I recently had a good friend and client reach out to me about designing an automation and security system for his new property in Mt. Juliet, TN. While he wasn’t looking for a traditional monitored system, having good quality surveillance and access control for his gate was a very high priority, mainly since he’s often out of town for work.
Since the site was on a little over 5 acres and comprised of a network of pastures, barns, and a residence, I spent the better part of a day designing a system for him that I knew would be reliable and meet his needs, running coverage calculations, solving distance limitations, and value engineering where possible.
Unfortunately, what happened next was the moment an integrator fears the most. I sent over our proposal, and I’m confident the price tag induced a seizure on the other end. (Fortunately, my friend made a full recovery!), but the next day, he called back to ask what on earth could be so different about this system than DIY products like Ring or the dreaded Lorex.
Honestly, It’s a fair question, and while ultimately, he didn’t decide to move forward with what I designed due to budgetary constraints, it left me thinking of the best way to explain the value of a well-designed system as a whole vs. a pile of well-marketed but hugely inferior parts.
I’ll be the first to admit that these consumer-grade systems have a place, and for your average 3000 sq ft track home nestled away in suburbia, you certainly can’t beat the value. I often suggest this arrangement when even our entry-level products are overkill. However, as the size of the home grows or other elements like distance become a factor, these off-the-shelf solutions can quickly become massive sources of frustration.
At the end of the day, though, a custom system brings two words to the table that we know are more important than our clients initially realize; reliability and support.
So while I won’t bore you with all the nerdy details, let’s talk about one of the most common DIY products we tend to have issues with and explain what a difference professional-grade equipment can make.
Cameras & Video Doorbells:
There are two main types of camera and doorbell systems. The first is what we call a cloud-based system.
1- DIY Cloud-Based Cameras
These cameras rely on an internet connection to stream video from their installed location, through your home’s network, and out to a server in the cloud to be recorded. You can then access these recordings, or live video feeds on the go by using your cell phone, tablet or computer. Some major players in the space include Ring, Arlo, Blink, etc.
There are, unfortunately, some downsides to this type of equipment. The first and most obvious is that your property is suddenly unprotected if your internet connection is lost or intentionally interrupted. In most cases, no recording is even taking place. Second, since most of these cameras use a wi-fi connection, any level of instability or interference can once again take your cameras offline.
Lastly, unless you pay a pretty hefty fee, these cameras typically only record when a certain level of motion is detected rather than recording continuously. While it might not seem like a big deal at face value, imagine trying to figure out the path an intruder took to access your property, it can be nearly impossible to do if enough motion was only detected right as they came to your door.
2- Local NVR
The second type of system utilizes a Network Video Recorder or NVR. In an NVR System, footage from each camera continuously records across the local network without ever leaving the premises. Although cameras are usually wired to avoid dealing with batteries, wired connectivity also offers much greater picture quality and reliability than wireless.
Thanks to the NVR’s internet connection, NVR systems still offer excellent remote access. In fact, you probably wouldn’t know, based on your phone’s app, that you’re using an NVR rather than a cloud-based technology.
A local NVR-based camera system can offer several benefits:
Reliability: Since the footage is recorded locally on the NVR, there is no dependence on an internet connection for the system to work. This means that the system will continue to function and record footage even if the internet goes down.
Privacy: A local NVR system stores the footage on the NVR itself rather than sending it to a cloud server. This can be beneficial for those who are concerned about the privacy of their video footage.
Control: With a local NVR system, you have complete control over the footage and can access it directly from the NVR. You don’t have to worry about logging into an online account or dealing with potential delays in accessing the footage.
Cost: A local NVR system may be more cost-effective in the long run, as there are no ongoing cloud storage fees to pay.
Speed: Since the footage is stored locally, it can be accessed and reviewed more quickly than if it were stored in the cloud.
If you’re starting a new home automation or AV project, here are a few ways to prepare yourselfthe situation at hand.
Communication is critical.
Having clear expectations and 100% transparency regarding time frames for equipment arrivals and project start dates is essential. We try to accomplish this by providing regular updates from vendors and informing our customers of the current environment from day one.
While we all thought many supply constraints were beginning to ease, that hasn’t been the case with some categories. AV receivers, for example, can still have a lead time ranging from several weeks to several months, depending on the model. Also, try your best to be open to product substitutions if time is of the essence.
Prepare to be invoiced upfront
Nobody likes being charged upfront and waiting to receive what they’ve already paid for. We get it. The reality is that some vendors are now billing for back-ordered products upfront and won’t even lock pricing in until the item has shipped.
When you consider some prices have risen by as much as 20%, it’s a necessary compromise to secure your place in line.
Occasionally prices change:
While we typically can absorb small price fluctuations between signing a contract and installing equipment, that isn’t always the case anymore. So be willing to work with your integrator if a supplier makes a radical price change.
Find your zen place.
Above all, embarking on any construction project right now will require some patience. Dragging a project out is not in anyone’s best interest, so try to be understanding and bide your time patiently. Delays make things stressful for everyone so remember we’re all on the same team and have to work together to bring your project to successful completion.
