The importance of technology - particularly in the home - is evolving daily. No longer preserved for the super wealthy or the tech enthusiasts, the "smart home" is a very real concept in 2015.
If you’ve done any sort of installation in the past 12 months, you’ll be well aware that we live in an age where your climate control can change with the seasons and your television remote can tell the children when to go to bed.
Below is a brief outline of Inspired Dwellings favourite Control Systems. So next time a client asks about home control, you can feel confident in your recommendation!
1. What is a Control System?
Control Systems take individual elements of technology in the home or office; the televisions, projectors, speakers, lighting, window treatments, climate control, internet connection, security features, and connect them to each other. This allows for intelligent living – your home or office knows when to turn on the air-con or shut the blinds – and allows the home owner to adjust multiple settings with one click.
2. Taking Control
Before we start, we should point out a common misnomer. A control system is only as good as its programming and installation.
We often go into practices or client’s home and are met by the same brick wall – “No, we’ve used **** before. We don’t like it. It never worked/ it was too slow/ it would break every few weeks.”
Any control system, when designed and wired correctly, will provide an exceptional addition to the home. Of course there are some environments, for which one control system will be better suited to than another.
3. So, how do you choose?
The overwhelming majority of our clients choose their control system purely by aesthetics. The way a control system looks in a home or development can make a huge impact - but it shouldn't be the only deciding factor.
Below is a short summary of 4 of Inspired Dwellings favourite control systems, detailing and what type of project (or client) they lend themselves to...
Scalability: Although theoretically scalable to larger projects, we find Control4 offers the perfect solution for residential projects and small scale developments and commerical.
Integration: A versatile system, Control4 allows for seamless integration between well-known global brands; Lutron, Rako, Sonos, Oceanair and many more. Control4 also manufacture several elements of home control themselves, including Control4 Lighting, Control4 HVAC, networking switches and intercoms.
Control Interfaces: The system itself is controlled through on-wall and portable touchscreens, traditional remotes and remote desktop login, with dedicated apps available for Apple iPhones and iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, and the new Amazon Fire phone.
Personalisation: Control4 has a fixed dark blue user interface, which is consistent across all platforms. Although you cannot personalise themes or backgrounds, a consistent interface makes it a very intuitive, user-friendly system. Whether using the bedroom’s on-wall touch-screen, the water-proof television screen in the bathroom, the phone or the tablet, the buttons will always remain in the same place.
Upkeep & Maintenance: In terms of maintenance, Control4s programming mean areas of the home can be modified, updated or fixed remotely. Inspired Dwellings offer a Smart Support Package, which means our programmers can login to make any adjustments, without needing a home visit. To ensure correct programming, the system can only be installed by an accredited Control4 dealer.
Latest News: In January of this year, Control4 upgraded their standard 7” touchscreens and handheld remotes, resulting in a much sleeker, polished design. The recent introduction of third party door entry integration, also makes Control4 an increasingly attractive system for smaller MDU (multi-dwellings unit) projects.
Scalability: Inspired Dwellings’ preferred choice for larger projects, Creston’s scalability is practically unlimited and offers the most flexibility for third party integration. Depending on project spec, we would generally advice Crestron be used within large scale developments, university campuses, office buildings, multi-dwelling units and tech-heavy residential projects.
Integration: A completely Crestron home control system offers choice for the ‘tech purist’. Although capable of integrating with well-known brands – Lutron, Rako, BPT etc, Crestron has the largest “own-brand range” of any control system, which includes a comprehensive range of thermostats, amplifiers, switches, cabling, shades, and a sea of accessories. Crestron Lighting is also a valued control system in its own right.
Control Interfaces: The system is controlled through on-wall and portable touchscreens, traditional remotes and remote desktop login, with dedicated apps available for Apple iPhones and iPads, Android smartphones and tablets.
Personalisation: Crestron touchscreens offers personalisation – phone, tablet and touchscreen interfaces can be personalised with themes or family photographs. We always recommend using this option sparingly – what looks great in a children bedroom may look out of place within the rest of the home!
Upkeep & Maintenance: In terms of maintenance, Crestron’s programming mean areas of the home can be modified, updated or fixed remotely. Inspired Dwellings offer a Smart Support Package, which means our programmers can login to make any adjustments, without needing a home visit. To ensure correct programming, the system can only be installed by an accredited Crestron dealer.
Latest News: Crestrons latest release, “PinPoint”, uses Bluetooth technology to tell your devices where you are in the home or office. When moving between areas, your phone or tablet will update accordingly, making it easier for you to control the space. The TSR302, a new traditional handheld remote has also just been announced, which will replace the MTX3.
Lighting control systems allow you to complement a great lighting design with great ease of use.
The main benefit of a lighting control system is usability; instead of conventional light switches & cabling, engraved keypads communicate with a control processor or central switch/dimmer modules. Where ever you are in the home - lamps, pendants, wall sconces and up lighting can all be turned on with touch of a switch or flick of a touch screen, or be automatically programed with sensors, timers or ‘scene settings’.
Two of our preferred lighting systems are Lutron Electronics & Rako Controls.
What are they: The Godfather of lighting systems, Lutron has been around since the late 1950s. Its founder Joel Spior, invented and developed the world’s first rotary dimmer and has been compared to Edison in relation for his work on lighting. This prestige, and the fact that the company is based in the United States, will generally make Lutron the more expensive option (although this is entirely dependent on project requirements). Rako Controls are a British company, based in Kent. Rako can operate without a central core processor, and is often a popular choice for wireless systems, making it a sophisticated and cost effective solution for smaller projects.
Scalability: Both systems are scalable, although Lutron’s dedicated processor and advanced dimming protocol, means it is better geared to run larger residential and commercial systems, whereas Rako provides an excellent solution for smaller residential systems. Both systems have DALI processors, which allow for modular programming. Lutron’s DALI system, however, is slightly larger and will allow for up to 64 light fittings to be placed on a single channel and programmed on a modular basis. So should you wish to add a new meeting room - or split an office - the light fittings can be reprogrammed to match.
Integration: Lutron Lighting systems offer full integration with products dedicated to creating a perfect environment – heating, blinds, curtains and security treatments can all be controlled through the engraved wall switches and dedicated android, iOS & Windows apps. Rako is great cost effective solution, designed solely for intelligent lighting control. As such, it cannot be used to control other aspects of home technology.
Control Interfaces: Both systems offer a wide range of chic metal key pads, which can be sprayed to your finish. Lutron keypads also offer LED backlighting for readability and are available in variety of matching architectural style wall plates and accessories (including glass). Both systems have a UK (square) and a US (rectangular) style keypads, although if spec’d far enough in advance, a UK wall plate may be used in an American dwellings, and vice versa.
Both systems have dedicated apps, available on iOS, Windows and android, which allow you to control your lighting remotely through tablets and smartphones.
Personalisation: In lighting systems, personalisation comes in the form of scene settings and bespoke engravings. Home owners and developers can set the mood of their home by pressing one button, which will switch multiple light fittings on at a pre-set level of brightness. Popular settings include ‘holiday’, ‘goodbye’, ‘entertaining’. Inspired Dwellings find that Lutron gives greater scene control, because of its ability to control a greater variety of circuits and fittings and also offers greater flexibility in engraving.
Upkeep & Maintenance: Just like any control system, a lighting system will require space within the central hub. RAKO dimmer panels tend to be slightly larger than their Lutron counter parts. If used in collaboration with a Crestron or Control4 system, the lighting control will often sit in a separate rack or wall bracket.