Old Meets New: How an Old Lighting Control System Evolved to a Complete Control4 Automation System

May 13, 2014

Lori Cunningham is a Family Digital Lifestyle expert and the founder of the Well Connected Mom.com  and TheWellConnectedHome.com. Both review and discuss a myriad of technology products to find those which relate most today's families and homeowners.

In my last article, "Smart Moms Need Smart Homes," I wrote about moms and their vital importance in helping to embrace and define technology in the home to make things easier for the family.  As a mom myself, and someone who does this for my own home, I can tell you how empowering it is to have more control in the home. Power I do not need to exert...I simply push a button!
For a long time, I thought it would be great to be able to control the lights in my home. Growing up, my mom was a stickler about turning off the lights when I left a room. I've tried to pass down this principle to my children...and my husband as well. As good as they are, they inevitably forget...nearly every day!
When the iPad came out, I began to see my home in a new "light." I began researching to see what products were available to try remotely turning on and off my lights. I found and installed some GE light switches which use a technology called Z-Wave. Coupled with a smart home controller, called Vera, I was able to turn my office lights on and off without leaving my chair! Awesome!
Next I moved to the family room and kitchen. From the palm of my hand, I was turning the lights on and off or dimming them to my desired setting. Wow!
I eventually used these light switches throughout the entire house, including the yard. I set a timer so the lights on the front of our house would go on every night at sunset and off at 10pm.
And even better, I could control my lights from my PC, my tablet upstairs, or even my smartphone from outside the home. I loved the convenience.
I remember when I was asked to try out and write about Control4 technology...just for my family room.  I wasn't sure how I felt about it. First of all, it isn't a Do-It-Yourself project and second of all, sure, it could control our Family Room TV, receiver, Skype camera, XBOX, PS3, and Wii, but we still would need to use a separate system for our lighting...wouldn't we?
You see, Control4 uses a behind the scenes messaging technology called ZigBee, which is not compatible with the Z-Wave switches that are installed throughout my house. But my Control4 dealer was able to integrate my existing lighting control system with my Control4 system using a solution from a company called Extra Vegetables (what mom wouldn't like that name?). Now Control4 can control our TV, XBOX*, PS3, Wii*, Verizon DVR, and Slingbox AND my lights!
My husband was very worried because all the work he had done to figure out which buttons on the remote turn on which console and gadgets would all be upturned...and he was right. But the end result, instead of 3 remotes needed to "control" our devices, we now have one single solution to control everything. Of course, we now technically have five “remotes”—our Control4 all-in-one remote, our two tablets, my smartphone, and my husband's smartphone—and they all use the same user interface so it’s easy to control our home no matter which “remote” we use.
Now I have the best of both worlds—my lights and devices can work together, all from the Control4 app or remote control. My husband loves the new set up, and my kids know how to turn on any device they want in the family room.
We were all so enamored by the family room set up that we asked Innovative, our local installer, to put in more Control4 equipment. Now we can control music throughout the house, watch our movies and TV shows on any TV, and even have intercoms with built-in video.
As a mom, I feel I have more control over the safety of our home with automatic locking of doors, video cameras to keep an eye on things—especially the kids outside—and the ability to see who's at the front door and respond to them...without having to open the door.
Control4 has offered my family and me control, safety, convenience, enhanced communication, and has made our home more fun with multiple family entertainment options now available at our fingertips.