Determine Your Home Control Needs

Before you begin an integrated home project, think about what you want, from entertainment to security to convenience features.
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Sun deck at the HGTV Smart Home 2013 located in Jacksonville, FL

Photo by: Eric Perry

Eric Perry

By: Krissy Rushing

Embarking on an integrated home project can be overwhelming simply because functionality and options are virtually endless and are evolving at breakneck speed. "For some, being able to play different music in different rooms from various sources will bring great enjoyment. But more commonly, there is a desire to distribute video, control lighting, shades and climate, and even integrate surveillance cameras and access control," says Bob Dodge, director of Talk of the Town. Here are some basic features of home control to help you decide what you need and want from your system, both now and in the future.

Ultimate Entertainment

"When it comes to anytime, anywhere access for what's important to you, there are so many choices for content — not just from television, but from discs, Internet streaming and more," says Dodge. "The ability to take control of all that with an integrated system is not just a luxury, it's becoming increasingly essential."

First, figure out your entertainment needs. Do you like to throw parties? Then distributed or wireless multiroom and outdoor audio are features to consider. Do you frequently have people over to watch football? Then a big TV screen is a must. Does your family like to watch movies? Opt for a surround-sound audio system. Additionally, the latest media-streaming devices, like Roku and GoogleTV, let you download movies from the Internet and stream music from your phone, but dictate the need for a good wireless network. If you want to distribute high-definition video to multiple rooms in the home, you need structured wiring to make it work properly. Plus, you'll need a good control system to control the whole thing.

Aside from audio and video, setting the mood for entertainment with lighting is key. With a lighting control system like those from Lutron ($100-$1,700+) or Savant Lighting, you can set various lighting scenes and access lights from your iPad, remotely on your iPhone or Android, via in-wall keypads, and more. It's no longer an on/off switch world.

Media Rooms and Home Theaters by Budget

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If you closed your eyes and envisioned your dream home, you'd probably rattle off a list of certain features you've always wanted. Would a custom-built media room or home theater be on that list? It should be. It's the perfect place to kick back and relax, entertain guests, or enjoy a movie night with the family.

You can hand pick everything from the room's decor to every last high-tech amenity — and there are plenty. These recreation rooms can range from a basic, family-friendly media room to a multi-million-dollar theater that looks and feels like an actual movie theater. With thousands of options to choose from, you might not know where to start.

Take a look at these examples from CEDIA, the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, broken down by price, to get an idea of what's within your range.

$20,000 - $30,000

This media room features a relaxed, open environment, suitable for watching movies and playing video games. The 133-inch screen creates an immersive environment, while media equipment is stored out of the sight, though still easily accessible. Dynamic A/V, Inc. of Granger, Ind., worked to incorporate all the homeowner's desires, including a projector that provides great audio performance and a clear picture in any light.

$30,000 - $75,000

For this project, Dynamic A/V, Inc. remodeled and upgraded an existing theater to feature the latest technology. The control system allows for easy, full-featured use, and a custom screen was added to allow for an optimum viewing experience in a room that is shallow in depth. The clients were able to get exactly what they wanted — a beautifully upgraded room complete with user-friendly technology.

Photo By: Wes Calvin, Platinum Productions

$75,000 - $150,000

This award-winning home theater was designed to serve as the centerpiece of a model home in an affluent Southwest Florida community. In order to allow custom-home-sales professionals to show the home to prospective homeowners, the user needed to be able to control all systems at the touch of a button. One of the most notable features of this project, designed by Accent Electronic System Integrators of Bonita Springs, Fla., is the one-touch "on" button for the whole home, which allows for convenience and control.

$150,000 - $300,000

This theater room is housed in a large, enclosed concrete space below the home's garage. The home itself features tons of dark-cherry wood, which is continued into the design of the theater. The room accommodates at least 12 and presents an elegant appearance even when not in use. Home Technology Systems of Wichita, Kansas, made special considerations to accommodate electrical, communications and HVAC components within the room design.

$300,000 - $500,000

This home theater was designed to create a high performance space for movies and sporting events that emphasized a high-quality, immersive experience. La Scala of Vancouver, B.C., worked to isolate the room acoustically, including an audio package with 20 discrete channels — the main left, center and right speakers; four side surrounds; two back wall surrounds; and 11 subwoofers. And to ensure the guests are comfortable and the projector maintains an optimal temperature, the room has a dedicated air-handling and cooling system that is independent from the rest of the home.

$500,000 - $1 million

The owner of this home theater decided his first theater wasn't large enough for the extended family, so he decided to build a house around the new theater. The new theater features a 180-inch screen, exclusive projector, star field ceiling, seating for 15, surround channels for each row of seating, custom built speakers and audio/video components that rival the real theater experience. The large projector had to be placed within the room, so Admit One, Inc. of Edina, Minn., created a ticket booth to disguise the projector and to create an acoustic barrier between the projector and the audience.

$1 million+

Designed by Future Home of Los Angeles, this stunning home theater was a challenge from start to finish. The homeowners wanted a world-class screening room in a neighborhood where that is the norm, and they wanted it finished quickly so it was ready for a star studded pre-Oscar party. The most talked-about feature of this room, which resides in the basement of the guest house, is the two-and-a-half-inch-thick acrylic windows that look into the 98,000-gallon pool. An example of the homeowner's no-compromise approach: Instead of wanting chairs like those in Radio City Music Hall, the chairs installed actually were from Radio City — and all carpet and wall materials were custom dyed to match.

More Security

While you might consider convenience and entertainment features like these optional, you can't go wrong with an integrated security system to keep your family safe. It can be as simple as an integrated alarm system that you can arm or disarm from afar or something more sophisticated.

For example, an electronics systems contractor can tie together lighting, audio, control, security cameras and video systems for greater functionality. Cameras across your home can send live video feeds to any TV in the home, and are backed up on a dedicated DVR that stores running footage. If the alarm is activated, lights flash on and off and the alarm is sounded through the audio system, alerting neighbors that something is amiss.

For a false alarm, simply re-arm the system from your iPhone or Android. All of this is now possible with an integrated home security system, giving you peace of mind both at home and away from home.

Comfort and Convenience

In fact, integrated lighting control is relevant not only to entertainment, but is the ultimate convenience feature. Just imagine hitting an "all on" or "all off" icon on your iPad right from bed to turn out the lights across the entire home, or a smart lighting system that turns lights on and off based on room occupancy. With voice control, you can even speak commands like "Turn lights off" for totally hands-free control of your lights.

Likewise, climate control has never been more convenient. Control your thermostats from your iPhone or, via a control system like those from Control4 and Savant, automate climate depending on the time of day or external temperature. Forgot to turn off the AC before you left for vacation? No need to turn around and risk missing your flight — now you can conveniently access climate control from your phone on the runway. Connected kitchen appliances and a pool/spa are also easily accessible, allowing you to turn the oven off from afar or to turn the Jacuzzi temp up after work.

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