Backup Power is a Must In High End Installations

One of the most easily overlooked problem areas in any large residential or commercial installation is backup power.  Many integrators are not accustomed to dealing with backup power systems, but they can provide both stability and safety for their clients while adding another revenue stream dealers.

liquid propane generator

Many areas of the country experience regular power outages.  These can be caused by a wide variety of issues from thunderstorms in the Southeast, blizzards in the Northeast, and earthquakes on the West Coast.  But regardless of the circumstances, having a reliable backup power source provides homeowners with some or all of the conveniences of home even when everyone else in their area is without.

Finding a Suitable Generator

Selecting the best generator for your clients particular needs starts with determining how much power all of their household equipment consumes on a regular basis.  Then you need to determine startup requirements based on each particular appliances needs.

Once you’ve established a baseline for this, you can begin to assess which unit will be best suited to their particular circumstances.

Since they are investing a substantial amount of money in these systems, most homeowners tend to go for units that can power just about everything in their home.  This typically includes audio video systems, lighting control systems, and any other home automation equipment they might deem necessary for day to day existence.

Generators come with a wide range of power options.  Anything from 10,000W to 30,000W and higher are available for both residential and commercial applications.  Using the calculations of overall power requirements you can determine how much your client will need and then make a recommendation based on those numbers.

Generator Technology

While there are huge differences in price between various generators they all work on basically the same principle and design.  They are essentially an engine that is connected to a alternator.  Most of these engines run at a constant 3600RPM and ramp up to meet demand.  This goes for home or portable generators.  In fact many of the best portable generators utilize inverter technologies that allow them to stabilize the line voltage even further.  This makes them safe to use on sensitive electronic devices like laptops, cell phones and tablets.

Standby generators operate on a variety of fuels and each has it’s pros and cons.

The most popular is liquid propane.  This is stored in a large tank that is either buried in the ground near the generator or above ground.  They range in size from 20 gallons to 1000+ gallons.  These can supply power to a large or medium sized house for weeks at a time depending on the load.

The next most popular is natural gas.  The biggest advantage natural gas has is that once connected to the gas company you have an unlimited supply without having to get it refilled.  This fuel source is ideal in the Southeast where power can easily be disrupted by storms, but gas lines will not.

Natural gas is NOT a good solution in areas like California that are prone to earthquakes.  This will cause a disruption in your service and your power.  In earthquake prone areas it’s better to have liquid propane or diesel as a fuel source.

Diesel is another option but also requires on-site storage.  Some units can run on both gasoline and natural gas or liquid propane. This offers flexibility in situations where power is critical.

Upgrading to the New Laser Projector from Sony

sony laser projector

Sony has taken the AV world by storm with their new laser series of projectors.  Offering full 4k resolution with the ability to place the projector within inches of the screen, it has changed the way many designers approach custom home theaters.  Let’s take a look at a few of the things that have changed with the introduction of products such as these.

Superior Resolution

The first thing most will notice about the LSPX-W1x is that it offers absolutely stunning resolution.  It can process a native 4k signal or up convert a 1080p signal to 4k.  Processing is handled smoothly with no artifacts or loss of color accuracy.  Motion is as lifelike as anything we’ve seen from a digital projector.


While most home theater projectors require measuring throw distances, this projector is designed to sit at the very front of the room.  This allows for some much appreciated flexibility when it comes to installing the unit.  Previously the projector would have to be installed in the back of the room.  This meant running wiring and cabling, ensuring enough ventilation, and building out a box to house the unit.

Another option would be to build the unit into a table or other structure in the middle of the room that would be hidden from view when behind it.  All of these solutions were fine, but placing the projector at the from of the room is significantly easier from a design perspective.

Initially projectors were so heavy that they often required special housings to be installed to support the weight of well over 100 lbs.  Often times this would require the use of metal which had to be cut by hand, or with plasma cutting tools.  (See our Hypertherm review)  Then once the structure was complete it would need to be installed in exactly the right position to ensure the image filled the screen.  This could be challenging even under the best of circumstances.

The New Normal

Sony has changed all of this now. The projector can be installed behind the front three speakers allowing it to remain completely hidden.  Firing up the projector is quick.  It takes almost no time to warm up and come to full color and brightness.  In most cases by the time the curtains have finished opening the image is ready to go.

The action is so lifelike that it appears to look better than real life.  It’s hard to describe this, but once you see it you’ll understand. There isn’t a great deal of material that is currently broadcast in native 4k, but that is of course changing quickly as more and more consumers are adopting the new technology.

One thing is for sure, custom home theater designers are loving the flexibility offered by the new Sony line of projectors.  It has opened up a whole new world of room configurations and performance at the same time.

Control4’s Lighting Control Offers Flexibility

One of the biggest problems with selling lighting control systems is the large upfront cost.  Manufacturers such as Lutron and Crestron offer very powerful and reliable products, but they also come with a big price tag.  Control4 is looking to grab some of this market by offering the flexibility to add one room at a time to your lighting system.

