Elan g! Home Automation System's First Installation in the South
There are two distinct approaches -- no, philosophies -- to turning on the lights in Douglas and Lina Leonovicz's Old Metairie home.
Lina accomplishes this task the way most of us would: walking over to a nearby wall and flicking a switch.
Douglas, however, will have none of that manual nonsense. He is far more apt to commune with small, rectangular color touchscreens mounted in the kitchen or front hallway.
Pressing an icon here, sliding a finger there, the retired vascular surgeon can prompt anything from a soft glow to a brilliant glare in whichever space he chooses. He is a Jedi of illumination, rendering a 6,000-square-foot home into a playground for his watt-driven whims and wishes.
It's not just mastery of darkness and light that beguiles Leonovicz, 48, who delights in summoning up music no matter where he happens to be, rock standards thundering forth from speakers installed discreetly in the ceilings.
Wondering who's ringing the doorbell? A video feed from the front porch reveals all (useful when two teenage daughters are afoot). Concerned about an approaching storm? Track its progress with a radar-eye view of the Gulf coastline.
And if Leonovicz doesn't happen to be close to one of those in-wall touchscreens, he can simply grab his iPad or iPhone, tying in to his wireless network. Also tied in are his home's security system, his heating and his air conditioning.
Welcome to the current state of home automation -- in this case, a $20,000 setup manufactured by Elan Home Systems, one of the leading players in home-automation industry.
The electronics were installed by New Orleans' Dynamic Audio Video, whose owner, Jaime Gannon, has become something of an honorary cousin in the Leonovicz family over the past year.
The technology of "intelligent homes," like the Leonovicz family's house, will be the focus of this year's New Orleans Home and Garden Show. to be held in Hall J of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center from March 17 to March 20.
The centerpiece of the show will be a "High Tech Pavilion" demonstrating home automation for everyday living.
On a recent Friday morning, Gannon guided a visitor through the Leonovicz house, playing the proud papa to what he called the first Elan Home Systems G!-series package to be installed in southern Louisiana.
While home-automation systems have been around for decades (many users got a taste through the inexpensive X-10 modules sold through Radio Shack stores), the present generation is considerably more sophisticated and flexible.
"This new automation is more affordable than ever, and more user-friendly," Gannon said, touting the "consistent user interface across all platforms." In other words, whether you access the network via a touchscreen in the wall, an iPad or other device, the commands and overall look remain the same.
Think of the neat stack of components on a closet shelf as the brain, the wiring as the nervous system, and the end devices as the limbs. "You connect the home automation system to the subsystems in the house," Gannon explained, "and they all tie in and work together."
Crucially, "all the subsystems will work (by) themselves if the controller goes out," which means nobody will freeze or bake if the home's main power goes out.
The Leonoviczes lived on the West Bank before moving to Old Metairie, knocking down an existing house to build their new home from scratch. That made it much easier to install home-automation equipment, since all wiring could be run before the walls went up.
Gannon -- whose company stepped in after another installer had done some preliminary work -- ran what's known as "structured wiring": a bundle comprising two bundles each of coaxial cable, Cat-6 network cable and -- looking toward the future -- fiber-optic cable.
Besides the main componentry stack upstairs, a downstairs utility room has a panel with a cable modem, wireless router and a compact hard drive containing Douglas Lenovicz's rock music collection.
The in-wall touchscreens, iPads and iPhones allow Leonovicz to browse by artist, album, title, etc., and display full-color cover art, just like an iPod. "Apple's running the world right now, pretty much," Gannon conceded. Well, not quite: He had to program the G! system via a Dell laptop running Microsoft Windows.
Prices for a home-automation system run anywhere from $1,500 to well into six figures, Gannon said. And while it's less of a hassle to wire a new home than an existing one, most older homes can still be accommodated through wireless-based solutions.
Once completed, the possibilities are limited largely to taste and imagination -- and not just dad's. The Leonovicz daughters -- Gabby, 15, and Olivia, 14 -- were savoring the prospect of acquiring new iPad 2s, saving the girls from the chore of turning on lights with those pesky switches.
Gabby and Olivia might want to be wary of that porch-mounted video camera, lest prospective dates find themselves relegated to curbside ignominy.
"If dad doesn't like who's there, they don't get through," Lina Leonovicz said.
The home is far from a steel-toned techno palace -- for instance, upstairs and downstairs flooring consists largely of antique pine rescued from a doctor's house in Mississippi.
But there's no denying that while Douglas Leonovicz may appreciate old wood, he's at least as passionate a connoisseur of new circuitry.
Still, the question looms: Will Lina Leonovicz come around to her husband's point of view?
"She's going to warm up to it," he believes, adding that "usually when I want something, she lets me have it. When she sees this, she might change her mind."
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Article contributed by New Orleans Home & Garden