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Call Today (281) 907-9620   |   18801 Intercontinental Crossing Drive, Houston, TX 77073

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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. 

Future-Proof Your Home for Smart Technology

Plan the Low-Voltage Wiring Early in Your Next Project

A new build or remodel project has many details that must be well thought out and planned. It’s easy for architects, designers, builders, and the homeowners to get wrapped up in many decisions that must be made to balance requirements, desires, budget, and time constraints. Often there are many design revisions to floor plans, lighting plans, materials, and much more. Something like low-voltage wiring might not be the thing that most of the parties involved are worried about – yet it is critical infrastructure for enabling many smart home functions. Low-voltage wiring is easier and less expensive to do before drywall is installed, and even if changes are required in that stage where the framing is still uncovered, it is still relatively simple to do.

What kind of things depend on low-voltage wiring? Quite a few with today’s smart home features. LED lighting is one excellent example. A home with LED lighting and smart lighting control might have more low-voltage wiring requirements than regular electrical wiring. Other features like smart security sensors, alarms, and cameras all depend on low-voltage. If the owners want a whole house audio system, planning for that early makes it considerably less expensive than adding it later. How about a media room or home theater? Planning the low-voltage infrastructure makes it easy to install all these features when construction is completed.

Refined Systems is expert in residential AV systems and smart home technology. Read on to learn more about the benefits of bringing in a low-voltage contractor like us early in your next Houston residential project.

Experience the Music Everywhere in Your Home

Whole Home Audio for Audiophiles

If you really love music, it’s likely that you’re particular about how you listen to it. If it’s on headphones, you don’t just have any headphones. If you’re an avid listener in your car, you probably have the upgraded audio system. If you have a listening room in your home, you likely have high-end speakers and electronics.

In today’s busy lives in Houston, people rarely sit and listen to music. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have audiophile sound in every room – even outside – throughout your home, as you do other things. That’s where a whole home audio system comes in. A centralized system with speakers in multiple rooms and outside spaces can fill your home with pristine sound, without adding equipment in every room. 

Are You Designing a Home Theater?

Here Are Five Ideas to Delight Your Clients in Houston

Your client has asked that you incorporate a custom home theater in their new home. Building, remodeling, or just redecorating is a perfect time to incorporate some fresh ideas for their dream media space. Whether you go with a traditional movie theater look or match the interior design of the rest of the house, there are many options. Some of these options do involve planning ahead in the construction process to accommodate specific aesthetic and functional desires.

Home theaters have an almost infinite variety of forms they can take, but the best ones will all share a few things in common – a large high-quality screen, a high-quality sound system, comfortable seating, and simplified operation. 

Beyond those basics, the sky is the limit for what can be done with a home theater design in Houston. 

Read on for some design tips to create a dream home theater for your clients.

Smart Homes Depend on Robust Networks

Is Your Home Network Up to Par?

In today’s world, it seems like smart technology is invading almost every device or appliance in our daily life.  You may remember when a phone was, well, just a phone. Today our smartphones are always with us, a powerful pocket computer that can do banking, serve up audio and video entertainment, keep us connected to the world via social media, and make phone calls too. This smart device is joined by smart doorbells, locks, cameras, motorized shades, lights, thermostats, refrigerators, and more in the home.&

The common thread across all smart devices is that much of the intelligence that makes them “smart” comes from their connection to powerful software applications on the Internet.  Amazon’s Echo speaker is just a speaker unless it is connected to Amazon’s cloud, which has the processing power and intelligence to enable the little speaker to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Without an Internet connection, some of these devices don’t seem very smart.

As we add more and more devices for smart home control and automation of lighting, climate, security, and entertainment, we need networks with the capacity to handle it all. Is your home networking system up to the task in Houston?

Read on to learn more.