“Alexa, Turn on Family Movie Night”

Savant Pro Can Now Be Controlled with Alexa

Savant Pro users can now control their homes using any Alexa enabled device! Alexa can control lights, music, video, shades, temperature and more using Savant Scenes.

Alexa will recognize any scenes captured with Savant. Simply say, “Alexa, turn on <scene name>,” and the scene will be activated. Tell Alexa to turn off the scene and everything will be shut down.

Alexa can also be used to turn rooms on and off, turn lights on and off and to dim or brighten lights. Say, “Alexa, set the <Room> lights to 50” to dim the lights halfway. Telling Alexa to brighten or dim the lights changes the level by 25%.

The setup is intuitive for current Savant and Alexa users. Homeowners with Savant Pro running 8.4 or higher who also use Alexa can simply download and enable the Savant Skill in the Alexa app, link the Savant Skill to their account and then tell Alexa to discover their devices.

If you’d like integrate your Savant system with Alexa and you’re not currently using the Savant Pro app, please call ACT at 781-741-5959 to discuss your needs.

Has Traffic Slowed to a Crawl on Your Home Network?

Is the Wi-Fi signal in your home strong in some rooms but weak (or non-existent) in others? When you stream movies or TV shows, does the video buffer, lag or downgrade to SD? Do your Sonos speakers just stop playing? These are all signs that your home network is not up to snuff.

Many homeowners ACT speaks with experience wireless network issues. Other common problems include weak signals, slow connections and deadzones.

If a home network is more than five years old, it probably can’t handle the traffic of an average family. Households are connecting more and more devices to the Internet. Phones, tablets, laptops, printers, gaming consoles, streaming devices, speakers, lighting, cameras, thermostats and even appliances all compete with each other for bandwidth.

ACT installs wireless and wired networks that provide a strong signal throughout a home and property. ACT also installs managed networks, which allow homeowners on mobile devices to walk throughout a home and property without losing a signal.

If you are experiencing performance issues or think your home network needs an upgrade, contact ACT to discuss your needs. Consultations are always free of charge.

ACT Wins Two Awards from Local Builders’ Groups!

ACT was thrilled to win two awards this fall from two local builders and remodelers associations! In October, ACT was a gold winner in the Best Use of Smart Home Technology category at the 2016 PRISM Awards Gala. Hosted by The Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston (www.bragb.org), the PRISM Awards recognize the finest projects and outstanding achievements of professionals in the home building industry. BRAGB received almost 300 entries for the PRISM Awards this year, which was the highest number of entries in the program’s history.

 

Weeks later, in November, ACT was again a gold winner for Excellence in Smart Technology at the 2016 BRICC Awards Banquet. Presented by the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod (www.capecodbuilders.com), the BRICC Awards recognize and celebrate excellence in building, remodeling, design, sales and marketing on Cape Cod & Martha’s Vineyard.

 

We are thrilled to be recognized for excellence in our trade by the builders, remodelers, architects, designers and other industry professionals we partner with on a day-to-day basis. The entire team at ACT looks forward to working closely with both homeowners and our industry partners in 2017 to continue to provide home technology solutions that exceed client expectations.

Sonos Wireless Audio – Is It For You?

People often call us looking for a Sonos system, and it’s easy to see why. Sonos is affordable and very simple to install, making it a great choice for a lot of homeowners. ACT is a Sonos dealer and we have installed many Sonos systems.

If you are only looking for an audio system and you mainly listen to digital music, Sonos is an excellent option. It’s relatively inexpensive and can be installed quickly because minimal wiring is required. Sonos lets users listen to Internet radio (like Spotify, Pandora, etc.) and their own digital music collections (iTunes library, Amazon Cloud Player, etc.). The system is controlled by an easy-to-use app that can be installed on smartphones, mobile devices and computers.

Sonos does have the capability to add one outside source, for example, a cable box, but you won’t be able to control that source with the Sonos app.

There are several situations where Sonos may not be the best choice for you. If you want to control anything besides music in your home (such as lighting, climate, surveillance, etc.), either now or in the future, it’s worth at least looking into other options.

If you want easy control of sources beyond Internet radio and your own digital music, Sonos probably isn’t the right choice for you.

Finally, if you want a large-scale audio system with a lot of zones throughout your property, you’ll want to investigate other systems along with Sonos. As Sonos systems get bigger, prices get comparable with other, more robust options.

Sonos has dominated the wireless audio market, but ACT is excited about some of the newer offerings on the market too. One such option is Fusion Research’s Ovation Wireless Player, which is a whole-home solution (up to 16 zones) that can be controlled with an app. Fusion Research differs from Sonos in that Fusion worked with outside vendors to make sure the Ovation Wireless Player would work with control systems, including AMX, Savant, Control4, Crestron and others.

If you’re interested in an audio system for your home, please call us at 781-741-5959 for more information or to discuss your project. Consultations are always free of charge.

Is Home Automation for “Real People?”

Home automation, smart homes, home control – there was a time when these terms made us think of The Jetsons. Today, home automation solutions are offered by cable companies, security companies, Home Depot and even apps on your smart phone or tablet.

