When Millennium Systems Design installed a home control system into one of the new residences being built in a new Windermere, Fla. neighborhood, news traveled fast. It wasn’t long before the neighbors were calling company president Michael Barry to trick out their places, too. Some homes got all the bells-and-whistles; others were outfitted with just the basics. “It all depending on the owners’ expectations, budget and needs,” Barry says. During a recent visit to Orlando, Barry invited me to tour three of the eight homes—all on the same street—that his company has tricked out over the past year.
It may not be obvious when you enter this spacious home, but it’s owned by a hard-core technology enthusiast. Surprisingly, it’s not the man of the house that’s nut about high-tech, but the lady. A mother of three, she is respectfully referred to as the “technobabe.” Although I didn’t meet her, I’m sure she’s an attractive lady. I do know for a fact, though, that she likes to stay on the cutting edge.
There were a couple of things that struck me right off the bat: These owners aren’t afraid to think outside the box, and they are willing to spend money to do so. The heart of the system is an AMX processor. In this house, it choreographs the operation of the lights, thermostats, whole-house A/V system, pool and spa, and surveillance cameras. “Anything we could tie into the system, we did,” says Barry.
Some of the highlights:
- A rec room with three 55-inch Sony flat-panel TVs. Each one is connected to a different gaming console (Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation3) so the kids can play video games simultaneously.
- Decorative LED lighting (controlled by AMX and SquareD) was incorporated throughout, as a way to highlight the architecture, especially the dramatic domed ceilings.
- Tons of audio and video sources are available to the owners from anywhere in the house. This includes 3 cable boxes, 4 media servers, 2 iPod docks, AM/FM tuner, XM Radio tuner, Apple TV and 2 Blu-ray players.
- Complete control over the swimming pool and spa from any of 22 wall-mounted AMX touchpanels (they also function as intercom stations) in the house. At the touch of a finger, the owners can turn on and off the pool pump, raise and lower the temperature of the water, activate fountains and waterfalls, add chlorine and engage a “lazy river” mode, where jets move the water in a circular motion.
- More than 60,000 feet of low-voltage wiring was installed to support the various electronic systems.
- The screen of every touchpanel and TV, including the 138-inch VuTec Dynacurve 2.35:1 screen in the dedicated home theater, can display a slideshow of family photos.
Right next door, with a smaller budget, the owners kept to the basics when having Millennium spec a system. They went with an Elan g! control system, and use it direct music from an iPod docking station, two AM/FM tuners and a CD player to a combination of Elan and Thiel speakers. From the g! touchpanels and URC handheld remotes the family can also operate their home’s security system and control that distributed from a central rack of video components to several LG flat-panel TVs.
As Barry explains, the family can always weave light fixtures, thermostats and other components into the g!’s control scheme. It’s capable of doing almost everything that the AMX system of the House #1 can, but “the graphics on the touchpanels may not be as sophisticated, and commands may not travel as fast from the touchpanels to the components.”
Somewhere in the middle in terms of level of technology was the third house, just an easy stroll down the sidewalk from House #2. Resembling an Italian villa, this house had utilized many of the same systems as House #1, but there were fewer audio sources from which to distribute; however, Millennium rigged up the Crestron network so that music from a player piano in the foyer could be streamed to every speaker inside and outside the house.
“Video was more important to this family than audio,” says Barry, so that’s were they invested heavily with three cable boxes, three satellite receivers and two Blu-ray Disc players—all connected to the TVs via HDMI cabling. In the sitting room, Millennium concealed a 55-inch LG TV with an ArtScreen from Vutec. ArtScreen is a piece of canvas artwork of the family’s choosing that rolls up into the picture frame to reveal the screen.
Of all the homes, the lighting scenes were the most polished in this house, including setups for morning, evening, entertaining, watching movies, and activating scads of color fiber optic lighting to showcase elegant glass counter tops and shelves.
Some of the highlights:
- Dedicated theater features LED lighting that showcases custom-designed Thiel speakers and architectural details.
- Theater functions as a dedicated listening room; equipment includes: Arcam processor, Bryston amps, Sim2 C3X Lumis projector, Thiel speakers, 138-inch VuTec screen.
- Tight integration between the Elk security system and Crestron home control system. When the security system is activated, lights, A/V equipment and thermostats tied to the Crestron system adjust.
Check out the slideshow to see examples of what’s inside these three homes.
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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.