Dolby Labs has done it again! Dolby has been the front-runner in audio noise reduction and encoding/compression techniques since 1967, and they have just outdone themselves. You may remember the movie Batman Returns, which was the first film to feature Dolby Digital. This was a compression technology that allowed theaters using 35mm film to utilize digital audio, and allows speaker configurations up to six speakers (also known as 5.1 surround sound). This advance in the audio industry broke ground for home-based surround sound systems and movie theaters worldwide. 5.1 surround sound means that there are three speakers in the front (known as Left, Right and Center), two speakers in the back (Back Left and Back Right), and a sub-woofer. This speaker configuration allowed film producers to mix their audio tracks in a way that gives the listener the feel that they are in the movie. Voices and main noises come out of the front and many of the ambient background noises come from behind the listener. Dolby Digital was quickly accepted as a standard part of DVD technologies and adapted by all HDTV sources such as satellite and cable receivers. This technology quickly opened up the world to Dolby Surround and Dolby ProLogic, two technologies that take a normal 2-channel stereo audio track and distribute the sounds to many different surround speakers for a simulated surround sound effect.
In 2010, Dolby Labs introduced 7.1 surround sound called TrueHD, which is similar to the previous 5.1 configuration. TrueHD offers a much higher quality sound reproduction and adds two side speakers to further enhance the feeling of being surrounded by the movie. Thanks to the Dolby ProLogic technology mentioned earlier it was only a matter of time before 9.1 and 11.1 surround modes made themselves known. 9.1 and 11.1 surround modes added options for Front High and Front Wide speakers in an attempt to further enhance the sound field. These two modes never really took off because the cost of the extra speakers and amplifier was too expensive to justify for the little bit of extra sound produced in the same horizontal field. This is where the new Dolby ATMOS technology comes in.
Dolby ATMOS (also known as 7.1.4) is an exciting technology that incorporates four ceiling speakers to give the movie a vertical sound presence as well as the traditional horizontal presence. In real life, noises come from every direction. If an airplane in a movie flies overhead, a traditional 7.1 surround configuration would make it sound like the airplane was flying on either side of you. With the ATMOS technology, you actually hear the airplane flying overhead like it would be in real life. Thanks to Dolby ATMOS, movie producers now have the technology to place individual sounds anywhere in the sound-field, giving the listener a true-to-life audio experience. This technology was introduced in 2012 for the movie Brave, and was placed in the Home Theater spectrum in July of this year. Many of the new surround sound receivers and Blu-rays coming out this year already have ATMOS technology incorporated in them. With the addition of a few more speakers, you can have a life-like surround sound experience that can only be matched by a handful of commercial movie theaters! Give D-Lux Home Systems a call today for more information or to schedule a free in-home consultation.
Home automation systems are becoming more main-stream than ever, and more affordable than ever. With solutions ranging from small automated “modules” like a Nest thermostat or Phillips Hue lighting systems, to large “centralized” systems encapsulating all aspects of the home, there are a lot of questions out there about what can add appraised value to your home. While there is no short answer at this point, there are some things to look out for when buying a new home or improving on the one you have.
Home technology is improving rapidly, and with it comes a demand for more robust wiring throughout the home. Technology doesn’t go backwards very often, so it is important to understand the need for a more robust wiring infrastructure in your home. DirecTV, for example, has revolutionized the broadcast industry with its distributed home-sharing technology. In order to deliver these features, the cable used to connect the satellite receivers needs to be an RG-6 coax wire that is swept to 3 ghz. Technical jargon aside, this is a challenge to many homeowners because a lot of homes out there have been wired with cheaper, smaller wiring that simply will not work with modern satellite systems. This can cost a lot of money to resolve. While there are many different wireless solutions out there to help with these problems, they are still restricted by things like bandwidth and interference. If you are improving on your existing home, a well-designed wiring infrastructure will not only make your life easier, it will help increase the appraised value of your home. If you are buying a new home, verifying that there are cat5/6 wires and RG-6 coax wires in every room will make your life much easier when it comes time to move in.