Control4 Makes Home Automation Affordable

John Pickering owns a home theater installation company in Orlando.  He has been selling lighting control products of one variety or another for over 15 years.  But up until recently the number of homeowners that opted to install full blown lighting systems was actually quite small.  He estimates that about 15% of their total jobs decided to go with a whole house lighting control package.

Control 4 dimmerThe number one reason given for not doing it was the cost.  Even a moderately sized house a lighting system could run upwards of $60,000.  And this typically wouldn’t include the labor for installation and programming.  This is a hefty sum to homeowners when the alternative is so much cheaper.

This changed dramatically when John started offering Control4 lighting products.  He claimed there were two reasons in particular that made it such an easy sell.

First and foremost it is easy to install the system one switch at a time.  There’s no need to purchase expensive lighting modules that often run over $1,000 a piece.  You simply replace the switches that you want on the lighting system with Control4 switches.  They communicate wirelessly with the automation controller.

The second reason lighting is an easy up-sell with Control4 is that the lighting icon on the touch panel remains in place even if you don’t have lighting control.  At first this seemed like an annoyance.  But it turns out it serves as a constant reminder to the client that their system was capable of more than what they were doing with it.  John mentioned that he must’ve sold over a dozen lighting system upgrades due to this one little quirk on the touch panel.

Ease of Setup and Installation

While the lighting keypads themselves should be installed by a licensed electrician, the setup, installation, and programming is a snap.  One of the difficulties with Lutron and Crestron systems is having a qualified programmer on staff that can handle all of the programming work required for these systems.

While Control4 systems do require some training, the amount of programming knowledge required is absolutely zero.  This takes the pressure off of integrators to keep a high salary programmer on staff at all times.

Each new version of the operating system sees enhancements and improvements in the way the system is installed and operates.  It’s turning home automation into a much more reliable feature in homes and it’s making the systems much more profitable for dealers to carry.

You can use the following link to find out more about Control4.

How Home Automation Should Be Done

Occasionally we have to give a shout out to a fellow integrator that has done an amazing job on a particular installation.  We found this one while browsing through the archives at  Talk about meticulous planning and execution.  This is what every home automation system should look like.

Here are some photos so you can see for yourself.

atlanta home automation system

Notice the attention to detail throughout the entire project.  From an integrators perspective, servicing one of these jobs is a dream because everything is so well labeled.


home automation rack


This home automation company has trained their staff to be meticulous in their execution.  While they are probably pretty expensive, this pays dividends in the long run for the client because servicing the system will be simple and quick.

Clients are often shocked at the price tags associated with these sorts of systems.  But when you see results like these it’s easy to justify the cost.  Even updating to new technology is a breeze because these systems allow for complete flexibility.

And who wouldn’t want something like this in their house?

atlanta home automation rack




Making Home Automation More Affordable

control4 touch screenOne of the biggest challenges in the home automation industries is selling the technology to builders.  While demand has grown consistently with homeowners over the last 10 years, builders see automation technology as an additional expense and sometimes a headache.  But in the past couple of years this has started to change as companies such as Crestron and Control4 reach out to builders in an effort to educate them on the income possibilities of their products.

It Starts with Education

During the last building boom from 2002 to 2007 there was a small increase in the number of spec home builders that started implementing automation products into their projects.  At the time even many of the lower priced options in this category were too much for builders to swallow.

However this was only one of the reasons that builders didn’t begin installing better technology into their homes.  Part of it was a lack of understanding from the homeowners.  During this times home automation was still in it’s infancy.  And from a builder’s perspective, if you’re clients aren’t asking for it, why would you include it in the home anyway?

The same thing occurred with audio products as they became more popular.  Now you rarely see a house that doesn’t come pre-wired for surround sound and whole house audio.

The last 6 or 7 years have dramatically changed this.  The number of homeowners requiring that their home have the latest and greatest in automation and energy efficiency technologies has increased dramatically.  Builders are hearing this, and have begun to create packages for their spec homes that include better wiring packages and even complete automation systems.

Falling Prices

As with most things technology related, prices on home automation products continue to fall.  In the early 2000’s it was difficult to have an automation system installed for less than $50,000.  But now homeowners can get everything including lighting control, climate control, energy management, and audio video for under $25,000.  This is still a significant amount of money, but the price tag has dropped by half in the last 15 years, all while the capabilities of these systems have dramatically increased.

Builder programs like those from Control4 help to recruit builders into their base of dealers so that they are able to profit from pushing home automation products in their homes.

Smart dealers such as Twist Technology ( have also started working hand in hand with dealers to further educate them on the technologies that their clients want to see included in their homes.

All of this has combined to change what is being installed in even mid-level-priced homes.  It’s good for the industry as a whole, and homeowners.

Looking for Inspiration

cool custom home theaterIn the 3 years that we have been in business, we have been blessed to have worked on some amazing projects.  Custom home theater design and installation is a very rewarding field in which to work.  After all, we get to build our clients dream theaters every day.  One of the challenges in this business is finding inspiration.

Very few of our clients walk through our front doors knowing exactly what they want.  Typically they have a budget in mind, and perhaps a specific type of technology (such as a 4K TV or projector).  But designing your dream home theater can be a bit tricky.  Many times we have our clients do a few searches online to see if they can pull ideas from ours or any other custom installation teams work.  You can even look at CEDIA’s top award winners in the home theater category.

