Electronics Gone Wild: Home Automation Pushes the Limits
This 5,000-square-foot New Jersey house is a virtual test bed of all things automated, featuring Control4, IC Realtime, Lutron, Apple, and more.
Lisa Montgomery · June 12, 2014
An automated kitchen sink? If it’s possible, the owner of our gold-award winning integrated smart home is certain to have it. As it stands now, this house is a virtual test bed of all things automated, including the oven, refrigerator, bathroom towel warmer and color-changing window, as well as the more standard automated fare, such as light fixtures, thermostats and a slew of motorized shades and A/V equipment.
While the seamless consolidation of such a wide array of both usual and not-so-usual devices into the control platform of a single automation system makes this 5,000-square-foot New Jersey residence stand apart from most other smart homes, it still manages to maintain a remarkably tech-free appearance. Aside from a few touchpanels mounted to the walls, nothing about this uber-intelligent house screams electronics overload.
Electronics Gone Wild
Credit the design and installation expertise of Electronics Design Group (EDG), Piscataway, N.J., for ensuring a pleasing blend of sophisticated technology and architectural attractiveness. Through careful planning and close collaboration with the homeowners, EDG was able to implement a solution that would let the tech enthusiast in the family go wild with electronic systems without compromising the livability of the home for the other less tech-savvy members of the household.
“This was our biggest challenge,” says EDG systems designer David Devanna. “That, and keeping up with the ever-growing list of ideas presented by a homeowner with an insatiable appetite for home electronics.”
As could be expected from someone smitten with new technology, the homeowner had done extensive research on home automation systems long before EDG was hired to spearhead the project.
“He had started looking at options at about the time that Control4 (a manufacturer of home automation systems) had introduced its app store,” says Devanna. Perusing the store, the owner was impressed by the variety of integration possibilities offered by the Control4 platform.
“This is what ultimately sold him on the system,” Devanna remarks. EDG was fine with his choice because it would “provide us with clear boundaries as to what could be supported by the system and what couldn’t.” And with this particular homeowner, “he was eager to push the envelope wide open.”
As the “dream home” was being designed and constructed, the plans for automation evolved and were refined to create something totally unique, user-friendly and awesomely innovative for the family.
Smart Kitchen Appliances
One of the most creative applications of the Control4 system was its integration with the home’s kitchen appliances. Ovens and refrigerators are not often included in a home’s automation schematic, but true to his goal of breaking new automation ground, the owner of this house managed to find a way, with the help of EDG, to enable his home’s oven and refrigerator to communicate with the Control4 system.
Photos: Go Inside This Automated Home
The end result: When the oven has reached its preheat setting, it signals the Control4 system to sound a chime over the home’s numerous built-in speakers as notification that it’s ready to cook. When the dish is done, the Control4 system elicits another chime.
Similar housewide alerts occur when the refrigerator door has been left open. The owners are able to control some of the functions of the appliances; for instance, a party command, which can be issued by touching an icon on any of the home’s touchpanels or iPads, tells the fridge to ramp up its production of ice.
Full Spectrum of Control
These simple yet useful features are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Control4 system’s impact on the family’s lifestyle. The owner employs the Control4 system to manage an extensive library of audio and video content, lock and unlock several exterior doors, adjust the positions of 40 motorized window shades, regulate the heating and cooling units, access and control 17 surveillance cameras, open and close three garage doors and brighten and dim preconfigured groups of lights throughout the entire house.
Menus presented on the screen of the owners’ iPads, plus more than a dozen wall-mounted and portable touchpanels, offer various control options. In seconds the owners can set, adjust, engage and instruct a bevy of different products and systems.
EDG installed a rock-solid wireless network of enterprise-grade Pakedge routers and access points, so whether the family is issuing commands from a touchpanel in the kitchen or an iPhone at the sports court in the backyard, signals reach their intended destinations loud and clear.
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A stockpile of high-end surge suppressors, which are connected to processors and components inside a massive tech equipment room, provide extra assurance of reliable operation, “even in the worst lightning storms,” Devanna says.
The home’s conveniently located touchpanels are more than just portals of control. The owners can use them to review a real-time report of their household energy consumption, thanks to the Control4’s tie to an Eragy energy-monitoring system. Via the touchpanels or the screen of an iDevice the owners can read the electricity draw of each individual circuit on the system.
Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in addition electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home. Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Lisa at [email protected]
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