Savant Smart Systems

In early January, we wrote a blog post titled “Is 2014 the Year for Mainstream Home Automation”.  If you haven’t had a chance to read that post, you can do so here.

When we wrote that post, little did we know that one of our major partners, Savant Systems, would be introducing their new “Smart” series of processors and controllers within weeks of that publication!  We were extremely happy when we learned of this announcement.  Having established a leadership position in the luxury smart home segment with the Pro Series, Savant now brings the same breakthrough software-based solution to a broader market with the introduction of the Smart Series.Savant Experts

The “Smart Series” products provide the first complete connected home solution supporting safety, entertainment, comfort and lighting control, utilizing the brand’s award-winning technology to bring the Savant experience to a broader audience. Complete packages start at $1,599 MSRP.  When deployed over multiple rooms, this brings the cost of a Savant solution as low as $1K per room.

Savant leverages existing Wi-Fi home networks as the center of the smart home, enabling monitoring of security systems, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras, thermostats and complete management of media and entertainment equipment, all from a single intuitive app. Savant provides homeowners seamless, simple and reliable management of “the internet of things” while at home or remotely, all easily controlled via leading portable devices including iOS and Android™.

We’ve been running the new Savant Smart Host in our office for a while and it performs exactly as we would expect it to—-high performance, highly reliable and very easy to use.

To see the new Savant Smart System in action, contact us today or visit our web site to learn more.


Is 2014 The Year For Mainstream Home Automation?

If you pay much attention to technology news, you have undoubtedly seen the recent announcement that Google is purchasing Nest Labs (maker of the intelligent thermostat) for $3.2B.  While there have been countless articles written about what this means and what Google’s intentions are, I’d like to take a slightly different approach to this post.  Instead of trying to decipher what Google’s intentions are (hint:  I won’t even try to guess as it would only be a guess), lets consider what this means to the Home Automation industry and how it impacts people considering a home automation solution for their home.

At Residential Systems, Inc., we believe that Google’s acquisition of Nest signals one thing—Home automation is about to go even more mainstream than it is today!  Google is a company with unlimited resources.  If they felt that solar energy was going to be the next big “thing” in the US, they would likely go buy a solar company.  The fact that they spent $3.2B for a company with two products tells me that they believe very strongly that home automation is the next bing thing in American homes.

While home automation has been a viable industry for 20+ years, the last 2 years have seen more and more mainstream approaches to home automation.  Among the notable ones:

  • Control4’s rapid growth and subsequent IPO
  • Do-It-Yourself solutions from companies like Lowes, ADT, Staples, AT&T and Comcast have received lots of attention and marketing efforts behind them
  • Companies like Nest and Revolv have developed countless new products that talk to one another and allow you to automate facets of your life

The guys (and girls) at Google aren’t stupid.  They know good opportunities when they see one and for them to spend $3.2B to enter the home automation space tells me everything I need to know.  They see this as a huge market opportunity and we agree!  While home automation used to be a technology that was only available to luxury homeowners, recent changes have improved the cost structure of home automation solutions, making it much more affordable for the average homeowner.

At Residential Systems, Inc, we are proud to work with leading home automation suppliers including Control4, Savant, Nest and many more.  Whereas home automation solutions used to start at $10,000, new products from Control4 and Savant make an entry-level home automation solution available at around $1,000.

Whether you are considering Control4, Savant, Crestron, Nest, Iris, or any other technology for your home, it is imperative that you seek out the help of a trusted advisor to help you through the process.  There are countless numbers of solutions out there and the average person can quickly get lost in the myriad of complexity.

If you are considering making your home a smart home, we invite you to visit our design studio to learn more about what is possible and see the variety of entry-level solutions.  We have entry-level solutions from Control4 and Savant on display and can show you how you can start with a simple automation solution and build onto it as your scope increases.  At Residential Systems, Inc., we have installed home automation solutions in over 5,000 homes and we have 27 years of experience in the home technology arena.  Let us show you how we can bring your home to life!

