Transforming a 19th century property into a 21st century energy-efficient smart home

Transforming a 19th century property into a 21st century energy-efficient smart home

The discreet installation of a home automation system into a traditional Sussex manor house has earned ClearSphere a top accolade in the Crestron Integration Awards 2011.  The home automation specialists won the Most Extreme Makeover category for their work, on this newly renovated building, which has enhanced energy efficiency, security and comfort without compromising the beautifully restored interiors.

The stunning property sits in a secluded rural location with spectacular views across the rolling countryside of the Sussex Weald.  Comprising over 30 rooms and extensive grounds, the home boasts a wealth of period features including several beautiful oak panelled rooms.  The family had ambitious plans for renovation and remodelling including the replacement of all mechanical and electrical systems and total rewiring of the house.

With a focus on creating a modern family home, the brief required simple, integrated control of all lighting, heating, security and AV systems.  The client also specified that the systems should endeavour to reduce energy consumption; as the size of the house meant it had the potential to run up substantial energy bills.  Furthermore, as a lot of effort was involved in restoring the period features, the technology needed to be discreet or enhance the feel of the property.

The Hertfordshire-based installer specified Crestron to provide the backbone to the home automation; integrating the disparate systems so they work together effortlessly and can be accessed through one interface.  Over 50 CNX Crestron keypads and 6 TPS-6L wall-mounted colour touchscreens have been fitted throughout the house to provide the family with simple, intuitive operation of all the services.

While the elegant keypads, with custom-engraved buttons, provide uncomplicated one-touch control around the home, the stylish 5.7” colour touchscreens enable day-to-day management and operation of the multiple systems.  On a basic level this includes: setting individual room temperatures, on a daily or weekly basis; controlling lights and door entry; and accessing security images.  However, to provide the owners with a real sense of elegant living, the installer has programmed a preset ‘mood’ for each of the rooms so that the occupants can quickly and easily select their desired atmosphere.  In addition, external and internal feature lights are set-up to come on gradually, as the light fades, to enhance the look and feel of the property.

To meet one of the key objectives of the project, to decrease fuel bills, ClearSphere designed the Crestron system to minimise energy consumption without compromising the family’s comfort. Low energy LED lighting is used wherever possible to reduce energy use, while brightness levels have been set to 85%; saving energy with a minimum loss of brightness. Internal PIRs (passive infra-red sensors) have been fitted in the hallways and cloakrooms to ensure common areas are well, but never unnecessarily, lit and an ‘all off’ switching function can be activated from the Master Bed keypads and front door to ensure lights aren’t left on needlessly.  Other thoughtful features include: locking security lighting during the day, to prevent accidental or needless activation, and switching off the heating in infrequently-used guest areas when vacant.

As a high-end property in an isolated country location, a comprehensive security system was also of primary concern to the owners.  So, to enable real peace of mind, CCTV, door entry and the alarm have all been integrated into the Crestron system.  Security activation and control, plus viewing images from any of the 16 CCTV cameras, is all done through the touchscreens.  In addition to this, ClearSphere has designed a number of simple-to-use features such as a ‘double tap’ on the master bedside keypad to activate all exterior and communal area lighting should the owners suspect trespassers. 

Integration with the entry system means that driveway lighting comes on when the entrance gate is activated.  What is more, in the event of the alarm being activated, external and common-part lighting is automatically switched on and the touchscreens indicate the source of the activation. As a further enhancement to the security system, the installer has created a simulated occupancy programme which creates the impression that the property is still being inhabited when it’s empty.

All the lighting and heating in the property, consisting of 90+ circuits, is controlled through Crestron via CLX dimming and DIN rail relay modules. All the radiators are plumbed back to manifolds in the cellar and the 30 separate heating zones are controlled via DIN-8SW8s, with temperature feedback from the sensor in the CNX keypads.  The client had previous experience of a centralised lighting control system where the alteration of a lighting scene could only be achieved by calling-out an engineer and so was delighted to find that they could make any required adjustments themselves through the touchscreen.

The clients felt it was essential that, in the unlikely event that the lighting or heating should fail, they could quickly and easily override Crestron control of these systems.  To address this concern, ClearSphere installed an emergency override mechanism, where the flick of a switch brings on lights and heat even when all the Crestron hardware is switched off. This has the added benefit of allowing the client to quickly establish whether the faults lies with the Crestron hardware or, as is frequently the case, 3rd party technology. 

The period interiors of this house are truly stunning so maintaining their look and feel was a real priority to the clients.  Taking into consideration the importance of décor, the installer opted to take advantage of the variety of surrounds and finishes available when selecting Crestron keypads for each room to ensure they complemented rather then detracted from the look and feel of the interior.  One of the benefits of the CNX keypads is that they incorporate a temperature sensor and speaker, so no additional wall boxes were required. 

Although the clients did not want to install an extensive AV system at this stage of the refurbishment, they did want the option of adding music and HD distribution in the future.  As a result, ClearSphere installed cabling to facilitate the addition of multi-room music and digital media at a future date.

This period property has been successfully transported into the 21st century with minimal visual impact on the interior décor.  The integrated solution has achieved the client’s objectives and has proved, without a doubt, its ability to provide simple and powerful control, without any of the clutter and complexity of disparate systems.  The clients can enjoy a customised smart home which meets their needs in terms of watertight security, energy efficiency and comfortable, modern living.