Security systems are at the heart of most home automation systems, big or small. The security system is responsible for reporting motion detection, home or away status and door/window status to the automation system. The automation system can then take that information and perform actions like turning lights on or off, turning TVs and speakers on or off, adjusting the thermostat, etc.. When someone moves out of an automated home, the processor responsible for the automation will typically leave with the homeowner and doesn’t add any value to the home itself. However, the security system will stay and can help add value to the home. Many appraisers will take note of things like security systems, water leak protection features and surveillance systems, and will add the appraised value accordingly. If you are improving your existing home, a security system will not only help keep your family and belongings safe, it is a good way to add some value to your home. If you are buying a new home, verifying that there is a security system and that it works is always a good idea.
Lighting control systems have been around for quite a few decades now, and can also add value to your home. Lighting control can help save energy by only allowing a light to turn on 85%, or by making sure the lights turn off automatically if nobody is in the room. These systems also add some aesthetic appeal, as they can be programmed to do “scenes”, which will simultaneously turn on many lights to specified levels with one button-press. The best part is, a lighting control system can add value to your home as well. However, there are a few caveats that anyone thinking about buying or improving on a home should be aware of. First of all, the type of lighting control is a factor. In order to add value to the home, the system must be permanently installed in the home. This means that any of the “smart” outlets and plug-in modules found at Home Depot are not going to add any value as they are typically removed when moving out of the home. Also, beware of X10 modules and switches as these are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and are getting to the point of needing to be replaced anyway. Another thing to look out for is a proprietary lighting control system that relies on a home automation controller like Control4 or Crestron. Once the controller leaves with the old homeowner, the lighting system is often rendered either somewhat or totally useless unless the new homeowner already has that specific system controller. In order to add value to the home, the system should be of a stand-alone type that will work with or without the home automation controller (always a good idea anyway). Lutron, Vantage, and LiteTouch are good examples of stand-alone lighting control systems that can add value to your home.
Home automation systems are basically just computers that talk to the different systems in the home like HVAC units, sprinkler systems, driveway heaters, lights, TVs, etc.. Typically, when a home is sold, the automation “computer” and peripherals like touch-panels will leave with the previous homeowner. Because of this, home appraisers will not add the cost of the home automation equipment to the home’s value. However, for a prospective buyer, seeing things like remote controlled shades, in-ceiling speakers, and a structured wiring panel will give a great first impression and add “perceived” value to the prospective buyer, possibly making your home more appealing than others. In conclusion, the answer to the question is yes. Home automation can add both monetary value and “perceived” value to your home.
If you are looking for a home, automated or not, we strongly recommend our friendly and knowledgeable local Realtor, Justin Berry. He can be reached at 303-564-1889 or found online at www.homesbyjustin.com. Before you move into your new home, we also strongly advise you to call D-Lux Home Systems (303-912-2225) to check out the wiring and existing equipment. Home inspections do not cover any of this, and many of the homes on the market are not wired with the latest technology needs in mind. We can help determine what is needed and what it will take to get you up and running smoothly before you move in. If you don’t like the idea of your TV being transported between your dresser and the dining room table, we also provide a service to professionally pack and move your electronics to your new location. Even if you are just thinking about remodeling, give us a call. We always do free in-home consultations to help determine what will be needed for the remodel and can offer design ideas for the electronics in your new space.