The process of working with a home technology integrator or AV company on your new home can seem daunting. So much so that even many builders avoid getting involved in the process altogether. While they have an entire army of subcontractors for pretty much anything else, when it comes to technology, you’re lucky to get a shortlist of contractor recommendations. Usually, you are sent off on a harrowing pilgrimage of discovery with nothing more than a prayer that you’ll find a trustworthy soul to enlighten you along the way.
Education is an essential part of our job. If you’ve never had the opportunity to build a custom home before, chances are you might not be aware of the technology that exists, and we try to at least inform you of all of the possibilities. While some things may not ultimately be in your budget, the worst thing that could happen is to find ourselves in a situation where we didn’t mention a product or solution, only for you to hear about it later when it’s too late to include it.
As integrators, we wear a lot of hats and can be involved in nearly every facet of the design of your home. If it’s not plumbing or basic electrical, there’s a chance you’ve entered a corner of our Pandora’s box. Whether it’s things that immediately come to mind like AV, home theater, and Wi-Fi, or more leading-edge systems like motorized shades, lighting control, and home automation, the possibilities are dizzyingly endless. Unfortunately, over time, we found there was so much scope to cover that most people didn’t completely understand what they were getting, let alone exactly where anything was going.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
When we first started the process of rethinking the template for our proposals, I was surprised to see there were no off-the-shelf options for making presentations to clients easy and understandable. So, with a background in graphic design, I decided to invest the time (which admittedly was an easier decision to make during the early days of the pandemic) and create an entirely custom set of icons and graphics that more effectively convey the design of our projects.
The main goal of this investment was to make sure people could easily see what was going where. This approach goes a long way towards ensuring clients understand what to expect when their home is complete and hopefully helps avoid some of those “I didn’t realize this is what you were talking about” moments.
While you don’t have to worry about how any of the magic works, I think it’s critical to provide a clear visual picture of where things are placed throughout the home. We got lots of feedback along the way from clients and family and have further streamlined the process as we’ve gone along. For example, each system is color-coded on the pricing proposal, matching our plans’ icon coloring. So if you see a blue security camera listed on the proposal, it makes it easy to look across and locate exactly where that piece is.
A fresh take on TeCHNOLOGY PLANS
At this point, we’ve ended up with an entirely new process for presenting proposals that I feel provides plenty of easy-to-consume information. At the same time, it doesn’t require an electrical engineering degree or honorary Geek Squad nametag. When clients understand what they’re looking at, they can provide meaningful feedback and ask questions that help make us more effective members of your team. It’s been a worthwhile step and helps move us closer to our goal of delivering an experience that’s true “Audio Video Luxury“.
Tip: If you’re brand new to the subject of lighting control systems, I’d suggest you start with this articleto get a basic idea of what’s available.
This post will discuss why you should consider custom lighting control for your home, how much it costs, and why we think Vantage is the best choice for lighting control.
First, let’s take a look at why you’d want to choose panelized lighting in the first place.
Table of Contents
Eliminating wall clutter
While it might sound a little silly at first, living in a large custom home presents quite a few challenges compared to the average 2400 sq ft American dwelling. We’ve all become accustomed to walking into a room, switching on the lights, and not giving it another thought, but things are considerably more complicated in a substantial estate.
As the design becomes more intricate, that single light switch turns into three or four switches and can quickly balloon into multiple banks of four or five switches each.
Suddenly you’re left trying to figure out what controls what, and your guests don’t have a prayer at operating things on their own.
Functionally, it’s incredibly confusing, and cosmetically you’re just expected to live with the “wall acne” that results.
In most homes, each bank of light fixtures (called a load) is connected to an individual dimmer installed in your wall. For example, you might have a chandelier, two strings of recessed lights, pendants, a ceiling fan, a lamp, etc. Each load is controlled by its own dimmer that’s installed in the wall, and it doesn’t take long to see how the wall clutter starts to build up.
As the room’s size increases, this problem only multiplies.
Panelized lighting offers an elegant and unique solution to this problem…
Rather than placing all the wiring and dimming hardware in the room, each load is pulled back to a centralized location or “panel” and then controlled by a compact keypad installed in each room.
These keypads offer up to 8 buttons to control individual fixtures, or your system can be programmed to control multiple loads with a single button.
Each button is custom laser engraved with text to explain its function. The possibilities are endless, but the result is magical.
True custom design options
When you’re investing in your dream home and undoubtedly obsessing over every detail with your designer. You shouldn’t have to spoil your design or be limited to switches that are only white, almond, or black.
Vantage gives you a vast selection of color and material options and can even custom match trims to any Sherwin Williams paint code.
You can even carry these cosmetic choices across your regular power outlets for a refined and consistent look.
Light switches are something we use over and over every day; why not make them beautiful?
Automation & Integration
Lighting control is one of the key components of what makes up a “smart home”. Fortunately, the Vantage solution integrates perfectly with home control systems like Elan. This allows us to control every light in the Vantage system from within our Elan app or touchpanels right alongside the other features in your home like Video, Audio, thermostats etc.
