1What is a smart home?

Good question, to which there is no simple smart answer! It would be simpler to answer the question 'What does the ultimate smart home look like?' To which the answer would go down the lines of a home where you have one point of control that is available in the same format on your phone, tablet, TV, wall station, computer and remote, allowing you to at the touch of a button control nearly every aspect of your home due to integrated programming. Indeed a lot of actions will take place automatically because you will have requested for them to be programmed as such, with all this integration having one ultimate goal and that being to reduce your stress and increase your overall enjoyment of your home, for if it doesn't achieve this then there is nothing smart about it at all!

However homes that are scaled down versions of 'the ultimate' due to budget restrictions, where the systems may exist but with their own independent control from individual apps are still smart and can be enjoyed as such. Designed in such a way that they can involve as and when the client chooses to.

2Do I need central control for a smart home?
Although it is preferable you don't need central control for a smart home, for each application will come with it's own form of control whether that is a remote, a phone/tablet application or both. These can simply sit as a folder on your phone/tablet where you hold all the independent applications, which is still a whole lot smarter than not having them!
3I don't live in a footballers house can I afford to make my home smart?
Of course you can for there are all sorts of solutions to suit an individuals budget. The most important thing is to take good advice as you embark on trying to design a smart home the can adapt to your ever evolving circumstances, whatever they may be.
4Can you control less fun products like my heating?
Heating control in recent years has become smarter at all ends of the market whether it be the mainstream high street simple whole house controls that are accessible remotely from your phone, through to individual thermostat room control that can be brought together on a control system to give you specific room control from anywhere on your phone, tablet or PC. Such control systems can also do the same for cooling if air con is present.
1Can you create lighting design plans for our finished house that can be installed without too much disruption?
Yes this isn't a problem as we have a range of products that work through the wifi and require less hardwiring that can be controlled by remotes, battery controlled wall stations or any phone/tablet device. Disruption is then minimised to the ceiling not the walls and can usually be installed by lifting the floor boards above. Eliminating the need for individual wires being channeled back to the switch and allowing for more controllable zones of lighting.
2Is investing in lighting control as well as the fittings and layout design always worth it?
Yes nearly always as it allows you to create a variety of different scenes and moods to each individual room that allows you to use the same space in different ways in the evening. Also it is not comfortable to sit under the equivalent of 50w downlights without dimming them somewhat, yes you could wire back to a rotary dimmer switch, but the more lighting zones you have the less appropriate this becomes. Indeed the only time it is not really worth it is if we have been mainly employed to replace decorative fittings in rooms that have a maximum of three zones of lighting that already has the switching in and the budget is tight, for this would be one of our more cosmetic installs.
3How hard is it to retrofit lighting control?

To Hardwire a system back to a main control panel can be quite disruptive if the house isn't under going renovation at the time but not impossible with some vast experience of routing cables cleverly, and these systems are the most robust.

However the alternatives have improved in quality and reliability, which create less disruption to your property. They our often more favourable where the lighting design of one room is being considered, requiring one to establish the permanent incoming lighting feed to the ceiling and from this point routing cable for each zone of lighting where a radio frequency remote control dimmer will be located in the ceiling. Then from each of these each light on that particular zone will be wired in series. No other cable is required to be routed to switches as it is all done through wifi to battery operated wall stations and tablet devices, so the walls aren't touched.