For many years now, companies like Control4, Savant, AMX, Crestron and Universal Remote have offered products to help make life easier by automating and consolidating home technologies with easy-to-use interfaces. This can include audio/video, security, climate control, lighting, window coverings, door locks, and even things like driveway heaters and sprinkler systems. All this can be controlled via your phone, tablet, computer or integrated remote control. With a little programming, the possibilities of what can be done with these systems is almost limitless. You can have the system notify you if the garage door is left open. You can wake up to your favorite song playing on your bedroom speakers while the lights slowly dim up. You can set your house to “Away Mode” which will automatically turn off all the lights and the thermostat. Maybe you want a “Leaving Work” button that will reset your thermostat, start the hot tub and turn on the porch lights… If you can imagine it, these automation systems can most likely do it. This is TRUE home automation. However, now there are some new players in the game.
Companies like Comcast, AT&T and Cox Communications have entered the ring in an attempt to bring some of these features to homes at a lower cost. These systems can include lighting control, security systems, and climate control, and can all be accessed from a phone, tablet or computer from almost anywhere. Sounds great, right? Sure, for some people. However, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration before you get locked into one of these systems.
First we must recognize the difference between “Home Automation” and “Connected Home” technologies. A “connected home”, as is offered by Comcast, AT&T or Cox will allow you to control different aspects (lighting, thermostats, etc) of your home through an Internet-enabled App on your phone or tablet… and that’s about it. Forgot to lock your door? Open the app on your phone and lock it. Need to turn the porch light on? Open the app and turn on the light. “Home Automation” will allow you to do this as well, but adds the ability to customize the system to do what you want, when you want it to. For instance, if you love listening to music all day, a little programming can add the ability to turn on your favorite music source throughout the house when you disarm your security system. A “Party Mode” button might turn on some music, dim some lights, and lower some window shades. If your son’s window opens after 10:30pm, a little programming can turn on the lights in your bedroom so you can go bust him before he makes off with the car. Again, the possibilities of an automated home are virtually endless and can be customized to the owner’s preferences and needs. Connected home technologies offer none of these possibilities, but for some reason are advertised as “automation” anyway. Buyer beware!
Another thing to take into account is the equipment and serviceability of each kind of system. First of all, home automation controllers made by Control4, Savant and the like, are dedicated controllers. This means that their only job is to make sure everything happens properly. These controllers have very fast processing abilities, and usually come with some kind of “auto-recovery” technology in case something fails. If something does go wrong, a technician can usually log into the system remotely and fix the issue without even coming to your house. These controllers also have built-in wireless technologies that allow communication to light switches, thermostats, etc., making an automation system easy to customize, retro-fit and scale-up if desired.
On the other side of things, Comcast, AT&T and Cox do not use dedicated controllers, but instead have integrated their technologies into the set-top cable box in most cases. This means you are stuck with cable TV. There is no “auto-recovery” feature included in these systems as of yet, which will cause you to have to power cycle the box every time there is an issue. They do have built-in wireless capabilities for communicating to light switches, thermostats, etc., but it works on a zWave protocol, which is much less reliable than the ZigBee standard that home automation controllers use. Oh, and did I mention that these connected home systems do not incorporate audio and video? Come on, cable company… Now, by a show of hands, let me see how many of you like to sit on hold with the cable company for hours on end… anyone? Huh… Now, imagine calling Comcast and sitting on hold with them only to find that you are waiting on hold for the wrong department. “Very sorry sir, you are in the cable TV tech support line. Let me transfer you to our cable Internet department.” (Yes, they are two different divisions.) All this, only to find out that your Internet is working fine and you need to be transferred to the “home automation” division (yet another division). After jumping through all these different hoops, they might end up sending three different technicians to your house to determine the problem! At this point you will most likely be wishing you had called D-Lux Home Systems where we can diagnose and fix all three of the above circumstances with one technician!
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Price is always a major consideration when choosing a system like this. When choosing a system provided by the cable companies, it will most likely include something like this:
Okay, pretty standard stuff, right? Again, this may work for a lot of people, but let’s compare that to what buying a true home automation system would include.