Thanks for reading!

Custom Home Automation

2014 Technology Trends

As we close the chapter on another year, it’s always a good time to look back at the last 12 months.  Everyone compiles their “Best of 2013″ lists for everything from celebrity trainwrecks to pictures.  At Residential Systems, we like to look back at “the year that was” in technology and see what has changed in the last 12 months.  At the same time, we look ahead to what lies in front of us in 2014.

Technology is evolving at a rate that has never been seen before.  With that in mind, let’s take a quick look back at the technology trends that we saw in 2013:

  • The tablet revolution continued.  Everyone I know has a tablet (or two) and couldn’t imagine life without them.
  • The Personal Computer (PC) continued to decline and in many instances has been replaced by the tablet entirely.  I have friends who have gone months without using their personal computers, leading me to believe that the days of laptop computer are quickly coming to an end.
  • Samsung closed the gap on Apple with their new Galaxy line-up.  The Android operating system continues to gain market share with Motorola and Samsung leading the charge
  • Television prices continued to decrease but at a decreasing rate.  Black Friday saw its usual supply of HDTV deals but they weren’t the same as years past.  HDTVs are becoming common in homes today so retailers have started looking for the next big thing in home electronics.
  • In the home automation space, Control4 became a public company with an IPO in August.  They continue to lead the market in affordable home automation solutions and rolled out lots of new products toward the end of the year.
  • It seems like everyone who is anyone developed a home automation offering in 2013.  From Lowes and AT&T to OfficeMax, Xfinity, ADT and many more—everyone wants to be in the home automation game!

As we look ahead to 2014, here is what we can expect to see:

  • 2014 will be the year of the 4K revolution.  What high definition was to standard definition, 4K is to HD.  If you haven’t heard about 4K and what it can do to your viewing experience, click here to learn more.
  • Apple will finally release its long-awaited television product.  What it looks like will be anyone’s guess but I am confident this is the year they will finally release something!  When they do, I bet it will be good!
  • Blackberry will cease to exist as we know it.  If you still have a Blackberry, it’s time to get rid of it.
  • Savant and Control4 will continue to battle for leadership in the Home Automation marketplace.  These two companies are gaining market share faster than anyone else and we are proud to be dealers for both of these industry-leading products.
  • Adoption of home automation will continue to accelerate in the middle market.  As more “do it yourself” options hit the shelves, adoption of home automation will continue to increase, leading to tremendous market opportunities for those who are able to capitalize on it.

At Residential Systems, we are proud to be the trusted technology consultant for our clients.  Navigating the complexity that is technology requires people who live and breathe this everyday.  Thankfully, that’s what we do!  Our clients rely on us to keep them abreast of the latest technology changes that impact their home.  From the introduction of 4K television sets to the latest trends in Control4 and Savant home automation, we love what we do!


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Control4 vs. Savant for Today’s Smart Home

At Residential Systems, Inc. one of the most common questions our clients ask us is “What are the major differences between Control4 and Savant and which should I use in my house?”  As authorized dealers for both of these world-class products, this can be a very difficult question to answer.  I joke with our clients that, when it comes to Savant vs. Control4, it is sort of like picking which of my kids do I like the best!  Fortunately, I love both of my kids and at Residential Systems, Inc. we feel the same way about Savant and Control4!

Both Savant and Control4 have revolutionized the home automation and smart home landscapes for our clients.  Control4 is the more seasoned of the two companies, having been around for many years and recently becoming a public company.  Control4 recognized a major shift in smart-home technology and capitalized on this by making their products available to a broader marketplace through more reasonable pricing.  Savant, the newer of the two companies, has strongly leveraged their partnership with Apple to gain momentum in the last few years.  Since the invention of the iPad, Savant has grown tremendously and has made smart home technology more appealing to the mass market.