4Have led fittings improved in their ability to dim on control systems?
The answer to this is yes and to a degree they are ever evolving to offer you more and more control over them. However they still don't quite deliver the control you may have enjoyed over your halogen bulbs, especially at the lower end of the dimming curve.
5Should I install true led downlights in my scheme or 230v options with led bulbs?
We recommend, and use ourselves in installations, 230v fittings with LED bulbs, for a number of reasons. For LED's have been constantly improving in technology and continue to do so, improving lamp life, reliability, colour and dimming capability. At the same time the price of good LED bulbs has halved in price over the years, so therefore it gives you more flexibility to keep pace with technology by changing the bulb rather than the fitting. Also for this very reason true LED fittings are often quite soon obsolete as a new range takes it's place, so finding an exact match for a faulty fitting that has been in for a number of years can sometimes be problematic. Finally we end on the point that who is to say that LED doesn't become outdated for a more preferable technology in bulbs, like the talk of graphine for instance and with a 230v system this is easily adaptable.
6Can you incorporate a suggested zoning and wiring diagram to your lighting design if I was getting someone else to install it?
Yes that is not a problem and can be requested as an addition on top of the lighting layouts, but depending upon size of property may require a site visit to work out appropriate routes and locations.
7Does a new lighting scheme always mean re-plastering?
The simple answer to this is probably in some form yes, the more pertinent question however is how much. For patch plastering over old filled downlight holes in a ceiling is relatively painless compared to chasing out walls that require a greater amount of plastering and redecoration to the area.
8Can I control my lights from my phone or tablet device easily?
Of course for this is no longer a luxury add on for the industry it has become almost standard. Whether it be a fully installed Lutron lighting system fully controllable from your phone anywhere, or some retrofit LightwaveRF plug in's with a wifi bridge that control simple lamp lighting, and everything in between. Indeed you will find more and more that yes your wall station is never redundant and always required upon entering your room, but nearly all of your scene switching and creation will be done from the comfort of your couch or chair on your phone/tablet.
9Is it easy to remotely control the lights or programme a holiday mode?
These functions come as standard for the higher end lighting control systems where you have paid a premium for a more programmable technology that will give you the ability to react to an intrusion or give the impression that you are there when you aren't.
10Is good lighting really worth spending the money on over other design products?
The answer here is always! However it is often the first to get cut in a stretched budget over other design products by naive developers. Naive because professionally designed, sourced, installed and controlled lighting has the ability to transform even ordinary space. A transformation that isn't finished yet as lighting control then allows different scenes for different moods and uses. So with winters seeing dark arrive as early as 4 good lighting is delivering for you from the moment you return home from a day at work.
1Can I create a good quality cinema on a budget?
Yes you can! As is the case with many technology driven industries the price has come down allowing quality into the mainstream. Indeed we recently fully installed in the rear lounge of a normal family home a 5.1 projection cinema with 100" screen for £4,2000. However this isn't all you got for your spend, for this included an additional 100" translucent screen and two outdoor waterproof stereo speakers that created an outdoor cinema on the garden threshold using the equipment you had already purchased inside!
2Can I reduce the number of remote controls required to operate my cinema?
Of course you can, simply by introducing to your smart home a whole house control system, such as control 4, that can be programmed to control a multitude of devices at the touch of one button. Pulling together your projector, automated screen, sky box, amp and audio system by simply pressing cinema on on your phone. For the hard work is done for you so you don't have to.
3Is it easy to retrofit a cinema into an existing finished space?
It is if you have the know how and you have some luck on your side! The projector that is usually located on the ceiling will require cabling to from the gear that is more than likely located in a unit within the room, the screen of automated will require power cabling to it and the speakers whether they are floor, wall or ceiling mount will require cabling also. This will be made much easier by the ability to gain access from above by lifting floors and getting underneath the floor below. Next it will be trying to assess wether their is an obvious riser to route cable between floor and ceiling without chiselling out walls. However if there is no alternative it is about picking your spots to minimise damage.
4How do I get one of your outdoor cinemas designed into my property?
The easiest way to achieve this is on your patio threshold as all the gear can mount inside and act as an indoor cinema, then with a press of a button the image can flip be back projected through an additional translucent screen with the help of two in-line wall mounted stereo speakers, with additional speakers available as an added extra. However we have found the majority of people are more than satisfied outside with the stereo speakers.
5Should I give up a room to be dedicated to a home cinema?
You only need to give up a room to home cinema if you have got one up to give! After you have considered all the other essentials to a family home. For an integrated cinema into a lounge or second seating area is nearly always more than sufficient. However if you are blessed with a cellar or basement you can never deny the sheer pleasure of a 'boy's toy' luxury hideaway space of your own cinema dressed as such. The ultimate escape from the world!
6Is shade always needed with an outdoor cinema?
Yes the only other thing you have to consider is shade with an outdoor cinema. That being both inside and out with blinds over velux's internally and natural shade or awnings externally. This will obviously take the sun off the screen but will also give you a more protected, cozy arena in which to view.