As you can see, purchasing a “connected” home system vs. purchasing a “home automation” system is like renting a home vs. owning a home. When you rent a home, you are stuck paying double what the mortgage would be for the life of the lease, and you walk away with no equity. It’s like throwing away $1200 every month. When you buy a home, you are getting exactly what you pay for in the end, and have the ability to add equity to the home in the future. The point of all this is that with a little more up-front cost, you walk away with a much better system, you own the equipment, and it will not cost you precious money every month.
It has been a common belief that companies like Comcast, AT&T and Cox will spell the end of days for local integration and home automation companies like D-Lux Home Systems, but I believe it to be a blessing in disguise.In the past, home automation technology has been something that only a few could afford, and even fewer knew about. In the last 5 years, a complete automated home system has gone from a whopping $100,000+ to around $30,000. The cable and phone companies offering similar products at half the price will accomplish two things. First of all, it will bring awareness about this technology to more people. Secondly, this will eventually force companies like Control4, Savant and Crestron to lower product prices in order to be more competitive (which is already starting to happen). In 2-3 years, when everyone’s “cable-guy automation” contracts are up, I can see many of them switching over to more reliable and customizable TRUE home automation systems.
Before calling your cable or phone company for “automation” technology, give D-Lux Home Systems a call. We offer free consultations to ensure everything you want will work properly in your home without a lot of hidden charges, fees, and stipulations. We are experts in the field of “smart technology”, and can even fix those problems the cable and/or phone guy couldn’t. For a little extra money, let us put you into a reliable system that is customized to your wants and needs.
CEDIA is the Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association. This year, Denver was lucky enough to host the CEDIA expo. All the biggest names in consumer electronics come here to show off their new technology and network with dealers from all over the country. Below is a list of the best, coolest, and most outrageous audio/video and control systems presented at the show this year.
Do you remember the good old days when you had to spend an hour in front of your thermostat trying to figure out how to program some kind of intelligent heating/cooling schedule for your home? All this, only to do it all again when the seasons change or because your spouse gets too hot at night. Well say goodbye to all of that!
An exciting thing happened at CEDIA this year. After many years of waiting, Control4 home automation systems have finally been granted the ability to integrate seamlessly with the ever-popular Nest Learning Thermostat. For those that don’t know what the Nest Learning Thermostat is, it is a God-send that does just what is sounds like it does; learns your schedule. From the moment the Nest t-stat is installed, it starts recognizing your heating/cooling patterns as it relates to the time of day, season, outside temperature, home occupancy, etc.. Every time you touch it, this genius little device does some quick math and figures out why you had to change the temperature, so it can do it for you next time. This means that the longer you have it, the smarter it gets, and eventually the thermostat programs itself! Now, this is cool enough, but when you combine it with Control4’s award-winning home automation systems, it really adds some power to your smart-home… and it looks good, too!
As an authorized Control4 dealer and an authorized Nest dealer, we are very excited about this opportunity to get these systems in people’s homes so they can see the time and energy savings for themselves. If you want to save money on energy bills, save time setting schedules, or just want a really cool looking thermostat, give us a call!
Comment by Jusitn Berry: 2013-10-22 13:46:39
I want a NEST smoke detector too!
There is an old saying that ‘time is money’. While most people may think of this as “well, the more time I spend at work, the more money I make”, a business owner may see this time as more of a liability than an asset. If this employee’s time is spent doing non-work-related tasks, that would make their time a liability to you as the business owner because it is not directly making the business any money, but instead, costing the business money in wages. The solution here is simple; keep that employee doing tasks that make the business money. You might be asking yourself “what does this have to do with automating a business?”. Well, let’s go over a few typical things that happen when a business opens its doors every day and see where automation can help.