Let’s take a closer look at the strengths of each company:


Savant Home Automation

Strengths of Savant

  • Apple-based system is familiar to most consumers
  • Easy integration with client iTunes libraries for whole-house audio distribution and movie downloads
  • Carrier-grade switching equipment for audio switching, HDMI switching, etc…
  • Easy ability to integrate with other world-class smart-home products including Lutron, Vantage, HAI and others
  • The whole house is easily accessible from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch

At Residential Systems, Inc. we tend to recommend Savant in applications where quality is of utmost importance to our clients or where the clients are self-described “Mac People.”  For example—Savant’s HDMI switching products are some of the best in the world so if a client is particular about that, we will recommend Savant.  Our clients recognize that they pay a premium price for that, but they also recognize that they get incredible quality, as well.  Additionally, if our clients are very comfortable with the Apple operating system (and already have their content housed in iTunes, etc…) Savant is the more seamless approach for usability and functionality.  We also tend to recommend Savant for clients in the Colorado mountain communities (Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Vail, etc…) as the remote management capabilities give us the ability to troubleshoot issues remotely, potentially saving our clients a service call.


Control4 systems experts

Strengths of Control4

  • Control4’s products are available at lower price points, enabling clients to do more with their budget
  • Control4 offers a full line of automation products including thermostats and lighting control under one umbrella.  This makes integration incredibly simple and quick!
  • Control4’s handheld remote control is one of the best we have ever used.  It is intuitive and rarely fails.
  • Control4 offers an Android application for those users who prefer Android over the Apple Operating System
  • A large majority of the Control4 product line-up can be installed wirelessly, making it very easy to use in retrofit environments

At Residential Systems, Inc. we tend to use Control4 in applications where price/budget is more of a consideration.  While Control4 can do many of the same things that Savant can do, the interface is very different.  It is extremely intuitive and the on-screen display make it very easy for clients to control their entire home from their TV, iPad or Android device.

At the end of the day, this decision boils down to customer preference and perceived value.  For clients who value an integrated home-automation system with high functionality, Savant presents a more “luxurious” option.  For clients who want the ability to control their entire home and not break the bank, Control4 presents a wonderful option.

If you are thinking about adding Control4 or Savant to your Denver smart home, here are some questions you should ask yourself as you prepare to make that decision:

  • What is the budget I have for this project?  This is probably the most important question to ask yourself so that you can be prepared for the trade-offs that will be necessary if the scope exceeds your budget.
  • What do I want to control?  Is this a relatively simple Audio/Video control or do I want to integrate other technologies like climate control, lighting control, security, cameras, motorized shades, etc…
  • What type of technology am I comfortable with today?  If you are an “Apple Zealot,” Savant may present a better solution for you and your family.

At Residential Systems, Inc., we are proud to be dealers for both of these companies, as well as many more.  By offering our clients a full line-up of smart home solutions, we can meet any need and operate under any budget.

To learn more about Savant, Control4 or other smart home technologies, stop by our showroom or contact us today!


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The Future is Upon Us

In the not-so-distant past, we dreamed of a technological future where we could use “futuristic” devices to have face to face conversations or control our media.  Remember Dick Tracy’s watch phone, or Star Trek touch screens?  Many of those futuristic dreams are now upon us and Residential Systems is a frontrunner in integration of audio/video, climate, and security using modern interactive devices such as smart phones and tablets.

In recent years, the emergence of smart phones, interactive tablets, and wireless technology have brought interactive media to the masses; one does not have to be wealthy to enjoy the fruits of technology.  Invention of these technologies has created an exciting revolution to the integration industry.  In only a few short years, tablets and smart phones have become common place not only in society, but in the home as well.  Controlling a home with a smart phone and tablet is an integral part of what Residential Systems, Inc. provides to its clients.

Imagine using your phone or tablet anywhere in the world to interface with your home; checking your security system, locking doors, changing lighting scenes, or viewing cameras.  The possibilities are nothing short of endless.  Residential systems has embraced modern technologies and has become one of the best in using leading edge technology to bring our client’s visions to life.

