Crestron Family Home Installation in Surrey, UK
This large Surrey renovation was the second installation that we undertook for this discerning, professional family. We had installed a full Crestron system in their previous Fulham home in 2008, and they came back to us when moving to a more spacious property in Surrey.
The project was had a value of GBP£250,000, and was completed in January 2014.
Doing two installs for the same client but six years apart, offers a perfect opportunity to reflect on how our installations and client expectations have developed over time. The home automation market is fast moving, and it is surprising to see just how much has changed in such a short period.
In many ways, these were perfect clients for us. They loved their previous system and really understood the benefits that home automation has to offer. We had maintained an excellent relationship over the years, carrying out periodic maintenance and upgrades on their existing system. So, when it came to putting together a specification for their new house, there was a clearly-shared vision for how the system would look: multiroom AV, a high-end home cinema and whole-home lighting control were a given, but the system should also manage HVAC, door entry, CCTV and the intruder alarm. At ClearSphere, we specialise in just this type of large, complex project that goes beyond pure AV and lighting to include integrate building management and security systems, so this was the perfect job for the perfect clients!
Back in 2009 the iPad was still on Apple's drawing board and simple resistive touchscreens, with clunky buttons and basic graphics, were regarded as pretty cool, especially when installed in the home. Then the iPad came along and everything changed. Customers where experiencing swipe control with super-slick, Jony Ive-inspired graphics. Custom install touchscreens started to look dated.
Today, the industry has come a long way. Crestron Smart Graphics offer a clean, more unified design in which news, weather and web content can sit alongside AV and building control information, making for a richer, more engaging user experience. The new third-generation touchscreens have a clean, modern look and incorporate video streaming and SIP phone technology, adding a whole raft of functional benefits such as: being able to cue up movies from touchscreens; check CCTV cameras; answer the door and page other screens around the home - all from within the Crestron environment. So, while there is no doubt that the iPad had become a core element of the front end of our systems, there is there is a still a place for the dedicated touchscreen within the home, although the client did not specify as many the second time around.
The widespread adoption of IP and PoE is another area that has changed substantially since our first installation. Multiple cables for data, power and video to each bit of hardware are fast being replaced with a single CAT6 cable carrying data and power. For this house, touchscreens, CCTV cameras, door stations and wireless access points were all connected via a single cable, making our lives easier through simplified design and reduced labour on site. We have also seen a growth in network control of AV components and it is quickly becoming our preferred method of control for AV hardware, being more versatile than IR and RS232.
Heating and cooling integration was traditionally regarded as fairy cutting edge. It was difficult to implement and either over-complicated for the user or too basic to be of much use. Now, we implement environmental control on almost every project. User controls have been simplified to the point where the whole family can use them, and fully-integrated zoned control of heating and cooling mean the clichéd promises of 'energy saving' are becoming a reality.
Whereas six years ago we controlled 4 heating zones, this project has 30 discrete zones. Underfloor heating and radiators zones are directly controlled via Crestron with temperature feedback from the CNX lighting control keypads. The Daikin air-conditioning integrates centrally with Crestron for full control of the 12 AC zones. Bathroom fans, towel radiators and heated mirror pads are switched via the system.
The user interfaces offer set-point control for each room, with interlocked control of heating and AC. Timers for each zone can be set via an intuitive graphical interface, and the client can select from a number of occupancy modes that reflect the way the house is being used.
Indeed, monitoring building systems is becoming more important than end-user control. After the first few months, clients rarely change their climate settings, BUT they never cease to be impressed when we notify them of potential heating problems before they are left in the cold!
Crestron's shift towards IP control and the support of industry protocols such as BACnet coupled with its wide range of third-party interfaces and low-level programming capabilities make it ideally suited to the complex and varied demands of building management systems. Crestron used to interface with third-party BMS systems, but it can now be considered a credible stand-alone BMS solution in its own right.
The biggest change in lighting over the last 6 years is undoubtedly the near total adoption of LED fittings. While today's LED fitting has improved vastly in terms of quality of light output, it has raised a whole set of new issues related to dimming performance. LEDs do not dim well - the light is harsh at low levels, they do not switch off cleanly, and they break dimmers if too many are fitted. Worse still, no two manufacturers' bulbs perform the same, and varying the number of fittings on any one circuit can have a dramatic effect on dimming performance.
This is clearly a big problem, as I realised at ISE this year when on the stand of another well-known lighting control manufacturer. Having explained the nightmare we had gone through in finding compatible LEDs for a recent installation, I was led to a part of the stand where a range of LEDs had been setup to demonstrate the system's inability to dim them. The representative seemed quite pleased with this, but could offer no practical advice on how to avoid the issue in the future! That said, the technology is maturing, and Crestron's universal DIN rail dimmer copes well with most LED loads.