A typical business will have someone that ‘opens shop’. At 8:00 every weekday they will unlock the front door, and provided they don’t have two arms full of stuff when they arrive, will run directly to the security system keypad to disarm the system. Once the system has been disarmed, invariably some lights will need to be turned on. Depending on the size of business we’re talking about, this step alone may take 10-20 min. Unless you live here in Denver where the temperature is always perfect (kidding), there may be some playing with the thermostat that needs to be done. Once this is all set and ready for the day, some music may need to be turned on as well. If you own a restaurant or medical office, you will most likely have a TV or 18 to turn on and possibly switch channels on (more on the benefits here later). Well, now everything is on and ready for the day, but it’s 8:30 already. Maybe two customers have showed up already and left because someone was on a ladder trying to turn the music on in the back room and couldn’t help them. Unless you were lucky enough to hire Merlin the Wizard, how can one person do all these tasks without wasting any of the businesses valuable time? Easily!
Let’s take the last example and fix it so that you as the business owner are not spending money on the tedious daily tasks of opening and closing shop. For the sake of this example, we will pretend that we are talking about a small retail store. The manager unlocks the door in the morning and the alarm starts beeping, needing a valid code to disarm it. As soon as a valid code is entered, all the lights automatically turn on to a level that compliments the atmosphere of the store, the thermostat is adjusted automatically to a temperature that is comfortable for that time of year, the music turns on to a station that is acceptable for all your customers, and the two TVs above the fitting rooms automatically turn on to display channels approved by the business owner. Pretty cool, huh? You just consolidated 30 or more minutes of unprofitable labor costs it into a task that takes less than 30 seconds! We could also take it one step further and have the business send you a text message if the system is disarmed after normal opening hours indicating a late employee. Thinking even further, why not give each employee a key-card instead of a key that would automatically unlock the door and disarm the security system (assuming it is within normal business hours). Now the two arms full of stuff that the employee is carrying doesn’t even need to be put down before they are at their desk ready to work. Same thing applies for closing time. Arm the system and everything automatically turns off saving energy and even more money! How much do you pay your opener and closer? How much would it save your business every day to turn that first and last 30 minutes of the day into productive labor instead of a heavy liability?
Restaurant owners may have it especially tough. The light levels need to be changed throughout the day, patio heaters or misters may need to turn on or off depending on the temperature outside, the music selection may need to change at dinner time, and customers always seem to be watching the wrong channel requiring someone to change it for them. One of the biggest issues that I have seen in restaurants with a few TVs to control is that someone has to go around and point the remote at each TV to turn it on or off. Well, if the TVs are fairly far apart, this might not be a problem, but in a bar with multiple TVs next to each other, this may prove difficult as they are typically the same brand of TV. This causes the TV your pointing the remote at to turn on… along with one of the TVs next to it, but not the other TV. Shoot, well, just point the remote at the TV that didn’t turn on and hit power…. oh, crap. Now that one in the middle just turned off… hit power again and now the one in the middle is off and the two next to it are on… better just get the ladder and turn that one on manually… I see this problem constantly, and can easily fix it with a control system that isolates all the TVs from each other making it very easy to manipulate via a single remote control or a smart-phone/tablet app. This same control system would make it easy for the restaurant to automatically change lighting levels throughout the day, turn on or off patio misters and heaters, change music channels at dinner time, turn every other TV to the football game on Monday nights… anything your imagination can cook up that might keep your bartender behind the bar instead of playing with volume controls and 15 different DirecTV remotes all night. Just one remote or tablet can fix this entire headache!
In any case, making life easier on you and your employees is as simple as calling D-Lux Home Systems for a free consultation to see what kinds of options are available for saving your business some money. Control systems are getting more affordable and more powerful all the time, so now is the time to take those wasted dollars and do something fun with them!
Look out Mile-High City, prepare to have your homes decked out with the latest in cool smart-home technology,home theaters, media rooms, etc.. We do it all from concept to completion. This can include system design, wiring, installation, programming, networking and system management / service. We will walk you through our process during a FREE CONSULTATION at your home. Then you can just sit back, enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather, and let us do the rest! Please be patient with us as this site is continually being updated. Please call the number above for more details or to schedule your free consultation.