We’ve seen homes secretly redecorated on programs like HGTV’s While You Were Out, but this was the first time we’ve run across a covert electronics overhaul.
Ryan Herd, owner of 1 Sound Choice, Pompton Plains, N.J., came up with the grand scheme a few months ago. “We had all the equipment ready to go; we were just waiting for the right time to strike.” That time came when Herd’s parents left for a week-long vacation. Unbeknownst to his parents, he completely tricked out their abode while they were away. (Click here to view additional photos.)
In addition to a multiroom audio system “that was better than the one they used in their previous home,” more entertainment options, a remote controllable door lock, and automated lights and thermostats were a few of the electronic amenities Ryan figured would be a big benefit to his mom and dad.
So after bringing the mail inside, as he had promised his parents he would do daily during their absence, Ryan switched into electronics installation mode. In a matter of six days he and his 1 Sound Choice crew hung three flat-panel TVs, set up a surround-sound system in the family room, mounted speakers throughout the house, and replaced the existing light switches and thermostats with models that could communicate with a Control4 automation system.
The deadbolt on the door was also replaced with an electronically controlled unit from Kwikset and an equipment rack, fully stocked with A/V components, was placed in the basement.
Familiar with his parents’ lifestyle, Herd programmed the system with scenes that would simplify their daily routines. Each button on the three-button switch by the front door was programmed to set up the electronics for a particular activity. Pressing HOME, for example, commands the Control4 system to turn on certain lights and set the thermostat to either 65 or 69, depending on the outside temperature and the time of year. PARTY brightens the lights by the bar to full intensity, while others stay at a softer 50 percent intensity level; tunes the cable box to a favorite music station and distributes the audio to speakers in the living room, and kitchen; and turns on the 50-inch TV in the family room.
When the festivities are over, Herd’s parents just tap the button again and the lights illuminate a pathway from the switch to the master bedroom. Lastly, AWAY sets the furnace back to 55 degree or the AC to 79 degrees, depending on the outdoor temperature and the time of the year, and gives the house look occupied while they’re away by randomly turning on and off lights in rooms where they would normally be. All of these scenes, as well control over individual systems, can also be accomplished via any of three Control4 handheld remotes.
So how did the surprise go over? “They’re completely addicted to technology, now,” says Herd. “They’re already talking to me about setting up a system that’ll let them view their digital pictures on the family room TV.”
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.