Pick ‘n’ mix home automation

With no experience of home automation, this couple chose what they wanted from a tour of the integrator’s showroom. Amy Wallington finds out what they chose.

The smart home market is growing across EMEA, which was confirmed by the HiddenWires ‘State of the Smart Home Market’ survey conducted at the end of last year. In our report, it was stated that 71% of respondents said that the growth is caused by there being more awareness of smart home technology. Furthermore, 7,051 of the 8,012 people who took part said that there has been much more interest in smart homes in the last five years than ever before.

These statistics ring true in this project; a couple in Amsterdam wanted to renovate their house and, despite not having any experience with home automation, they were very interested to find out what would be possible to have in their home and what benefits it would bring them.

Integrators, Villa Elektra, welcomed the couple to their showroom in Leerdam to demonstrate the capabilities of home automation and technology. “We have got a really nice showroom and there’s a lot to see,” says Thijs Verduin, a software engineer and programmer at Villa Elektra. “We walked them through the showroom and demonstrated what kind of features and functions we could offer them. As we went around, we got an impression of what they wanted in their home. Throughout the conversations, we noticed they were very enthusiastic about what we were capable of doing, and the more we spoke, the more they wanted to have installed in their house. The project really developed from there.”

Fresh start

Although it was an existing property, the house was completely stripped out and refurbished, giving the integrator a fresh canvas to work with.

Verduin continues: “All cables were ripped out; it was totally empty. The builders put in completely new ceilings, new walls, new floor heating; everything has been installed new. We had some challenges with getting cables in the correct places but we worked with the builders and managed to achieve what we wanted.”

Starting at the beginning of 2021, the project took around half a year to complete. The clients decided on a home automation system that would allow them to use scenes to operate each room in the house. Most rooms featured DALI lighting, in-ceiling speakers, switches and/or an iPad on the wall to operate the room. They also wanted a home cinema in the basement complemented with a bar.

“Throughout the conversations, we noticed they were very enthusiastic about what we were capable of doing.”

The property features total home automation with KNX smart home control and Basalte interfaces. As well as switches and iPads being used throughout the home for control, they also have a Basalte Miro Remote to manage rooms.

“When we were starting this project, Basalte had just released its Miro remote,” explains Verduin. “This was the first project we did using it, and it was a bit of a challenge as it was a completely new product. But with the technical guidance that came with the product, plus some tech support from Basalte, we figured it out and got a really great result.

“I believe we were one of the first companies to get a batch of the remotes to start installing so it gave us an opportunity to play around with it and see what it can do. It’s a really good remote to work with; it has some great features!”

Multilevel control

The house is a multilevel building with various rooms, all of which now feature AV and controlled technology of some kind. A kitchen, dining room and living room make up the ground floor, featuring a large amount of integrated lighting, automated shading, air conditioning, underfloor heating, and two controllable fireplaces in the living room.

Upstairs, there is the main bedroom, bathroom and a small office all featuring the same technologies as downstairs in the main living areas. Throughout the home, the users have multizone heating control through KNX open-therm central heating boiler control. This also controls the air conditioning throughout the property. Any automated curtains and blinds are controlled through KNX gateways, as are the two fireplaces in the living room.

“For them, the use of scenes and having the home automation system in general gives them a lot of comfort and ease.”

Downstairs in the basement, the client wanted a bar and home cinema space. This is the main room where the homeowners use the Basalte Miro Remote Control, as Verduin explains: “In the home cinema room, they use the remote to control the projector, the screen and the AV sources, as well as other functions such as lighting, shades, heating and air conditioning. The cinema itself is set up as a scene so that the system turns on with just one button click. The user just needs to select the TV icon, for example, and the screen will come down and the projector will turn on. It will turn on the device required to watch ordinary TV, the amplifier will turn on, the curtains will close and the lights will turn down.”

The Miro remote is super user-friendly and makes life so much easier. The homeowner can control a room, and the rest of the house if required, from the comfort of their seats rather than having to get up to select a different option on the iPad which is on the wall by the entrance to the home cinema room.

As well as the multiple iPads and the Miro remote, the homeowners also have full control of the home on their smartphones. For even more convenience around the house, touch buttons have been installed in certain areas for specific functions such as turning lights on or off or opening and closing the shades.

One of the reasons the Basalte system was chosen was for its customisation abilities. “Every room has its own scenes programmed,” adds Verduin. “We programmed them initially but the homeowners can configure them easily themselves through the Basalte app so they do not need to contact us if they want something changed or added. One of the scenes they have created is when they go into the living room and choose ‘Relax Mode’, the fireplace will switch on, the lights will dim a little and the shades will close.

“For them, the use of scenes and having the home automation system in general gives them a lot of comfort and ease,” he continues. “They both have busy lives running a big company, so when they get home, they don’t want to have to think about what all the buttons in the house are for. Having just a few functions on the buttons which are clearly labelled, and the use of scenes that set up a room to their desired setting with just one touch of a button makes their lives much simpler.”

“We had some challenges with getting cables in the correct places but we worked with the builders and managed to achieve what we wanted.”

The basement also features a guest bedroom which has an iPad in to manage the room. Any guests in the house have full access to the room control via the panels on the walls. The system is simple and easy to understand for guests who might not have used home automation before.

Steamy tech

The limits are endless with technology in the home and what it can be programmed to do. Most projects feature a quirky gimmick that can be very useful to the homeowner. In this case, the integrator was able to come up with a solution to avoid the bathroom mirrors steaming up when the shower or bath is being used.

“We created a lovely feature involving air humidity in the bathroom which ensured the heating within the mirrors would turn on. We used JUNG switches which are able to measure the level of humidity in a room, and when it reaches a certain setpoint, it will activate the heating in the mirrors to make sure they never fog up.”

Experience

From never having experienced home automation and technology before to having a full smart home, the clients are incredibly impressed with their new way of living. The integrators maintained good communication with the homeowners throughout the process to ensure what they wanted was being achieved. Working closely with the builders throughout also ensured a smooth process and eliminated any potential challenges.

“There was also an electrician on this project who we worked closely with,” states Verduin. “He had very little experience with home automation so we provided a lot of support there too and he was really pleased with the end result.”

A maintenance package has been taken out with the integrator to keep the system running smoothly. They also have remote access via the Gira S1 so they can log into the system and fix any issues without having to visit site.

Verduin says: “The maintenance package means that we will visit the house to check the installation, make sure the amplifiers and everything are dust free, and ensure everything is still running smoothly and there are no errors in the system. Of course, if something breaks down for whatever reason and they need to call us, we will come out and make sure it is fixed if we can’t do it remotely.”

In terms of any further upgrades, the clients are more than satisfied with their first home automation system and the way they are using it. However, Verduin said that they have asked about using voice control for parts of the system which is something they are currently working on for them.

Tech Spec

Acoustic 4K Motorised Home Theatre Projection Screen

Apple iPads

Basalte Cielo In-Ceiling Speakers

Basalte KNX Homeserver

Basalte KNX Interface

Basalte KNX Multiroom M4 Receivers

Basalte Miro Remote Controls

Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 Outdoor Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins ISW-3 Subwoofer

DALI Lighting

Denon AVC-X3700H Receiver

Dru Fireplace

Gira Presence Detectors

Gira Push Button Sensor 4 Switches

Gira S1 KNX Module

Gira Tastsensor 4 KNX Switches               

Goelst Electric Curtain Rails

Goelst Electric Roman Blinds

JUNG Switches

Multiroom Heating Control with KNX OpenTherm Central Heating Boiler Control

Optoma UHZ65 4K Laser Projector