Inside a High-Tech Log Home
An 18,000-square-foot log home features a 7.1-channel home theater, 12 listening zones and 92 speakers and 50,000 feet of cabling. Take a peek inside.
It appears straight out of Bonanza, or one of those old-time western shows: A big log-hewed ranch on a hill, a hark back to the past.
But this 18,000-square-foot log home in upstate New York’s Taconic Hills is anything but dated.
It’s stuffed with all of today’s high-tech amenities: a home theater with 7.1-channel surround sound, a whole-house audio system streaming Pandora music to 12 listening zones and 92 speakers, eight HDTVs, five full surround-sound systems, lighting control and a whole-house control system from Elan with in-wall touchscreens conveniently located in the kitchen and near the master bedroom.
Each of the four people who live in this house wanted to be able to control and access his or her individual DVR from any of the eight video displays. They also asked that custom electronics firm Amenitek of Pittsfield, Mass., set up a system that would allow them to roam their expansive digs with an iPad or cordless phone without service interruption.
Bottom line: This authentic log ranch would require a serious networking backbone, to the tune of 50,000 feet of cabling.
Photos: Inside a High-Tech Log Home
HD Video Distribution
Whether it’s the JVC Pro projector and 103-inch Da-Lite screen in the home theater or one of several Samsung LED TVs, crisp and colorful 1080p video is delivered and savored throughout this home. In some cases, the video must travel 300 feet or more to the displays- originating from a mechanical room in the basement that houses nearly all of the source components, including five Denon surround-sound receivers.
To ensure that the high-definition video signals remained crisp and clear during their travels, Amenitek would need to network the components and displays with some very robust cabling. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is designed for high-def video (and audio) transport, but works well only over short distances. Signal dropouts and connection problems ensue when HDMI runs are too long.
Control: Elan, URC
Video Displays: Da-Lite, Samsung
Speakers: SpeakerCraft, Leon
Video Distribution: Just Add Power
Racks: Middle Atlantic
Phone System: 3CX, Aastra, Grandstream
In a big house like this, HDMI cabling simply wasn’t going to work. High-speed Category 6 Ethernet cabling was fished throughout the residence instead, but it was only part of the solution. To get Category 6 cabling to carry HDMI signals, the pros at Amenitek would need to add special transmission equipment to the network. The best solution Amenitek could find? Just Add Power’s 2G (for second generation) HD over IP transmitters and receivers.
Here’s how the system works: The home’s video sources are connected via HDMI cables to Just Add Power transceivers, which use video processing to encode the HDMI signal as data for transport over the Ethernet network. These signals are routed via Category 6 Ethernet cables to a 24-port commercial-grade Netgear switch, which relays them to Just Add Power receivers that are plugged in at each video display. A Netgear software driver for Just Add Power’s solution wasn’t available at the time, so Amenitek’s Ben LaRoche wrote one specifically for this project.
The Netgear switch allows any of the video feeds from the four DVRs and other devices to go to any of the eight TVs. That’s the video matrix. A separate Kramer matrix was used to deliver audio to all of the zones.
“To accomplish the matrix while also dual-purposing the speakers for TV and music, we ended up needing a separate digital audio matrix,” explains Amenitek’s Jared Martin.
Each person in the house has an icon on each of the eight URC MX-980 remotes to access his or her own DirecTV DVR. Other video sources include a Sony 400-disc Blu-ray changer and local Blu-ray players and video game consoles in some rooms, which are wired all the way back to the mechanical room. Amenitek also had to wire for the future, as it took on the project two years into a four-year construction process.
Unsure of what may lie ahead, the company added fiber optic cabling to the Ethernet network. In all, this log home boasts 136 Cat 6 cabling drops (connection points), 14 coaxial cable drops, 15 fiber locations and enough 12- and 14-gauge speaker wire to feed two 7.1-channel surround-sound systems, three 5.1-channel surround-sound systems and 12 zones of audio.
“We use what we call a universal cabling method with all Cat 6 cables terminated on patch panels, as we would do in a commercial environment, and we use [commercial-grade] Netgear ProSafe products for all networking,” Martin says.
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