May 03, 2010
by Steven Castle
To service the three side-by-side plasmas in the living room, EDG must take down the frame surrounding the displays and pull the fabric off the walls. The fabric also conceals three B&W front speakers and two Sunfire subwoofers. Four invisible Sound Advance speakers hide behind a thin layer of plaster in the ceiling to provide the surround channels.
A 32-inch Panasonic display in a sitting room is hidden behind a piece of artwork. A press of a button on a Crestron remote instructs an Electro-Kinetics lift to move the painting off the screen. Another Panasonic unit rises from a cabinet at the foot of a bed and swivels 180 degrees so that it can be viewed from a sitting area. In a bath is a Séura display that is visible from behind a mirror.
But perhaps the most innovative installation of a display was that of a 12-inch EarthLCD, which was mounted on the door of a bathroom off the owner’s office. The monitor receives power and audio and video signals from cables that were routed through two connection points on the hinge side of the door. A channel within the door protects the cabling from being pinched when the door closes. “It’s a marvel of wire management and strain relief,” says Montgomery. The power line runs through one of the two wiring hinges and the audio/video through the other.
The homeowner even wanted some of the controls for the apartment-wide Crestron control system to be interchangeable with those of the Lutron lighting control system. This was for simplicity’s sake, actually. For example, on her way out, the housekeeper can press a button on a Lutron keypad in the foyer, and the lights go off and all RF (radio frequency) devices are disabled. This safeguards against interference from other Crestron systems in the same building, as Crestron only has a finite number of RFIDs, says Montgomery. To activate the TVs, the homeowners just hold down a button on a touchpanel.
The Crestron system operates nine video zones and 16 audio zones, as well as the Lutron lighting control system. And don’t look for a lot of presets. The techy homeowner likes to fiddle with the LED lighting in living and dining rooms, changing its colors on a whim.
Neither does he have presets for the solar and blackout Lutron Sivoia motorized shades on every window in the apartment. He likes to operate those however he wants.
The Crestron controllers also operate the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system - all through temperature sensors placed unobtrusively in the walls and with a centralized thermostat.
Setting up control of several different TVs and home subsystems wasn’t the challenge for EDG. It was providing the kind of complex control flexibility the man of the house wanted, and a simple way for the lady of the house to use the system as well.
The result? As we said, the pictures speak for themselves.
Racking the Brains
In a closet off the foyer are the brains of this 2,400-square foot apartment. The control system processors and source components are mounted in three equipment racks, one of which looks closed off but contains the 18 cable TV boxes. Because the boxes have IR (infrared) flashers mounted to the front of them, they were susceptible to IR “spray,” which could result in a command issued to one cable box changing a channel on another, so EDG placed covers - or solid rack blanks - over the boxes to preclude this problem.
Flush-mounting TVs in the walls with only their screens visible was a big challenge for the custom electronics (CE) pros at EDG of Piscataway, N.J. “We were putting them in when the Sheetrock was about to go in,” EDG’s John Montgomery explains. That’s almost never the case, largely because of the dust from the Sheetrock, plaster and other construction disruptions. “We taped down the TV screens to keep them as well-protected as possible,” says Montgomery. “They had to be fully functional five months before the rest of the systems were installed.”
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates