Teaching an Old Home New Tricks: Home of the Year Under $50,000 Bronze

Automation system brings a relic residence into the 21st century.

WHEN HOMEOWNERS REMODEL they generally aim to make better use of space, add functionality, or modernize the layout and decor. This award-winning home received all of this and more through the addition of a Control4 home automation system that integrates the control of lighting, thermostats, A/V equipment, and security to help simplify daily life for the homeowners. With a modest budget and some direction from the owners, the innovative minds at home systems integration company Union Place, of Excelsior, Minn., created a home that largely runs itself.

Systems & Equipment
Control: Control4
Lighting Control: Control4
TVs: Sharp
Speakers: Atlantic Technology, Episode, SpeakerCraft
Security: GE
Electronic Door Locks: Baldwin
â—† Three-TV video wall makes game day a major event
â—† Mobile control ensures constant awareness of usage and occupancy
â—† Electronic door locks and security notifications provide greater peace of mind

“This particular homeowner was well read in the field of home automation and was intrigued by the Control4 system, and especially adamant that everything be controllable through a mobile app,” says Brian Duggan, vice president of sales marketing at Union Place. “Being an older home with relatively smaller rooms, it was vitally important to eliminate as much wall clutter and visible electronics components as we could, along with providing automation benefits that simplify and improve home living. Seemingly small things like motion sensors for lighting in the bathrooms and closets and integrating control of the garage door into the Control4 mobile app made a big difference.”

In addition to the motion sensor-triggered lighting, one new trick Union Place gave the home was custom lighting scenes that automatically dim all the lights by 10 percent at sunset and turn the holiday lights on and off at sunset and sunrise. For added peace of mind, a connected GE security system alerts the owners to smoke, motion, or broken windows, and Baldwin electronic door locks send an email and text message to the owners when someone accesses the locks during certain time periods.

Of course, the remodel added as much fun as it did utility, giving the owners multi-zone audio throughout the house with in-ceiling and outdoor speakers from SpeakerCraft and Episode, as well as a sports-lover’s dream: a three-screen video wall that makes March Madness and Sunday football an amazing affair. Small additions are constantly being considered and integrated, such as switching the standard cable boxes to TiVo to give the family mobile access to their videos, and adding motorized shades to the windows.

All of the home’s electronic systems are controlled through the Control4 app on smartphones and tablets, but the owners wisely chose to also have four in-wall touchpanels installed for always-on, always-there control. This way, if they leave their iPhone in the bedroom, they don’t have to retrieve it to dim the lights or adjust the temperature. They can just use a nearby touchpanel instead.

“Basically what it comes down to is the owners don’t have to think about it,” Duggan says. “They wanted the home to run without their interference, and that’s exactly what it does. Mornings are easier with a custom-programmed Morning Routine button that, when pressed, signals the Control4 system to turn on the lights to low settings, start the bedroom ceiling fan, and turn on the TV to the owner’s favorite news station. We specifically put a touchpanel in the master bedroom to make waking up and going to bed easier, since you can quickly check on the whole house from a single screen. This is what home automation is supposed to be–using technology to simplify home living.” EH

Photography: Marnie Swenson Systems Design & Installation: Union Place, Inc., Excelsior, Minn., Builder: Builders by Design, Cedar, Minn.

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