An easier retirement

Imagine reaching retirement and permanently relocating from the UK to the Algarve in Portugal. Now imagine that beautiful house you’re going to live out the rest of your years has a full home automation system integrated into it. Amy Wallington looks at this new life of luxury.

Many say that retirement is the best years of your life. It certainly is for this couple and their two dogs. Having relocated to the Algarve in Portugal, they decided to make their retirement years even more luxurious by turning the property into a full smart home. The property started being built in spring 2017 and was finished, complete with a full home automation system, just after summer 2019.

Portuguese-based integrator, Life Emotions came into this sometime into the build process. Joel Reis, CEO at Life Emotions, explains: “We were invited by the builder for a meeting with the customer, builder and architect. It was funny because the process was already running but the customer wasn’t happy with the options they had. During the meeting, they loved our approach and the way we listened to their requirements and proposed concepts and solutions. We got the job from this first meeting.”

The architect provided Life Emotions with a brief of the house layout and some of the ideas the homeowner wanted. “They had some ideas of what they would like in their dream home,” says Reis. “They were looking for solutions that would allow the next level of comfort and entertainment. He is a gadget lover.”

They wanted dimmable lighting and lighting scenes, integrated climate control, audio, internet and security throughout the property. The most important part of the install as the homeowner stressed was that the design was to be kept minimalistic as they didn’t want to see the technology and devices. Finally, the technology must be easy to operate in order to enjoy their retirement properly. 

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The homeowners have two dogs that they enjoy walking every day. One of the requirements was that they could have peace of mind when out of the house while not having to carry around a load of keys. Reis says: “Outside of the property, we installed a 2N IP Verso intercom with a code lock allowing the customer to have peace of mind when they go out. They can take their dogs to the beach and when they come back, they just need a PIN code to open the gate. They can also answer the door to any visitors from anywhere in the world through the Control4 app.” 

Once in the house, they have a variety of options. “As the owner enters the house, they have the ability to control the entire property through the Control4 panel installed on the wall by the door, and the Sentido Basalte KNX keypad where we configured a ‘Leaving Home’ and ‘Welcome’ scene,” Reis explains. 

According to Reis, the homeowners were not worried about having a CCTV system. “On the security domain, the customer just asked for the basics. They didn’t want a CCTV system, however we installed cabling for the future in case they change their minds.” 

The basic security installed was a DSC central system which included a magnetic sensor on each window and door, as well as smoke sensors in the kitchen and tech areas. 

The swimming pool area required Wi-Fi, heating control and audio. He continued: “We installed all-weather speakers from Bowers & Wilkins to match and integrate with the architecture. We didn’t put any speakers on the floor because the dogs would have destroyed them.”

Integrating the pool’s heating pump with Control4 has given the client full and easy control of heating the pool. A Ubiquiti network was used to connect all outdoor areas. 

The most important area of the house was the living room which is where they spend most of their time. Fairly open plan, this is where the couple eats, cooks, watches TV, reads and enjoys the pool. 

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Adhering to the minimalistic design, Reis reveals: “We integrated solutions where technology meets the design. For example, we installed invisible Stealth Acoustic speakers in the ceiling in the kitchen and dining areas. For a cinematic viewing experience, we installed a Sony OLED TV on the wall, with Origin Acoustics in-wall speakers surrounding the TV. The subwoofer and Integra DRX Receiver were both hidden in the cabinet specially designed to accommodate them. More invisible speakers were installed around the room as surround sound. All necessary cables and equipment are hidden, except the Control4 remote which allows easy control of the whole system. The end result gives a clean space with amazing design and all the tech features needed for the end customer.”

Moving into the bedrooms, all have installed Origin Acoustics in-ceiling speakers with the ability to listen to Spotify and international radio. “In the main family bedroom, we designed a full Control4 audio experience but for the guest bedrooms, we installed a Sonos experience as it will be easier for guests to listen to their own music,” illustrates Reis.

The first floor features a music room which is used by the family only. Reis says: “In here, we installed a HiFi system that the couple brought over from the UK, including a vinyl player and amplifier. We completed the system with some nice Sonus Faber speakers.” 

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Taking control
Perhaps an unconventional set up, the property’s foundation is based on a KNX system which integrates all critical systems through Schneider, Siemens and Basalte (lighting, HVAC and motors). Reis explains: “We also used the Loxone Miniserver as a logic module because it is a native KNX product. It is reliable, flexible and offers a load of features. We didn’t want critical systems to be network dependant.”

The KNX system is used alongside Control4. Explaining why they chose to do this, Reis says: “The customer wanted a reliable and fun experience which is easy to use and allows future upgrades, which is why we chose to use Control4 as the interface and control system. Combining KNX and Control4 was an easy decision because the customer already knew the technologies as established, solid brands on the market.”

"They were looking for solutions that would allow the next level of comfort and entertainment."

The Basalte Sentido is used to manage all lights, shades and temperature throughout the house, while the Control4 interface can be used for specific tasks. 