This approach has never failed us.  The easiest way to start is to think back on your most nostalgic memories as a kid going to the movie theater.  Which was your favorite?  What sort of emotions did it evoke?  Who were you with?  What did you eat?

These may seem like silly questions, but our senses provide powerful memory responses that can help us be more creative.  If you want a theater room that reminds you of going to the movies on the weekend with you dad, immerse yourself in all of the details of that past experience.  Then you can begin to pull these details and use them in a design for your very own room.

Some of our more innovative and unique theater designs have been pulled directly from the minds of our clients.  Others have sprung from ideas they found while browsing through online images of home theaters.

One client in particular absolutely loved Gone With the Wind.  Their home was decorated in a style consistent with a Southern plantation.  Once they had an idea in their head of what they wanted, the design was easy.  Details literally poured from them.  And in the end they had room that they absolutely loved showing off and enjoying for entertaining family and friends.

Another client actually started browsing through the portfolio of a theater designer and smart home integrator in Pasadena.  They designed a full blown bat cave for one of their clients. The entire system utilizes Crestron controls for lighting, climate, and AV automation.

Our client took this idea and ran with it.  He had been a huge fan of comic books, as a kid. He simply went home and dug through his old comic books to come up with design and decor details.

Finding a source of inspiration doesn’t have to be challenging.  You just need to know how and where to look.

Integrating Technology in a Modern Setting

plasma modern installCheck out this installation in a high rise building in downtown Atlanta. Just another way to make technology blend with your decor.  Our philosophy is that technology shouldn’t dominate the room.  It should either blend in, or disappear.

See more of our installations on our Portfolio page.


Are 4k TV’s and Projectors Worth the Money?

4k tv from sonyThe latest video technology to hit the shelves is 4k TV’s and projectors.  They offer stunning resolution, clarity, and motion accuracy, but are they worth the price premium they currently carry?  Let’s take a look at the basics of 4k technology and the difference between it and standard HDTV.

Can You See The Difference

There’s no denying that 4k displays are absolutely stunning to watch.  But are they the big leap that all the manufacturers claim they are?  The biggest problem we see with pushing clients into these devices right now is the lack of source material such as movies and television.  Sure the displays are capable of up converting the standard 1080p signal to 4000 lines of resolution, but this is basically just filler material.  The actual BluRay disc doesn’t contain that much data.

Another argument is that the human eye can only absorb so much information at one time.  And resolutions beyond 1080p are truly pushing the limits of what are eyes are capable of seeing as well as what our brains are capable of processing.

So are these displays game changers like going from standard definition TV’s to high definition?  No they’re not.

Where They DO Excel

There is one area in which these displays do excel.  And that’s when you’re talking about really big screens.  Even 1080p content can become fuzzy when displayed on really large screens.  And with TV’s now pushing into the 80 and 100″ ranges there are plenty of times when this higher resolution can actually make a difference.

It is especially apparent on projection screens that are well over 100″.  This is when you need the highest resolution you can get because every pixel becomes larger and larger as the screen gets bigger.  This is especially effective when hooked up to a Control4 home automation system.

Forward Compatibility

One of the biggest reasons to go with a 4k display is to be forward compatible with yet to be released formats.  Technology only gets better and better so if you’re going to be spending on a TV anyway, you may as well get the latest and greatest.  The last thing you want to have to do is buy another one when this standard is fully adopted.

Our Conclusion

When these displays first came out we oscillated back and forth on whether or not to move forward with them.  An integrator in Tampa (Innovative Sight & Sound) recommended only using them for larger screens.  For any of our clients that are going with screens above 100″ we highly recommend going with a TV or projector that is 4k capable.  For now there is no native source material, but certain brands such as Samsung have shown a remarkable capability to up convert 1080p signals without introducing artificial noise in the picture.  You can see some of our installations with 4k systems in our Portfolio section.

For more information contact them directly.

Innovative Sight & Sound
4400 118th Ave N #203
Clearwater, FL 33762
(727) 539-0000

You can even check out one of their videos online.


A Look at NuVo’s Wireless Speaker System

nuvo controllerOne of the most important products to enter the world of home audio in the last 10 years is the wireless speaker.  Sonos has dominated this market for the last several years with their sleek designs, elegant controls, and simplistic setup.  But other companies such as NuVo are looking to take a share of this profitable niche.  With their latest wireless speaker system they have taken a huge step in the right direction.

Getting Rid of the Wires

One of the biggest hurdles for custom installers to overcome when implementing a whole house audio solution in an existing home is wiring.  If a client wants speakers in every room of a house this used to involve difficult work in attics and crawlspaces, cutting drywall, and pulling wire to each room.  This is time consuming, messy, and extremely expensive.  Often the thought of tearing up their walls is enough to deter homeowners from attempting it, even if the cost isn’t an issue.

So finding a method of delivering whole house music with a wireless solution has been a long time coming.  And needless to say there is a significant amount of demand. Continue reading