Let’s face it, we become excited and enthusiastic when it comes to technology and interactive media.  Modern technology has evolved to the point where movies, music, and social interaction are at the touch of a button.  Residential systems is committed to integrating these exciting technologies into the home, making systems fun and easy to use.  The future is at our fingertips and Residential Systems will provide the convenience of modern technology into your home with the utmost professionalism and expertise.


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Custom Home Automation

A Living, Breathing Home

Home automation has grown to the point where a homeowner can have complete control of their home systems at the touch of a button.  Modern control systems such as Savant and Control4 have made automation simple and intuitive for every homeowner.  Creating lighting scenes based on sunrise and sunset schedules, automated shades that can open and close based on time of day, and climate systems that run with little to no interaction from the homeowner have made automation practically mainstream.

Most homes are filled with light switches that many homeowners find difficult to use.  Finding a specific light switch in a large home can be cumbersome and frustrating, making integrated lighting paths a convenient and safe way to light the home with little effort.  Many lighting scenes include pathway lighting that, for example, can light a path from the master bedroom to the garage with a single touch of a button.  Furthermore, a properly integrated home can utilize random lighting scenes and outdoor lighting scenes creating a simple way to have a secure and well lit home even when the homeowner is not present in the home.  Nearly any lighting situation imaginable can be achieved through modern integration products.

Climate control, especially in areas with massive climate changes (like Colorado), is difficult and time consuming for many homeowners.  With a modern control system, climate control can be programmed to interact with current climate conditions, time of day, home occupancy, or any other factors one may wish to use in order to control climate in the home.  Motorized shades are another effective way to automate climate control.  For example, shades can be programmed to close on a west facing window before the sun floods the room.  Shades can also be programmed to close/open based on the time of day, so shades in the bedroom can close automatically at bed time.

Control interface has also become convenient and attractive.  Smart phones and tablets have become the mainstream device for home control.  Lighting, climate, and audio video can be controlled by the homeowner not only anywhere in the house, but anywhere in the world.  Wall keypads and touch screens are also an attractive way to control the home locally.  Many homeowners have found that their home practically runs itself one an automated system has been installed and properly programmed.

Considering the convenience and efficiency provided by modern control systems, a home that runs itself is easier and more attractive than ever before.  A home that can heat itself, automatically turn on lights, and is controllable by a Smartphone is becoming mainstream and attainable for the homeowner who wants the convenience and peace of mind that comes with a living, breathing home.


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When Should I Upgrade My Custom Home Electronic System?

At Residential Systems, Inc., one of the common questions we receive from our clients is “Should I upgrade my custom electronic infrastructure or can I get by with what I have for a while longer?”  While the answer to this question is part art and part science, the good news is that upgrades to custom electronic systems are relatively easy and can be done without breaking the bank.

Like any electronic product, custom home electronics and home automation systems become outdated with time.  Think about the personal computer you purchased 6 years ago.  At the time, it was top of the line with all the bells and whistles you could image.  Today, it is outdated and very slow, if it hasn’t already been replaced by a newer model.

Moore’s Law of technology says that technology doubles in efficiency every two years, if not sooner.  If you do the math, the home automation system you purchased 6 years ago has been bettered by a factor of 8 since the time it was installed.  If you are like most consumers, being able to get 8X the performance is well worth the cost of the upgrade.

One of the beauties of technology is that it is constantly changing for the better, making things more functional and more affordable every day.  New technologies such as HDMI, Zigbee, Wifi, iPads, Apple Airplay and others have made custom electronic upgrades necessary, but easier and more affordable than ever before.

No one wants to spend money unnecessarily.  That’s a given.  But with technology being at the heart of our daily lives in so many ways, we encourage our clients to look at upgrading their home automation systems and custom electronic systems to maximize their utility.

