Whole home solutions
Imagine sitting at your desk at work. An automated email pops up to tell you that someone has just entered your home. It’s between the hours of 11 a.m. and noon, so you know that the entrant is just your dog walker, and that he’s used the secondary security code you made just for him—the one that’s only valid between the hours you’ve designated.
Then you glance out your office window and see the sudden winter sunshine. You smile, because you know your automated shades at home have just risen in an attempt to trap some of that energy-saving heat.
After work, you pick up the kids and, when you’re fifteen minutes from home, you know that half the lights in your house have just come on. And you know that the lit pathway between the garage and kitchen will be especially helpful when your arms are full of work bags, backpacks and lunchboxes. Later you’ll all watch a movie in the home theater room, where you’ll control different rows of lighting from your iPhone: bright lights in the back for your daughter, who likes to color during movies; mid-level for the son who’s still finishing his homework; dim up front for you and your spouse, engrossed in the scene unfolding across the 85″ 4K TV before you. When someone complains that these nights are getting chilly, you crank the heat a few degrees from the app in your hand, without missing a scene on the screen.
“With home automation nowadays, the possibilities are almost limitless,” says John Deem, owner of Audio Contractors. “Whatever you can imagine, if it has an on-and-off switch, it can be controlled through an app—and at an affordable price. Just a few years ago a whole house audio-video automation system would be a couple hundred thousand dollars. Now you can do something at a fraction of that price.”
Or, maybe you just want one room that’s conducive to watching TV, or one that’s simply energy-efficient without you having to think about settings or timing.
“The great thing about Smart Home technology today that wasn’t true five years ago is that it’s pretty scalable,” says Tom Spinoso, Smart Home general manager of J&K Security Solutions. “We have a lot of customers that come in and want to start small with a one-room solution.”
You can create the most sophisticated systems imaginable and even control them all from the palm of your hand with a simple app—but if you’re relying on an inexpensive router purchased online, you might as well not waste your money, say the experts. Factors such as square footage and design of the home, the number of people in the home with phones, tablets, desktops, smart TVs or streaming devices all pulling on the network, and whether those devices require wifi or hardwiring, all have a direct impact on whether your Internet runs smoothly at the speed you are paying for, or you’re rebooting your frozen router often.
“The foundation of every Digital Entertainment & Automation system is a robust wired and wireless network,” says Audio Contractors’ Kris Hodgkins. “It’s the central nervous system of the home, and yet it’s often misunderstood or overlooked.”
Audio Contractors, the No. 1 supplier to the Parade of Homes for fifteen years running, starts with that robust system and builds from there—and the options are constantly evolving. Innovative products such as curved and 4K TVs, emerging Dolby Digital Atmos technology, and Lutron automated window shades are hitting the market every day. Whether it’s a true home theater room—four walls and a door, no windows, big screen, projector, full surround-sound—or a multipurpose media room requiring sophisticated lighting and technology, Hodgkins and Deem help you determine exactly what you need—and what you don’t.
“We’re not just salespeople, we’re consultants and designers that need to understand our client’s lifestyle, so we are able to design a system based around how they want it to work,” says Deem.
Lighting is a key element in general home design, entertainment rooms and, especially, security. In addition to “painting a home with light” and creating moods with different scenes and vignettes—not to mention the comfort of “never coming home to a dark house” thanks to automated lighting systems—lighting and home automation play critical roles in home security. Maybe it’s as simple as outdoor lights using astronomical clocks to turn themselves on and off, or as complex as a whole-home solution programmed down to the minute according to a homeowner’s unique needs.
“What’s changed the most throughout the years is that we can integrate home automation and home security systems,” says Spinoso. “If your home security system goes off, we can tell the lights on the outside of the house to begin to flash, for example. Or we can automatically turn all the lights inside the house on to one hundred percent. Where the security system used to be the stand-alone piece of technology in the home, now we can bring those worlds together with home-controlled automation and have the security system talk to the rest of the house.”
J&K is a family-owned business serving Madison for more than twenty-five years, and began as a simple lock and key service company. Throughout the years they expanded into security, video surveillance and access control and, ultimately, Smart Homes. Today customers can stop in and explore security, lighting, entertainment and technology options in J&K’s 3,000-square-foot showroom.
“Technology is complex, so our goal is to give customers a system that is simple,” says J&K’s Dan Tennessen, a system design consultant. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many pieces of electronics and black boxes you have. It’s ‘How are they going to integrate into your lifestyle and work for you in your home?'”
If you’ve ever struggled with something even as simple as glare on your TV screen, you know that proper lighting can make or break your home theater experience. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your personal design aesthetic for functional home theater lighting.
“When planning the lighting layout, we recommend a method called ‘TADA’ lighting: Task, Accent, Decorative and Ambient lighting,” says Lisa Clarke, showroom lighting specialist for Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. “This combination of layers of light allows the proper illumination for the many different events that take place in a home theater room.”
Clarke helps clients sort through the complicated landscape of lighting by considering factors such as location of the fixture, amount of light and functionality needed, aesthetics, quality, cost, and the importance of professional installation due to electrical wiring and state regulatory codes. For home theaters, a mixture of recessed lighting and accent lighting work best.
Of course it’s every bit as important that lighting looks as good as it performs. Clarke says the “LED revolution” is not only providing clients with energy savings, it’s allowing for smaller fixtures and cleaner lines. Light fixtures with Edison bulbs are especially popular right now, and gold is back—”a resurgence of metallic tones to add aesthetic warmth,” she says.
“The lighting needs of a family room where the only function is watching television are different from a room where you may be reading or working on a computer,” says Clarke. “Think of the functional and decorative purpose of each light source.”