movies and music anywhere in the house, it’s the ability to turn everything off that has Sydney smiling the most. “When there are three kids in the house, there are bound to be music, lights and TVs left on,” she explains. “When we’re watching a movie in the family room, the kids will go get a drink or snacks and leave the kitchen light on or they’ll leave the music playing in the kitchen when they go to bed. With the Control4 remote, I can turn off the lights from the couch and the music off from the master bedroom.”
The lights exhibit another practical benefit by teaming up with the GE security system. When the smoke alarms or burglar alarm trips, the lights react by illuminating a pathway to exits or flashing certain fixtures to scare away the intruder.
Pushing the Envelope
Having lived with the Control4 home management system for less than a year, the Kings admit that they’ve only brushed the surface in terms of what the system can do. “We’re hoping to do more sophisticated setups with the lights and to work the thermostats into our routines a bit more,” says Sydney. Until then, the Kings are happy having a convenient and affordable way to enjoy TV programs, movies and music throughout their house.
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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.