It’s hard enough for professionals in the home electronics business to keep up with technology. So when consumers start looking at TVs, speakers and Blu-ray players, the options can seem overwhelming.
Choosing technology for a home becomes even more complicated when you realize that there are more than just TVs and sound systems to consider. Automated lighting, motorized shades and whole-house control systems are just a few of the lesser-known systems that can add real value to your home.
Exploring New Options
A Chicago couple was just so enlightened during the construction of their 8,000-square foot home. “At the beginning of the project, we just wanted our house to have a cutting-edge stereo system and some flat-panel TVs,” says the homeowner. But that was before he and his wife became acquainted with the technology experts at Baumeister Electronic Architects in nearby Niles, IL. Per the recommendation of their architect, Mark Demsky of Chicago, the couple arranged to meet with Baumeister president John Baumeister.
“He really opened our eyes to what the options were,” the owners recall. “A lot of what we talked about was completely new to us, but once we saw [the systems], it all made sense.”
Demonstrating technologies to potential clients is standard procedure at Baumeister Electronic Architects. However, unlike many firms that use their own showrooms to display working systems, Baumeister opts to take clients to the homes of previous customers.
“John took us to a home nearby and gave us a demo of the home control system,” the owners explain. “When we saw how easy the system was to use and what a difference it could make in the home environment, we knew we had to have something like it for our own home.”
Tying It All Together
That “something” ended up being a Crestron home control system. The field trip left quite an impression on the homeowners, and they decided to put the system in charge of nearly every electronic device in their home, including the lights, thermostats, security cameras, motorized draperies, and audio and video equipment.
The robust controller could have been set up to regulate those devices automatically, like turning off the lights and shutting the drapes every evening at midnight. Some families might have jumped at the chance to put their lives on automatic pilot, but not this couple.
“We envisioned using the system to simplify tasks like finding a piece of music to listen to or getting the family room ready for a movie,” they explain. In other words, they wanted it to help them manage the electronic devices in their home, not totally take over. That task-oriented approach was perfectly fine with Baumeister. Because the Crestron system is driven by software, his team of engineers would be able set up the system however the homeowners wanted.
Staying in Control
Being able to call up any audio source and have it play anywhere in the house was one of the couple’s top requests. Baumeister delivered by adding audio and video distribution processors to the technology closet in the basement. Those processors would be able to pump music from as many as eight sources simultaneously to eight independent listening zones.
Using one of three Crestron in-wall touchpanels, the couple can send songs from two Sony CD megachangers, three satellite TiVo receivers, an AM/FM/XM tuner, and an iPod docking station to any location in the house. Although the music originates from a variety of different components, the distribution setup “makes it seem as if we have just one main music component,” the homeowners say. “Additionally, now that all of our CDs are in one place, we’ve been able to reconnect with a lot of music that we had forgotten about.”
With the same ease by which they manage their large audio library, the homeowners can operate the lights, adjust the thermostats, set the security system, open and close the drapes, and send video from a variety of sources to several flat-panel TVs. “Having the ability to control so much from one touchpanel has made our life much easier,” the homeowners agree. “If we want to watch TV in the family room, we can dim the lights, close the drapes, and activate the entertainment system quickly without having to run around the room to activate different switches and buttons.”
The same goes for managing their energy use, enjoying a movie and going away for the weekend. From any touchpanel, they can view the current readings of six thermostats and adjust them if necessary. They can have video from four outdoor surveillance cameras displayed on the screen of any TV. One of the family’s favorite sequences, which is engaged by touching the AWAY button on a touchpanel, turns on and off the lights in a pattern that mimics their own lighting use to make the home look occupied while they’re away.
The touchpanels provide the homeowners with a great tool for monitoring and managing the systems in their home, but they admit that they’ll usually grab a Crestron remote when they want to cue some music or catch a flick. Every area with an entertainment system has its own remote, including the master bedroom, family room, master bathroom, kitchen, basement rec room, gym, study and third-floor media room.
“The remotes give us complete control over our music and video,” the owners say. “We can watch a movie in the family room, freeze it, and pick up right where we left off in the master bedroom.” The remote is particularly handy in the gym. “I can use it to call up a movie, then switch to the weather station, put on some music, then go back to the movie—all without having to get off the cardio machine,” adds the lady of the house.
Learning the Ropes
It’s been three years since the homeowners first started using their Crestron control system. While they’re happy with what the system can do, they’re just as excited about its untapped potential. “We spent a lot of nights with John Baumeister figuring out what we wanted the systems in our house to do,” says the man of the house, a lawyer who considers himself a high-tech kind of guy.
The owners were able to nail down many features that would be useful for their family during those discussions, but they have continued to tweak the systems to fit their lifestyle even better. “It’s really hard to decide what you want before your house is built,” the owners say. “You’ve got to live with the system for a while to understand it all and to get a real feel for what makes sense.”
Thank goodness the Crestron system is so flexible. The owners have recently added an Escient media management system to their Sony 400-disc DVD changer for greater control over their movie choices. They’ve also brought in a component that would allow them to plug a laptop computer into their 61-inch Runco plasma TV in the media room. With these additions, they’re able to view their movie library, digital pictures and other media on a big-screen TV. Now, that suits their lifestyle just fine.