Progress for home electronics has moved behind the scenes, but just because these advances can’t easily be seen, doesn’t mean there hasn’t been significant headway toward making homes more automated and easier to manage. By Ann Zimmerman

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There was a time in home electronics when friends would gather in admiration to ooh and ah over powerful new speakers or a big screen. Now, the newest trick equipment can’t necessarily be seen. Audio/video advances now mean simplifying installations, hiding components, carefully planning for power and cables, and simplifying operation. More than that, the home electronics integration industry has advanced to include a home’s operation and performance. We checked in with Audio Innovations in Hailey to see what is new and discovered that home electronics can save energy, make homes safer, enhance entertainment, and be directly and remotely managed through friendly devices like iPads.

unseen complexity

“The complexity is under the surface,” says Jess Goitiandia, owner of Audio Innovations, lifetime Wood River Valley resident, former robotics technician, and an enthusiast for living better with greater energy efficiency in homes that are healthier and safer through integrated home electronics. “Electronics are key to a home’s performance in ways that couldn’t be anticipated only several years ago. There are similarities between home electronics and a sleek clean modern design—a modern design only works because of careful planning and the unseen complexity behind the scenes that support the home’s function. The same is true for modern home automation.”

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Integrating equipment, wiring, cables, sensors, controls, and programming isn’t easy to understand in a quick lesson. To break this up in bite-sized pieces, Jess and his Audio Innovation’s colleague, Jay Basen, review work on a typical new home to demonstrate the intentions for the home’s performance and how it is accomplished.

As Jess and Jay explain electronic integration and home performance, they target these goals for homes in the region: Make homes easy to manage; Make homes as energy-efficient as possible; Provide notifications by email or text messages to homeowners and/or the property manager of any significant event that may be damaging or detrimental to the home; Allow for remote operation; Provide maximum entertainment with the highest quality equipment and with the least obtrusive installations; and Anticipate the future with wiring and cables, or “future-proofing.”

Achieving these goals relies on integrating the home’s functions into a home automation system, and for this Audio Innovations relies on Crestron technology. “With Crestron we can control lighting, heating & air conditioning, televisions & video, distributed audio, motorized shades, snow melt, ice melt, security, the hot tub, water shut-off, power & back-up generators, and event notification,” says Jay Basen, who is a Silver Certified Crestron Masters Programmer—the only one in the entire state of Idaho.

Using the example of water leaks, Jay explains how the technology includes monitoring the temperature in the home and automatically raising heat settings for the home’s furnace to prevent frozen pipes. This system extends to monitoring water flow from appliances or possibly broken pipes, closing the water shut-off valve when problems are detected, and issuing multiple instant notifications of the problem. “This is an example of how technology protects the home from damage and losses.”

safer and more energy efficient homes

“Safety is another achievement of this technology,” explains Jay. “In case of fire, the system turns off the forced air heating or air conditioning system so it doesn’t spread smoke through the house, and we can program the exterior lights to flash so first responders can more easily locate the house.”

When asked about the forest fires that were so devastating this summer, Jay explains that he and Jess innovated a system for homes without air conditioning where the technology periodically runs the fan on the furnace and leverages the furnace filtration system to clean the air. “Doing this keeps the interior of the house clear of smoke and healthier to live in”

Energy-efficiency is closely linked to convenience. “Pressing a single button at the bedside in the master bedroom turns off all lights, all audio/video components, and sets back the thermostat to a comfortable level for sleeping,” Jay says to illustrate this point. “There really is a fine line between energy savings, convenience, and safety. For example, when the security system is armed and in the away mode, the system similarly turns off lights and entertainment components, as well as turning down the thermostat and turning off fireplaces. Conversely, when the homeowners return to an empty home, the system automatically warms the home and, at night, turns on pathway lighting so the family can safely enter the house without fumbling to turn on lights.”

Jess adds a comment about back-up generators, which local people are adding to be prepared for extended power outages or natural disasters. “We can program these for weekly tests, monitor them, and send out alerts if the test fails,” explains Jess. “That way the homeowner can be confident the generator will perform when there is an emergency.”

When asked about features that people are finding especially useful locally, Jess responds that he is automating motorized shades with simple controls through an iPad. “In addition, we are working directly with Crestron to program a new system for shades where we can monitor the angle and elevation of the sun and automatically adjust the shades to maximize energy efficiency and limit sun damage. We anticipate this to be available shortly.”

home entertainment

Home entertainment keeps on getting better: the pictures are clearer with more true colors, the audio includes surround sound, and the choices for media include satellite, cable, Apple TV, Internet, Skype, Netflix, Kaleidescape, iPods, and, of course, Blu-Ray discs, DVDs and CDs. “What is exciting is how clean the screen installations look,” says Jess. “Everything is in the equipment room away from view, and we hide power connections and cables. Operations are simple through the Crestron controllers.” And what are some of the pitfalls? “This seamless appearance depends on cable and power. That’s why we plan ahead, and it is especially important with concrete homes where you can’t ‘fish’ for wires. Even if the homeowners might not want an installation in the space immediately, we encourage installing the proper fiber, cable and power during construction to prepare for future requirements.”

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Planning ahead sounds like a big order in a field that is changing so rapidly. However, it’s taking on demanding challenges that keeps Jess, Jay, and the rest of the staff at Audio Innovations engaged in tackling each installation. “I love this stuff,” Jess sums up, “and now we can do so much for our customers’ lifestyle.”

For more information call Audio Innovations at 208.788.3400
or visit www.audioi.org