When evaluating whether an upgrade makes sense for our clients, here are the things we encourage them to consider:

  • How much are you spending on service/repair?  Has it become as costly to keep the existing system as it would be to upgrade to a new one?
  • Are you able to take advantage of the latest technology such as HDMI, digital switching, etc…
  • Are you at risk of your technology becoming obsolete and not supported anymore?
  • Has the way you use the system changed?
  • Are there additional features you would like to take advantage of that weren’t available when you purchased your system?  For example—-many homes with whole-house audio systems have volume control knobs located throughout the house.  Today’s technology allows users to bypass those volume control knobs and control the volume from their iPhone, iPad, Android, etc…

At Residential Systems, Inc., we work closely with our clients to upgrade their custom electronic technology in a cost-effective manner.  As Denver Colorado’s leading dealer for Crestron, Savant, AMX and Control4, we are able to offer our clients a full choice of solutions for upgrading and updating their existing systems.  Additionally, we offer a full lineup of audio and video products from leading manufacturers including Sony, JVC, Onkyo, Digital Projection Inc., Samsung, LG and others to replace and update outdated electronic components.

If you have an existing home automation system or a home theater in need of updating, contact us for a free consultation.  We also invite you to stop by our design studio in Lakewood to see the newest in technology options from Control4, Savant and others!


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Home Automation Technology Embraced by Commercial Industry

As new technology advances by leaps and bounds and a multitude of new devices and gadgets come to market, its clear that the initial driver in the development of such technology is most often from government agencies such as the military, and industry. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is economics; new technology is invariably too expensive for average people. Government agencies may also restrict the availability of new technologies for security reasons, or people may be distrustful of new devices until they have been thoroughly proven to work safely.

Ultimately however, new technologies eventually filter down from these larger institutions to find their way into the hands of average citizens in some form. Case in point: the cell phone, which is a direct descendant of the “walkie-talkies” used by G.I.s during the Second World War. For that matter, need we mention the Internet or hand-held tablet computers, which pack hundreds of times the processing power of their room-sized ancestors of sixty years ago?

Filtering Up?

commercial electrical designWhat is interesting for us is to see how this may be working in reverse for home automation technologies. While homeowners have enthusiastically embraced many of the benefits of home automation technologies offered here at Residential Services Inc, over the past several years, the trend is to see commercial and industrial institutions widely adopting automation technologies. One high-profile example is the use of automated dimmers that automatically adjust lighting levels. While homeowners have been benefiting from this money and energy saving technology for some time, architects who design commercial buildings are have only recently been incorporating such devices into their designs because their clients are increasingly demanding it. Increasingly, commercial developers are discovering the many benefits of lighting control and are stepping up to meet the rising demand.

Technology Growth is a Team Effort

Part of this reverse trend has to do with scale; a home automation system and a similar system for a 30-story office building or condo present much different problems and require different approaches. Another factor is the sheer speed at which this technology advances; it takes a highly skilled workforce and continual, ongoing training programs in order to keep pace. Such workers need to know not only how to install these devices, but also an understanding of the underlying technologies. As you might imagine, this is a mammoth undertaking, requiring a partnership between government, private industry and organizations such as electrical unions like the IBEW and NECA.

Its not just about saving money on operating costs, though this is a primary consideration. However, it’s also about the increasing trend toward “going green” and these commercial clients presenting themselves as environmentally conscious. It’s something that makes a significant impression on clients and customers, including office tenants and condo buyers.


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A Smart Home Is A Green Home (Part 2)

While home automation and smart home systems are often talked about as being “high tech,” one of the most overlooked benefits of a smart home is something so simple, people never see it.  While most of the industry attention on home automation systems focus on audio/video control, a fully automated smart home can help clients save a tremendous amount on their monthly utility bills while helping our environment at the same time.

Last month, we talked about how lighting control can help save our Clients money on their energy bills.  This week, we look at how automated shades and remote climate control can help clients further save money on their heating and cooling costs.

