How to Keep Your Home Electronics Up and Running Through the Winter

Winter is the season of power outages in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for home electronics to misbehave after an outage. If any of your electronics stop working – whether it’s after a power outage or any other time – the first step is usually to reboot the equipment.

A reboot means turning the power off for at least 10 seconds. With cable boxes and other components, the power cord needs to be disconnected from the device or the device needs to be unplugged in order to completely power off.

Usually, rebooting is an easy fix. Sometimes devices are located within cabinetry or an equipment rack, which makes it difficult to access the cords. It can also be hard to pinpoint which device needs to be rebooted, especially for homeowners with robust electronic systems.

There are several new products available that allow ACT to assist customers remotely, preventing the need for a visit from a technician. These products can help tell which devices need to be rebooted and perform the reboots. They also help ACT get diagnostics for Internet speeds and help determine if network problems stem from an issue on the Internet Service Provider’s end.

ACT can also set up a user-friendly app our customers can use to fix common issues on their own. With the app, you can see all of your components in one place and reboot them right from the app. This can also be done remotely, which is a nice feature for second homes, homeowners returning from vacation or anyone who knows their home has lost power when they’re not there.

We know our clients don’t enjoy making service calls or waiting for repairmen or technicians. With this new class of products, in most cases, our clients can either fix home electronics issues on their own or have problems resolved via a phone call with ACT.

For more information and pricing, please call ACT at 781-741-5959.

“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.

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.