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Why Design Smart Lighting Control into Your Next Project?

Four Reasons Why Smart Lighting Will Differentiate Your Residential Projects

As a designer, architect, or builder (and we know some of you do all of these), you intuitively understand the importance of lighting in a project. You cringe when you walk into a room with a single light and no cans, and when that one light needs to share its installation with a ceiling fan. You don’t want to see an art niche that missed an opportunity to be highlighted with the right spotlighting.

While you understand lighting, you might be on the fence about smart lighting control for your projects in Memorial and Houston. Texans are straightforward and might ask, “what's so smart about lighting?”

Smart lighting is all about bringing today’s intelligent technology to bear on the lowly light switch. And there are many advantages to smart lighting over banks of light switches. While smart lighting is not particularly difficult to retrofit into existing homes, it’s even easier to take advantage of all the features if it’s designed in from the start.

Read on to learn more about why smart lighting control is a smart feature to add to your projects.

SEE ALSO: Build Home Automation into Your Next Home

Whole Home Automation - the Ultimate Luxury

Three Home Upgrades to Elevate Your Lifestyle

What is the ultimate luxury? Ask that question to 100 different people, and you may very well get 100 different answers. When it comes to your home, luxury may lie in your furnishings, your décor, your appliances, your swimming pool and outdoor areas, your entertainment systems, and whatever other ways you customize your home to suit your lifestyle.

Refined Systems is a home automation technology integrator, so we have some ideas too about what constitutes the ultimate luxury at home. We think that advanced technologies that work for you and make daily life more comfortable, rewarding, and stress-free are the ultimate luxury. While you could automate your whole home with an array of technology products that add comfort and convenience to your Houston abode, we want to highlight three that are highly likely to make you smile and congratulate yourself on your decision to invest in them.

Let’s look at three excellent technology investments to make your home a little more rewarding every day.

Create Your Own Outdoor Entertainment Oasis

Make the Most of Your Outdoor Spaces with these Audio and Video Upgrades

Summer is around the corner in Houston. As we all know it comes quickly here; going from the warm spring to the hot and humid summer. Of course, the good news is that our mild weather lets us make better use of the outdoor spaces in our homes. A pool is one surefire way to mitigate the Texas summer heat. But even without a pool, the balmy evenings after the sun goes down invite us outside.

Most likely you have spent time and money creating an outdoor space that is an extension of your lifestyle. You have a patio for shady relaxation and dining, an outdoor kitchen for summer grilling, gardens and landscape that frame your home, and perhaps a pool and sports court. What would make all that even better? You can have the same level of audio and video entertainment outdoors to maximize your time outside. Imagine relaxing after dinner on the patio with a summer movie night right there, or keeping an eye on the Rockets NBA playoff game while you grill the steaks. Perhaps chilling in the pool to the sounds of a favorite Spotify playlist is your idea of downtime.

All of these options are yours when you invest in an outdoor entertainment system for your Houston home. Read on for some ideas on turning your outside spaces into your next entertainment oasis.

Don’t Leave Your Best Work in the Dark

Coastal Source Landscape Lighting Puts Your Designs in the Best Light

Designers, architects, and builders take pride in their work. They sweat many details to ensure their designs fit the overall style they are trying to achieve. Good designers go the extra mile to add a little detail that may go undiscovered for some time but will be a pleasant surprise that adds to a client's continued enjoyment.

A lot of work may go into the outside design of a home, but often people don’t get to appreciate the detail. When the sun goes down, much of that detail might be lost. Similarly, the investment in outside spaces like patios and gardens may not be as visible either. With proper planning, that work can stand out as it should.

We appreciate the night sky in the Woodlands, so we don’t want to light up properties like the Vegas strip. But the judicious use of a variety of lighting styles and techniques can elevate the beauty of your work in a way that provides a totally different ambiance at night. We work with Coastal Source for outdoor landscape lighting because of the extraordinary quality and variety they bring to lighting. Read on for some lighting ideas to incorporate into your next project.

