New Life for Outdated Home Automation

Family rediscovers automation conveniences through a rescue job at their Chicago homestead.

Photography by Scott M. Fincher

Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. For a family of five in Chicago, the thing that didn’t quite work out was a whole-house audio/video system. Installed several years ago, it never really did what was promised by the company that had installed it, to the point where the “homeowners were afraid to touch a button,” says John Goldenne, owner of Digital Home Technologies, a completely different installation company from Palatine, Ill., which was hired by the homeowners after a recommendation from a friend to repair the troublesome system. “We uncovered so many issues,” Goldenne continues. “The system had been piecemealed together and the audio and video quality was shoddy—so much so that the family had resorted to carting boomboxes around the house to hear music rather than have to deal with trying to get their professionally installed whole-house music system to work.”

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Now the family can enjoy easy audio and video anywhere, even at the hot tub.

A family media room, complete with a front projection system, was part of the home’s tech upgrade.

Although Goldenne had considered updating what was already in place, “we found that it would have cost more money in labor to fix what was broken then to simply start from scratch.” With the blessing of the family, Goldenne and his crew “gutted” the system, emptying all the equipment racks and filling them with completely new components, including an Elan g! HC6 controller and three 8-source/six-zone multiroom controllers/amplifiers. Analog sources were replaced with digital components including a Fusion Research media server, Atlona HDMI matrix switcher and Apple TV. Last but not least, the in-wall touchpanels that, well, the family never touched anymore, were replaced with Elan g! touchpanels (four total). For additional control over the audio and video, Goldenne provided two Elan g! handheld remotes and loaded the Elan g! control app onto the family’s smartphones. The only parts of the existing system that stayed were some of the in-ceiling speakers, flat-panel TVs and cabling (which Digital Home Technologies spent reorganizing and labeling).

According to the family, the A/V system works so much better than what they had been using…er, not using previously, delivering music to 18 different locations and video to eight screens, that they were willing to place other types of electronic products under the command of the Elan g! system. A Lutron RA2 dimmer switches and thermostats, plus Speco security cameras are accessible and controllable for all of the Elan g! touchpanels, remotes and smartphone app.

The entire redo took Digital Home Technologies 17 days to complete with three or four technicians on the job—a modest amount of time for a family to give up for a system that works reliably each and every time they touch a button.

Home tech and home automation ideas:
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