May 03, 2011
by Steven Castle
You don’t normally think of homes in active adult communities as being decked out with the latest technologies, but Phil Mogerman wouldn’t have his Delaware retirement haven any other way.
As a veteran of the telecom networking industry, Mogerman had a clear idea of what he wanted in a connected home system. “It had to be cutting-edge, expandable and easy for him and his wife to use on a daily basis,” says Sean Quigley, owner/partner of custom electronics firm Phoenix A/V Specialists in the Philadelphia suburb of West Grove, Pa.
Phil and Sylvia Mogerman’s high-tech retirement nest now consists of a whole-house control and entertainment system, with high-definition video distribution to two zones, audio streaming to seven zones, and a choice of several different control options to operate lights, thermostats, IP cameras, door locks, security system, fireplace, garage doors and more.
“I wanted to take advantage of technology that we couldn’t do in our old house,” Phil says. And it didn’t hurt that Sylvia gave him free reign, as long as there were no exposed wires or cable boxes. It just had to look pretty.
A Control4 home control system lies at the heart of the Mogermans’ life of ease. To operate any of the home’s systems, the couple has the option of using Control4 handheld remotes, any of six in-wall Control4 touchpanels, Phil’s four computers, an iPad or Phil’s Android-based phone. Despite all of the choices, the iPad has become the preferred method of control, according to Quigley.
There’s also some pretty neat automation going on. Quigley, his partner Nathan Geller and the team at Phoenix A/V Specialists set up the Mogermans with a dozen presets and timers just for the lighting. Every evening the kitchen lights turn on first, then an hour after sunset the great room lights turn on, then turn off an hour later. When the homeowners pause a movie from their 400-disc Blu-ray changer, a light above the center island that separates the family room from the kitchen illuminates slightly to provide some extra light for moving around. As Phil explains, if he and Sylvia are sitting in the great room and the lights come on when they don’t want them to, they can simply override the system via any of their controllers. Some of the controllers—namely the infinity-edge touchpanels—provide an extra level of convenience by also functioning as intercoms. If Phil is on the third floor and Sylvia on the first, she doesn’t have to use the multiline phone system to call him; she simply speaks into a nearby touchpanel.
Because he’s tech savvy, Mogerman does some programming of the Control4 system on his own, with the understanding that he won’t get too dangerous in programming the software, something typically reserved for Quigley and Geller. He has been able to tweak some of his lighting scenes with it, and he can use it to help Phoenix identify any problems.
In addition to these conveniences, the Mogermans’ control system also helps protect the home. Garage doors close automatically after five minutes, and three ZigBee-enabled Kwikset door locks button up the place at 10:30 p.m. Video from web cams at the front and back doors appear on the iPad, and the Mogermans can remotely pan and tilt the cameras to see what’s going on outside of their home. If water in a sump pump reservoir fills past a certain point, a warning message appears on the screens of the control devices. Water and temperature sensors throughout the home can trigger alerts to be sent to the touchpanels and Android-based phone. The system will also send alerts if the security system detects a problem.
HD Video Routing
There are two video zones, with two more to come, and seven audio zones in this home. Honoring Sylvia’s request of keeping her house “pretty,” Phoenix A/V tucked all of the audio and video components into an equipment rack in an upstairs closet. HD-quality video from these components is transported to audio and video zones, courtesy of Just Add Power’s 2G (second generation) System. Capable of handling 12 HDMI inputs and 12 outputs, and of transmitting high-def audio and video over high-speed Category 5e Ethernet cables, the Just Add Power 2G device is “much more scalable than an HDMI matrix switch,” says Quigley, “and the video is really, really good.”
Today, the Just Add Power 2G System distributes HD video from the Sony Blu-ray changer, a single-disc Samsung Blu-ray player and two Verizon FiOS HD DVRs to the family’s TVs. The Mogermans can also get video from Netflix or Vudu via a Blu-ray player. However, with several inputs and outputs left over, adding new components to the system will be a cinch, says Mogerman. New entertainment zones can be easily added, too, as the Mogermans prewired heavily for the future. In all, 75 high-speed Category 5 Ethernet cables were routed throughout the house, including six Cat5s to the great room, master bedroom, guest room, Sylvia’s office and Phil’s office.
Savings and Convenience
Next up: An energy management system. Mogerman runs a couple of computers 24/7 and has a 4-terabyte Windows home server—and he’d like to see how much energy he’s using and how he can save. He also wants to use his Control4 system to automate the lawn sprinklers.
But one of the best parts of the Mogermans’ new high-tech lifestyle? “On a cold night I don’t have to get out of bed to raise the heat. I can do that right from my bed and raise it a degree or two and go to sleep,” Phil says. “Or, if our dogs are home alone and it’s hot out, I can cool the house down right from my Android phone.” EH
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates