How we are working during COVID19

We are working within the restrictions set by NY State and following recommended practices of CDC to prevent transmission while working. 

We are fully ready to provide remote support by phone, video calls and email. Many of our systems also have the ability for us to link and check and adjust settings as well as remotely reboot certain devices.

Network and security related services are considered essential, certain aspects of your smart home system like lighting and temperature control would also come into this category. We are providing onsite service for these types of systems when necessary. Whenever possible we prepare equipment and do diagnostics in advance before arriving to make things as efficient and brief while on site.

We understand that many issues our clients are experiencing are related to internet service. With the main ISP provider Optimum at full capacity this can affect your experience. The other aspect is your internal network equipment. When m multiple people are trying to share the network simultaneously things can slow down. Network and wifi equipment that may have served with no problem even with multiple people in the summertime now is experiencing extra strain where phone calls, video conferencing , remote school , movie streaming and normal network browsing are all happening simultaneously. Newer wifi and router technology can connect and transmit to multiple devices simultaneously. It may be advisable to update some of the older network equipment you have to this newer technology. If so let us know and we will analyze what you have and figure out what options would work well.

If you do need an on-site visit we would ask that you limit who is near our technicians - could be a good time to go for an outing , maintain distance - if it feels weird- that's what we are going for.  Take a look at our specific instructions here.

We look forward to helping through this situation and building more robust solutions that will continue to meet your technology needs after this is over.

Thanks for being a great client

Stay healthy and safe.

 

Service guidelines during COVID19

We understand that the ability to use technology, especially from home, is more important than ever before and we are available to make sure your system is working well. We will put an extra focus on remote phone , video call support.
 
Network and other critical services like lighting and heating control are considered essential and we will continue to provide on-site service Here are some guidelines about how that will work.
 
We have been closely following the guidance given by the CDC, State and Federal Authorities. Our highest priorities are the health and safety of our customers and our employees. 
 

What we are doing for your safety:

  • We’ve instructed our service technicians to take extra precautions when coming into contact with customers in their homes or businesses.  They each have gloves, and have been instructed to wash their hands thoroughly. They have been told to keep a safe distance from customers. We want to err on the side of caution, even if it feels awkward at times (like no handshakes).
  • They are being told not to come to work if they feel sick or anyone in their household has a fever.
  • We are prepared to work remotely and handle our normal business operations from home in the event we close our offices.

What you can do for our employees’ safety:

  • If you have a service call scheduled and anyone in your home is sick, please alert us. If you have come in close contact recently with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 please contact us immediately because we will want to take more precautions than usual.
  • Make sure we have your cell phone number so we can text you when our tech is on his way and so we can keep you updated on anything that will affect your service.
  • Keep a safe distance away (6–8 feet) after letting one of our technicians into your home. We know this will feel awkward, but it is the recommended strategy for mitigating spread of the virus. You can also arrange to leave a key in the event that you do not want to be at home. If you have a separate entrance to your basement we can use that as well.
  • If there are multiple people at your home please make sure they understand these precautions. If at all possible please have these persons stay in a separate area of the house to minimize contact with our technicians. If ,on arrival, our technician is not comfortable with the quantity of people in the work space and/or the state of health of persons in the house, they may choose to leave and reschedule the appointment for a better time.
  • If you’d like, you can communicate with our employee on his cell phone, even if you are in the house. Let us know before he gets there.
  • We can easily setup payment over the phone or online by credit card.

If our employees feel that additional pre-cautions need to be taken they have been given the latitude to make this determination as needed on-site and re-schedule if necessary.

We want to express our sincere appreciation for the way our clients have already worked with us in this regard and in advance as we work over the next weeks whatever the future brings.

Be well, stay safe and we look forward to better spring and summer days ahead!

 

Home Theater design guide for equipment and How much does a Home Theater cost? Part 1

If you are thinking about adding a home theater room, what are the important factors to consider to make sure you have a system that meets your desires and budget?

