What's Available For Full House Automation

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
I guess I am still one of those old school guys who has a remote for every component. I have been interested in the Control4 advocated by rsbeck and Ron Party. Seems this little gizmo can do the whole house as well as your audio/video gear.

I am just curious who has whole house automation and what you are using and if you are happy with the results


WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
Near Atlanta, GA but not too near!
I am also a Control4 user but only use it for the theater. I have an old X-10 system for turning on and off lights in the family room and bedroom. Maybe it's just age, but I don't get whole house automation. I think it was Amir who uses it for his vacation house (which made sense), but with a remote control alarm system and programmable thermostats, I can't figure out the justification for me --- which is just as well since I know folks who have spent >$200,000 for whole house automation !
Apr 3, 2010
Seattle, WA
I am in the process of building out my own Crestron system. The lighting system is up and rest of automation is in progress. I do NOT however recommend anyone try to follow my path though as it requires incredible investment in time and knowledge to build such a system yourself. I suspect you are asking for someone else to do the work but asking whether one should do it at all. My opinion is biased but I believe everyone should have one if the budget allows.

On that front, I wrote and article on why you would want to automated your house at all. The industry has done an extremely poor job of why should anyone bother. Here it is: Benefits of Home Automation.

On a somewhat related front, I was also frustrated that no one would try and explain what these black boxes do. So I wrote an article on that too: Inside Home Automation Systems.

I have to tell you that I smile every time I am ready to go to bed at our house with automation and I hit one button and the lights gently turn off behind me or when our shades close after dark on their own :). And curse our current house as I walk in the dark to go to bed as I have no way of shutting off living room lights from bedroom.

To be sure, we are talking luxuries here. But years ago, a remote was a luxury too. Now it is commonplace everyday item.
Apr 3, 2010
Seattle, WA
OK I just have to ask if the house I see in Madronadigital.com under Gallery is your new home?
I wish! It is a beautiful home on Lake Washington. I didn't ask the owner how much it cost but probably in the $10 to $15M range! The glass statutes you see outside are by Dale Chihuly, one of the masters of blown glass. Each piece is the price of a car usually and he has what, dozens? We installed custom designed JBL synthesis speakers for the one-of-a-kind situation in the living room (it had to shoot through slits in the ceiling tiles 25 feet up!).

There is a serious down side to being in this type of automation business. No matter how much money you have, your clients make you feel poor :). As Chris Rock would say, there is a big difference between rich and wealthy: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04142/319841-153.stm

"For Chris Rock, being wealthy means having financial holdings so immense that they can be passed down through generations. "Shaq is rich," he said, referring to the Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, "but the white man who signs his check is wealthy. Oprah is rich, but Bill Gates is wealthy. If Bill Gates suddenly woke up with Oprah's money, he'd slit his throat."


I m not sure I am even rich but thankful anyway for the few dollars I could put in my house :).


WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
We recently (a few years ago) built and moved into an 8,000+ square foot house on three levels. I was really worried that I would need whole house automation. I had them pull wire just in case I regretted my decision and wanted to install something like Crestron later.

We use Sonos to distribute music to 13 zones including the pool and patio, we have timers on our landscape, swimming pool heater, and entry lights, thermostats are programmable and we only really change them a few times per year in the Spring and Fall and we simply have dimmers on every light in the house so we can customize the lights in any room in just seconds.

We use Control4 in our dedicated theater to control all of the gear (which is in a separate gear closet with Sonos, etc) and the lights in the theater.

It all works well and I have never regretted going without something like Crestron or Lutron.

On the other hand, I know several people who have Crestron/Lutron systems and the husband is sometimes okay with it (hardly ever uses it), but the wife usually does not care for it.
Apr 3, 2010
Seattle, WA
On the other hand, I know several people who have Crestron/Lutron systems and the husband is sometimes okay with it (hardly ever uses it), but the wife usually does not care for it.
It is a sad affair out there. Joe technician takes a couple of classes and all of sudden, thinks he works at Apple and knows how to design interfaces using Crestron/Lutron. I think not. There are a ton of systems out there that are non-functional as a result of poor cookie-cutter designs.

We just ripped out a complete Crestron system and put in a simple HomeLogic for a customer and they are super happy with it. HomeLogic is like Control4 and so is a step down from Crestron but for this customer, this is all they need. Of course I am happy about this as I get to have more Crestron gear for my house :D.

The best automation system is one that you don't even know is there anyway. Systems should predict what you want it to do and do it without user interaction. My outside lights at the house go off at sunrise. I don't have to do a thing for that to happen (they also go on at 20% after sunset to give us safety). The system clock adjusts for days of the year and it always knows the right time to do that. This saves energy but more importantly, me having to replace bulbs in really hard to get places.

The typical lighting automation guy instead brags about useless things like "dinner scene" button. What the heck??? How would somebody come to the house know what a dinner scene is? Mine says "Chandelier." You hit the button and guess what? Chandelier comes on :). The On button is always on top and always turns on expected set of lights at appropriate amounts. In the kitchen, in addition to the main lights, it also turns on the pendant lights over the counter at 10% just to make them pretty but not waste power (separate button turns them on fully if needed). Off is always at the bottom so as with mechanical lights, you can operate them by feel rather than trying to read their labels.

Anyway, these systems are custom and can do as much as little as you need them to do. For me the opportunities to bring more convenience, energy efficiency and safety make them worthwhile in higher-end homes. Automation for automation sake is terrible. But there really is great uses for the technology in good hands...


New Member
May 16, 2010
Cocoa Beach, Fl.
I keep thinking "OPEN THE POD BAY DOOR HAL, HAL..."
Do you do voice activation and recognition systems? I'd like to come home with an armload of groceries and say "Open door" and "Let's hear some Ray Charles". That would be out of my price range, but it's something I've thought about ever since I saw 2001.

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