Beating the Heat with Whole-House Control

This desert dream home enlists several electronic enhancements to keep things cool and controlled.


Over a dozen controllers located throughout the property keep things cool and controlled. Photo by Michael Nevuex.

In Rancho Mirage, CA, it gets hot—really hot. With an average temperature of 94 degrees from May through September and hardly a day without sunshine, the desert community basks in a dry, therapeutic warmth that has prospective homeowners flocking to the area. But there’s only so much heat a person can take. Martin and Rachel Chesler made sure their new 8,000-square-foot home would offer a cool respite from sweltering afternoons by incorporating several clever heat-beating electronic features throughout the property.

Water Works
The Cheslers went all out in the backyard by outfitting the area with a variety of amazing water features. In addition to a swimming pool with a built-in waterfall and fountains, a series of foggers and misters placed around the patio and gazebo help moisten and cool the parched grounds. A Crestron home control system puts Martin and Rachel in complete control of their outdoor environment. By glancing at a wall-mounted Crestron touchpanel in the family room, they can tell their Jandy pool control system to adjust the temperature of the water, start the waterfall, and activate the misters and foggers. In the evening, they can kick things up a notch by adding elegant lighting and music to the scenery.

It could have been a very tedious and time-consuming exercise to arrange such a lavish outdoor setting had it not been for the electronics design and installation team at Innovative Audio, Inc. The Carlsbad, CA–based company made the backyard setup remarkably simple by putting every device under the aegis of a single home management system. Then, through the integration of multiple systems, the same touchpanel the Cheslers use to adjust the pool temperature can be used to operate every outdoor feature by touching just a few buttons. A family favorite, the party command instructs the Crestron Adagio system to deliver a selection of songs to eight SpeakerCraft weather-hardy speakers, the Jandy system to activate the fountains, the Lutron HomeWorks system to turn on the pool and landscape lights, and the Elite Miracle One system to open the motorized gate at the driveway. “I never dreamed that the system could control as much as is does,” enthuses Martin. “It’s so much easier to control things this way that it has completely enhanced our lifestyle.” Those are strong words coming from a man who had originally planned on putting in only a whole-house music system.

Musical Segue
A whole-house music system was a no-brainer for the music-loving couple, according to Innovative Audio, Inc. president Tony Ellis. “Over the years, the Cheslers had accumulated a remarkable variety of CDs.” It would have taken at least two mega CD changers to hold all the music, a solution that Ellis felt was too rudimentary for the Cheslers’ needs. Instead, he suggested storing the music on the hard drive of a Crestron music server. As Ellis explained to the couple, the thousands of songs on this server would be able to be accessed from any of the home’s three touchpanels, two plasma TVs and 12 wall-mounted keypads. Ellis refined the music system further by dividing the house into 13 distinct listening zones so the Crestron Adagio system could pipe different songs simultaneously to different speakers. Finally, the songs in the Cheslers’ collection were categorized by genre, artist and other information and grouped into playlists (like the party playlist) for special occasions. “We do a lot of entertaining, so we [create playlists] all the time,” says Martin. Software that came with the Crestron music server lets the Cheslers use the PC in their home office to organize their music. While the assortment of tunes on the server offers more than enough entertainment options, Innovative Audio, Inc. installers added an XM/AM/FM radio tuner and a cable TV box to the Adagio system for even greater musical variety.

Stationary System
Thanks to the Adagio distribution system and a combination of 42 SpeakerCraft and Yamaha speakers, music can follow the Cheslers wherever they go. But when they enter the family room or the master bedroom, a Yamaha 5.1 surround-sound system usually takes over. These two areas are the family’s main movie-viewing destinations, each with its own big-screen plasma display, high-def satellite receiver and portable Crestron touchpanel. The touchpanel can control any audio or video source in the house, including a Sony 400-disc DVD changer that’s shared by the two TVs. “This setup lets the homeowners start watching a DVD on the 55-inch Hitachi unit in the family room and then finish it on the 42-inch Hitachi set in the master bedroom,” Ellis explains. “There’s also a neat feature programmed into the touchpanel that lets us choose to play the audio in different modes [like Dolby ProLogic, Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES, five-channel stereo or basic two-channel stereo],” Martin adds.

The Crestron Adagio system provides the Cheslers many other conveniences as well. From the screen of a touchpanel, they can summon a piece of music to the master bedroom’s built-in SpeakerCraft speakers and open and close the motorized window shades. If they would like to view the titles of their music library, they can call up the list on the screen of the TV.

Keypad Couture
As proficient as the home’s three touchpanels are at managing the pool, misters, whole-house audio and video system, motorized gate, window shades and other electronic features, Innovative Audio, Inc. supplemented the robust controllers with a dozen keypads. Placed in each room, the patio and the gazebo, the Crestron keypads focus mainly on music. Pressing and holding the xm button, for example, instantly delivers Martin and Rachel’s favorite XM station to whichever room they’re in. When they stroll out to the gazebo, they can access the same station or something different from the weather-protected keypad mounted there.

With more than a dozen controllers located throughout the property, the Cheslers interact with their home much differently than they used to. They no longer need to touch their audio and video equipment to turn on a movie or music, nor do they have to mess with the swimming pool equipment to fire up the heater and fountains. Instead, all they do is touch a button on the nearest keypad or touchpanel. Despite this high-tech mode of control, “the learning curve with the entire system was amazingly short,” Martin remarks. “The fact that it’s so intuitive has made us want to use every feature and possibly add on more. Next on our list is putting thermostats on the control system.”

Once the thermostats are tied into the Crestron system, every electronic device in the Cheslers’ home will be controllable from a keypad or touchpanel. It’s a big step for homeowners who had wanted nothing more than a whole-house music system when they started building their new house. But after living with all the conveniences and comforts, the once tech-shy couple can’t imagine life without their beloved electronic systems.


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