When we buy a new car we are used to selecting a vehicle and picking the options that are most important to us. We don’t have much trouble adding in options on a new vehicle because we know that we will very likely drive the car every day for a few years. We even add small options that can affect our daily driving experience. We know this is an investment that we will live with for years.

This sense of good investment and value for the amount of time used may be amplified when we select technology for our home, especially in a theater. We expect the investment in technology and design to serve us for even more years than a new automobile. Things like the comfort and aesthetic of the space, screen size, viewing distance, ventilation and comfort control, sound, and ambient light all contribute to a viewing experience that will make us love using our theater/media room and make it enjoyable for our family and friends as well. 

Let’s take a deeper look at two primary pieces of theater equipment (screen and projector) and why they might be more or less important in our decision making matrix.

Screen size: This is a relatively easy one on the cost matrix because the price change based on screen size doesn’t vary very much (unless we get into a huge 200” plus range). We commonly install screens ranging from 110” (all measurements for screens are the diagonal - this is true even when the format varies) to 160”. Once you get bigger than 160” it would be for a very special room height. A traditional high quality screen that will reproduce black levels reasonably well, with a light absorbing frame, and the mounting mechanism will start in the $1,500 range. Common sizing would go up to 133”. The price would only vary by about $500.

Screen type: Something that drives screen prices, more than the size, is the type of material that is used. Screen Innovations pioneered the field of what is known as: ambient light rejecting screen material. We will consider a detailed explanation of screen material  in another article. This article will explain the advantages, benefits, and problems of different screen materials in different types of rooms and applications as well as how this technology works.

In short, ambient light rejecting material has a special composition and multiple layers which control the way light is reflected back to you. The light from the projector is meant to be reflected back to your eye but lights in the room or from a window are not meant to reflected back. On some screens this light may create a washed out look or areas that are difficult to see the projected material. Higher quality screen material does not reflect this unwanted light. High tech screen material generally doubles the cost of the screen. For example a 120” screen using different variations of this material would be $3200 - $5200. There are some significant advantages to using this type of material even in rooms where you don’t have light coming from windows. The black levels produced from this material are amazing. The extra money spent on a higher quality screen will make the projector’s technology really shine.

It’s hard to emphasize enough how this relatively small investment on the front end can really make your theater/media room exceptional and much more versatile in the long run. A higher quality screen can handle a wider array of lighting conditions. If you prefer having the lights on when watching a sporting activity so that it is easier for guests to mingle and interact - a higher quality screen material is the right choice.

Home Theater design guide for equipment and How much does a Home Theater cost? Part 1

 

Projector: This is the other integral part of the screen equation. These will also vary widely in quality and price. Generally the projectors we use in our projects range from $5k to $25k. (Laser technology was recently released and started in the $50k range, however there are some excellent choices in the $10-$25k range now).

Sony models that are available in laser technology range from $20-$25k. Standard light source models range from $5-$15k. There are some other quality projectors, from manufacturers like JVC, that are also available in this price range. Laser projectors are becoming more popular and production costs are coming down. When choosing between a laser or standard projector a look at overall maintenance costs for the long term may be a deciding factor. One advantage of the laser projector is that the lamp module for laser is often rated at over 20,000 hours, similar to a TV. You probably would never need a replacement lamp module like a traditional projector.

When we are deciding to buy a new car, first we have to narrow our choices down the make and model. Next we choose the options like upholstery, trim, and sound system. The same is true with our home theater, first we decide on what type of screen and projector are going to give us the experience we are dreaming of. The next step is choosing the other options (sound, seating, lighting, etc.) that will make the room complete.

The next articles will provide more details on additional Home Theater options.

 

 

 

I have some outside speakers. Can I make them work with Sonos or Control4 through an app?

Yes if...
Your speakers are currently working then we should be able to implement the Sonos or Control4 solution with them. This would allow you to control them with an app.


One important factor to keep in mind is that the app uses Wi-Fi. While it is true that your speakers are connected to equipment inside the house you want to make sure that you have good control outside the house. This means possibly extending your Wi-Fi signal outside and making sure that it’s connected to the same network that the equipment is using.