7Do I need home cinema seating?
If you are going all out and created a dedicated home cinema room it is the correct final touch. For you more than likely already have two lounge/sitting areas and the seats further define it as something different rather than just a third lounge in your basement. However it is worth mentioning that a mixture of one person and two person seats might be preferable to make it that bit more intimate and social at times. We also sometimes encourage an element of bench seating somewhere to cram them in so to speak, if there is a big footy game on or alike.
8Fixed screens over retractable?
This question is completely location dependent with the rule of thumb nearly always being retractable screens for integrated lounge cinemas and fixed screens for dedicated cinema rooms, with the odd exceptions being when large TV screens instead of projection are being used in lounges, bedrooms, gardens and even dedicated cinema rooms.
9If I have to focus the budget what would you prioritise: sound, control or vision?
If you are working to a tight budget the first thing that loses priority is control to keep the sound and vision in tact. This will however result in a number of remotes required to use your system, something that in our rapidly growing mainstream affordable Cinemas is often not considered an issue. After this has been cut the choice between sound and vision quality is simply personal preference as to where to pitch the level of your projector and surround system to suit your needs and what you value the most in your viewing pleasure. The one thing we would point out is if your room is prone to excessive light prioritise more of the budget to the quality of your vision.
10How much of a difference does the correct type of speakers matter?
A Cinema will always work best acoustically with the speakers mounted at ear height whilst seated, which invariably means floor standing speakers on mounts or wall speakers. However whether you are installing a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system the room can start to dictate that this simply can't always be the case and other avenues may we'll have to be explored. With such solutions as ceiling speakers for mid's or rears, acoustically transparent screens with the three front speakers mounted in wall directly behind them being solutions to furniture and walkways being in the way of the perfect location. If done correctly with good quality alternatives the impact of a secondary solution should not be that detrimental to the overall impact and could just require an increase in spec in another area to compensate overall.
11Can a cinema work in a small space?
Of course it can, yes it may limit speaker locations and mean more may have to be in wall behind the screen and in ceiling, or that the screen may have to automate over a window or doorway in a multi-purpose small area. Each time it is about good design and the correct knowledge driven decisions at the start in the conception phase, that when combined with imagination helps unlock spaces for Cinemas and the immediate fun they can bring!
1Is sound quality worth spending the extra money on?
Only you can answer this, but the help we can give is: if you can notice the difference, have a passion for good quality sounds and as a result value the premium you will pay for such things as high fidelity sound, then yes it is worth spending extra on sound quality. However if you are more concerned with functionality and a greater spread of audio across your home then mainstream music distribution systems will more than suffice offering you a cost saving and pretty much the same usability.
2What areas of the house should I prioritise as audio zones?
The key areas we recommend are the: Kitchen, Master Bathroom, Garden, Lounge in that order of priority, with other bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas coming further down the pecking order as they are simply used less and somewhat of a luxury purchase.
3What speakers do you recommend for where?
For multi room audio if there is an opportunity to wire for ceiling speakers in areas where worktop space is precious, like the Kitchen, Bathrooms and Bedrooms, then this would be preferable. Also in a boys toys world they just look and feel a cooler cleaner way to deliver music whether relaxing or entertaining. Just make sure you account for acoustic hoods where it is not concrete floors, so you are not playing music to the room above also! Other areas dependent upon budget could simply be treated to plug in built in amp table top speakers that can be assigned a room for control but easily moved. Finally the garden would require wall mount or floor mount waterproof stereo speakers dependent upon the area concerned.
4Are these systems easy to retrofit?
They can be extremely easy if you go for all plug in wifi applications, but become more difficult the more ceiling speakers and high quality sound you require, that creates more cabling and subsequently more disruption if retrofitting. Again here experience is worth it's weight in gold to minimise disruption with intelligent cable routes.
5Should I keep these systems stand alone or integrate them?
That is simply a case of your level of interest and budget. There are many people these days who have a folder in their phone and each system, including the audio, is stand alone with each app controlling it's own system. However the more one becomes interested in the next level of smart home the more one requires integrated systems and control to simplify these processes through programming to one umbrella interface, that by it's nature will be more programmable and controllable. This level does however require greater investment.
6Can I play anything I want, where I want?
Yes you can, whether it is high end or more mass market you can link to and stream anything you want from playlist, albums, digital radio whatever and you can then couple together whatever zones you want in a party mode for your whole property or people can be listening to completely different things in each zone of your multi room audio system.
1Is it easy to watch my cameras from anywhere remotely?
Over the past couple of years this has started to become an industry standard for good quality systems, with only low end budget products not offering this now and even some of them offer some for of this remote viewing as well.
2How long before your CCTV hard drive's record over themselves?
It depends on how many terabytes you purchase but on average for a solid system you should be looking at around 4 months of recording time.
3Can you integrate the alarm and the locks into a smart home?

