About a year ago, John and Beth Chappo renovated their one-bedroom condo in downtown in Indianapolis—a place they stay when they venture out of their primary home in suburban Carmel, IN, or rent out to Airbnb guests—modernizing its décor and adding home automation features to enhance comfort and control of the space.
John, a physician who loves to “one-up” his two brothers in the search for the best home tech, had done his homework on all of the control options in the custom channel, but chose to go with less well-known Loxone brand, which boasts a significant market share in Europe but is only beginning to form a dealer base in the U.S. To complete the work, he and his wife Beth hired Dan Killinger, owner of Intelligent Living Solutions in Zionsville, IN.
Intelligent Living's Dan Killinger (left) with clients Beth and John Chappo
“I’ve been into tech my whole life, and Dan just took it to the next level, introducing me to Loxone, and doing the full integration here,” John said as he led a tour of the condo.
Killinger moved from landscape and pool management to the home automation business four years ago, and had been working with Loxone for two years.
Loxone, based in Austria, was founded in 2009 and now has more the 250 employees, serving 60,000 smart homes to date after more than 200,000 downloads of its app. Florian Woess, who joined the company in 2009 as its fifth employee, is leading the company’s U.S. efforts out of its office in Media, PA. Woess is still building the brand’s rep force in the U.S., where more than 600 homes already include Loxone systems.
Dan Killinger at a Loxone touchpad
Chappo said that he appreciated the simplicity of the Loxone system, which is notable for it use of touchpads in place of lighting control keypads, and simple app-based control of entertainment equipment and other subsystems. “I think there are a lot of good products, but they’re only as good as the programmer,” he said of his experience with professional control brands. “You’ve obviously got to do your research about which one you really want.”
The ultimate goal, Chappo said, is that his entire family is comfortable using the system. “If my wife and kids can’t figure out how to use it, then it’s worthless,” he said. “With this system, my daughters can pick up the iPad mini and turn on the TV and surf through the Apple TV with no problem.”
The Chappos also liked the relative affordability of the Loxone system and that they can customize settings once the initial macros are set up by Killinger. “I think it’s more user friendly to someone who might want to do some of this on their own and tinker around with it,” Chappo said. “I have buddies who have systems from other companies, and they are aggravated that it’s $800 just to have someone come back and fix something or change a macro.”
The condo’s new minimalist design includes Loxone’s LED light strips as accents around the kitchen area, allowing custom color changes by the family. The family calls this their color “cloud,” and they’ve changed it—via the Loxone app—to blue and red for the Fourth of July and to all blue for their daughters’ recent mermaid party.
The Loxone system controls TiVo and AppleTV
Each touchpad throughout the condo is programmed identically to avoid confusion by family members and guests. By default, the center of the Loxone touchpad is used to switch through light scenes. The first tap activates day lighting, the second tap activates cooking, etc. A double click turns off the room (all lights in the room off, music off.) Dimming through the Loxone Touch is possible; you can set it to use the corner to dim a scene up and down. The Touchpads either come battery driven with wireless connection (Loxone Touch Air) or hardwired to 24VDC and communication through Loxone's Tree Protocol (Loxone Touch Tree). The Chappos have the battery driven versions in their condo. In addition, there are two editions of each Touch — the inexpensive Loxone Touch, made out of plastic, and the more elegant Loxone Touch, made out of glass. All Loxone Touch products come with a built-in temperature and humidity sensor. In addition, the Touch pure has a downlight to better navigate at night.
In the condo, the Chappos have light and temperature sensors tied to their battery-powered Q-Motion window shades and their ceiling fan. If the condo hits a predetermined temperature, then the shades are set to lower and the ceiling fan turns on. This is especially beneficial when the condo is unoccupied, the Chappos said.
The system is also programmed to turn on the bathroom lights via motion sensor, but only to a lower dimming level after 11 p.m. Those lights then turn back off after five minutes of inactivity.
When it comes to hosting guests, Beth Chappo, a fashion blogger, said that she has been quite pleased with how well family members of all ages, as well as Airbnb guests, are able to engage with the system without issue. “John’s parents are in their mid to late 60s, and they can totally manage the system,” she said. “We’ve had no less than 15 guests, and I think we had only one issue where they couldn’t figure out how to turn the TiVo on. But we have it very much spelled out on a printed page, just in case. It amazed me that no one has had any problems with the automation. All age ranges and all demographics.”
And with the rentals, the remote access feature of the Loxone system allows the Chappos to monitor energy costs, and make sure the system is shut down at checkout. Every guest gets their own doorlock entry code, so the Chappos know who comes and goes.
Energy usage sensors on the electrical panel
“When people check out, they often don’t turn everything down, even though we specify that all you have to do is tap the touchpad, and it literally turns the condo off,” Beth said. “We can monitor their entrances and their exits, and can tell if they locked the door. We can tell if they’re cranking up the AC. We can tell if they turned the lights off. It’s nice for me, because I’m a little OCD. We can be at our house in Carmel and know that this place is secure and locked up. I can just go on my phone and check.”
In the condo’s relatively small utility closet, Killinger installed the Loxone dimmers and lighting load modules. Each LED lighting strip has its own dimmer, so that they can be controlled independently. The AV, consisting of the aforementioned TiVo and Apple TV, a Yamaha MusicCast streaming music system and YSP-5600 soundbar, and LG TV, is controlled by a combination of IR, IP, and RS-232. A leak sensor at the base of the water heater will trigger the LED lights to start flashing and send a text alert if it’s set off. Energy sensors on the electrical mains report how much power the whole system is using.
“You can get as detailed as you want,” Killinger said of the electrical panel monitoring. “You can have sensors on each circuit if you want, or maybe on the high loads, like the air conditioner and that sort of thing.”
Loxone’s security sensors also integrate with an Alarm.com panel, and floor lamps are controlled via Lutron in the Loxone system.
The Chappos are so happy with their home automation experience that they’ve hired Killinger to integrate a much larger Loxone system into their new home in the suburbs. “We’re building a house in Zionsville right now, and we’re taking our integration of Loxone even further with more automation, AV, and lighting,” John Chappo said.