Automated Shades & Drapes

In Colorado, the sun is hot!  In the winter, solar gain is a big benefit, helping reduce our heating costs.  In summer, solar gain greatly increases cooling costs.  By installing automated shades and drapes that adjust with the time of day or level of the sun, clients can harvest solar gain when needed and reduce it when it is not optimal.

In the winter daylight hours, shades and drapes can be set to raise to allow maximum sun exposure and reduce heating costs.  At night, the system can be programmed to close the shades/drapes, providing an extra layer of insulation to prevent heat loss.

In the summer, the shades and drapes can be closed during the day to minimize solar gain. When the sun goes down and solar gain is at its least, the shades can be programmed to open and provide you with views of the great Colorado sunset.

Studies show that 20%-25% of monthly heating bills go towards heat loss from exposed windows.  Keeping windows covered during evening and nighttime hours can greatly reduce your heating bill in the winter by providing an extra layer of insulation against the elements.


Climate control

A programmable thermostat can save up to $170 per year on energy costs on an annual basis.  With a communicating thermostat, clients can adjust their thermostat from their iPad or iPhone from anywhere in the house, as well as remotely.  How often have you left your house for a weekend vacation in the summer, only to remember you forgot to turn off the air conditioning?  With a full home automation system, you can remotely access your thermostat and adjust your heating and cooling set points to save energy.

In addition to the energy saving components mentioned above, Savant Systems offers a full line of products that allow homeowners to view and mange their energy usage, giving them even greater visibility and control into their home’s energy consumption.  These systems can be accessed by a client’s iPad or iPhone and help them reduce energy consumption and manage it in an intelligent way.


At Residential Systems, Inc. we encourage our clients to look at all the benefits of a home automation system when evaluating their options.  While smart home automation technologies are extremely high-tech, they are also extremely functional and can save you energy.  Contact us today to learn more about the energy savings that can be achieved with a home automation system from companies like Control4 or Savant.


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A Smart Home Is A Green Home (Part 1)

While smart home automation and smart home systems are often talked about as being high tech, one of the most overlooked benefits of a smart home is something so simple, people never see it.  While most of the industry attention on home automation systems focus on audio/video control, a fully automated smart home can help clients save a tremendous amount on their monthly utility bills while helping our environment at the same time.

How Does a Smart Home Automation System Save on Energy?

A Smart Home Automation system can help clients save on energy costs in a variety of ways.  At Residential Systems, Inc. we focus our clients on three main areas:  Lighting control, automated shades & drapes and climate control.  This week, we focus on lighting control and show you how a smart lighting system can save big money on energy bills!

  • Lighting control—-A lighting control system can help clients save energy in a number of ways. 
    • Lighting control systems can be programmed to turn off all the lights in a house with the push of a single button, reducing the chance that lights are left on in a house when the home is unoccupied.  This can help save 5%-10% of a monthly utility bill.
    • Lighting control systems can also be set to turn on certain loads of light at sundown.  In the summer, sundown is at 8 PM and in the winter it is at 5 PM.  Instead of always turning on the exterior lights at 5 PM, a lighting control system is smart enough to only turn on the exterior lights at 8 PM in the summer, saving you three hours per day of energy in the summer months.  Three hours of unnecessary lighting each day can really add up over the course of the entire summer.
    • Light dimming—By installing intelligent dimmers, clients can save energy without perceiving a difference in the light level in the room.  A light bulb that is dimmed to 90% will save 10% on energy costs.  Additionally, the bulb will last twice as long, resulting in less trash in our landfills.  The human eye cannot see the difference between a light that is turned on at 100% and a light that is turned on at 90% so installing an intelligent dimmer can help reduce lighting costs by 10% with no perceived difference in light level.  At a savings of approximately $15 per bulb per year, these savings can really add up!

At Residential Systems, Inc. we encourage our clients to look at all the benefits of a smart home automation system when evaluating their options.  While smart home automation technologies are extremely high-tech, they are also extremely functional and can save you energy.  Contact us today to learn more about the energy savings that can be achieved with a home automation system from companies like Control4 or Savant.


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