A Smart Home Is an Integrated Home

Make Sure Your Projects Are Ready for Tomorrow’s Smart Technology

We’ve written before about smart devices and home automation. As you know, there are many choices in smart technology available in the market. Many of your clients might think that home automation is about a collection of smart devices that can be cobbled together to make a smart home.

We want to present a different, more comprehensive view of smart home technology and automation. It is not about offering apps on a smartphone to control a light or a camera, nor is about another form of remote control away from home. Smart technology, ultimately, is about total home integration. What do we mean by that?

Traditionally, home systems and functions do not work with or talk with each other. Heating and cooling is its own subsystem. Electrical outlets and lighting are another. Water and plumbing are another, and the typical irrigation system does not tie into anything either. Consider pool and spa equipment as well. While those systems may not change much in terms of what they do, what is radically changing is how they are controlled, how they can report and inform on what they are doing, and how they can be made to work in tandem with other functions.

As designers and builders, you want to plan residences for your clients that are ready for this new integrated future. That means planning for the infrastructure that will support smart technologies. In most cases, we can't accurately anticipate what technology will be available 5-10 years down the road, but we can plan for the foundation that makes it easy to integrate new technology.

So how do you plan for the new future of total home integration in your Memorial, TX projects? Keep reading to learn more.

What To Listen to On a Whole House Audio System

We Spotlight the Top Music Streaming Services

Sometimes we don’t think about it, but the way we listen to music has changed markedly over the past 20 years. Gone — or almost gone — are stacks of physical media like CDs. Yet some people are still buying vinyl records, or are enjoying their collections from the past 40 years. While vinyl is still alive and well because of that tangible music experience it delivers, the predominant way to listen is now music streaming.

The digital transformation for music began with the CD in the 1980s. CDs brought higher dynamic range for audio in a format that lasts much longer than vinyl records and doesn’t degrade over time. From the CD the next step was in audio compression (codecs like MP3) that enabled the Apple slogan for the iconic iPod of 30,000 songs in your pocket. It was only a matter of time before cloud technology, fast data transmission, and a smartphone in every pocket would give way to streaming 40 or 50 million songs from the cloud — for a small monthly fee.  No more ”owning” music like a record or CD, you have access to almost any recorded music anywhere via streaming.

Of course, most of us are familiar with music streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and others. Are they all the same? They offer similar functionality overall and have access to (mostly) the same music, but some differences could steer you to use one over the other. The good news is that if you are considering investing in whole house audio for your Houston, TX home, all of these are available through various systems. It all comes down to your preferences.

Ready to learn more about your streaming choices? Just keep reading.

Add Drama with Landscape Lighting

Heighten the Sophistication of Your Home Designs

A great home design incorporates many ideas. There’s the exterior view; how it looks from the street and its curb appeal. How do the windows play, letting light inside, but also how they look and balance the outside look. What unique exterior finishes or features distinguish this home and makes it stand out?

As a designer, architect, or builder, you know these things better than we do.  But we do understand home technology and the role that lighting can play in differentiating a home, highlighting its best aspects, and creating the right ambiance for a home. Any good photographer knows the role that light plays in capturing an image. With the proper lighting, what could be a mundane photo can turn into a spectacular and memorable picture.

Landscape lighting can have that effect on the exteriors of a property. Let us postulate this: if you include the effect of landscape lighting from the beginning on your next home project in the Woodlands, you will multiply the impact of your imaginative designs.  Intrigued? Read on for some ideas.

3 Ways Home Lighting Control Enhances Your Texas Lifestyle

Smart Lighting is More Than a Luxury

Did you know that lighting control is the number one smart home feature requested by homeowners when doing any significant remodel or building a new house? It’s very logical – lighting control can save energy, enhance convenience, and even add a layer of security.

