Linking up your home entertainment system so that you can play music in all the rooms in your home isn’t that new an idea, as systems have been available to do it since the 1970’s. But what has changed in the last decade is that the equipment has become cheaper, computer networking standards have evolved, which make it easier for devices to talk to each other, and wireless technology means there’s less need for wires to do it all.
As large flat screen TVs and projectors have become cheaper, more people have had ‘home cinema’ systems with surround sound put into their homes, and it’s a natural next step to hook it up to a computer to display content downloaded from the internet as well as DVDs. At the same times, game consoles compete with Freeview or satellite boxes, DVD and video players for the available connections on the TV.
‘Home entertainment’ in itself is now more complex as television, stereo, radio and video recorders have been joined by MP3 players, digital radios, game consoles, DVD players and hard disk video recorders. The common thread between all these new devices is that they are all computers, or at least, can talk to computers. This means that it’s more normal for houses these days to have computers hooked up to the internet and being used to send music and video to personal devices or players in the lounge.
Add to this the increase in popularity of burglar alarms and video entry systems and it becomes clear that the only thing missing from this picture is a means of tying it all together, so that the whole family can watch or play what they want without getting in each others’ way. And if you are going to start linking entertainment systems together, the extra work of linking in your heating systems, for example, will not be a large proportional increase in the total cost.
Get the Professionals Involved
Of course, this isn’t easy, and unless you really have a flair for all the different types of technology in use, it’s likely that the job is best done by a company who specialise in putting together all the different systems into one overall controllable system. In fact, anything that can be motorised and switched can be controlled centrally.
Although wireless communication exists for many devices, there will still have to be a lot of wiring, to get electrical power to devices that need motors, like curtains for example, and for things that can’t be wireless yet, like controlling lights. For this reason, this is a job that is best done during a new build or complete renovation.
Nearly all systems will require a central control system, usually about the size of a large alarm control panel, or somewhat larger if you want to store all your pictures, videos, and music on it, as there will need to be hard disks of a sufficient size in the system. It makes sense to mount it somewhere central to cut down on wire runs and be accessible, although it also needs to be out of the way of enquiring little fingers. An understairs cupboard would do, perhaps mounted in a lockable cabinet.
Then all the systems need to be hooked together and tied into this central system, either by wired or wireless connections, and the system configured for your needs. There will be control panels, sometimes permanently mounted, for example by the front door or in the kitchen, and portable remotes, much like TV remote controls, for living areas.
The final part of home control is that most systems can be controlled remotely. Imagine being able to ring your home and tell it to put the heating on as you’re coming home unexpectedly, or to record a program you’ve forgotten to set up. Or perhaps you’ll be able to connect to it over the Internet, so that you can monitor your surveillance cameras online.
If you do go for these options, remember that if you can do it, potentially someone else could too, so make sure you change pin codes and passwords frequently.