Scenes like “Party Mode” or “Movie Time” let us bring everything together by setting the mood with the perfect lighting, turning on the music, and even starting up a movie.
Effortless Energy Savings
When something is annoying or hard to use, most people just tend to avoid the activity. In a larger home with 50+ light switches or even multiple wings, this often adds up to lights just being left on rather than spending 15 minutes making the rounds to ensure everything is properly switched off. With lighting control, we’re able to eliminate that task and make things easier in two ways.
The first is we can provide lighting scenes that simplify things dramatically. A button labeled “all off” is installed at your main points of entry. When you press this button just as you’d expect, everything in the house turns off in one motion.
The second way is the use of schedules and motion sensors. We can schedule groups of lights to turn on and off based on the sunrise or sunset. For example, You probably won’t need your landscape lights during the middle of the day or mood lighting flipped on at high noon, but you might want to come home to a safely illuminated driveway after dark. This can both make your home more inviting and create some substantial savings on your power bill.
You can also incorporate tiny motion sensors and door switches. Using these sensors allows you to turn lights on and off just by walking in and out of a room or opening a door.
Do you have questions or want to find out more about lighting control systems? Don’t hesitate to reach out, we’d love to talk to you about your project!
How much can I expect to spend on lighting control?
Panelized lighting certainly carries a premium over traditional switches and dimmers, but it’s not as expensive as you might think. In general, a cost increase of about $4 per square foot is a good rule of thumb, but that number decreases as the size of the system grows.
What type of finish options are available?
White, Bronze, Black, and Titanium finishes are available as standard, but the sky is really the limit. There are additional premium options like Silver, Gold, Oil-Rubbed Bronze, and Chrome, as well as the custom color matching program.
Does this work as part of a home automation system?
Yes! That’s one of our favorite parts of panelized lighting. When paired with a home automation system like Elan, panelized lighting offers all kinds of possibilities.
We love home automation and the way it makes our lives easier. Smart homes are undoubtedly the trend du jour, but once you have a completed system installed, it can be tough to wrap your head around some of the best uses for automation. Automating is an entirely new concept for most people. So I usually tell clients to start by making a list of routines around the house that are repetitive and you find yourself doing over and over.
For example, If you’re always making the rounds turning out the lights on the way out the door, that can be a great chance to put your home control system to work.
While we can’t automate loading the dishes in the dishwasher yet, there are plenty of instances where your smart home can save you time.
Here are five Home Automation Ideas toget you started.
#1 – Welcome Home
Trigger: The garage door opening, your individual presence is detected by your phone or Apple Watch.
What happens: That’s entirely up to you, but our welcome home goes something like this. Dim the main hallway lights to 50% with warm light, start my “Chill” playlist on Spotify, and turn on the local news, (but only with captions) and lastly, drop the temperature on the thermostat 2 degrees.
Why?: Yes, we know having your four-legged friend attack you at the door is the ultimate, but who doesn’t want to get a jump on settling in for the evening? Instead of walking around doing your evening routine, let your home control system take care of everything. Some people have vastly more exotic sequences, so more or less is entirely up to you!
Just pay attention to what you do when you get home, and ask your integrator to “make that happen”.
#2 – The Effortless Exit
Trigger: All occupants leave the house or pressing an “away” button
What happens: All the lights in your home turn off, the security system is armed, and your home goes into “eco mode”
Why?: We mentioned this earlier, but this automation can pretty much save any one time, particularly in a larger home. If you’re a parent, we don’t have to explain any further. This scene can be as simple as having a push-button marked “away” or automatically triggered after an allotted time with no motion detected.
#3 – Popcorn Time
Trigger: A button on your universal remote or touch panel.
What happens: Motorized Shades begin to lower in unison surrounding the living room, the projector and screen lower from the ceiling, the surround sound system goes into movie mode, Netflix pops up on the screen, and the room lights dim to 10%.
Why?: Talk about having a huge impact! With the press of a single button, you’ve effortlessly transformed your living room from an elegant conversational space into a big-screen home cinema. When the movie’s over, press the button again and kick back into social hour.
#4 – Scheduled Scenes
This one doesn’t really fall into the category of a particular “program” but it’s the most universal use case for home control. Set a morning and evening mode for your home.
You can automate the temperature, and trigger certain lighting events based solely on the schedule. This is a great way to make your home evolve and change as the day progresses. Scheduling lighting can even be good for your health.
Perhaps between the hours of midnight and 5AM you only want your lights to turn on at 50% power.
#5 – In case of emergency
Trigger: If a fire alarm is detected
What Happens: all lights fade up to 25%, any audio that’s playing is muted, ceiling fans and ventilation are immediately turned off.
Why?: If a fire is detected in the middle of the night, not fumbling around looking for light switches could save you a lot of time. If the fire is severe, that time could even save your life. We shut off all sounds to make sure everyone can hear the alarm. Turning off the ventilation system in the event of fire helps prevent the flames’ spread and limits the smoke’s ability to travel to other parts of the home. Safety first!
At Audilux we specialize home control & automation by Elan. If you’d like to find out more about the difference between a DIY system and a professionally installed system, start with our blog post “From DIY to Dealer”!