You may think of home lighting control for your River Oaks home as a luxury item – and you'd be right, as it's not an absolute necessity. But businesses implement lighting control too because they can take advantage of those same benefits we just described. And those businesses are not doing it as a luxury; they recognize the bottom line benefits of time, money, and improved environmental stewardship.

As a standalone solution, lighting control makes absolute sense on its own. But Refined Systems is a smart home integration company, and we do more than lighting control. We can show you that when you add other smart home features to lighting control, it becomes even more powerful and useful – for convenience, energy savings and security.

Ready to see how? Just keep reading.

Create the Perfect Custom Home Theater In Houston

4K Video and Immersive Sound Will Make Every Movie Unforgettable

There is something special about the cinema experience. The large screen, the big, enveloping sound, and the viewing in a darkened theater create an engaging experience. For years, the death of the movie theater has been loudly predicted, yet they are still thriving. Why? Because it is an experience.

However, some parts of the movie theater experience are not so likable. Occasionally uncomfortable seats, expensive concessions, sticky floors, and people who insist on using their cell phones during the show can mar the cinema experience.  Of course, you can duplicate all the good parts of the commercial theater — the picture and the sound — while eliminating all the negative aspects. That’s what building your own custom home theater is all about.

Whether you have a current media space or even a theater, why not turn every viewing into a memorable experience? Not only can your theater be a movie emporium, but it can be your private sports bar for watching the Texans, Astros, or Rockets.

In this blog, we want to focus on two big technologies that can make your home theater even more special — the high resolution and superb contrast of a 4K picture and the immersive sound of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Read on to learn more about creating the perfect custom home theater for your Houston home.

Build Home Automation Into Your Next Home

Design Your Dream Home with Smart Home Technology

The truth is, home automation technology has been around for quite a few years. Yet it seems like the introduction of the Nest smart thermostat in 2011 ushered in the new era of intelligent, connected home devices that is upon us. Today, you can buy all manner of smart devices for your home. From security cameras and thermostats and smart lights, we are moving to smart refrigerators, ranges, irrigation control, mirrors, and much more.

There is almost a bewildering array of choices that exist with smart devices. Many rely on different communication technologies, and some need specific hubs to make them work. It is possible, depending on what devices you choose, that you might need several different hubs to control them. More importantly, some work within one software ecosystem or another. One ecosystem is Amazon with Alexa; another is Google Home. A third is Apple Home, and a fourth is Samsung Smartthings. To be fair, some of these devices, like the Nest thermostat, work across several ecosystems. However, sometimes some features are limited on one ecosystem versus the other.

If you keep things simple with automation, you might get by with some of these consumer smart devices. But if you want a more cohesive package of smart capabilities, with the capacity to expand what you can control and automate, you will end up looking at a professionally designed and installed smart home system.

Read on to find out how a professionally designed and installed home automation system can help you build your dream smart home in Houston.

What is Sound Masking?

Reduce Noise Distraction In Your Houston Offices

Open office environments have been with us for a long time. We might tend to think that it is a relatively recent trend, but in some industries, it was the norm. In stock brokerage office of the past, an open floor was the norm. Who can forget the scenes from the busy bullpen in the 1980’s movie Wall Street?

If you recall that movie, you may also remember how noisy that environment was. Today, open office environments are pervasive across many industries. Open environments encourage more interaction between workers and impromptu discussions with team members sitting nearby. But these new environments also introduce more ambient noise. While the telephone is no longer the preferred way to communicate, people still talk at their desks, while walking by, and in those impromptu discussions in an open hallway. That type of noise introduces distraction that can hamper productivity.

Back in the 1980s, there weren't great solutions for dealing with ambient noise. Since that era, significant strides have been made in sound processing technology that has been used in many areas. For example, many modern automobiles employ sound canceling technology to limit harsher road and engine noises. Similar technology is available for office environments to make it easier for workers to stay focused.

