Each year the editorial staff at Electronic House reviews hundreds of submissions to its Home of the Year contest. The entries submitted by home systems integrators represent some of the smartest, most innovative home tech projects on the planet. Here, youâ€™ll see our picks for the Best Smart Homes, less than $150,000 in high-tech equipment.
1. Smart Home of the Year $150,000 and Under, GOLD winner
Sarasota Stunner: Magnificent views and a super-smart shading system help this Intracoastal home keep its cool.
When your custom-built home is planted on a prime piece of property that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway in sunny southwest Florida, huge, scaling, floor-to-ceiling windows are an absolute must. They deliver phenomenal views, of course â€” but also excessive heat from the sun. So the builder of our award-winning smart home, Voigt Brothers, makes sure to outfit every home he builds with Lutron motorized shading. Lighting control from Lutron is also a standard feature to provide an eye-pleasing aesthetic, as is the handiwork of a reputable home systems integrator to tailor the technologies to the unique needs of the owners of each residence.
Windows to a World of High-Tech Options
Explains Mark Bolduc from Sarasota-based Wicked Smart Homes, the integration firm contracted by the builder and recipient of our Gold Smart Home of the Year award, â€œThis particular architect (DSDG Architects) and builder team preps their clients on the practicality of having shading and lighting control, and we follow up by presenting them with how we can customize the systems further to meet their needs and introduce them to other options.â€ In this case, these needs revolved mainly around the fact that the homeowners would be staying at their new 5,000-square-foot waterfront residence only part time. Functioning as a vacation home, it would need a home automation system that would help the owners monitor it from afar and enable it to function autonomously.
Per the homeownersâ€™ request, the smart home technologies chosen by Bolduc should permit them to operate the Lutron motorized shades and dimmable lights, as well as a DSC security system, Carrier heating and cooling system, and Yale electronic door locks as easily from thousands of miles away as they can while on the premises. Bolduc selected a Crestron control system as the overarching home management platform, and loaded the Crestron mobile control app on the ownersâ€™ smartphones and tablets.
SPF for a Sun-Soaked House
Conveniently from the app, which communicates directly with the home-based Crestron CP3-N processor, the owners can check out real-time weather conditions in Sarasota, and adjust the shades and HVAC system if necessary, which based on the brutal afternoon sun that hits this house, happens frequently. â€œThe entire west side of the home that faces the water is made of 12-foot-tall glass walls,â€ says Bolduc. â€œSo the home benefits greatly from having Lutron motorized shades to minimize solar gain and protect the furnishings from fading.â€
Even if the owners arenâ€™t on the app, the Crestron system handles the shade adjustments for them automatically. An astronomical timeclock built into the control processor triggers the shades to lower in unison in the afternoon. Itâ€™s an effect that not only shields the interior from heat and UV light, but makes the unoccupied home appear as if someone is at home.
While the homeowners are closing the shades â€” or leaving the task to the Crestron system â€” they can peek in on their waterfront property. Wicked Smart Homes positioned four Visualint IP cameras strategically to capture all of the goings-on â€” be it at the front door or the back yard by the boat dock. These are no ordinary, run-of-the-mill surveillance cameras, according to Bolduc. â€œBuilt into the cameras is a special analytics feature that allowed us to set specific boundaries for each camera to monitor.â€ This is particularly helpful for securing the rear of the home, which butts up against the waterway.
â€œWe set a virtual barrier that sets off the camera should anyone enter the back yard from the water,â€ Bolduc explains. Should anyone cross over the water line, the camera triggers a notification to the homeowners via text message. These cameras maintain their vigil, however, only during certain times of the day and only when the homeowners are away. â€œThis way, the groundskeepers wonâ€™t set off the alarm and the homeowners can enjoy their back yard without worrying about the cameras,â€ Bolduc says. Wicked Smart Homes set up the time-of-day parameters for the cameras to follow while they were installing the technology into the home, so thereâ€™s no need for the homeowner to tinker with the settings; it all happens automatically.
Audio Adds to the Allure
Free to enjoy the lush back yard â€” as well as the beautiful interior â€” the homeowners can grab a tablet or phone to fill the property with music. A Crestron whole-house audio system transmits tunes from an Autonomic music server thatâ€™s tucked away in a specially built utility room with the rest of the electronic gear. Music goes to eight listening zones equipped with Paradigm in-ceiling speakers inside and three zones equipped with Terra landscape speakers outdoors. The music also plays through the surround-sound system in a family room where an 65-inch TV gets its video content from a cable box located in the equipment room. Four other cable boxes reside in this room, each wired to its own TV. Bolduc says itâ€™s a simple setup that maintains a clean aesthetic and suits the entertainment needs of the homeowners perfectly.
