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blind controlIn recent decades, homes have been built more and more with energy efficiency in mind – windows are tighter, doors close more completely; indeed the climate within a house is rarely exchanged with that beyond its walls, with most HVAC systems finding peak efficiency in keeping their system closed-off throughout the day’s heating and cooling process.

These systems are quite efficient; however there are drawbacks to excessively conditioned air and some people are more sensitive to a lack of constant fresh air than others. Until recently, however, there were no automated systems that could compare in efficiency to a fully closed-off air conditioning and cooling system; fortunately, with the advent and widespread use of home automation systems that incorporate window, shade & blind control, there are 21st Century solutions that, in many ways, feel like a step back in time.

Before central heating, builders knew to get the most “solar gain” heat from the sun, a bank of south facing windows would add warmth to a home on the coldest day – provided the sky was clear. And before air conditioning, it was commonplace to open windows at night to let cool air in, then close windows to trap it until things cooled off again. But this requires you to stay on top of things.

Today, home automation systems can open and close windows, shades and blinds in direct response to conditions outside and the desired temperature inside – greatly improving the efficiency of any central heating or cooling system, and simultaneously increasing the amount of fresh air brought into the home when the time is right. Window, shade & blind control systems can bring the knowledge of the past into your home’s future; for more information about these and other home automation systems, contact us today!

Seagull Electronics is a Home Theater and Automation leader in home, business, and yacht integration systems since 1988. Servicing Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington, Boca Raton, Miami, Florida.

Home Automation: Good for your home, good for the environment

home-automation-systemThere are a lot of good reasons to bring your home into the 21st Century and start enjoying the benefits of home automation systems — convenience is a big one, and our customers find the high level of control such systems bring quite satisfying on many levels. But you might be surprised how much home automation can help with the “greening” of your lifestyle — even if you don’t consider yourself an environmentalist at heart.

Home automation systems can customize the user experience within the home to personal habits and preferences, such as particular lighting or music that “follows” homeowners and guests from room to room as the sensors detect their movement. But, especially in larger homes with multiple zones, that customization can reap huge benefits in using less energy to run the home.

Imagine a home automation system that understands patterns in room use to such an extent that a room that’s rarely entered is kept shuttered and heated (or cooled) less. Or a system that recognizes the wife gets home first, and typically confines her activities to one or two rooms in the first part of the evening — so those rooms are brought to the appropriate climate only just before her arrival. When the husband gets home, the areas he typically inhabits get the attention of the automated system. And on weekends, when things change, the system changes along with it, tweaking energy use in different rooms and zones to heat and cool where needed, and to save energy where it’s not.

Couple that with systems that will lower blinds and close windows to trap the night’s cool air automatically in the summer, then raise the blinds and re-open the windows at night to bring fresh air in — then doing the reverse in winter, opening the blinds to get the maximum solar gain at just the right times of day.

Home automation offers the possibility of spectacularly efficient energy use, controlled centrally and customizable to fit every sort of household pattern — whether you’re interested in helping the environment, or just your pocketbook at utility bill time.

Seagull Electronics sells the right electronics. We don’t sell the stuff you’ll find in boxes at your local shopping mall. We design custom systems using some of the world’s best electronic components. Serving Tequesta, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Jupiter Island, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Singer Island, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and North Miami.

How to Save on Home Automation Expenses

SAVE on home-automationJust because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  This old cliché still holds true today.  Especially if you’re debating on having a Home Automation system installed in your house.

Home Automation systems can perform a variety of amazing actions. Whether it be regulating the temperature of your fish tank or hot tub, turning on the lights when you walk into your house, or raising and lowering the window shades at a designated time. It’s this kind of magic that makes Home Automation so appealing—and expensive.

Home Automation involves a mixture of different brands of products.  Getting several different products from several different companies to properly work together can become costly.

There are ways to save on costs while still covering as many of the key features of a Home Automation system as you can. For example, try not to have fancy setups in your home automation system such as having a hot tub turn on when a sensor notices that your car has pulled up into the driveway. Adding processing intelligence to your Home Automation system drives up the price. Another example is having a simple off button on a keypad that you push to turn off all the lights in the house rather than automating the lights to turn off whenever the security system triggers them.

You can also reduce the cost by limiting the number of products and systems your Home Automation system controls. Any time one system—like lighting—communicates with another system—like security, the cost can increase. For instance if you integrate audio/video distribution, HVAC and motorized window shades into your Home Automation system it will cost even more.

Programming a Home Automation system to sync the operation of the lights, thermostats and other devices can sometimes take a lot of time therefore costing a lot of money. So it’s important to decide whether it’s worth it to have the lights dim or the window shades close at a certain time of the day, or if you’d just be satisfied by pressing a couple buttons to make it happen.

