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Catering to a 21st Century Family

What do you give customers who say they want it all? The obvious answer is that you give them exactly what they ask for.

Greenlight Systems of Bismarck, ND, outfitted an 11,000-square-foot home with AV and home automation. What do you give customers who say they want it all? The obvious answer is that you give them exactly what they ask for. Of course, sometimes there is a challenge in making that a reality.

This was the task facing TJ Farrell of Greenlight Systems in Bismarck, ND, after meeting with a couple building its 11,000-square-foot dream home. Given the $200,000 budget, it was one he was more than happy to tackle.

“This is a 21st century family,” said Farrell, explaining that they wanted an automation system that covered the entire home–inside and out–and would tie together just about every home system they could think of: security (including cameras), HVAC, lighting, irrigation, pool and spa, whole-home audio and video, window shade controls, and even door locks. And they wanted to control everything through a single interface, from inside the home or remotely.

Greenlight Systems chose the ELAN g! control system as the centerpiece for the home’s automation. Farrell and his team knew that they need a top-of-the-line foundation to support the rest of the system. They chose ELAN’s g! Entertainment and Control System as the centerpiece and began planning the rest of the components. They began by specifying IC Realtime cameras and a complete DSC security system. They recommended Lutron’s RadioRA 2 system to control the HVAC, lighting, and shades, and Autonomic’s Mirage multi-room audio system with custom-built in-ceiling speakers in each room.

TJ Farrell of Greenlight Systems. But they quickly realized that the biggest challenge would be the AV system, according to Farrell. The number of displays involved, lengthy cable runs, and desired special parental control component made this job particularly complex.

Each family member was to have his or her own bedroom suite equipped with a Samsung or Sony display, a DIRECTV cable receiver, Apple TV, and a Blu-ray player. The other rooms being outfitted with TVs included the living room, family room, master bathroom, kitchen, office, home theater, game room, garage, and outdoor patio, bringing the total number of displays scattered throughout the home to 14.

But while each child had a wide variety of sources for his or her entertainment pleasure, the parents asked Farrell to provide control in the master bedroom over all the home’s displays, so they could monitor what the children watched.

The home theater is one of 14 video zones in the North Dakota home. “Connecting 14 displays and sources and giving the master bedroom full control was the most challenging aspect of this install,” Farrell said. “We had to find a product that would accommodate many sources and displays, and support the long cable runs needed in a home of this size.”

Farrell chose Atlona’s 16×16 matrix switcher (AT-PRO2HD1616M) as the basis of the video distribution system. Able to control up to 32 devices, the Pro2HD1616M is control-system agnostic, and employs HDBaseT technology to carry IR, RS-232, video (up to 1080p), and embedded, multi-channel audio signals over a single CAT5e/6/7 cable. It also supports cable runs of up to 328 feet. All these factors made this the ideal matrix switcher.

The home’s AV rack includes an Atlona matrix switcher and seven DirecTV cable boxes. “Atlona’s fast switching was what we were looking for, and we love that any system can connect to Atlona devices,” said Farrell. “The 16×16 matrix switcher gave us the flexibility to share sources between all the rooms. In fact, we could not have designed the AV system without the matrix switcher. And it’s a great example of why HDBaseT is such a useful technology for whole-home installation–it takes care of everything.”

Farrell also pointed out that while the new system supports content up to 1080p, the family has already discussed future upgrades to 4K/UHD displays, a move that can be easily supported by replacing the present Atlona matrix switcher with a new model that supports 4K.

In the end, the system has run as smoothly as Farrell had hoped, pleasing both him and the homeowner, and leaving him hoping for another home automation project to whet his appetite.

“It’s not every day we get a project of this magnitude, said Farrell, “and when we get them, there are usually a few challenges that present themselves along the way. But that’s part of what makes an installation like this so satisfying.”