5 Smart Home Systems for Your Summer House


Smart-Home-Systems-Summer (1)Whether you have a summer home at the beach, in the country, or in the city, you want to furnish it properly—and that includes adding in a few smart home systems and other high-tech features. Having the right electronics in your summer home is just as important as getting the proper patio set, a coffee maker, or even a couch.

Want to make that getaway as cool and comfortable as your year-round residence? Here are five smart home systems and gadgets for your summer house.

Are you itching to build a home automation system? Expert guidance is FREE in this special report, Smart Home Systems: Expert Guide to Home Automation, Smart Home Products & More.

Smart Home Systems for Summer: Roku

Media Streamer. We could say “TV,” but if you’re a fan of the Electronic House, we have to assume that’s a given. What probably isn’t so obvious is what you’re going to watch on that TV. Having a media streamer can deliver instant entertainment, all without having to add onto your monthly cable/satellite bill. Even better, you won’t have to worry about turning service on and off at various times of the year. Choose between the Apple TV,Amazon Fire TV or Roku (pictured), based on your viewing preferences. Depending on what you’re watching, you may need a subscription (such as Amazon Prime or Netflix). Otherwise, all you’ll need is web access—which should be as much of a no-brainer as the TV.

Smart Home Systems for Summer: Dropcam

Security Camera. Wondering who may be lurking when you’re not at the house? Having a security system is key for any second home. You may want to opt for something with a monitoring service, which can alert you and the authorities if anyone opens a door or window in the offseason or any other time you aren’t around. However, there are several inexpensive security cameras (such as the pictured Dropcam) to get you started. A few options to consider are your smartphone platform, storage and whether or not the product can be integrated into other systems in the home. Just make sure you pick something with alerts, which will send you a notice whenever motion is present.

Smart Home Systems for Summer: Lutron Caseta

Automated Lighting. Most people hate entering a dark house on a daily basis. Can you imagine going into a dark place that you haven’t been to in days or even months? Having automated lighting allows you to turn on specific indoor and outdoor lights before you arrive. As an added bonus, it can be used as a security measure, making your home look occupied when it’s not. And really, you have no excuse not to have some type of an automated lighting system. Currently, there are too many options to list. For instance, Lutron makes multiple automated systems, including HomeWorks and the wireless Caseta system (the necessary Smart Bridge is pictured). There are even a variety of smart bulbs to get you started, from the multi-colored Philips hue to the insanely affordableWink, and much more.

Are you itching to build a home automation system? Expert guidance is FREE in this special report, Smart Home Systems: Expert Guide to Home Automation, Smart Home Products & More.

Smart Home Systems for Summer: ecobee3

Smart Thermostat. Did you leave the air conditioning running the last time you were at the beach? You can never be sure, unless you have a smart thermostat. This allows you to peek in at the current temperature of a remote location, as well as tweak the status, all from any web-enabled device. Of course, the Nest Learning Thermostat is currently the hot option, but ecobee (pictured), Honeywell, Carrier, and countless others all make cool thermostats that you can control from remote locations.

Smart Home Systems for Summer: Chamberlain MyQ

Automated Garage Door. This is one of those smart home systems most people don’t think about—and that’s why you need one. Chances are, you leave that second residence in such a hurry. You worry about whether the oven is off, what’s in the fridge, and whether or not you left the door unlocked. Of course, you probably closed the garage door, but how can you be sure? By having an automated garage door system! TheChamberlain MyQ is one of the most popular options, allowing you to check in on the status of that door and close it from afar. It even allows you to open it, in case you have spontaneous guests, workers or neighbors who want to bring in the mail.

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Tech Update: Wireless Power


Tech Update: Wireless Power

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The past couple of decades have seen mind-blowing advances in technology – from super-thin high-definition TVs that hang on the wall to cars that can park themselves to lights, cameras, thermostats, and all sorts of other “connected devices” that can be monitored and controlled no matter where you are using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Amid all this bustling innovation is one thing that hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years: We still need to run electrical cords to AC-powered devices, including “wireless speakers” that eliminate the need for speaker wire but not power cords.

All that may be about to change thanks to a Massachusetts-based company called WiTricity, which has developed a wireless power-transfer system that works over greater distances than the magnetic-induction system used in today’s wireless phone charging pads.

Wireless Revolution?

“We’re really inventing the basic science [of wireless power],” said WiTricity CEO Alex Gruzen in a recent interview with Fox News. “No more worries about do I have the right cable, the right connector, the right adapter. We’re just going to get rid of that cable clutter with one very simple wireless charging technology.”

