by Lori Cunningham
In my last article, DIY Home Control isPossible, But is it Worth It?, I wrote about my reluctance to divert from my DIY plan for home automation and try out a professionally installed Control4 system for our family room. We have now had the Control4 system installed for two months and I’m ready to tell you about my experience with it.
Control4 – Controlling the Family Room
A local professional custom home automation installer, Innovative, arrived at my house to install the Control4 HC-250 Controller. What I immediately liked about the HC-250 controller is that it is a starter kit to get a room up and going for automation. You don’t need to have a whole closet full of equipment to control your Family Room home theater. Just the HC-250 Controller and the remote control. That’s it. Although I could put the HC-250 controller in a central closet, I chose to put it with all of my home theater gear.
I love the fact that you can start small and just start your automation in one room. Then, you could expand to additional rooms at your own pace and with additional cost as you go, not all lumped up in a huge initial investment before you even know if you like it.
The HC-250 controller incorporates:
- a powerful 1GHz processor
- ZigBee processor for fast control of lighting, security, music and video libraries
- a small profile, easy to tuck away behind a TV or in a cabinet
- integrated Wireless-N connectivity
- 2 audio outputs – 1 analog and 1 HDMI
- 1 analog audio input
- USB port for external storage for easy music retreival
- built-in Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability for power and
- network connectivity over a single CAT5/CAT 6 cable
- intuitive control available from a Control 4 remote, smartphone/table, or TV
- See more specs
This all sounds great, but I have a myriad of devices in my Family Room cabinet. Could this small one room device handle all of my devices?
Innovative hooked up for me the following items to the HC-250 Controller:
- Samsung TV
- Denon Internet Receiver
- XBOX 360
- PlayStation 3
- Logitech TV Cam HD
- Verizon Motorola DVR
- MHL Cable – to connect my smartphone for TV viewing of phone photos & videos
- Yale Real Living Deadbolt Lock (ZigBee)
- Vera Control for my Z-wave devices
Innovative spent a number of hours setting up the HC-250 Controller and SR-250 Remote Control and ensuring it worked with my Z-wave system. Plugging in the devices into the HC-250 controller took little time. The real effort was in the details of setting up the equipment and registering all of my touch screens (smartphones and tablets) into the Control 4 software. Innovative gave me a behind the scenes tour of the software professional installers use to ensure the homeowner’s experience is seamless. The software was quite a bit more complex than the software I use for the Vera Z-wave controller.
The Real Test
- various smartphones (we have 4 of them)
- tablets (we have 2 of them)
- SR-250 Control4 remote
A Homeowner’s Perspective
- it uses IR so I don’t even need to point my remote control anywhere to make things happen
- I can turn on and off my XBOX console with it
- I can turn on my XBOX console, TV, and receiver easily with the remote
- I can turn off all connected devices with the “ALL OFF” button
- The Control4 red button makes it easy for anyone to control the TV, lights, music, and more
- I can easily access our favorite channels
- Accessing our DVR is no problem, with most buttons available on the Control4 remote
- Using our iPad or smartphone is handy and fun
- There are less layers to go through to turn on Pandora then we had without Control4
- We finally have one central point to access our door locks, lighting, and home theater
- It’s very intuitive. My husband was able to figure it out without any instruction
- Any questions or issues I have, Innovative is a phone call a way and very responsive to my calls
- All of our other remotes are finally tucked away into a drawer!
I have to say, I’m a believer. With the busyness of life with work, kids, and maintaining our home, it’s nice to make a phone call if something isn’t working or if we’d like to make an adjustment to something rather than being the one to have to troubleshoot. It’s also nice to bounce ideas of Innovative about future things we’d like to do with technology in our home.
We had three remote controls always out on our coffee table before – the TV remote, the DVR remote, and the Receiver remote. To turn anything on or off would take at least two controllers. To find Pandora or YouTube would take a few layers of menu’s to get to them. Now, we have one Control4 remote to control all the devices, inputs, even the movies we play through our XBOX 360. One button turns everything else. One remote on our coffee table. And best yet, as I think of cool ideas for our home automation…like when the door unlocks, three lights will light our path to the kitchen or when we have a party, a series of lights turn on, Pandora plays, and the doors unlock…and work with Innovation to customize our automation to our liking.
* Control4 provided the SR-250 remote, HC-250 controller, Yale Deadbolt Lock, and services for purposes of this review. All opinions…and swallowing of my own DIY independence, are my own.