â€œThey arenâ€™t big TV watchers, so having a slew of video sources wasnâ€™t necessary.â€ And neither was loading up the equipment rack with several audio components. The Autonomic server streams all the popular Internet music services, and support two simultaneous streams so that she can listen to a certain music station in one room while he listens to something different in another room. â€œItâ€™s just the two of them who live in the house, so two streams and Internet radio was sufficient for their listening pleasure,â€ Bolduc says.
Lighting the Way to Full Control
Whole-house music is often what inspires homeowners to branch out into complete home automation; in this case, sunshine was the impetus. After understanding the benefits of lighting and shading control to the efficiency and beauty of their home, the owners of this stunning Sarasota abode added a bevy of other high-tech amenities, including whole-house audio, to create a living environment that suits their tastes, schedule and needs as part-time Floridians. They can control every aspect of the home with a simple tap of a smartphone, whether theyâ€™re soaking in the sun outdoors, hosting a party, or staying at their main residence in Europe.
Systems & Equipment
- Home Control: Crestron
- Lighting & Shading Control: Lutron
- Whole-House Audio: Crestron
- Speakers: Paradigm
- TVs: Sony
- Security System: DSC
- Surveillance Cameras: Visualint
2. Smart Home of the Year, $150,000 and Under: SILVER Winner
Savant System Carves Out Quality Time: A busy family relishes the chance to spend time together, thanks to a well-designed automation system.
Busy households with kids and pets are prime candidates for home automation systems. Families simply need help managing their homes. The owners of this award-winning project were no exception, and called on Elite Media Solutions, of Wellesley Hills, Mass., to engineer and design a home system that could simplify their routines and schedules so that they could enjoy more time together as a family. Additionally, the homeowners wanted a system that would afford them greater peace of mind and home protection.
Elite Media Solutions tied the homeâ€™s lights, thermostats, audio equipment, and surveillance cameras to a Savant home control platform, and loaded the Savant mobile app onto the ownersâ€™ iPads, some of which are mounted to the walls, and smartphones. Several scenes were created to minimize the amount of work it would normally take to close up and lock down the house for the night. Tapping a single button on the app triggers a housewide â€œall offâ€ command. Lights turn off, the thermostats adjust, the audio system turns off, and the surveillance cameras maintain a vigil. The app also enables the iPads and smartphones to function as intercoms. When the doorbell of the Mobotix door station is pressed, an image captured by the nearest surveillance cameras is passed to the app (as well as to any TV thatâ€™s on), and the owners can converse with the guest directly from the app.
Also family friendly are the favorite station presets Elite Media Solutions put together for each member of the family. For example, when one of the kids turns on a TV (there are six total), she is presented on the screen of an iPad a list of favorite stations available in the Kids TV preset.
Systems & Equipment
- Home Control: Savant
- Whole-House Audio and Video: Savant
- TVs: Samsung, Seura
- Speakers: Leon, Paradigm
- Intercom: Mobotix
- Networking: Access Networks
3. Smart Home of the Year, $150,000 and Under, BRONZE Winner
Four Families, One System: Control4 system satisfies the need of a multi-generational family-of-15.
When four families share the same house, pleasing everyone is bound to be a challenge. But the home systems integrators at Procom Enterprises, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., rose to the challenge to design a Control4 system that would maintain domestic peace and harmonyâ€”plus a whole lot of funâ€”for anyone, young or old, male or femaleâ€”who resides in the 30,000-square-foot home.
Naturally, not everyone in multi-generational family shared the same taste in music, so Procom customized several unique user interfaces to suit the musical preferences of each person.Â Access to specific audio sources, favorite tunes, and controls were incorporated into the UIs. The UI that provides access and control over video was designed in a similar fashion, and given the sheer number of entertainment choices available, breaking down the options for each family member was not just for the sake of convenience, but of necessity.Â In total 24 TVs, 32 audio zones, 20 video sources, and 16 audio occupy the residence.
While this robust distributed A/V network keeps the family entertained in all areas of the house, there is one spot where they all convene: a 1,500-square-foot game room and custom home theater area in the basement. Here, a 156-inch curved Stewart Filmscreen screen and Sony 4K projector are accompanied by five flat-screen TVs mounted in an adjacent billiards area. Itâ€™s just another example of how technology can both satisfy individual needs yet still bring a family together.
Systems & Equipment
- Control: Control4
- Audio & Video Distribution: Control4
- Security: Interlogix
- TVs: Samsung
- Speakers: Klipsch
- Video Projector: Sony
- Projection Screen: Stewart Filmscreen
- Motorized Draperies: Lutron