 

If you haven’t used your speaker equipment in a while then it’s best to do a review of this system before starting any other work. You would want to do a test of the speakers and the wiring to make sure everything is in good condition.


If you are replacing outside speakers keep in mind that as long as you have them regularly serviced by us, we guarantee them for life. This means that if there’s a problem with your outside speakers we will have a replacement on hand or delivered within a couple days to make sure that your system continues to run properly. A rock style outdoor speaker with an 8” built-in subwoofer is about $450.

 

One of the most important considerations for outside equipment is your confidence level. When we put technology outside it’s subject to the elements year round. The cold and damp environment means we might have some more failures with outside equipment than we would with equipment that’s safely protected inside the house. Oftentimes some maintenance is required each season for speaker equipment. This might include refreshing the wiring connections to make sure they are clean and all the components are working properly.

 

We install high-quality equipment so we have the confidence to say that if you buy the speakers from us and you have us regularly maintaining them each season - We will stand by your outdoor speakers for life.

Do I want an Audio Video System?

Audio Video or A/V

One of the core things that a controller does is give you the power to access Apps more easily. This can make listening to music and watching Tv a far more enjoyable experience.

For most of us reducing the clutter of several remotes down to the simplicity of a single device is a great benefit.

This is a very typical scenario:
We sit down to relax & then we have to figure out which remote to use, and then which input to set the Tv and audio system to. Maybe this works on just one try but many times we have to change inputs multiple times. By the time that is done we are not relaxing.
Integrating equipment whether it’s traditional point and control with a hand held remote or a newer internet controlled device should be possible.

A smart remote control with charging dock is $300. A higher end new touchscreen style remote with easier access to more functionalities and favorites, that can be brought right up on to the touch screen could cost up to $600.

Changing out or adding a new piece of equipment shouldn’t mean you need to replace all of your other existing equipment (even though it seems like some manufacturers would like that).
A good quality controller will allow the integration and easy control of various pieces of equipment so they function quickly and as expected.

Music has become a central part of connected homes. Over the past years we have moved from boxes of CDs, to stored music, and now we primarily use music streaming services. Easy access to these services is something a control system should do. When we are at home oftentimes we are managing a few different rooms with different volume needs and possibly different sources. This can make things a little more challenging.

The centralized control system should keep pace with the way you use technology and also should make it simple for you to use.

Do I need a special Internet connection for a Control4 system?

A stable and strong Wifi signal is essential in order for your smart home’s devices to communicate reliably. This is the network that allows your integrated controller system to work for you, wherever you may be.

There are reliable router and WiFi devices that start at $250. If you have a large fully featured system you will need a fast WiFi connection speed. A separate router, network switch, and the addition of wireless access points can be used to manage these speed and stability requirements.

There is a huge difference in the quality of components that are available.

To give you an idea of pricing: Professional routers that can handle fast speeds cost between $500-$800. A network switch starts at $300. Wireless access points that can be configured to work as a single unified WiFi network inside and outside your home range from $300-$600. There are some outdoor models that are a little more expensive.

Picking the right network components here is an important aspect of your system function. You should expect your network to support moderate internet speeds, a few users, multiple devices, and be able to handle delivering high speed internet to multiple rooms spread out over the whole house.

Our families generally have multiple mobile phones, iPads, and computers. We simultaneously receive phone calls, search online, and stream TV and music. The difference between a frustrating experience and a seamless experience can depend heavily on having the right network equipment.

Is a Control4 smart home system right for me? And how much does it cost?

Control4 wall mount touchscreen with video intercom.

Control4 wall mount touchscreen with video intercom.

How much does a  Control4 system cost ?  And  Is a connected smart home the right fit for you?

 The central automation component that you might want in your connected  home is called  the controller. 

This is the brain that allows all the control to take place.

Control can include music streaming to multiple rooms, lighting control, and security.

The controller is responsible for all of the functionality programming and customization that you can do. The programmed controller basically allows all the individual components of the home to communicate and coordinate with each other. For  instance the controller is  responsible for streaming music, turning speakers off & on & adjusting the volume. 

