Cool Homes
Retiring in Total Control
A couple uses a Control4 system to operate and monitor their new retirement dream home.
January 17, 2011 by Lisa Montgomery

After retiring five years ago, Larry Riggs and his wife, Carol, were determined to find just the right spot to build their dream home. So with suitcases packed, the couple boarded their motor coach and for a year and a half and traveled the country in search of this new idyllic locale. After visiting countless cities, they kept returning to Durango, Colo. “We loved everything about that area,” Larry says.

After buying a six-acre piece of pristine property near the newly formed manmade lake, Lake Nighthorse, Larry and Carol contacted area builder Kogan Builders to start the plans for their 4,100-square foot retirement getaway. Before they began, however, Kogan suggested that the Riggses speak with Cobalt Automation, a custom electronics firm in the area.

A former homebuilder himself, Larry knew that technology had become an increasingly important component of a comfortable, efficient, modern home. “Having been out of the construction business for five years, however, I felt completely uninformed when it came to current electronic technology.”

After leaning about several home control options, the Riggses elected to install a modest technology package now that could be expanded easily later.

Basic control over the home’s three thermostats, light switches in the common areas and a modest wholehouse audio and video system made it into the plans, as did a setup that would allow the homeowners to monitor and control those electronic systems remotely from a web-enabled laptop computer. “The remote monitoring feature was huge for us,” says Larry, as the couple will often travel for weeks at a time. “I use my laptop to check the systems every other day when we’re away from Durango to monitor the temperature, to make sure the doors are closed and locked and that the lights are off. If I need to, I can go into the system to disarm the security to allow guests or workers entry into the house, then rearm the system when they leave.”

In addition to providing peace of mind, the Control4 4Sight remote monitoring feature comes in handy when the couple plans their return to the house after a trip. “We can log on and turn up the heat and turn on key lighting components,” Larry explains. The homeowners use a Control4 handheld remote to operate nearly everything in the house: lights, audio/video equipment and thermostats.

From a Control4 wall-mounted touchpanel in the master bedroom or one of several handheld remotes located throughout the house, the couple can access all their electronic systems, including lights and thermostats. During the design and installation of the electronic systems, Cobalt grouped certain lights together so that the homeowners need only touch one button on a remote control to set up the great room for a relaxing evening in front of the 65-inch Mitsubishi TV, an intimate dinner party or an afternoon entertaining the grandkids. “I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant about lighting control,” says Larry. “I’ve lived with individual light switches all my life, and didn’t think putting them on a system would make that big of a difference. Boy was I wrong! We especially like being able to hit one button to turn off all the lights before we go to bed or out to dinner. It saves a lot of time.”

Audio/video control is also a large part of the appeal. One press on the remote tells the music or video where to go (like the master bedroom), another press selects what type of video or music should go there (like the songs stored on a docked iPod). Or, if the Riggses prefer, the music or video can be streamed to every speaker (there are 13) and TV (there seven) in the house. Once the location and the source are selected, the homeowners can adjust the volume, switch to a different channel or skip to a different track.

After more than a year, the Riggses are ready to add on a few features. Cobalt has already connected their entertainment system to the Internet via a streaming Blu-ray player. “This is one thing that I would recommend to anyone considering technology for their home,” says Larry. “It’s opened up a whole new world of entertainment for us.” In addition to watching standard satellite TV programs and Blu-ray discs, and listening to songs on their docked iPod, the couple can now stream in movies from Netflix and music from Pandora. The addition of an A/V switcher will allow the Riggses to enjoy that content not just on the great room TV, but on every display in the house.

Adding a few more light switches onto the Control4 network is also on the agenda. It’s a simple, affordable process, says Cobalt’s Rick Gaskell. “We just come in, remove the existing switches, replace them with Control4 dimmers and program them into the system. It’ll take us no more than a half hour per dimmer to do.”

Finally, a web camera will be installed and tied into the 4Sight system. In addition to viewing the status of the home’s electronic systems, Larry and Carol will be able to access a real-time image of their house and property via their laptop. Larry would like to start out with a camera aimed at the front yard so he can monitor the driveway snow conditions.

Electronics Installation by Cobalt Automation, Durango, Colo.
Builder: Kogan Builders, Durango, Colo.

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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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