The technology was born out of a frustration we can all relate to: The need to plug in and charge our phones one or more times a day. This daily annoyance was enough to compel MIT professor and WiTricity founder Marin Solačić (pronounced Soul-ya-cheech) to figure out how to wirelessly transfer power from a home’s existing electrical infrastructure to phones and other devices.

The pursuit led to the development of a wireless power system based on the phenomenon of “magnetically coupled resonators” whereby two objects resonating at the same frequency exchange energy through the air – without putting humans at risk. WiTricity says the process is 90-percent efficient and works on a low-level magnetic field comparable with the natural magnetic field generated by the Earth.

The applications are compelling and WiTricity has solutions for providing as little as 10 watts for portable devices all the way up to 6 kilowatts for charging electric cars. The system requires a source resonator, which plugs into an AC outlet and generates a magnetic field around it, and a resonance capture device that “receives” power through the air.

For charging phones and other battery-powered portable devices, you attach a special sleeve to your phone that picks up power from the magnetic field generated by an electromagnetic transmitter attached to the underside of a table or counter. The phone begins charging whenever it is placed on the surface – and it doesn’t have to be directly over the transmitter, which is strong enough to charge multiple devices.

WiTricity has demonstrated how the technology can be used to power a TV, eliminating the need to run an unsightly power cord to the TV, which is particularly helpful if the display is mounted on the wall.

The FDA is testing wireless charging for heart pumps and other medical implants. Instead of having to plug a power cable into an infection-prone receptacle embedded in the patient’s body, the device can be charged wirelessly while the patient lies in bed. The military is also testing a helmet apparatus that draws power wirelessly from a power source in the backpack.

WiTricity sees a day in the near future when you will be able to pull your electric car into the garage and park over a charging mat; the car would start charging immediately, eliminating the need to physically plug it in. Toyota has licensed the technology for its new electric Prius.

WiTricity recently entered into a partnership with Intel, which could produce WiTricity-powered laptops as early as the end of 2014.

Pros and Cons: Flat-Screen TVs vs. Projection TVs


Pros and Cons: Flat-Screen TV vs. Projection TV

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Your aging TV has served you well, but it’s time for an upgrade – a serious upgrade. Although you haven’t decided what kind of TV to buy, you know you want a killer picture and a really big screen. You’ve even wondered if a video projection system might be something to consider.

Projection TV is most definitely worth a look, especially if you watch a lot of movies and like the idea of having a theater-like experience at home, but it’s a very different animal from a TV. So, before you can even start your shopping adventure, you have to answer Question No. 1: Should I shop for a flat-screen TV or a video projector?

The only way to make an informed decision is to weigh the pros and cons of each approach, so let’s get started.

Price

Setting up a good quality video-projection system is more expensive than simply buying a flat-screen TV, and depending on the projector and screen you choose and whether or not you hire a professional to install your video projection system, it can be quite a bit more expensive.

Setup

With a TV, setup is typically a slam-dunk affair: You plug it in, hook up your cable or satellite box and audio gear, and you’re good to go. This, of course, assumes you’re not planning to mount the TV on the wall, which will incur additional expense in terms of mounting hardware and – unless you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer – professional installation.

With video projection, setup is more complicated (and costly) because you’re dealing with a light source (the projector) and a screen on the opposite side of the room. Projection systems are often professionally installed, which typically involves mounting the projector on the ceiling, snaking wires through walls, and affixing a retractable (or motorized) screen to the wall or ceiling. If you’re contemplating a dedicated home theater or media room, hiring a pro is the way to go.

A less expensive alternative would be to simply place the projector on a shelf or table and beam images onto a blank wall, but you have to be willing to accept some loss in picture quality and, ultimately, a less-than-permanent TV setup.

Screen Size

When it comes to diagonal screen size, projectors have it hands down, offering a movie-theater-like presentation with screens starting at 100 inches (more than seven feet wide!). TVs, on the other hand, top out at around 70 or so inches, with screens between 46 and 65 inches being most common. You can go a little bigger, but you have to be willing to spend money on a 4K Ultra HD TV with an 85-inch screen. There are also TVs with screens that top 100 inches, but they’re built-to-order and even higher in price.

Location

You can put a TV pretty much anywhere, although available space can become an issue once you move beyond 60 or so inches in screen size. With a video projection setup, there’s no two ways about it: you need a decent-sized room with plenty of wall space so you can project a movie-theater-like image. Otherwise, what’s the point?

You also need to consider ambient light – unless you’re setting up in a basement. Projected images aren’t as bright as a TV screen, so rooms with exposure to sunlight aren’t the best choice for a video projector.

