Project Tip: Prioritize Your Home Systems
Discover how a pair of homeowners achieved their dream house one step at a time.
Jeff and Linda Talling were able to bring music into their family room by connecting their existing cable TV receiver adn CD players to an affordable whole-house music system from Niles Audio. Photo by Joe DeAngelis.
February 01, 2006 by Lisa Montgomery

Just about everyone loves movies and music, but unless you’ve recently struck it rich, you probably can’t afford the bevy of equipment necessary to enjoy top-notch entertainment in every room of your house. That’s why it’s so important to prioritize before you start integrating systems into your home. Jeff and Linda Talling of Swansea, MA, did just that, and their plan really paid off.

“I’ve always wanted to have structured wiring, a whole house music system and a theater,” says Jeff. “And sure, we considered other features like lighting control. But when it came down to it, we found out we simply couldn’t afford those extras.”

Surprisingly, Jeff and Linda spoke with the designers of several home systems installation firms before they discovered that. “The first few companies we considered hiring didn’t even bother to ask us how much we wanted to spend,” Jeff recalls. “I think our budget should have been one of the first things they asked us about.” The Tallings continued their search for a firm that would keep their budget in mind, eventually hiring Hingham, MA-based Advanced Communication Technologies (ACT) for the job.

The Biggest Chunk
After reviewing the budget, ACT confirmed that, yes, the recent empty nesters could afford a modest home theater and whole house music system as well as a network of highspeed wiring. Just as the Tallings suspected, lighting control was out. The next step was deciding how to allocate the money. “Home theater was pretty important to me, so we made that our focus,” Jeff relates. The couple sprung for a 92-inch Da-Lite screen and Optoma video projector for the basement rec room. The rest of the theater equipment they chose was fairly modest, including five builtin surround-sound speakers, a DVD player, a 7.1 surround-sound receiver and a highdefinition cable box. The Tallings stretched their dollar even further by furnishing the theater with seats and couches from the family room of their previous home and by using standard manual window blinds to block out the sunlight instead of more-expensive remote-controllable shades.

ACT recommended Universal Remote Control’s MX-800 to operate the home theater equipment. Although the programmable remote lacked the sophistication of a touchscreen-style remote, ACT director of operations Keith Bartholomew explains that it gave the Tallings something every home theater owner desires: the ability to touch one button to activate every necessary component of the system.

The Tallings were left with enough money in their video budget to buy a 34-inch Toshiba high-definition TV for the family room, a TV for the exercise room and another set for their bedroom. “These TVs are fine for when we just want to watch the news,” Jeff says.

More Than They Bargained For
Originally, Jeff and Linda had wanted to equip just a few rooms with speakers. But by using the affordable ZR-4630 mulitzone music receiver from Niles Audio, ACT was able to extend the music into six rooms. The music travels from the Tallings’ existing CD players and cable TV receiver (another money-saving solution) to stereo speakers in the master bedroom, master bathroom, family room, kitchen/dining area, deck and rec room. “You get a lot for your money with this system,” Bartholomew notes. The ZR-4630 comes with keypads for each speaker-equipped room. The Tallings use these wall-mounted controllers to select a source and adjust the volume remotely. The keypads can instruct the receiver to send the music to every speaker or to a pair in one room only. This is an important feature to Linda, who likes it quiet when she’s reading. Of course, she can always mosey over to one of the bedrooms upstairs for some peace: The Tallings intentionally kept the second level void of technology. “With our kids grown and out of the house, those bedrooms are vacant, so we hardly ever go up there,” Jeff explains.

Law of Averages
Jeff is the first to admit that the systems in his house are by no means the best money can buy. But for him and his wife, they’re about perfect. “We’re neither audiophiles nor videophiles, so we weren’t looking for the nth degree of perfection,” Jeff says. By setting a budget—and sticking to it—the couple was able to find systems that satisfied their desire for whole house entertainment, with plenty left in their bank account for all the new DVDs they’ll surely want.

Electronics Design & Installation
Advanced Communication Technologies (ACT)
Hingham, MA

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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