Staples Easy Button Hacked for Home Automation
How one family achieves true one-button simplicity -- thanks to a creative installation and Staples' Easy Button.
That was easy. At least it is for the homeowners of a 10,000-square-foot Baltimore townhouse and a summer island home. They have a one-button solution to turning on home electronics in each of their houses. And ta-da: it’s a Staples’ Easy Button.
When they press an Easy Button in either residence, the lighting and audio/video systems in the family room come to life. In the townhouse, the lights dim, the motorized shades lower to cut the glare from the nearby harbor, the TV comes on to show a menu from the Kaleidescape media server, and a Frank Sinatra concert plays over the TV and speakers. In the summer home, the lights dim and the TV comes on to a favorite cable station. When they want to turn the systems off, they just hit the Easy Button a second time.
That was easy, indeed. “The homeowner requested a simple one-button solution to manage the system, so we purchased an Easy Button at Staples and replaced its internal circuitry with a Lutron HR-VCTX [visor control module],” says Jeff Hudkins, manager of home systems contractor Gramophone in Timonium, Md.
The Lutron visor control module inside the Easy Button sends a radio frequency (RF) signal to the homes’ Crestron control systems, which does the rest. “It’s a big hit with the homeowner and is a favorite way to show the system off to friends,” says Hudkins. (Click here to see how the Easy Button was modified, plus additional photos.)
Gramophone limited the Easy Button to control systems in one room, for simplicity. “We don’t want someone to hit the Easy Button and have the shades go down in another room,” Hudkins explains.
That’s not the only easy one-button solution in these homes. In each residence, a single button press on a Crestron touchpanel turns on the TV in the room and selects the satellite receiver assigned to that member of the family, so each family member can watch individually recorded programs anywhere in the house. This is accomplished by having each person first log in to the system by pressing a button that identifies him or her as the current user in that room.
In addition, pressing one button on a Crestron touchpanel for either heat, cool, or off sets all zones of the HVAC system to that mode and sets the appropriate temperature setpoint. (Individual control of each zone can also be accomplished, but for simplicity’s sake … )
The townhouse is equipped with even more one-button simplicity. Pressing a button on a Lutron lighting control keypad in a room with motorized shades toggles the shades between open and closed position. Pressing the same button while the shades are in motion stops them midway.
There’s also automated dimming of lights while watching movies from a Kaleidescape system in the home theater, automated display of security cameras on a touchpanel and the automated lighting of exterior lights at night when a doorbell is pressed.
Anything “easy” on the outside, though, usually means it is complicated on the inside. Overall, there is control over a slew of Philips Color Kinetics energy-saving LED lights, 31 shades and nine drapes, plus integration with a security system and doorbells. There are also occupancy sensors for lighting control in 12 rooms, control of five ceiling fans, and iPhone control of the lighting system.
There’s auto shutdown of the HVAC system in the event of a fire, display of weather information and caller ID on touchpanels, the ability to remotely unlock exterior doors for guests once they have been identified, and operation from a car visor. External control of the house systems is even available via the Internet.
“The Lutron lighting system required not only integration with the Crestron system but with the Color Kinetics LED lighting controller, a large number of shades and drapes, security system, and doorbells,” explains Hudkins.
As if that’s not all, LEDs in the townhouse elevator shaft change color as the elevator ascends. The owners can select from multiple effects to fit the mood. For example, the elevator can be red, white and blue for the 4th of July or a deep maroon for a quiet cocktail party.
There’s energy-saving features as well, such as occupancy sensors in rooms to turn on and off lights automatically and an away button that shuts down the home’s electronics and heating and ventilation systems when the family is not at home.
Why does the townhouse feature more than the summer house? The townhouse was equipped first, and the homeowners liked the Easy Button and overall system simplicity so much, they had Gramophone install a similar system into their existing summer house.
Systems Design and Installation
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Crestron home control and touchpanels
Kaleidescape media server
Lutron lighting consisting of:
1 H8P5-120 Processor
4 dimming panels
24 seeTouch keypads with custom blue LED backlight and satin nickel faceplates
1 car visor receiver for interface with Homelink