Owners Trade Up to Make Home Network-Friendly

A HomeLogic control system, Elan whole-house music and more brought a 6,400-square-foot spec home up to speed.

upstairs media

The upstairs media room is one of two in the home -- this one's for the grown-ups, complete with its 65-inch plasma and 7.1 sound system. Credit: Tony Scarpetta

When the Hadleys purchased their new 6,400-square-foot spec house, most of the electronic systems were already in place. The irrigation system had been installed. So had the security system and the wiring for a distributed audio system. The heating and cooling system was all set, too.

As is typical with most homes, these systems would operate independent of one another. The irrigation system would be controlled from its own control panel in the garage, the security system would be armed and disarmed from its own keypad, and so on.

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To the Hadleys, this arrangement seemed a bit old-fashioned and cumbersome. Having lived with an automation system in their previous home, they had become accustomed to managing multiple systems from one main interface and, unsurprisingly, wanted the same arrangement for their new place. Not only that, they wanted the exact same automation system.

Creatures of Habit
The HomeLogic system the Hadleys had lived with for several years had become like an old friend. It was comfortable and familiar, and “it had such a great, visual interface that was shockingly easy to use,” the homeowners say. Unfortunately, many of their new home’s current electronic systems weren’t compatible with the HomeLogic controller, which meant it would be tough, if not impossible, to operate those systems from the interface that the Hadleys had grown to love so much.

Before the family could start automating their life again, the existing irrigation, security and lighting systems would need to be replaced, and additional wiring would need to be fished through the walls.

Once again, familiarity triumphed over novelty, and the Hadleys hired the same design and installation firm that had maintained their original HomeLogic system. The crew at System 7 of Topsfield, MA, had its work cut out for it with the new project, though. In addition to swapping out several systems, the team had to complete the “very thorough” project in less than eight weeks, says company president Gerard Lynch.

One way the team saved time on labor was by implementing creative wiring solutions. For example, by adding audio baluns to the existing telephone and data wiring, the team was able to use that wiring to distribute music throughout the house. They also used wiring originally intended for a music control keypad for a 7-inch touchpanel instead. In addition to reconfiguring the wiring, System 7 assumed the role of general contractor.

“We had the tough job of asking several contractors to take out their systems and install something that would interface with the HomeLogic system,” Lynch recalls. “Since we were acting on behalf of the homeowners, the contractors were happy to oblige.”

United Front
With the right systems in place, System 7 began configuring the HomeLogic network. That would involve programming the main control processor to perform a variety of tasks for the family. The Hadleys would stick with some of their favorite setups, such as being able to adjust the settings of multiple thermostats from a single touchpanel and having specific lights turn on and off automatically at certain times of the day.

The system would also enable the family to use any of six in-wall touchpanels to operate an Elan whole-house music system, Hunter irrigation system, GE security system and Pulseworx light switches. From one spot, the Hadleys would be able to create a watering schedule, program the thermostats, turn on and off interior and exterior lights, and direct a music source to play in a certain area of the house, among many other tricks.

“The touchpanel interface makes the various systems more approachable and enables our family to be more efficient in our time and energy use,” the homeowner says.

Uncharted Territories
Given how quickly technology evolves, not everything about the Hadleys’ new HomeLogic system was like their previous system. For instance, iPods and iTunes are a big part of the network now. With the help of an Apple Airport Express, the family can stream songs from their iTunes library to any of 10 listening zones. Music from an iPod can be distributed housewide, too, by simply plugging the unit into an in-wall Sonance iPort docking station. In addition to these new music sources, the Hadleys have access to an AM/FM tuner, an XM Radio tuner, a cable TV receiver and a media server. The HomeLogic touchpanels display all their music choices.

Another novelty in the Hadley household is the incorporation of not one but two home theaters. One area is designed for adults; the other is for the kids. System 7 went with beefier equipment for the grown-ups, equipping the space with a 65-inch Panasonic plasma TV, three Pimare A amplifiers, seven Triad speakers and a Triad subwoofer. The kids’ media room received the same big-screen TV, but it was paired with a 5.1 surround-sound system. Each setup has its own high-def DVR cable receiver, Sony Blu-ray player, 160-GB Apple TV digital media receiver, and wireless HomeLogic touchpanel to simplify the control of the entertainment devices.

The Power of Networking
For now, the Hadleys are happy visiting touchpanels in their home to manage their lighting, security, irrigation, heating and cooling, and entertainment systems. However, because the HomeLogic system operates over a local area network, the family is free to use any web-enabled device to control every aspect of their home.

They haven’t tapped this feature yet, but it’ll certainly come in handy when they’re ready to upgrade their system again, says Lynch. From a computer at the System 7 office, technicians will be able to download new software updates to the Hadleys’ system, ensuring that their investment continues to evolve with their needs and with technology.

 

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