Yes you can at the higher end where there is a control system sitting over your whole smart home. This will enable you to control your alarm from it and deal with it remotely, allow the lights to be programmed to come on automatically if the alarm or CCTV are programmed to trigger them. The system can then alert you remotely wherever you may be that there is a problem at the property.

As for the locks there are digital locks linked to these control systems, but we advise against them in favour of the traditional key. As this is where present technology stops for us for it is one thing if someone managed to hack your lights or your audio, it is another if it is the front door to your house! With the furthest we are willing to go being remote access to the drive gates to let a guest in. This product is the best example of our relationship with technology at present and where trust for us doesn't stretch.

4Is an automated gate and door entey system worth investing in?
It depends on the size of your front garden and subsequent distance from drive entrance to front door, ease of access to the rear of your property, whether you have expensive cars on the drive that would benefit with another barrier of security, and ultimately whether you see yourself as a target that another layer of security would help with. Often in built up inner city locations they are somewhat pointless and become somewhat of a nuisance rather than a help.
5Can you help me create an overall security strategy for my whole house?
Of course we can offer all angles of technology as well as a physical barrier security plan with installers for strong doors and alike. Indeed we can help design security plans for when you leave the property and more importantly when you go to bed and are still present on site. For sometimes it is such simple things as locks on the other side of the hallway doors as you go up to bed that simply give an intruder another barrier to break down and further warning and time to you if they break in downstairs.
6Are monitoring stations worth the cost?
In general we see them as overkill and only turn to them as a last resort if we are brought into a client or project where they have just been burgled and subsequently feel very uneasy and vulnerable.
7Are modern CCTV systems reliable in the dark now?
The simple answer to this is yes if you go for a good quality product. Such products can pick out and identify intruders faces at night. Indeed many now having fascial recognition software that gets used to regular faces and alerts you if an irregular face appears on your cameras, even at night.
8Do you help with the fitting of security doors and strong rooms?
Yes as previously mentioned we involve ourselves in the full design of security packages integrating the modern smart warning systems with tried and tested physical barriers in smart locations!
1Are automated blinds worth the expense?
It is no doubt they are a luxury product and hence require one to question how much value they place upon them. Whether it is the fact: that they simply love how cool they look and feel as a technology product; that they, in the same way as lights now do, make you look as though you are home when you are not; that they can or programmed to steadily awake you naturally to daylight over any allotted period of time required; that they can protect pieces of artwork from the sunlight by being programmed to do so; that they can go in windows that are impossible to reach without a ladder or a stick; that they don't leave strings dangling in windows and doors; to highlight the main purchasing decisions.
2Can they be retrofit into finished rooms?
Yes they can now, with battery operated blinds they can pretty much go anywhere. However here paying for quality makes a significant difference with: the number of raise and lowers to battery life, the noise of the motor during the process, the speed of proceedings, the weight of the fabric that can be used, the max width the blind can span on larger windows, and the ability to programme exactly the same speed with other blinds in the same view.
3How long do the batteries last on retrofit products?
On good quality products it is literally years and thousands of raise at lowers. Obviously it is always dependent upon usage and fabric weight, but with better quality comes less maintenance and subsequently less stress.
4Do I have the choice of fabrics and designs?
With the ranges we use and install their is a vast range of fabrics, styles and designs. As well as the ability to adapt some existing blinds to motors where possible.
5Outdoor shading: (coming soon)
We are about to launch into the installation of fully controlled and automated awnings, pergodas and winter gardens that can become the next addition to your Smart Homes by design!
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