“We configured macro scenes on the Basalte but when the homeowner wants something more specific, they can use the Control4 interface,” demonstrates Reis. “This is one of the features that won us the project, because before this began, the customer had three different switches or controls in each room to control the lights, heating and air conditioning, whereas now, we have managed to put all of those functions into one.”

As with any project, there were a few issues that had to be solved along the way. Firstly, the code lock from IDTECK for the main entrance, which integrates directly with Control4, did not exist in Europe at the time of the install. But Reis said they ended up ordering it directly from the US.

He admits that instead of ordering the code lock from the US, they should have used a code lock from Loxone. “The solution we installed is working fine, but with Loxone, we have European support in case anything does go wrong. The support is very important to us.”

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A common issue in a lot of projects is finding somewhere to house the equipment. In this instance, the integrator came into the project late and, as a result, the rack location had not been considered. 

“We ended up having to put the rack in the main entrance of the property, which is almost inside the living room. Because of this, we had to choose equipment carefully to avoid too much heat and noise.”

The other problem that Life Emotions came across was dimming the LEDs. “The lights that were installed do not work with the kind of dimming we had specified and installed,” admitted Reis. “It was our mistake as we didn’t let them know exactly what model they could use, so we gave them the LED lights free of charge.”

Furthermore, the clients were concerned about the invisible speaker approach originally as they could not get their head around not being able to see them. However, according to Reis, they were “delighted with the living room” in the end. 

The integrator kept very much to the brief in terms of what they installed. Reis highlights: “This is the kind of project where we wouldn’t have been doing a good job if we had sold more than what the client wanted. The customers were very clear about what they wanted and what they didn’t want, and we worked very hard to build it with them. They might have more than they expected but not more than they wanted.” 

"The end result gives a clean space with amazing design and all the tech features needed for the end customer."

Reis admits he should have pushed more to have engraving on the keypads in the guest bedrooms. “When guests have blank keys, it isn’t easy for them to use and manage the room. A simple engraving such as ‘Lights’ or ‘Shades’ would have helped them to control the room without needing to be shown or taught.”

Reis also thinks that once the coronavirus restriction are lifted, the couple will want to install a CCTV system. Additionally, next year, Life Emotions plans to upgrade the access point equipment to give the most up to date specifications available on the market. “ISP delivers more bandwidth so should adapt the equipment to the customer’s needs.”

A support deal has been made on this install where the integrators use Domotz to monitor the system and carry out preventative maintenance and firmware updates. They also change the network passwords and carry out new customised programming as and when the customer requests it. 

Doing final checks and adjustments, Reis has been back to the house a few times and has experienced the couple using the technology. “Most of the times I have visited, they are listening to Spotify throughout the main living areas using the multiroom audio system. When they are watching TV, they mostly use Apple TV for Netflix and Chromecast for other applications. They do not watch any physical content; it is all streaming.

“Interestingly, the couple have an SR-260 Control4 remote but they actually prefer to use the Control4 phone app to control the AV.”

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Life Emotions believes the install has given the couple complete peace of mind, especially when they go out with the dogs. “They also find it really easy to use,” says Reis. “It provides them with comfort as everything is automatic and integrated, like being able to choose any lighting scenes. The temperature is also controlled automatically, and the shades react to the sunlight which enables energy savings. 

“We have also improved on the design, as without the integrated technology, they would have multiple, ugly switches and controls on the walls.”

Basalte Auro Motion Detectors
Basalte Sentido Dual Keypad
Basalte Sentido Quad Keypad
Basalte Switch for Sentido/Enzo
Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 Speakers
Control4 DS2 Door Station
Control4 Audio Matrix Switch
Control4 8-Zone Power Amplifier
Control4 C4-EA5 Controller
Control4 C4-SR260 System Remote Control
Control4 C4-WALL10-WH In-Wall Touch Screens
Control4 C4-WALL7-WH In-Wall Touch Screens
DSC Security System Control Panel
DSC PowerSeries 64-Zone LCD Keypad with Built-In Wireless Receiver
Elmdene Rapier-G3S External Sounder
Future Automation PF65 Large Screen Fixed Wall Mount
HouseLogix Vandal Proof RFID Proximity Card Reader
Loxone Miniserver
Marantz CD17 KI Signature CD Players
Marantz PM-17 Integrated Amplifier
Martin Logan Dynamo
OPPO 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player
Origin Acoustics P60 In-Ceiling Speakers
Origin Acoustics THTR67 In-Wall Speakers
Pakedge Power Distribution Unit
Rega Planar 3 Turntable
Rotel Multichannel Amplifier 
Samsung UE32H4510 TV
Samsung UE40F6740 TV
Samsung UE65KS8000 TV
Somfy RS485 RTS Transmitter for Blinds
Sonorous Surefix 240
Sonos Bridge
Sonos Connects
Sonus Faber Venere 2.0
Stealth Acoustics LR8g 2-Way Invisible In-Wall & In-Ceiling Speakers
Synology DS214
Ubiquiti UAP-Outdoor
Ubiquiti US-8-60W
Ubiquiti USG