May 20, 2011
by Carolina Drake
When the owner of this grand beachfront home throws a party, he really throws a party. “Let’s just say when he entertains, he brings in party planners,” says installer Ben Henkel, owner of iSYS Integrated Systems in Los Angeles, Calif.
That means the 25 indoor and outdoor flat-panel TVs and 30 zones of audio must operate so no one misses a play of game day’s big games. And the owner must be able to orchestrate any adjustment—TV volume and channels, indoor and outdoor music, landscape and pool lighting, outdoor fireplaces and gas torches, and temperature and mood lighting—across more than 6,000 square feet of indoor living space.
“We knew [the control system] had to be easy to use, yet cutting edge,” says Henkel, who turned to Savant System’s Apple-based home control and automation system. Savant’s control application allows the owner to manage everything wirelessly from his iPhone or one of eight iPads. “The Savant [wireless app] was the only way to go,” says Henkel.
The media room often turns into the party’s main attraction. “It’s a sports heaven,” Henkel says of the space that includes a pool table, a full wet bar and a five-screen TV wall comprised of four 42-inch Panasonic plasma TVs huddled around an 85-inch Panasonic plasma TV. The televisions team up with a 7.1-channel surround-sound system with two in-wall subwoofers to produce a game-day experience that rivals seats on the 50-yard-line. “He can have five games going or change over to a movie from his iPad,” Henkel adds. The room’s lighting, HVAC system and automated Lutron blinds also can be controlled on an iPad, which is becoming the controller of choice for more of Henkel’s clients.
“It’s becoming a trend,” he says. “I find the iPad is more intuitive to use, and the way Savant builds its iPad app is very intuitive, too.” Just touch the icon that represents your control function of choice, and a list of control options drop down (instead of maneuvering through numerous touchscreen pages). In addition, a $499 iPad trumps most touchscreens in cost, which can reach $2,500 each. “It does offer a nice price break,” Henkel continues, “and you can control everything from it and check your email.”
To ensure a perfect performance at every party, Henkel powered the iPad-iPhone-Savant system with a commercial-grade wireless network. “We’ve had so many problems using standard residential-type networks, so we switched over to commercial-grade gear [because] it’s more reliable,” Henkel says. “You have to have solid WiFi when using iPhones and iPad for control.”
When the last guest finally departs, the house continues its game-day performance: Strategically placed motion sensors activate custom lighting scenes that illuminate the master bath and closet. Even two of the master bath’s TVs turn on automatically—one to the homeowner’s favorite news channel and the other to the security camera matrix.
“If a homeowner is going to invest this much in a control system, it’s gotta be easy to use and reliable,” Henkel says. “Our client can control the entire house from anywhere, inside or out, without a glitch.” If only the system could pour a post-party nightcap.
For a house of this magnitude, a high-powered security system is de rigueur. “This client’s security system is just as complex and multilayered as the house itself,” says installer Ben Henkel, owner of iSYS Integrated Systems, of the 20 IP cameras and three pan-tilt-zoom cameras, all of which can be reviewed or maneuvered from one of eight iPads or an iPhone. “Everything we’re doing now is with IP cameras,” Henkel says, adding that these versions are easier to control, and can be reviewed remotely with ease—from a computer, iPad, iPhone or that from that five-screen bastion of fun called the media room.
The security system’s foundation is based on a custom-built server, an Apple Mac Pro that’s equipped with Security Spy Software for the ultimate in security camera management. (Every security camera in the system is equipped with a motion sensor, so they only record when motion is detected; this prohibits having to review hours of “dead” footage.) Storing security-camera footage on site allows the homeowner to review which cameras were activated and at what time.
“Let’s just say that if an intruder came into the house, the homeowner would have a lot of camera footage on him,” Henkel says. “Some clients just feel better when they have security systems.” EH