Connecting a Home

Digital Home Creations Ties ‘Electronic Amenities’ Together for Rochester Client
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The operation of a whole-house music system was about as high-tech as the owners of this renovated 5,200-square-foot home felt comfortable handling. But after redesigning and adding 1,800 square feet of living space in the basement of their mid-1990s home, they felt it was time to boost its IQ by adding a host of sophisticated electronic amenities. Their concern, though, was being able to easily manage all of the various products and systems from one main user interface. As they learned from the home systems experts at Digital Home Creations of Rochester, NY, getting these individual systems to work as one was not only possible through URC’s Total Control system, it’s a preferable way to monitor, manage, and control the environment of a home.

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After initial reluctance, the homeowners embraced the idea of a full-blown automation system in their renovated home.

Modernized from the Inside Out

When Digital Home Creations’ Ryan Hills met with the owners in 2012, home automation was the furthest thing from the homeowners’ minds. Although he educated the couple on the merits of complete automation, they stuck to their decision to invest in only a whole-house music system. Fast forward to 2015: Ready to update their house, the homeowners called Hills and embraced his initial recommendation of a full-blown automation system that could operate the home’s lights, thermostats, security system, video distribution components, and, of course, the music system. As a URC dealer for many years, Hills was confident that the URC Total Control system was ready for the challenge of unifying a diverse assortment of products and systems under a single user interface.

“The availability of several URC drivers, plus the use of third-party Dash OS software allowed us to seamlessly integrate popular products from Nest, Lutron, Sonos, and others and take automation to a whole new level,” Hills said. “Plus, everything is operable from one single URC mobile app. Through software developed by URC, we were able to automate this house to the hilt, and do so more affordably than if we had used any other brand of control system.”

Instead of having to open a control app on their smartphones to operate their home’s Nest thermostats, another to command a Honeywell Vista security system, another to operate a Yale electronic door lock, and so on, the homeowners were excited to now only have to bring up a single URC Total Control app to monitor, manage, and control everything.

“No matter what device the homeowners pick up–a handheld remote, a smartphone or tablet, or an in-wall touchscreen–the control graphical interface is consistent and intuitive enough for babysitters and guests to understand and navigate with ease,” Hills said.

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Left: The home theater features a James Loudspeaker 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos surround-sound system and a 148-inch Da-Lite CinemaScope projection screen. RIght: Digital Home Creations’ Ryan Hills.

Before any design or installation of the URC or other gear could happen, though, Hills and his team had to rip out the unusable low-voltage wiring from the house and replace it with a new infrastructure of high-speed cabling. A robust wireless network was installed, too, to ensure that every device, be it hardwired or wireless, could coexist and communicate reliably on the Total Control system. With the network in place, Hills was ready to place all of the home’s various electronic subsystems under the aegis of the Total Control system. In the past, he said, “This level of integration would have required weeks of painful programming, but thanks to a full portfolio of two-way drivers and setup software, I was able to have the entire system integrated and programmed in one day.”

Setting the Scene with Ease

Having all the systems tied together under a common app simplified control and also afforded Hills the opportunity to create a variety of custom scenes and automation routines that could be engaged by touching one button on an iPad, iPhone, URC touchscreen, or one of many Lutron wall-mounted keypads. The Entertain Sports scene, for example, turns on the two Sony 55-inch 4K LED TVs in the basement rec room to ESPN and ESPN2, and shoots audio through a URC DMS-1200 amplifier to speakers in two of the 13 listening areas. In the home theater, which features a James Loudspeaker 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos surround-sound system and a 148-inch Da-Lite CinemaScope projection screen, Hills set up four different scenes: Reading, Game, Music, and Movie. Each sets the lights for the chosen activity and revs up the appropriate AV gear.

Livening Up the Place

There’s no doubt that his client’s new control system has simplified and unified the management of their home environment. After all, that’s the main reason they hired Digital Home Creations to load their house with tech. A more unexpected benefit they’ve recently realized, Hills said, is how fun it is to entertain friends and family.

“They had never had a big gathering at their house prior to the renovation,” he said. “Once the project was complete they had a big crowd of people over and were ecstatic about how easy the Total Control system made it to host a party.”