Home Theater

Smart-Home ‘Mess’ Gutted and Replaced with Savant Whole-House Automation

Talk about a smart-home rescue mission. This dysfunctional system was completely overhauled and replaced with Savant automation, Lutron lighting control, Sonance and Sunfire speakers, and a Stewart Filmscreen and Dolby Atmos home theater.

Smart-Home ‘Mess’ Gutted and Replaced with Savant Whole-House Automation
Gold Winner: 2017 Home of the Year Award for Smart Home more than $150,000.

Photos & Slideshow

Lisa Montgomery · August 28, 2017

Imagine grabbing a remote control, pressing a button and scratching your head as nothing happens. Or having a house brimming with loudspeakers that simply won’t play anything. Just as frustrating, think about what it would be like to invest in high-res TVs but only be able watch low-res analog video.

These are a few of the annoyances the owners of this home had been dealing with for years. Their house had been outfitted with a host of technologies that was supposed to make managing the large residence easier. But, in fact, they only made life harder.

Rather than curse their dysfunctional system and throw in the towel, they contacted R.D. White Co., of Royal Oak, Mich., to rescue their home from high-tech hardship.

The integrators at R.D. White Co. tried to salvage as much as they could from the original non-working smart home systems, but uncovered too many problems to make this approach feasible. The only part of the original system that stayed would be the SpeakerCraft speakers built into the ceilings.

“We spent many hours sorting through the home’s existing wiring, removing TVs from cabinets and behind mirrors, and extracting large banks of keypads from the walls. Talk about wall acne!” says R.D. White Co. sales director and programmer Tim Weiser.

Only after cleaning up the “mess” was the R.D. White team able to begin the real work of making this house a fully functional masterpiece of high-tech marvels.

Primarily responsible for the smart home magic is a Savant home control system, which R.D. White configured to allow the homeowners to easily monitor, manage, and control their home’s Lutron lighting system, Pelco security cameras, Holovision intercom stations, motorized gates, Savant whole-house audio and video distribution and complete Dolby Atmos home theater system.

Savant Whole-House Control

The owners can view and employ various control options on the screen of any iPad and launch commands to any and all devices. These edicts travel to the appropriate products and systems via Wi-Fi, which was another issue that was dealt with swiftly by R.D. White Co.

In order for signals to reach their intended destinations in a house this large without a hitch would require a robust wireless networking system. R.D. White swapped the home’s standard routers for an enterprise-grade wireless networking system. 

"We spent many hours sorting through the home’s existing wiring, removing TVs from cabinets and behind mirrors, and extracting large banks of keypads from the walls. Talk about wall acne!"
— Tim Weiser, R.D. White Co.

A stronger, more reliable Wi-Fi network enables more than just a clear and fast communications path between the Savant iPad interface and the home’s numerous systems and products.

The owners are also able to glance at the screen to view video captured by three exterior security cameras, as well as the IP cameras built into the four Holovision intercom stations. R.D. White Co. mounted an intercom station at each motorized gate that only opens on command from the homeowners. When a guest presses the button on the intercom, the homeowners are alerted by a tone played over the home’s speakers, and an image from the camera appears instantly on their iPads. Through the built-in microphone/speakers on the iPad they can speak with the visitor and touch a button to open the gate.

If they prefer, the owners can use the Savant iPad interface to set up specific times for the gates to automatically open and close. The Savant system takes care of it from there. The Lutron system’s internal timeclock also turns on and off the landscape and exterior lighting, making control of the outdoor area virtually hands-free.

The lights and other components inside the house might not be controlled by a timeclock, but it’s nearly as effortless. Using the Savant interface, the owners can turn off every light in the house from the comort of their bed, adjust every thermostat, and select a different audio stream from an Autonomic music server to play in each of 15 listening zones.

Even though all the video components are stowed in a utility room, the owners direct content from cable, Apple TV, or a Blu-ray disc to any TV in the house as easily as if the gear was in the same room. By employing a centralized approach to the home’s A/V gear, R.D. White Co. was able to minimize the technology footprint of the house significantly. All that’s noticeable are the TVs and Lutron seeTouch keypads on the walls.

smart-home mess turns to high-tech marvel

Lutron Keypads Only Visible Tech

The keypads, while clearly visible, were a critical part of the “clean up.”

"In some areas, there were in excess of five keypads mounted together on the wall. We consolidated the control of each of those five lights to a single keypad."
— Tim Weiser, R.D. White Co.

“Originally, there was a separate keypad installed to control each light in a room,” Weiser explains. “So in some areas, there were in excess of five keypads mounted together on the wall. We consolidated the control of each of those five lights to a single keypad.”

Having one keypad do the job of many helps streamline the home’s aesthetic; plus, thanks to customized labeling of the buttons, the homeowners no longer struggle to remember which button to press to control a certain group of lights.

The way in which the lights react to commands is more elegant than ever before, too. For each button on a keypad, R.D. White Co. programmed the Lutron system to synchronously set the intensity several lights to precise levels of brightness.

From these keypads or one of several iPads, the owners can control a whopping 288 zones of lighting. They can zip off a command to every light to turn off before they leave the house, activate a party scene to prepare the main living areas for a gathering of friends and family, illuminate pathways from one end of the house to the other, and launch a host of other customized lighting scenes.

Home Theater Marvel

One place where lighting control has a huge impact is in the new home theater. R.D. White Co. pulled out all the stops both in its design and technological sophistication.

The existing plywood walls were covered with acoustical fabric panels with speakers from Sonance and Sunfire tucked behind. R.D. installed 11 speakers and one subwoofer and connected them to a Marantz Dolby Atmos receiver.

A false wall was constructed around a 165-inch, curved Stewart Filmscreen screen at the front of the room, which is paired with a Wolf Cinema projector.

New lighting and seating finished off the space, along with a Savant app on a touchpanel that’s sits in a wall-mounted LaunchPort dock near the entrance to the home cinema. The owners enter, grab it, head to one of the United Leather chairs, settle in, and kick start the theater with just one touch of a button.

This simplicity of control is a far cry from the complications the owners had been dealing with due to defective home systems. Through their faith in smart home technology, and an experienced, knowledgeable home systems integrator, they were able to rescue their house from obsolescence and finally savor the finer things that well-designed home systems can bring.

Equipment List

  • Savant automation
  • Lutron lighting control
  • Sonance speakers
  • Sunfire subwoofers
  • Samsung TVs
  • Savant whole-house audio and video
  • Savant, Sonance amplifiers
  • Pelco security cameras
  • Holovison intercoms
  • Marantz Dolby Atmos processor
  • Wolf Cinema projector
  • Stewart Filmscreen screen

See the photo gallery of this completed home.



  About the Author

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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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Speakers · Loudspeakers · Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · Security · News · Projects · Media · Slideshow · Dolby Atmos · Holovision · Lutron · Marantz · Savant · Sonance · All Topics
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