There are several versions of controllers that can be configured to fit your different needs. The controllers have  different capacities and functionalities.

 An entry level controller is the Control4 EA-1.

What type of control could you do with this one series controller?

 A One series controller is ideal for providing starter control of smart home features: limited  lighting control, thermostat control, security system control, and audio video control. This device is ideal to pair with a single media room or TV room because it has an HDMI output. This allows for the user interface to be brought right up on the screen and activates a navigable menu.

The starting cost for this controller is $600. Deciding if this controller is for you depends  on the number of devices you would like to have controlled and how large your home is.

If AV integration is not needed there is CA1 controller that has the same capability as the EA1 without the on screen menu, AV device control and music streaming. The price for this is $450.

The more devices you would like to control and the larger you home is the more expensive the controller becomes. The main controller can cost up to $2500. In larger homes there are scenarios in which one larger controller would be combined with a few basic controllers.

The following is a list of a few of the most common subsystems in the typical home . For more information on these subsystems and pricing please see the related posts.

Audio Video - includes TV and music streaming, Lighting Control, Thermostat Control, Security Integration, Smart Door Locks

What about “Smart Home” operation. You may be a  little intimidated by the phrase “Smart Home” and understandably so. While there have been a lot of new advances in home technology you may not think of the word smart when you first try to use a new device. More often the words intimidating or cumbersome may come to mind before smart or intuitive.  A good home controller should make technology easy to access. 

 What technology can a good home controller make easier for you to control?

You should be able to control things such as temperature, lighting, security, and safety.

The advantage of your house having a unified controller is that multiple systems can come together and be controlled from a single app.

The following is an example of how having a unified controller can work for you:

When you leave your home, do you have to use multiple apps (or walk to all different areas in the home) to get ready to leave?

Would you prefer to walk to the door, press one button on a keypad that turns the temperature to energy save mode, turns off all the lights, arms the security system, and locks the door as you leave? 

If pressing a single button for all of those commands is appealing to you then a centralized controller is the right choice.

If you are not interested in integrating various systems and are comfortable using multiple apps and remotes, then a connected home with centralized controller like Control4 is probably not necessary.

 Do you hate how it looks to have multiple remotes lying around on the coffee table or kitchen counter?

Do you like the idea of pressing one button to control various functions in your home?

You may decide that a Control4  centralized control system is the best option. As mentioned earlier you have an initial cost range that would be between $600 and $2500 for one controller.

You may have been considering other manufacturers of home control systems. It seems like the brand leaders have a disproportionate lead right now in the integration of multiple devices and systems. These companies are focused on providing you continuing updates in order to maintain this lead. Most of our clients are well served by choosing products offered by these brand leaders who include Control4, Savant, and Sonos.

The possibilities for integration are virtually limitless.

Start with options that are most important to you. The ones that meet your wants and needs now. Adding devices that you would like down the road is possible.

Whether this is the first time you have considered home control integration or if  you have very specific customization needs we can design the system that is right for you.

In the next articles we’ll consider different subsystems and options and the costs related to each.

What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?

What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?

Electronic smart door locks are a great addition for home control. There are a couple of different options when you choose an electronic door lock. To start there are two different types of handles that you’ll see on your front door one has a handle that you open and releases a latch and the other one is a deadbolt style. Usually the deadbolt style is the more secure method of locking the door and if you have an existing deadbolt it’s easy to swap in an electronic style lock that matches.  Another option with an electronic lock is whether you want to continue to have a traditional key  in addition to the keypad or whether you’d prefer to keep things as streamlined as possible and go keyless. If you have another entry door that you could use as a back up just in case something goes wrong, the keyless type is fine. If the door with the electronic lock is your only means of entering and exiting the house then it might be better to choose a lock that has the back up manual key. In this way you always have guaranteed access into your house. Locks that have the ability to be controlled through an app start at about $300, and models that have the ability to communicate iwht and be integrated with a smart home system are $400-600.

Are these systems secure?