Programming isn’t the only expense that you’ll incur when you bring a lot of products into your Home Automation system. The more you choose to automate the more hardware you will most likely have to buy. For example, you could easily use a programmable thermostat to adjust the heating and cooling automatically.  But you’ll need more processing power, more equipment, and a more sophisticated interface to make that thermostat adjust whenever you walk into your home theater room, open the draperies, or when you modify the settings from the screen of your TV.

Some tips to help keep costs down:

Be Realistic. Focus on what you need, rather than what you want in your home automation system.  Do you really need a sensor by the driveway to trigger on the lights on the front porch? Probably not.  Many security systems can control your home’s thermostats and lights, as well as protect your home.

Think Return On Investment. Choose features that offer a good return on investment—like heating and cooling control. Automating your HVAC system is one of the last things you often think about doing in a home automation system. In areas where energy costs are high, this has the highest payback of all the systems.  Automating the lights can also control your energy use.

Common Interface. Use a home automation system that will let you control devices with something you already own—like your iPod or iPad.

Don’t be Oversold. It’s often the subsystems you connect to your Home Automation system that raise the price.  For example, one brand might play at 20 watts per channel and cost $300 per room, while another plays at 200 watts and costs $2,500 per room. Be sure to understand what you’re getting for your money before choosing your subsystems.

Ask for Less. There is more than one way to set up your in the world of home automation. Always ask your Custom Designer if there’s a more economical way to get the features you want out of your home automation system.

Go Lite. In an effort to make their systems more marketable, many home automation companies offer less expensive versions of their elite home automation systems. Usually, these versions offer the same basic features as the expensive version, but on a smaller scale and without all the bells and whistles.

Line It Up. Ask your Home Automation Designer to break down everything you want to do and show you line by line what each item will cost.  If you have the time and money, anything can be done.  It’s important to ask how much time and money each component will add to your bottom line.

Expand Later. You don’t have to have everything done at the same time. You can start with one room and then expand the Home Automation system later. Most Home automation and control systems are expandable.  For example, if you have your media room and master bedroom integrated now, you can call the Custom Designer back next year to add the kitchen, dining room and rear deck.

Light Control in Home Theater Settings

lightingHome theater enthusiasts have long known that even the best displays on the market require careful control of room lighting for optimal performance. That’s why when we’re helping our customers design the ultimate home theater experience, we urge them to take extra time to consider light control options; it’s an often overlooked part of home theater design that can make an enormous difference when it’s time to watch a movie.

One of the benefits of whole-house home automation has always been having a finer degree of control over particular portions of your home “zones,” in the parlance of home automation professionals. This benefit is nowhere more apparent than in the case of homes that incorporate a dedicated home theater, where the typically-controlled elements of home automation are part and parcel to improving the movie-watching experience.

Light control is practically the heart and soul of home automation, and in a home theater setting those capabilities truly shine. For a system robust enough to control every light in a home, adjusting them for optimal comfort and safety throughout changing conditions over the course of days and nights, it becomes a trivially simple matter to have lights dim when a movie begins in a house’s home theater room, and fully automatically – perhaps even dimming just slightly during the opening credits and going to full black once the film begins.

Then, at the end of a movie, home automation systems can be programmed to raise the lights gradually as the credits roll, allowing movie viewers the opportunity to adjust their eyes slowly to a brightening room, rather than all at once. For longer films that seem to be increasingly popular among home theater viewers, this sort of gentle nudge back into the real world is much more pleasant.

For more information on home theater light control and our many other services, contact us today!

Home Theater Design: Common Pitfalls

home-theater1Over the years our professional home theater designers and technicians have created a lot of entertainment spaces; we’ve set up systems and environments that have been everything from simple, understated affairs with state-of-the-art equipment and transparent design to wondrous “better than the theater itself” screening rooms that suggest the owner need never walk down a sticky aisle again in their lifetime.

 

We’ve also seen (and fixed) a lot of home theater spaces that were “designed” by people who perhaps didn’t think things through as well as they could have. Here are a few common mistakes that we can help you avoid as you imagine your perfect home entertainment room.

 

Location, location, location. It’s the rule in real estate, and frankly it’s too often overlooked in choosing the right place for your home theater. Picking a room that might seem to be just the right shape and size for your dream in-home movie experience, but forgetting that it shares a wall with, say, the baby’s bedroom or your wife’s office, means you’re either looking at the expense of additional soundproofing or family counseling. Pick a spot where you can be as loud as you need to be, no matter when you watch.

