Smarter wiring reduces clutter, boosts control

Tom and Debbie Popejoy wanted a sleek, modern home with the latest technology, but they didn't want to spend a lot of cash on complicated gadgets with endless remote controls.


The newly retired couple did their research and realized that a high-tech home would satisfy their needs.

Before relocating from Detroit to McCormick, S.C., they learned their best option was to install the technology while their home was still under construction.

"This network enables us to do whatever we want to do in the future. So instead of rewiring, we just plug in new equipment," Mr. Popejoy said. "We're set for any new technology I might fall in love with in the future."

Ultra-wired homes, or "smart homes," as they are called, are slowly making their way across the United States.

Based on customer preferences, smart homes can be wired to control lighting, heating and air conditioning, security and surveillance systems, and multimedia entertainment systems.

The multibillion-dollar industry has focused mostly on upscale homes, but more than half of builders are now installing wiring that allows homeowners to have basic smart home features, said Gopal Ahluwalia, the staff vice president for research at the National Association of Homebuilders.

He said 10 to 12 percent of U.S. homes have multimedia technology and 40 percent have security systems.

For those seeking high-end components, the sky's the limit.

"You could spend as much as $200,000 on a media room," Mr. Ahluwalia said. "It all depends on what you want."

The Popejoys' main focus was on entertainment. In Michigan, where Mr. Popejoy worked for General Motors, the couple had a DVD player on every television set in the home. They wanted to eliminate the wires, clutter and multiple remotes, so they hired Digital HomeScape of Augusta.

Now, all wiring and cables are concealed in the wall, and all TVs in the home -- including their new 110-inch projection screen -- can run off a single DVD and CD player controlled by a single touchscreen remote control.

"You don't have to have an instruction list," Mrs. Popejoy said. "You hit one button and everything just happens without having an education in Electronics 101 to use the equipment."

The couple have a surround sound speaker system that allows them to listen to music in any room. The intercom and home security system will be controllable from their computer.

The best part is that it doesn't matter what components are jacked into the "nonproprietary" system, Digital HomeScape CEO Aaron Kent said.

"The network and structure that we put in the house does not care about the technology that's used," said Mr. Kent, a former technology consultant for Fortune 500 companies. "It will accept technology on any platform."

When electricians begin wiring a home, Digital HomeScape's crews are alongside them to install the smart home infrastructure.

"We start with the basics, which are phone, Internet and TV. Then you start adding layers onto that," he said, adding that building a "retrofit" network in an existing home is more costly.

Prices can range from $3,500 to more than $7,500. That value goes right into the home's resale price, Mr. Kent said.

Smart home systems can also be found in commercial buildings.

On Georgia Avenue in North Augusta, Digital HomeScape has wired Posey Funeral Directors, which was built in 1946.

Director Walker Posey said the technology, which was completed last month, helps enhance funerals.

The chapel and other rooms features large-screen televisions that can display videos or pictures from the deceased person's life. The screens can also be used to allow people in far-off locations, such as a soldier stationed in Iraq, to participate in a service through a Web conference. For large crowds, the screens allow people who can't get a seat in the chapel to watch the service in another room.

"We want everybody who comes to the funeral to feel like they're a part of the service," Mr. Posey said.

The whole building's climate control, lighting and security can be controlled by Mr. Posey's home computer.

Digital HomeScape is set to install the smart home technology in a Habitat for Humanity Home in North Augusta this month and is consulting with the Laney-Walker community to assist with its technology.

The construction industry has been slow to embrace the technology because of the weak housing market, but Mr. Kent expects business to eventually pick up.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or


With a smart home, you can control or monitor these features, according to your preferences:

- Lighting

- Heating and air

- Audio distribution throughout entire house

- Multimedia home entertainment systems (TV, DVD and CD players)

- Security systems

- Surround sound

- Surveillance systems

Other features:

- Control your entire home from a remote location by computer

- Intercom systems

- Lights that operate by motion sensors

- Detect biometric changes (body temperature, heart rate and respiratory levels) and the home will call 911 in case of emergency

How much does it cost?

For a new house under construction:

$7,500: Full-home automation

$5,000: Basic, plus audio, intercom and central HVAC

$3,500: Basic package -- telephone, Internet and TV infrastructure

Source: Digital HomeScape