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Tracking a $20M Project: Custom Templates for In-Wall Interfaces

Mark Sipe explains how the team is keeping consistency with all in-wall touchpanels, lighting switches and HVAC/temperature sensors.

Sometimes it's the hidden tricks of the trade that help make a job run more smoothly.

That's the case with the pre-wiring and placement for the in-wall interfaces for this 28,000-square-foot home.

When you are working on a house with lots of in-wall touchpanels, light switches and HVAC interfaces or temperature sensors, it's important to maintain consistency.

So Mark Sipe and his team created a custom template that will be placed in each interface location.

In the video below, Sipe explains how the templates help the installation go more smoothly.

We also have new photos of the install, including cable runs, speaker and subwoofer locations and more.

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Article Topics

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About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

21 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by avinteriors  on  03/12  at  03:18 AM

What a mess! 20M$ on a project full of wall acne. A touchpanel, a separate lighting control and thermostat? Thats just bad design.

Posted by Julie jacobson  on  03/12  at  08:47 AM

So if there’s no temp sensor at the location, wouldn’t you want to center the light switch under the touchscreen?

Also, why such a big hole for temp sensors? Sensors are the size and shape of quarters these days.


Posted by Shawn  on  03/12  at  09:59 AM

I think we all just need to agree that there are a lot of things we would all do differently on this one, like walk away at the first time the customer asked for something we would not be proud of.  Just seems like a mess of mis-communication or lack there of between all parties involved.  I can say that if I was not involved with the final designing of this home I would have been very reluctant to accept a job after the fact that borders almost on retrofitting.  An architect who doesn’t accommodate enough space for HVAC?!?!  What chance does a CE Pro have at that point!
Mark - Kudos for keeping trucking on this article, we have been less than kind to you for the most part.  A lesser man would have given us all a special finger wave and been on his way.  I’ve really learned a lot about every aspect of our industry from this article and the comments; wether posititive or negative they have been insightful.

Posted by Ron callis  on  03/12  at  08:38 PM

Yes, mark.

Great job on providing new content.

It’s not easy, as you know.

I am sure the client will be satisfied with the end result.

Posted by RB  on  03/13  at  03:06 PM

I have enjoyed watching this job progress and appreciate Mark openness, but I have to agree with Julie on this one.  This doesn’t make sense to me.  A few questions: Why not use small temperature sensors that can be less conspicuous? Why put the touchscreens so low?  Why not at eye level? 

Thanks again for sharing.

Posted by Terry Kohler  on  03/14  at  10:35 AM

Please keep in mind that the HVAC System is not typical.  It is a commercial chiller unit.  The Temp sensor choices are limited.  We had no choice but to use the sensors that are this size. 

Though the Touchpanels are a little lower than I would normally put them, it is not that bad.  I do not put touch panels at eye level.  What is eye level?  For whom?  We normally stick to around 60” to the center.

Posted by Terry Kohler  on  03/14  at  10:38 AM


Keep in mind that this separate control scenario is a direct request from the customer.  He does not want to use the touchpanel for control of anything but the A/V.  Not what I would want….but….  It is the customer’s specific request.

Posted by Andrew Southern  on  03/14  at  01:16 PM

I love the plywood template to keep everything consistant. That is something our industry lacks, consistency. Proposals are delivered in various forms of detail, pricing can vary 100% between proposals, quality is hit-or-miss, and yes even touchscreen placement in each room is different. These inconsistencies drive the need for consultants in this market. Great job to Mark for working through the issues and taking the body blows in stride. If some of you out there quit bitching you could learn some cool tricks - whether or not you agree with the fit and finish design is beside the point.

Posted by Julie jacobson  on  03/15  at  01:55 AM

I personally would want hard buttons at every obvious light switch location.

Posted by Isaac  on  03/15  at  08:03 PM

The wall clutter just kills me. It seems like there has to be a better way. For example the temp sensor does not have to be right by the door, why couldn’t it be somewhere else? And I know it was a customer request to separate the lighting control but the customer is not always right in this industry. Seems like a simple dual function keypad with some audio commands but primarily lighting would be a good compromise.

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  03/16  at  01:39 AM

@ Julie.. Mark explains that the touchpanel will line up with the edge of the lighting keypad & temp sensor. I assume the touchpanel bezel is larger than the back box. Its a little bit misleading right now because you see the tiny back box fot the TS and the metal plate for the lighting keypad with the left tab further to the left and the open plywood rectangle for the temp sensor. But once sheetrock goes up everything will begin to appear aligned.

The plywood template is a great idea. We have elevation drawings detailing placement for everything to keep things consistent. The template board would mean you only had to measure/align 1 thing instead of 3. Idea officially stolen!

The way i would have dealt with this is to use a touchpanel like the TPS-6L. Hard buttons on the sides and touchscreen in the middle. Hard buttons on the left side are lighting hard buttons on the right are AV. Its not as sleek as the C4 inwalls though. So many trade offs to consider. Can the buttons a long the bottom of the C4 panel send commands without lighting up the panel? That might have been another option.

Posted by Terry Kohler  on  03/16  at  10:27 AM

You are correct.  The template is designed to allow the edge of the keypad trim, the edge of the touch panel trim, and the edge of the temp sensor trim to line up.  We have no other place to put the temp sensors in these rooms, per the HVAC contractor.  We could have put some of them in the ducts, but that would kill the uniformity of each room as some of these are not temp sensors, but thermostats.
The hard buttons on the Control4 Touch Panel can be used to operate the lighting as well.  We do that all of the time.  However, this particular customer is very specific as to what he wants to use to control each device.  This was, without a doubt, the best solution, given the circumstance.

Two things!  First of all….really?  The customer IS right.  It is his house.  He likes the alignment, he wants the individual controls, and he is PAYING FOR IT.  He is right.
I do agree that there normally would be room to convince a client to do it a way that is more to the style of the integrator, but this client is set in his ways. There is no changing his mind. 
Second.  Why would you sacrifice functionality for appearance, when you can have both?  You stated “Seems like a simple dual function keypad with some audio commands but primarily lighting would be a good compromise.”  This solution does not allow the person in that room to select the specific source without knowing how many times to press a certain button.  Some of these layouts are in guest rooms.  The guests need to be able to look at a touch panel and select what they want.  Even if it is in the customers main areas, they may still want to select a specific song or movie.  This is not possible with a keypad.

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  03/16  at  11:07 AM

Where do I start, Terry has covered most points well. 
So far as placement there have been several meetings with me showing our typical temp sensor but the HVAC contractor is more comfortable with his larger commercial grade units, we tried.  Moving the sensor away from the rest of the wall units was another battle we lost to the group and owner, they are fully aware of the look and their choices.
The customer has had Vantage in the past and likes the keypads, having it one way in some rooms and different in others didn’t sit well with him so every room has Vantage keypads.
The only reason he eventually went to Touch panels was my insistence over a three hour meeting of him yelling at me and me making him use different touch panels, remotes and keypads.  Right up to the end of the meeting he pounded on me, then, at the last minute decided to use touch panels.  People can be set in their ways and it does take time to move someone forward.
Being a consultant requires a fairly thick skin and not being afraid to bang a drum until someone hears what you’re saying, then get the answer in writing for a show and tell later.

Posted by Jimmy  on  03/18  at  02:50 PM

By the time these “pro’s” finish it will be out of date lol.

Posted by Sound Insights  on  03/20  at  10:55 AM

I was very glad to meet the “Most Hated Man in America” at EHX. Mark, you certinly have a thick skin!! Be well.

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