For this installation, we chose to take the guesswork out of it completely and use Crestron's range of LED products. We supplied over 300 Crestron CLED fittings, dimmed by Crestron DIN rail dimmers, which have performed flawlessly, removing a massive potential headache and substantially boosting the value of our contract.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that AV is still the core of our market, and often the main priority for our clients. While the client's desire for a quality 'lifestyle' AV experience, in which the latest technology integrates elegantly within their home, is much the same as it was six years ago, the way in which they expect to access their media has changed dramatically. Today we see more and more users wanting to stream music and video and access online services such as Napster, Spotify and Netflix. At the moment, the technology is fragmented and still a little 'techie' for the custom install market, but Airplay and Apple TV streaming along with Internet radio seem to be gaining 'lifestyle' acceptance.
Digital video distribution is another area where technology has fully matured. Gone are the 'close your eyes and pray' days of old two-wire CAT5-based systems. Today's HDBaseT systems are generally 'fit and forget'. We are big fans of the Crestron Digital Media distribution system for its reliability, flexibility and its installer-friendly design.
In the world of multiroom audio, Crestron's Sonnex switchers and amplifiers have dramatically simplified the installation of large distributed audio systems. Being able to link switchers and expanders with a single cable massively reduces installation labour and potential failure points. Also, being able to split expanders across the house offers a neat way to avoid undesirably long cable runs.
For this project we installed a Sonnex SWAMP-24x8 and a SWAMPE-8 audio expander, paired with Bowers and Wilkins in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. All ceiling speakers where installed with metal B&W back-boxes for enhanced performance and minimal sound pollution to the floor above.
A DM-MD8X8 Digital Media matrix, feeds video to 6 televisions and the cinema with the remaining output providing a video preview on the touchscreens. Sources include two Kaleidescape movie players and disk vault, two Sky Boxes, a Blu-ray player, two Apple TVs and a feed from the CCTV.
It is dangerous to make predictions for the future, especially in writing, but it does appear that the aforementioned trends are here to stay and fast becoming the norm. The range and diversity of PoE devices is clearly set to expand, and network-based control and communication looks set to dominate in the future. The mass market appears to be waking up to the benefits of smart heating control, spurred on by the high-profile launch of products such as Nest, and one would expect fast growth in this sector.
From an AV perspective, 4K is upon us and thankfully it looks as if the distribution technology has stolen the march on the content players this time around. Let's hope this means that we are in for a smoother ride than the big digital switch over.
While it is impossible to predict the future, what does appear to be certain is the AV industry's remarkable ability to adapt quickly to changes in our dynamic and exciting market. As for us installers, it is all about staying on the cutting edge but not falling off. The challenge of keeping abreast of new developments and offering our customers the latest technology, while ensuring our solutions are reliable and deliverable, can often make life difficult, but never dull!
1 x TSW-1050 Crestron 10" touchscreen
2 x TSW-750 Crestron 7" touchscreen
7 x MLX-3 Crestron handheld remote
1 x CP3 Crestron control processor
5 x CEN-RFGW-EX Crestron wireless access point
1 x DM-MD8X8 Crestron Digital Media 8x8 matrix
2 x DMCO-55 Crestron Digital Media 4-way output card
6 x DMC-HD-DSP Crestron Digital Media HDMI input card (with audio down mixing)
7 x DM-RMC-100-C Crestron Digital Media Room Box
1 x SWAMPI-24x8 Crestron Sonnex 8-zone amplifier and audio matrix
1 x SWAMPIE-8 Crestron Sonnex 8-zone audio extender
2 x AP3 Crestron processor
3 x DIN-8SW8 Crestron 8-way relay control module
2 x DIN-8SW8-I Crestron 8-way I/O relay module
2 x DIN-HUB Crestron Cresnet distribution hub
8 x DIN-PWS50 Crestron 50W power supply
2 x C2N-RTHS Crestron temperature sensor
2 x SCP-CREST-1 Crestron cable (300mm)
45 x CNX-BX Crestron keypad, including engraving
22 x DIN-1DIMU4 Crestron 4-channel universal dimmer module
9 x DIN-4DIMFLV4 Crestron 4-channel 0-10V dimmer module
3 x CH-LMD1 Crestron PIR
1 x CEN-NVS200 Crestron network video streamer
1 x DMC-VID4 Crestron Digital Media CCTV input card
301 x CLED227 Crestron LED light fitting
Alistair Ingram is the Director of ClearSphere, a systems integrator, specialising in home-automation and entertainment systems for luxury residential property in London and the South East of the UK.