May 03, 2010
by Lisa Montgomery
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re a tech enthusiast like the owner of this 6,000-square-foot house in Deerfield, Ill. “The sky really is the limit,” he says of his home electronics research. The options galore didn’t sway him from a firm budget, though. He and his wife stood their ground, applying the bulk of their cash toward the design and construction of their new house and spending cautiously on high-tech amenities. “We really had to prioritize and separate our needs from our wants,” says the homeowner.
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If there’s one thing the family needed, it was a whole-house music system “When we joined the project they already had thousands of songs—an equivalent to almost 2 terabytes of storage space—packed onto the hard drives their family PCs,” says Jacek Zaworski, president of Chicago–based Procom Enterprises. “Even more remarkable, they were playing that music through the tiny speakers of the PCs.”
Per Procom’s suggestion, the entire MP3 collection was transferred onto a single custom-built media server. A high-def cable box, TiVo unit, Blu-ray player, XM radio tuner and iPod docking station were added to the system and connected to separate audio and video switchers so that all types of media—both audio and video—could be streamed simultaneously to seven flat-panel TVs, dozens of interior and exterior speakers and several laptop computers. Content from the assortment of A/V components, which share a common equipment rack in the basement, travels over a robust cabling infrastructure that was installed by Procom while the house was being built.
With such a wide variety of media available, Procom knew the family would need a way to easily access and control the equipment from several locations. A standard whole-house audio/video control system could have done the job, but the family envisioned much more than just music and video pickings for their high-tech home. For less than the price of a high-end A/V distribution system, the family was able to afford a Control4 home automation system. In addition to operating the A/V setup, the system would be able to control light switches, thermostats, security sensors and other devices. Again, with the budget in mind, only a basic Ademco security system, a few surveillance cameras, and a few light switches in the common areas ended up being connected to the Control4 devices.
Automation was kept to a minimum, as well. The exterior lights switch on at dusk and off at sunrise automatically; other than that, it’s a touch, a push or a click that sets everything in motion. Four Control4 remotes provide an easy way to interact with the electronics. Any remote can turn on any TV, and once that TV is on, the family can use the remote to navigate a menu of control options displayed on the screen. Should the doorbell ring while the menu, a movie or a TV program is playing, the screen temporarily switches to a real-time image captured by a security camera at the front door. “The camera view stays on for 30 seconds then switches back to the show,” the homeowner says.
Control comes in other convenient forms, too. For example, Procom loaded Control4’s mobile app, My House, into the owners’ iPhone so they can use it to scroll through the menu and initiate commands. “I tend to use the app more than the remotes because my iPhone is almost always in my pocket,” says the owner. Two 7-inch Control4 touchpanels—one built into the kitchen wall and the other in the downstairs rec room—can be used for full home control as well. Lastly, each of the home’s three floors has its own three-button Control4 keypad. Unlike the other user interfaces, the keypads were programmed specifically to prepare the house for parties.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.