So Which Will It Be?

In the end, budget and available space will be key factors in your decision – and if you get a projector, you have to be willing to go the extra mile to ensure proper setup. But there’s no denying the excitement of watching movies on a screen that’s 10 feet wide in the comfort of your home.

Home Automation: More than Apps


Home Automation: More Than Apps

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There was a time when the term “home automation” conjured images of a friendly robotic maid buzzing around the house, cleaning, doing laundry, and cooking meals.

Humanoid robots have indeed come to pass and may eventually play a role in our lives at home. But the reality of home automation in the 21st Century is quite a bit different than what was envisioned in the post-World War II era. Instead of a robotic hub, home control is centralized in the palm of our hands, thanks to a small yet very powerful device most of us take for granted – the smartphone.

Being able to adjust temperature and lighting, check cameras, and unlock your front door from your smartphone is a wonderful convenience, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what you can expect from a professionally designed and installed home automation system.

Off-the-shelf systems targeting do-it-yourselfers and home automation “solutions” offered by cable and phone companies tend to be basic and limited in scope. You might have an app that lets you adjust your thermostat, control a few lights, or unlock the front door, but it will be restricted to one device. Controlling multiple devices requires opening separate apps – one for the thermostat, one for the lights and one for the door.

What’s more, each app/control system is operating on its own island and has no idea what the others are up to.

Get Integrated

One of the most compelling aspects of custom home automation is something you can’t achieve with off-the-shelf products: integration.

Sure, it’s nice that you can adjust your thermostat from your iPhone, but wouldn’t it be better if you could “see” and control other devices from the same app? Ideally, you would be able to arm and disarm your security system from the same app that lets you unlock the front door when Uncle Harry shows up on your doorstep while you’re still at work. Now we’re talking smart.

In a custom system, all electronic “subsystems” – HVAC, security, lighting, audio/video, you-name-it – are linked together and controlled by a central processor that knows the status of everything. Which, of course, is the essence of the “connected home.”

Get Personal

The ability to create a custom control interface that is not only intuitive and easy to use but also tailored to your specific needs is another key benefit of custom automation. For example, you could have a series of one-button presets that adjust lighting and turn on suitable music to create specific moods or automatically turn everything in the house off at a specific time. The possibilities are bound only by your imagination.

Constant Control

Professionally designed home automation systems also offer multiple modes of control – wall-mounted keypads, stand-alone touch panels, and handheld remote controls – instead of everything having to be controlled by a smartphone that may not be accessible.

If home automation is on your radar screen, be sure to consult a home technology expert. It could make a world of a difference.

Trust–Don’t let it cost you.


Puma_Thinkstock_HomeRemember that big home project you were doing that turned out to be a disaster? Remember, the always faithful and trust worthy, “trusted advisor”? Was it the friend…mom…dad…or maybe the neighbor? It’s OK we’ve all done it and experienced the result.  If you don’t know much about cars, you ask a friend who does know a lot what his opinion is after you hear from the mechanic. It’s smart to get second opinions from people you trust, and it happens to us all of the time.

Miscommunication between you and the contractor can spell disaster for your home AV project. It usually surfaces late in the project where the client gets an idea or input from their “trusted advisor” and then presents it to the contractor. While a client may ask for a second opinion from a trusted advisor, SpaceCoast AV knows the products and processes better than anyone else and so, we assert and leverage our knowledge and expertise on your behalf.

A few great examples might look something like this:

You might insist on using some Amazon deal speaker your brother-in-law insists in the best thing since sliced bread, but when paired with the amp you’ve carefully selected and calibrated, it sounds like crap (maybe because it’s a crap speaker or maybe because it doesn’t pair well with the rest of the equipment). or you could purchase your own AVR, but it doesn’t play well with the HDBaseT extender you plan to use and a reliable signal becomes an issue. Maybe the neighbor has a Harmony remote and is ridiculing you for spending thousands on a universal remote, so now you’re insisting on a Harmony, with all of the risks of reliability and lack of discrete control that entails. Or the client is adamant about using an Apple Airport Extreme as their router. There goes the managed network and  remote access to troubleshoot. In the short term any of these things could save you a lot of money, but in the long run, it will cost you in service calls that didn’t need to happen.

SpaceCoast AV has been a trusted, knowledgeable and professional Audio Visual for residents, businesses and houses of worship in Brevard since 2008. When it comes to your money and time, turn to the AV integration company who knows the products and processes better than anyone else and leverage our knowledge and expertise for your next AV project.