Want to know more about sound masking for your Houston office spaces? Read on to learn more.

Why Invest in a Lighting Control System?

Two Ways to Benefit from Lutron Lighting Control

One of the most popular categories of smart home technology is lighting control systems. Lighting systems can range from the relatively simple to very sophisticated automated installations. One of the first benefits that springs to mind from lighting control might be the potential energy savings. Using lights only when needed, and turning them off automatically when they’re not can yield substantial savings on energy bills.

Clearly, energy savings can be a big factor, especially when lighting control is combined with other smart home features like intelligent climate and motorized shade control. With our hot and humid Houston climate, smart control can deliver significant savings in electric bills in the warmer months. But there is another considerable reward which comes with lighting control in additional security for your property. In this blog, we'll cover the two most important reasons why you should invest in a Lutron lighting control system for your Houston home.

Designing Your New Smart Home

It’s Easy When You Plan Ahead

As a homebuyer, you are excited about the prospect of building a new home or planning a major remodel of an existing one. It’s easy to get consumed with a mountain of details to consider, such as material selection, plumbing fixtures, colors, appliances, lighting, wall finishes, and so much more.

Smart home technology requires thought and detailed planning too, and the choices made can affect construction as well as finish-out details. The last thing you want is intelligent technology that looks like an afterthought and is not well-integrated into your carefully designed spaces. That’s why it’s critical that a smart technology professional is involved early in your planning process with your architect, builder, and interior designer.

So if you’re planning a new residence in Houston and you want today’s — and tomorrow’s — intelligent automation features, here are some reasons why you’ll want to bring a local smart home professional early into the design phase.

Make Your Teams More Productive

Modernize Your Office Audio-Video Installation

Modern business moves at a fast pace. New communication and software technology enable people to share information and get things done faster than ever before. Emails and faxes are still around and have their uses, but new software-based collaboration tools like Skype, Zoom, Slack, Trello, Asana, Microsoft Teams, and many more have changed the nature of work, whether it’s internally or with partners, clients, and suppliers.

Are your meeting spaces equipped for modern collaboration? We are not talking about basic connectivity like full Wi-Fi everywhere and fast Internet connections — although those should be up-to-date to deal with today’s data requirements. Today’s workers want to be able to use multiple devices for communication and collaboration — whether it’s an iPhone, Android phone, iPad, Chromebook, Windows laptop, Mac laptop, or something else.

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone wanted to connect their mobile device to the room’s projector or display for a presentation, but there was only an HDMI or VGA cable? That conference room left a lot of today’s devices out in the cold in their ability to collaborate.

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to modernize your offices and meeting spaces to bring them into 21st-century technology. Read on for some ideas on upgrading your audio-video installation to maximize productivity in Houston.

Upgrade Your Sound with High-End Audio

Explore The New Options in High-End Home Audio

A curious thing has happened in the past 15 years or so with the advent of the iPod and the revolution it brought to how you could listen to music. To be sure, the iPod (which wasn’t even the first product of its type) was a revolution, but it was the second one when it came to digital music. The CD was a monumental change which brought music into the digital age. CD technology put music in a high-quality digital form factor which was very portable, and unlike the vinyl records and cassette tapes that ruled before it, CDs did not degrade over time. 

When the portable digital players first came out, they were somewhat limited in how much digital music they could hold. Converting uncompressed digital CDs to digital formats like MP3 for portable players took up a lot of storage space, so people started listening to music at something less than optimal quality. The portability and convenience of music on devices like iPods, and now smartphones, took precedence over the quality of the sound. Enter the massive popularity of streaming music today, and in most cases that still holds true – most of the services today like Spotify and Pandora stream at something less than CD quality, although that’s improving.

Why all this (admittedly brief) history? Because advances in digital audio technology are changing this landscape, bringing new options for enjoying high-end audio in your Houston home with all the convenience and flexibility of today’s digital music. Read on to learn more.