This is a security device. We have found that the security efforts and encryption that have gone into designing these devices are some of the best of all of the controllable home devices. There’s a few brands that we commonly use Yale, Kwikset and Baldwin. The Yale and  Kwikset have a nice touchscreen style lock. The keypad remains dark until you touch it and then the numbers are illuminated for easy viewing at night. Both of these manufacturers have held up very well over time and they’ve been responsive  if there’s an issue where a part needs to be replaced.

What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?
What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?

Why would you pick one brand lock over the other.?  The pricing is actually very similar with Baldwin on the higher end. The appearance of the lock would be the primary consideration inn making your choice.n

 

What about the August lock?

The August is an interesting electronic lock solution in that it’s a little bit different from the other brands that we mentioned. It is not a complete locking mechanism. The August is an adapter that sits on the back of the door on the deadbolt and spins the deadbolt from the inside to lock it and unlock it. This means that the standard key mechanism for the deadbolt remains on the outside of the door. You would operate the lock strictly from the app when you’re on the outside of the house. You could alternatively have a keypad mounted to the side of the door. This keypad could send a signal to unlock the door when you were outside the house. There is integration that allows the August to talk to your Control4 system so you can have full integration capability from this type of lock.

Why would you choose to use this type of lock? One of the main reasons to choose the August is that you don’t want to see the smart lock mechanism on the exterior of the door. The August lock preserves the traditional look of just a small key device on the outside. The August lock requires a hub connect to communicate with the lock and connect you to the app. We use an additional piece of software to do the integration with the Control4 system. A stand alone August system would be about $230, the internet control hub  is $80 and integration to the Control4 system would add another $150.

 

What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?

Can I use this on any door?

Compare your door style to the pictures that we’ve attached here. Teaser doors are very common. One of the doors that we often encounter is a door with a pen latch that’s attached to the handle mechanism. If you have a door where you have to lift up the handle to engage pins before you can lock it then you have a mechanism throughout the entire door that does not allow it to be compatible with this electronica type of lock. If this is the case you may find that there’s another door in the house that could be used with a Smart lock.

Sliding glass doors are also usually not compatible with this type of smart lock. We also see special architecturally unique doors. Usually these doors are thicker than a normal door. Sometimes the mechanism of the lock will not allow it to be used on the thickness of the door. In this case you would need to modify either the front or back of the lock to allow it to recess into the thickness of the door. This has been a great solution but would be a permanent modification to the door.

What type of integration can I do when I have a smart lock?

Going back to the principal of keeping things as friction free as possible - one of the things we can add to the smart lock is integration with your security system. This means that when someone comes to the front door and enters the code the door unlocks and the security system is also disarmed. If there is lighting control then lights can come on inside the foyer for extra security and convenience as you’re entering the house.

What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?

 

The app integration allows you to look at the history of door was open and close activity and what code was entered to unlock or lock it. You also have the ability to manage the codes in the system. This means that you can activate separate codes for every person that has access to the house. We usually make this as a general recommendation for both smart locks and security systems. Separate user codes allow you to easily change or eliminate access codes one user at a time. This also allows you to look at the history and see clearly which person was using the code to enter or exit the house. Another useful feature for you on the app within individual user codes is the ability to set a time window when certain codes will work. An example of when this might be useful is if you have a maintenance person coming to the house and you like them to have access but you want to limit that code to work only between certain hours or on certain days. You can easily manage all of the schedule right within the app.

What type of electronic door lock should I choose? How much does it cost?

 

 

Other information that may be useful for you when  you are making a decision about using a smart lock on your door. 

There are other types of locks that can be integrated using the Control4 system. If you have more of a commercial entry style door there are electronic locks that can magnetically hold the door open or closed. These are very secure and used regularly in commercial environments. The app will allow you to open or close this lock to unlock or lock the store. We  have found that great integration tool is to use a Video Intercom at the door that has a keypad module built into it. This allows the person to enter their code and then the electronic lock can be activated. A similar scenario could be used at a driveway gate. The video intercom can be mounted at the driveway entry in front of the gate and the app can be used to open and close the electronic key. Alternately the keypad module on the intercom can be used to open or close the gate.

 

What if my smart system is not working or the Internet is not working?