 

Size matters, but bigger is not always better. This might seem counterintuitive as you dream of the “big screen,” but there is a limit to how large a screen should be. The proper sizing of a screen should take into account how far away a viewer will be sitting when watching it. Too small, and you won’t enjoy the details brought out by today’s high-definition pictures; too big, and viewers will be constantly turning their heads and straining their necks.

 

Light is not your friend. Ideally, we all have a perfect room in our house for a home theater that has no windows and a blackout door that can be closed. In the real world, consider a liberal application of blinds and curtains — we’ve helped our clients design window coverings that draw and retract at the beginning and end of a movie-watching experience.

 

Seagull Electronics sells the right electronics. We don’t sell the stuff you’ll find in boxes at your local shopping mall. We design custom systems using some of the world’s best electronic components. Serving Tequesta, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Jupiter Island, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Singer Island, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and North Miami.

10 Tips to Make a Family Room Look Like a Home Theater

family room theatNot everyone has the luxury of dedicating a room solely for a Home Theater room. More often than not, that area is shared with another room such as a family room, den or perhaps a guest room.

That’s perfectly fine because your family room is already finished and furnished. Plus, it probably already has a decent-size TV and surround-sound system.

If your family room is like the majority of others, it may not look or feel much like a home theater. What it’s most likely lacking is in the environment of the room.  Changing things in the arrangement and design of the room can give it a better home theater vibe.

You can go as modest or as complex as you want to produce the desired cinematic effect for a home theater. Here are 10 ideas to consider.

1. Re-paint: Dark, rich colors like burgundy and navy blue scream home theater.   The video on your TV will look better with dark colors since light doesn’t reflect off dark colors as it does light ones.

2. Rearrange the Furniture: The screen at your local cinema sits directly in front of the seats; the TV in your Home Theater should as well.  This may require a slight adjustment of your furniture.

3. Add Architectural Details: There are many theater-inspired details such as decorative moldings or pillars at a home improvement store that will help to add detail to your Home Theater.

4. Incorporate New Lighting: Most of the pre-show lighting in a commercial theater is produced by sconces on the wall. Putting a few of these on the walls of your Home Theater room will add additional lighting that will look like the real thing.

5. Install Dimmers: If you don’t want to run new electrical wiring for the sconces in your Home Theater, we recommend swapping out your existing light switch for a dimmer. You will then be able to dim out the lights before the movie begins.

6. Hang Drapes: Nice, thick drapes like the ones that cover the screen at the movie theater will give you the look and feel you’re after for a Home Theater room. They will also block out incoming light and improve room acoustics.

7. Hide the Components: Remove all the audio and video components from the Home Theater room and place them somewhere else in the house, such as a closet or utility room. Replace your existing infrared remote control for a radio frequency-based remote. The new remote will then be able to broadcast commands to the equipment that is located in another room.

8. Build a Riser: You can enjoy the same stadium-style seating of your neighborhood cinema in your own Home Theater by having a riser built, as well as steps.

9. Pick New Seats: Invest in theater-style seating, especially if you’ve built risers in your Home Theater. These seats are available in a variety of colors to complement the new wall paint. They can also include features such as a reclining action and built-in cup holders.

10. Attach Fabric Wall Panels: The walls in most theaters are covered in fabric. You can do the same in your Home Theater, although the entire space does not have to be covered.

From the Bottom Up: Home Theater Seating

home-theater-seatingBack in the fledgling days of home theater, when the term was hardly commonplace and most considered having a big-screen TV the pinnacle of the notion; if you asked most people why they’d put the time, money and effort into watching movies at home, you’d hear about comfort nearly every time. Just a few years ago, going to the movies was an uncomfortable experience; seats were hard and tight together, and it was luck of the draw whether there would be someone in front of you with a hairdo so big you’d miss half the screen.

Back then, home theater seating was superior to the theater experience just by virtue of not being a hard-backed chair; simple couches won out. But today’s theaters are competing hard for our movie-going dollars; to maintain superiority, home theater designers have come up with incredible seating options that can make your viewing experience better than the best seats in the local cinema.

Whether you’re designing a dedicated home theater space with its own style, or a hybrid room that can be used for other purposes when not watching movies, home theater seating today comes in a wide variety of styles and fabrics that can stand out loud and proud — or vanish in the existing decor. No longer simply a big chair,  home theater seats now feature integrated touch-screens, fully-adjustable levels of support to match every imaginable body type – and, of course, intuitive cup holders and snack trays that tuck away when not needed.

From individual recliners, to banks of seats, to feature-rich convertible couch designs with coordinating accessories including light fixtures and curtains, today’s home theater seating gives cine-plex owners a run for their money. For more information about the options available, contact us today!

