Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Step Eight: The Summary!

So we’ve talked about all the technology, wired up the house, racked the gear and installed it in the home. So how did it turn out?

This homeowner now has no electronics scattered around the house, just a TV and a handheld remote. Whether in the kitchen, living room, master bedroom or down in the movie room, they simply pick up the remote and select what to watch or listen to, all choices require only one button press! Speakers have been installed in the walls or ceiling and are paint-matched to virtually disappear into the room.

In the kitchen and master bedroom, there are 6″ touch panels in the wall for controlling music, the heating and A/C system, security system, and in the bedroom – even the fireplace! The client can listen to digital cable music, music from any iPhone or iPod in the home, or even the DJ system one of their kids has setup in his bedroom.

IMG_2168The network in the home features in-ceiling Wi-Fi access points, so there aren’t little radio boxes hidden in cabinets anywhere, the Wi-Fi simply works with nothing to look at. They even have Wi-Fi coverage through their outdoor living and BBQ space by the river!

If someone rings the doorbell, the homeowner can easily, with one button press, view the front door camera on any TV in the home! The cameras have time-lapse recording and are viewable on iPhones, iPad, computers or even over the internet from any web browser. The security system in the home can be armed and disarmed with the touch panels, or with the client’s iPhone, giving them the ability to check on the home wherever they are!

Our goal was to provide a system featuring maximum entertainment with minimum effort to operate. The walkthrough portion is always our favorite, showing a homeowner how to use their system and seeing their excitement. The best part – after demoing the theater system, the client blinked – eyes wide open – and simply exclaimed, “WOW!”


Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Step Seven:  Hook it all together!

IMG_5906Now that we’ve discussed all the different parts necessary to totally integrate a home, let’s see what it takes to put it all together and make it tick!  First, we need a place to hold all the equipment and in many cases we use a rack like the one pictured below.  Racks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; some look very industrial and others integrate into a nicely designed room as a piece of furniture that hides the gear!  We proudly use Middle Atlantic racks because not only are they Made in the USA, but they also offer an amazing variety of designs for any home or business!

This rack is going to hold the networking gear, main controller, audio switcher, video switcher, surround sound receiver and all the wires for security cameras, touch panels, keypads, fireplace control and even operating your garage door openers!  We take great pride in wiring racks in our office well ahead of the installation date.  Not only can we connect everything neatly, but we can label the wiring and test functionality so it’s all ready to run when we arrive at the job site!  Here’s an example of how we started wiring the electricity, networking and audio cables with everything labeled so we know where things go!


To us, details really matter.  Electricity cables run down one side, while audio, video and network go down the other side.  We do this to keep the rack more clean looking and to decrease the chances of interference between different types of wires and signals.  With a system tested and functioning at our office, we know that once it’s in your home and connected it will most likely “just work”.  It allows us to be more efficient with our installation and decreases the amount of time we spend in your home.

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Step Six:  Video Throughout Your Home

Most of us have cable TV, FiOS or a satellite dish.  This means having a tuner-box for every TV in the house. Add in the DVD or Blu-ray players, again one for every TV.  Now there’s internet-streaming boxes like the Roku or AppleTV, again one for every TV.  Pretty soon you have lots of remotes and lots of “black boxes” in every room.  What a big mess and hassle!

In this home electronics system, we designed centralized, or distributed video.  Using Crestron’s DM (Digital Media) solution we can share a few video sources to every TV in the house, watching different things at the same time.  Two cable boxes, two Blu-ray players, an AppleTV and an Apple Mac mini – all can be quickly selected from any TV in the house.  This setup accomplishes a few things.  First, each room now has just a TV and a remote control, that’s it!  Second, movies or shows can be shared between different rooms. The bonus is the security cameras will pop up on-screen if someone rings the doorbell!

AppleTV and Mac mini are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Step Five:  Music Throughout Your Home

So you have some in-wall or in-ceiling speakers throughout your home or office, but how do you listen to them?  Do your walls have to be cluttered with those ugly volume knobs?  Can you listen to different things in different rooms?

These are all excellent questions.  In this distributed audio system, we’re using an amazing new switcher from Crestron – it allows us to connect up to 24 different audio sources (think:  cd player, iTunes, satellite radio, cable music, Pandora and so on).  It can also drive 8 rooms of speakers, and you can have us tune the sound of every single room exactly the way you want!  Instead of volume knobs in every room, you can use that fancy iPad to pick what to listen to, and of course, how loud to listen to it, if that’s what you’d like.  Since the switcher does all the work, you can play holiday music in the kitchen while your teenager listens to whatever-the-heck-that-noise-is in their room and everybody is happy!

iTunes and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Step Four:  The Control System

A home electronics system is only as smart and flexible as the system that controls it all!  In our experience, nothing is better for controlling home electronics equipment than Crestron.  As a Crestron Dealer with a Certified Programmer on-staff, we are in a unique position to help you create almost anything you can think of!  Would you like to have a color touch screen in your kitchen area so you can see the front door camera? How about your iPhone – would you like to control the master bedroom TV with that?  Perhaps you’re in the backyard and want to use your iPad to turn on some music while you BBQ.  With Crestron, you can do that, and we can make it all happen!

Here are some other systems in the home that can be controlled:
  • HVAC – heating and cooling
  • Sprinkler Systems
  • Lighting – indoor and outdoor
  • Shades
  • Pool Pumps
  • Security Systems
  • Home Theater
  • Music Systems
  • Garage Doors
  • Fireplaces
Especially convenient are automated functions where several things happen with the touch of a single button. For example your lights dim or turn off, garage door closes (if not closed already) and security system arms.


iPhone and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.


Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Behind The Scenes! Building A Home Electronics System

Step Three:  Networking

We’ve discussed the growing importance of a properly designed network.  With laptops, smart phones, tablets, online streaming services, Wi-Fi and cabled networking are becoming a requirement in daily life.

While many homes are fine with a basic network setup, adding a control system or automation into the mix means the network product and design has to be robust in order to handle many more tasks.  We used a mix of Apple Airports and Pakedge networking gear in this system.  The Apple Airport Express is used as an AirPlay device, allowing anyone with iTunes, an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to play music wirelessly!

Pakedge is another Made In The USA company that offers a variety of different network routers, switches and Wi-Fi access points depending on the needs.  We chose a Pakedge router, two switches and two in-ceiling Wi-Fi pieces for this system.  This network keeps the audio/video gear communicating, while also allowing iTunes to play music, Netflix to stream a movie and internet research for homework – all at once!

Airport Express, AirPlay, iTunes, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.