Technology Makes Dream Home a Reality

Seattle resident Bill Thompson had a vision. Thompson (name changed to protect homeowner’s identity) dreamed that, during his retirement years, he and his wife would retreat to their newly built luxury retirement home and enjoy all the benefits that state-of-the-art home automation can provide.

At the press of a button, the lights would automatically dim, the curtains would close, a screen would go down and a DVD player would automatically run their favorite movie. If a visitor arrived at the house while the movie was playing, he or his wife could instantly view that person via an integrated CCTV system. If the phone rang, the audio system’s volume would automatically be reduced to an appropriate level.

This is what Thompson had in mind when he hired AVD Media of Chewelah, Wash., and Lifestyles Technologies of Spokane, Wash., to design and install a fully integrated home automation system.

Thompson had previous experience with simple standalone peripheral security and home theater equipment in his former residence in Las Vegas, so he was not intimidated by the technology. In fact, he was eager to make the leap to a more sophisticated, yet user-friendly whole-house system.

He decided that the building of his brand-new, 8,000-square-foot, three- level luxury home was the perfect opportunity for him and his wife to upgrade their entire lifestyle by incorporating CCTV, biometric access control, burglary and fire systems along with a top-of-the-line audio/visual system. All of this would integrate seamlessly with the new home’s lighting, drapery and sprinkler controls.

Client Strives to Avoid Pitfalls of Previous Systems

Because the Thompsons had some previous experience with security and home theater, they were aware of the potential shortcomings that they wanted to overcome in their new home. The security system in their former residence, although not terribly troublesome, would not identify the particular zone that had an open door or window.

Thompson’s primary concern was the quality of the home theater and distributed audio system, so he initially went to two Seattle-based high-end A/V companies. He had also heard of AVD Media of Chewelah, Wash.,  through a business associate, so he consulted with the company as well.

The homeowner was pleased to discover that, for the price of the home theater and distributed audio systems offered by the high-end A/V companies, AVD could provide much more. “[The local high-end A/V companies] gave me prices for the home theater and distributed audio that exceeded the prices I worked out initially with AVD for the whole system, including security, telephone, lighting, everything,” says Thompson. “I got a system that is better integrated and offers me more functionality.”

Detailed Interviews of Clients Provide Important Information

AVD’s staff interviewed the Thompsons and asked very specific questions to clearly define what they really needed and wanted. The interview helped AVD determine the client’s expectations of how the automation was supposed to work and what was to be triggered by external events, such as the time of day when the window shades would go up or down.

There were several factors that drove the security concerns. “One was the interaction of workers in and around the house,” says Roland Graham, president of AVD. Surveillance was another issue that had to be addressed.

Remote monitoring was another concern for the homeowners. Besides ADT being responsible for the monitoring of the residence, Thompson wanted to be able to view video from all five cameras on his laptop from anywhere in the world. Additionally, he wanted to check when the cleaning staff comes and goes, as well as the status of sensors positioned strategically throughout the home.

Structured Wiring Supports Entire Automated System

Supporting all of this integrated technology along with a high-end A/V system required a backbone of structured wiring running throughout the home. Initially, Thompson’s residence had been wired by another company, which pulled out mid-way through the job.

Brad Highley, president of Lifestyles Technologies Inc. of Spokane, Wash., was called in to complete the work and found that the wiring needed to be redone. “The National Electrical Code (NEC) doesn’t dictate what kind of wire needs to go to a smoke detector, but it is common practice that an 18-gauge wire would be the standard for smoke,” says Highley. “They [the previous installer] used 22-4. That might work in California, but it doesn’t really fly with inspectors up here.”

Lighting, Intrusion Sensors Installed on 35 Windows, 8 Doors

Home Automation Inc.‘s (HAI) security system was selected for this residence. According to Graham, “Bill wanted to be able to have phone interaction with his security system. HAI offers a good voicemail, voice interaction system.” HAI’s OmniPro2 panel controls the automatic lighting control (ALC) and intrusion detection system, which includes sensors that are installed on all of the home’s 35 windows and eight doors.

According to Graham, he chose HAI because “The RS-232 serial length between HAI and outside vendors like Crestron is a very open and robust one.” Finally, HAI was chosen because Thompson wanted lighting control but not a complete “dimmer solution” says Graham. “The ALC system that HAI and OnQ offer in conjunction with their security panels turned out to be a viable option for the practical needs that he had.”

Probably the most unique aspect of this job was the installation of two Biometrics2000 thumbprint readers (V-Pass) at the front entry and garage. Thompson chose this technology because, “I just wanted the option of having keyless entry without having a push-button system. I like the idea of being able to add people selectively at varying times.”

The crown jewel of this entire installation, according to Thompson, is the home theater and distributed audio system, which integrates with the other systems in the home. “The quality of my home theater is absolutely unbelievable!” Thompson proudly explains that, “You hear the pin drop, the glass break and the jets roar through the room with unbelievable clarity.”

Touch Screens Require Custom Software to Function Properly

All of this functionality requires complex programming of the Crestron system. Graham admits, “It’s a pretty difficult process. It requires that custom software be built to make these touch screens really function.”

Currently, if the client wants a setting changed, that update must be done by AVD. However, Graham realizes that the Thompsons will want to make simple revisions (such as changing the presets on the satellite receiver) on their own. AVD’s programmer is in the process of writing some custom applications that allow the couple to be able to change certain sequences.

The beauty of most of the equipment installed at the Thompson home is the fact that it can be programmed off-site by either AVD or Lifestyles Technologies, saving both the customer and contractor time and money.

Contractors Needed to Be Flexible Problem Solvers

Occasionally, AVD and Lifestyles Technologies had to overcome limitations that were created by other contractors, such as electricians, especially with regards to lighting. Thompson, however, is extremely impressed with how the contractors resolved these issues. “When things were discovered that weren’t quite right, in almost every case we’ve been able to make them right without compromises on our part as far as functionality or aesthetics.”

Despite the expensive price tag (approximately $250,000) and the amount of time it has taken for the automated portion of the home to be up and running, Thompson is extremely pleased with the integrated system in place.

The automation has come in handy recently when he was temporarily in a wheel chair. Thompson s

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