Although most people are familiar with the concept of home automation, there is still confusion about exactly what it means and whether a “regular family” can have a smart home. Simply put, home automation (or home control) makes doing basic tasks around the home easier. For example, instead of walking around turning off lights, you could press one button to turn off all of the lights in your home, program thermostats to automatically adjust the temperature at certain times, be notified when your alarm is triggered or there’s water in your basement, or view surveillance footage and enable/disable your alarm when you’re traveling.

The terms home automation and smart home really mean a home where multiple systems are automated. This is, in essence, a home control system, which allows homeowners to control all of the different systems in their home (audio, video, lighting, climate, surveillance, etc.) with a single, easy-to-use interface. A control system can be robust, complicated and expensive, but it can also be simple and surprisingly cost effective.

For homeowners who want to start on a smaller scale, or want to control just a couple systems – maybe lighting and audio – home control is probably well within their grasp. There are entry-level options and wireless systems that are great starting points and can be easily expanded later. The convenience of a home control system is wonderful. You can use your smart phone or tablet to turn lights on and off from your car or bedside, adjust the thermostat, or turn on music in one room or throughout your home.

ACT specializes in control systems. We offer control systems from Savant Systems because they are reliable, easy to use and easy to expand later. Homeowners love Savant Systems because the system can be operated using Apple® devices (iPad®, iPad mini®, iPhone®, iPod touch®, Mac® computers) or Savant’s own line of remotes and keypads.

A home control system can be surprisingly cost effective, and if you’re looking to control multiple systems in your home, it’s worth giving us a call to learn more.

What Saves Energy and Your Sanity? Lighting Control!

On hearing the term custom home electronics, most people don’t think of lighting control systems. This is unfortunate, because lighting control can add tremendous wow factor to a home, provide added safety, offer energy savings and increase a property’s value.

The thing homeowners like most about lighting control is the convenience it offers. Lighting control puts an end to those “turn off the lights” battles families have. Lights can be turned on and off or dimmed by the usual wall switches, and with smart phones, tablets or occupancy sensors. This means never walking around the house turning off lights other people left on, or never approaching or entering a dark home.

Lighting scenes and events can also be programmed with lighting control. Lighting scenes are pre-set lighting levels that can help set the mood for different situations, like entertaining, watching television or family dinner time. With the push of a button, lighting scenes are activated.

Lighting events mean that lights automatically turn on, off or dim at certain times of the day, or when something triggers them. For example, if your alarm goes off, it could trigger all interior lights to turn on and exterior lights to flash.

Lighting control also helps save energy and extends bulb life. According to Lutron, on average, dimming an incandescent or halogen light will reduce energy use by about 20%. Incandescent and halogen bulbs last up to 20 times longer when used with a dimmer, and LED bulbs run cooler when dimmed, which can extend bulb life. If you add shade control to the mix, you can save 10% on heating and cooling costs by blocking the sun’s rays in summer or letting them in during colder months.

Another thing homeowners love about lighting control is that it’s much more cost effective than people think. At ACT, we most often use a wireless lighting control system — Lutron’s Radio Ra 2 — that can be installed without the need to open walls or add any new wiring. It can be used for just a few rooms or throughout an entire home, allows scheduled events, can also operate shades, appliances and temperature, and can be controlled remotely (i.e. when you’re away from home) using mobile devices.

If you’d like to explore the possibilities that lighting control could add to your home, please get in touch with us. We think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

What Is Home Theater, Anyway?

When you think about technology in the home, does the term home theater come to mind? Home theater is a phrase that’s used a lot when it comes to residential custom electronics. But what does it really mean? Some people use it as a broad term to describe TV and movie viewing at home, while other people envision a private movie theater. The short answer is that home theater is both of those things.

At ACT, we usually use the terms dedicated home theater and media room. A dedicated home theater is just what it sounds like – a room with the sole purpose of providing an outstanding viewing and listening experience. A dedicated home theater is a room with a large screen, a great audio system, comfortable seating and often other fun features like theater lighting, a popcorn maker or a wet bar.

Most families today prefer a media room to a home theater. A multipurpose media room provides the best of both worlds – the stunning visuals, exciting audio and comfy seating of a theater in your family room or living area.

A lot of families like the idea of a media room, but balk at the thought of unsightly equipment in their living spaces. The technology for a media room can actually be hidden fairly easily. For example, if you’d prefer a large flat screen display to be hidden when you’re not using it, media mirrors, special artwork or custom cabinetry can be used. Speakers and sub-woofers can be placed discreetly, and components can be hidden in cabinetry or housed in an out-of-sight equipment rack. Take a look at the portfolio pages on our web site for examples of hidden technology.

When deciding what you want in the way of home theater, there are a few things to think about first. At ACT, we work with homeowners to choose the best solutions based on things like what they like to watch, who will be watching, how they think they’ll use the space, the size, shape and ceiling height of the space and of course, their budget. The size and shape of a room and your own preferences will lead to the right decisions about screen size and type, audio options and the components that will (or won’t) make up your system.

If you’d like to learn more about what would work in your home and what can be done within your budget, we’d love to come take a look and discuss options with you. Consultations are always free of charge.