High-End Home Delivered on Real-World Budget

By using a combination of different systems, these smart homeowners enjoy all the benefits technology has to offer at a price they can live with.

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Aa 119-inch Da-Lite screen and Sim2 HT3000 video projector produce a high-def viewing home theater experience.

Luxury items like control systems and home theaters usually come at a high price. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, claims professional home systems installer Greg Mizerek of Advanced Media Systems of Morristown, NJ. “When you use a combination of the right products, you can enjoy all the functionality of a high-end system but pay half as much,” he says.

As proprietors of their own home-building business, these homeowners know all too well how easy it can be to blow a budget when picking out amenities for a new house. So they took Mizerek’s advice to heart when it came time to construct their own custom home. Make no mistake, though. The couple wasn’t about to skimp on quality. Products from some of the most reputable names in the home electronics business would occupy their 9,000-square-foot colonial. Not one, but three full-blown entertainment systems would offer them several big-screen, 5.1 surround-sound movie viewing options; great-sounding built-in speakers would fill every nook and cranny with music; and a well-appointed rack of cutting-edge components would provide them with access to a rich variety of media content.

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Saving Labor
Even though the electronics chosen for their residence were powerful, sophisticated and rich in features, Mizerek was able to keep costs in check by going with products that were easy to program. “Often, that’s the biggest expense,” he says. He also made sure the products he selected would provide the homeowners with devices other than pricey touchpanels to use to control their home’s lights, thermostats and audio/video gear. “Some touchpanels can cost upwards of $5,000 apiece, plus programming,” says Mizerek. “In this setup, the homeowners would be able to enjoy the same level of control from less expensive keypads and handheld remotes.” Touchpanels do have their merits, though. They are extremely intuitive and easy to master, so the homeowners treated themselves to a couple of units.

Moving Music
So what kinds of electronic devices can the homeowners operate with their array of controls? Just about anything. They can arrange groups of lights for a party by touching a button by the front door, have different music piped to different areas, adjust multiple thermostats from a single location, view surveillance cameras on the screen of any TV, and much more.

Each electronic amenity is governed by its own system, an arrangement that offers the homeowners more spontaneity of control,” says Mizerek. “Instead of having to scroll through a series of menus on a touchpanel to find the controls for their whole-house music system, for example, they can go straight to an Elan Olé keypad, press one button and have music delivered to the room.” An Elan S12 multiroom controller processes requests issued by the keypads—each room has its own—as well as more complicated commands sent to it from a 7-inch Elan VIA! touchpanel stationed on the kitchen counter. From this one control device, the owners can view a list of their entire music library and direct certain songs to play in certain rooms. For example, they might pick something from their rock-and-roll archives to play out on the patio, something bluesy for the kitchen, and an FM news station for the master bedroom.

As many as 12 different streams of music can play simultaneously in up to 16 independent listening zones. Those audio streams are fed from a rack of components hidden away in a basement utility room to as many as 21 pairs of in-ceiling speakers peppered throughout the house and two pairs of rock speakers in the yard. Tucked inside the equipment rack are two FM tuners, three XM satellite radio tuners, an Elan VIA!dj music server and a high-def cable receiver. An iPod may soon join the audio accoutrements, too. Mizerek wired the kitchen and office for in-wall iPod docking stations, so that music stored on the portable can be spread throughout the house.

Loads of Lights
While the Elan system keeps the home humming, a CentraLite Elegance system operates the lights—all 120 loads. Like the Elan S12, the Elegance system is managed by a central processor that receives commands from its own network of sleek control keypads. Mizerek equipped most rooms with at least one keypad, a setup that eliminated the need for unsightly banks of individual wall switches. Each custom-engraved button on a keypad was programmed by Mizerek to dim and brighten select groups of lights. A party button on the keypad by the front door, for example, activates several lights on the first floor and lower-level home theater. “It’s a command designed to help the homeowners get the house ready when they come home with guests,” Mizerek explains. Other “scene” commands can arrange the lights for activities like watching movies, outdoor entertaining and bedtime, for example.

A United Front
Operating independent of each other, the Elan S12 and CentraLite Elegance systems provide the owners with a simple, efficient means of managing two important facets of their household. When networked together by an HAI OmniPro II home management system, though, these systems become even more beneficial to the busy couple. The HAI system’s built-in astronomical timeclock, for example, turns the lights on and off automatically according to sunrise and sunset. The lights also react to signals from the OmniPro II’s built-in security system. For example, pressing the away button on an OmniPro II control panel by the entryway not only activates the security sensors, but also switches off any lights that are on and lowers the home’s seven thermostats.

A battalion of motion sensors, door and window sensors and glassbreak detectors keep the home well protected, while four outdoor surveillance cameras stand ready to capture any unusual activities in and around the property. The homeowners can view the camera video—recorded or in real-time—by touching the camera icon on an Elan VIA! touchpanel. When they’re at work or traveling, the Internet provides them with a link to their home systems. They can remotely monitor and control the lights, thermostats, security system, audio/video equipment, and surveillance cameras from anywhere by plugging a special USB key into a computer.

Thanks for the Memories
Most people build a home theater for the love of movies. The owners did that too, but also used the space to pay tribute to a special day in their lives—their wedding. In addition to the standard fare of A/V equipment, the room features a custom-designed fiber-optic lighting display on the 8-by-12-foot ceiling. The fiber-optic points of light were arranged in a pattern that duplicates the night sky that appeared on the couple’s wedding night. The personalized lighting effect conjures up fond memories while softly illuminating the space. It’s just enough to light to allow them to see the buttons of their Pronto remote control without distracting from the video presentation.

Like the starfield above, the video display at the front of the 375-square-foot room magically transports the owners to another place and time. Images projected onto the 119-inch Da-Lite screen by a Sim2 HT3000 video projector produce a high-def viewing experience that put viewers in the middle of the action. A Denon 7.1 surround-sound system provides the aural sensation of escape by directing audio toward the staggered rows of nine comfy leather seats from all four corners of the room. The three front speakers and two subwoofers are hidden behind the front wall, while the remaining rear and side speakers are tucked into decorative columns. All seven of Definitive Technology speakers and two subwoofers are concealed by acoustical fabric (the acoustically transparent Da-Lite screen does the trick for the front three speakers and two subwoofer) to stay out of sight yet perform without a hitch.

Having It All
Security, convenience, comfort, entertainment and energy-savings—these homeowners could have had it all through one very expensive system. Instead, they got it from a combination of less expensive systems that work well together. Through the unique package put together by their home systems contractor, they discovered that by mixing things up a bit, you can have complete, full-featured home control that’s affordable.

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