Home Automation: Creating Safer, More Secure Homes

Elegant beige interiorEveryone’s done it — you’ve left the house, perhaps you’re at the end of the driveway, or just around the block, or maybe your flight is just lifting off. It’s at that often inopportune moment that you begin to doubt yourself: did you lock that side door before you left? Did you leave lights, faucets, or a major appliance running? Did you remember to reset the sprinkler system? Is the heat running full-tilt because you brushed against the thermostat on the way out the door?

 

Worst of all, is there someone in your home not authorized to be there?

 

One of the most enduring benefits of the technology that has made home automation possible is how it offers us the ability to full monitor our homes from afar — whether across the street, or across the globe, home automation means you can answer every one of these questions with the touch of a button or a swipe across a smartphone.

 

Home automation systems offer you have full access to stored information that includes simple data such as climate controls and the status of light switches, but can also log information about who has been coming and going over a specified period of time. While you’re away, for example, you can monitor whether the repair technician has used his specific code to enter the home, or not — and using video technology you can check in real-time to monitor his progress, or view recordings of his time in the home, and deactivate his code once he’s finished so it can never be used to access the house again.

 

There’s a peace of mind that comes with knowing, at a glance, that your home and possessions are safe and sound while you’re away; and, if something needs adjusting — be it an overlooked door or window lock, thermostat setting, or sprinkler — home automation systems allow you to make that change from your smartphone or computer, and know with confidence things at home are just the way you left them. Or perhaps better.

 

Seagull Electronics sells the right electronics. We don’t sell the stuff you’ll find in boxes at your local shopping mall. We design custom systems using some of the world’s best electronic components. Serving Tequesta, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Jupiter Island, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Singer Island, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and North Miami.

home-video-surveillance-systemOver the years, we’ve designed and installed a lot of stand-alone home security & video surveillance systems in homes and businesses – and we’ve integrated a good many into new or existing whole-house home automation solutions. We’ve found that the best advice we can give homeowners (and those looking to video surveillance to make their business safer and more secure) is to begin thinking about what you want your system to accomplish long before the first piece of equipment is ordered or the first hole cut in the wall. There are many reasons people want to incorporate video surveillance into their home security plans, and they are all perfectly valid – but the type of system you ultimately install is dependent upon what you are trying to attain from having video surveillance.

For example, if you’re interested in video surveillance as a means to combat loss prevention in your business, you’ve got to decide whether you’re interested in having those cameras hidden or visible; hidden cameras are less likely to be vandalized or intentionally damaged by determined thieves, but the mere presence of visible cameras often deters criminals before they have a chance to commit a crime.

If you want to use video surveillance to help ensure the honesty of people performing work at your property while you’re away, you need to decide whether you’re best served by the ability to take a peek at them any time via a video link to your smart phone – or whether there is sufficient “leverage” when addressing complaints with contractors with the ability to play back a recording at a later date.

The most efficient home security & video surveillance system is one designed and installed tailored to your specific needs; assess them early, and you’ll be on the right track.

home_automation_florida

Understanding the Difference between Home Automation and Home Control

Everyone understands that your lifestyle and living standard vastly improves when the technology behind home automation becomes implemented in your daily life. The interactive element, strictly on its own, creates new efficiencies that are inarguable; activate your sprinkler from a smartphone? Grab your tablet and TIVO your favorite show from the office? Start a movie in your home theater and watch the lights dim as the curtain goes up — and watch them brighten again as the credits roll? As our applications become more powerful, we discover the technology itself creates value in our lives and in how we interact with it — and with one another.

At Seagull Electronics, we understand that the technology is meant to be a boon, not a hurdle to overcome. That’s why we offer whole-house installation and implementation, bringing you the promise of the technology without the fear of having to wade through it all on your own. Part of this is understanding the difference between home automation, and home control.

Home control is just what it sounds like; you have every option mentioned above, right at your fingertips whenever you need it. But home automation is the next step: creating a “hands-free” home control experience. Imagine motion sensors that detect movement as you walk from room to room, or even outside, reacting to your presence to perform pre-programmed tasks such as turning lights or heat on and off, following you with the music you prefer, raising and lowering blinds to your inputted preferences?

When technology integrates with your daily routine and knows how you like things, life within the home automation world becomes truly effortless. And it is a process that’s not merely efficient with your time — it can also lower utility bills.

Home automation is here, and home and business owners are enjoying it today. Contact us and learn how integrating technology into your lifestyle can improve it!

 

Seagull Electronics sells the right electronics. We don’t sell the stuff you’ll find in boxes at your local shopping mall. We design custom systems using some of the world’s best electronic components. Serving Tequesta, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Jupiter Island, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Singer Island, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and North Miami.

 

 

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