That’s a great question and it goes back to a fundamental design principle for any home control integration  that we do. When there’s a system that’s really important for primary home functions we always prefer that that system can operate independently if needed. In the case of most smart locks the lock itself is powered by batteries and the lock can often operate for a year or more without changing these batteries. This means that even if the power in your house fails the lock would continue to operate independently. It has a back up of all the codes and it doesn’t need to communicate with the main controller to lock and unlock your door. From that perspective we really like the design of the smart lock because it is something that’s always going to work for you. If the Internet is out or the Wi-Fi is out for some reason than the ability to control the lock and to get feedback from the lock would be lost from the app. The lock wood still operate if you were standing at the door so you could still enter your code open the door and relock it. If the lock is still communicating locally within the network you may have some other integration that would still work. For example if the lock is talking directly to the Control4 system the other systems (ie lighting control) that are still on the network within the house would continue to operate.

 

What if the power goes out or the battery in the lock fails?

Since almost all of these locks are battery powered they’re made to run for a long time. The batteries commonly experience a year or more of life. The lock also reports when the battery is running low so you have time to replace it before the lock stops working. If the power is out the lock continues to work because it has its own internal batteries. What you may lose is some of the integration to the other systems in the house depending on what systems are on a battery backup.

I have existing speakers and stereo system in my house. Can I use a new system for streaming music like Sonos or Control4 without doing an extensive renovation?

The good news and and short answer is yes . In almost all cases we can use existing wiring and speakers with a few adjustments.

Many speakers installations and wiring that were done to work with traditional systems can easily be converted over to a Sonos or Control4 system. You may be able to use the existing speakers and wiring and simply add some new streaming amplifier equipment.

I have existing speakers and stereo system in my house. Can I use a new system for streaming music like Sonos or Control4 without doing an extensive renovation?

 

What if I have volume controls in the wall from an older system?

There are a few different types of systems that have been used in the past to distribute audio through the house. Most of them have wiring running to a central location where there was a piece of amplifier equipment. If this is the case usually this wiring can be reconnected to new Sonos or Control4 equipment and your system would be fully controllable with the ability to  access  the new streaming services and the ability to control multiple rooms of audio from an app.

What is a Control4 smart home control system? And how much does it cost?

The following is a primer for the connected home…It’s referred to as different things - a smart home, home control system, and a integrated system. Basically what we are talking about is some type of technology that links and coordinates different systems in your home. The questions we want answered are: Why would we want to link different systems and what benefits do we get by doing so?

What is a Control4 smart home control system? And how much does it cost?

We are confident that once you understand what you can do, what’s involved in installing a connected home, and what the costs are then you will be better equipped to make a decision about what system is right for you.

The central automation component that you might want in your connected  home is called the controller. This is the brain that allows all the control to take place. Control can include music streaming to multiple rooms, lighting control, and security.

The controller is responsible for all of the functionality programming and customization that you can do. The programmed controller basically allows all the individual components of the home to communicate and coordinate with each other. For  instance the controller is  responsible for streaming music, turning speakers off & on & adjusting the volume. 

There are several versions of controllers that can be configured to fit your different needs.The controllers have different capacities and functionalities. 

An entry level controller is the Control4 EA-1.

What is a Control4 smart home control system? And how much does it cost?

What type of control could you do with this one series controller?

A simple One series controller is ideal for providing starter control of smart home features: limited  lighting control, thermostat control, security system control, and audio video control. This device is ideal to pair with a single media room or TV room because it has an HDMI output. This allows for the user interface to be brought right up on the TV screen and activates a navigable menu 

The starting cost for this controller is $600. Deciding if this controller is for you depends on the number of devices you would like to have controlled and how large your home is.

The more devices you would like to control and the larger your home is the more expensive the controller becomes. The main controller can cost up to $2500. In larger homes there are scenarios in which one larger controller would be combined with a few basic controllers.

The following is a list of a few of the most common subsystems in the typical home . Audio Video - includes TV and music streaming, Lighting Control, Thermostat Control, Security Integration, Smart Door Locks and Shade Control