Home Automation: Home Theater and Entertainment

Home Theater

Many homeowners wish to reproduce the ambience of a movie theater by installing home theaters. These systems are expandable and can include other forms of entertainment such as video gaming and whole house audio and video streaming.

Setting up a home theater and entertainment system may sound like a daunting task to the average homeowner. They envision miles of wiring, expensive components and a complicated control system. A complex custom system can indeed run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. These systems are usually installed by professionals and contain the latest state of the art components.

A practical theater and entertainment system can be had by the average homeowner or apartment dweller at a fraction of those costs. The average home already has many of the components of a simple entertainment system. Components for these set ups usually include a large screen LCD, a stereo receiver, Blue Ray DVD player or a computer set up for multimedia purposes.

These components are fairly inexpensive and prices continue to fall. A 42 inch LED flat screen TV can be had for under $500. Add a multimedia computer and a set of surround speakers for $500 and you have a complete home theater and multimedia entertainment system for approximately $1000.

Saving Money

A benefit that's become more apparent in today's economy is the savings on the cost of entertainment. As an example, a family of four attending several sporting events or movies, after purchasing tickets, popcorn, drinks and snacks may spend well over $500. The investment in a theater system to stream these events into the home is easily justified.

Getting Started

For those getting into home theater for the first time and want something relatively simple, the Home-Theater "in-a-Box" may be the answer. These systems come with everything required except the TV to set up a complete surround sound system. A typical system will include a surround sound A/V receiver, a subwoofer, four satellite speakers and a remote for controlling the system.

These systems are usually medium power ranging from 200 to 600 watts output and range in price from $200 to $1000. The advantages of these systems are compactness and ease of installation. Everything required is usually included in the box.

An alternate solution is a home theater PC. This type PC connects to your TV through a HDMI port for high definition output. The Blue-Ray DVD player is built in and the computer will have DVI, USB, HDMI and optical ports for component connections. The computer adds new capabilities including streaming video, DVR functionality and PC gaming. These computers can also include high fidelity surround sound audio interfaces and TV tuners. They also offer infinite programmability through custom software packages. Typical pricing ranges from $400 to $1200 depending on the options chosen.

Advanced Systems

A home theater may be the beginning of or an integrated part of a larger automated home system. A home automation system can control a home's lighting, security, climate and home theater system. The devices communicate with the user and other devices through a network which uses a protocol such as X-10, ZigBee or Z-Wave. Theses protocols allow wired or wireless communications between devices such as lighting modules, thermostats and security cameras.

Control of these devices is programmed into a central controller. Communication with the controller can be through a touchpad, wall mounted buttons or from the internet. These automated features give the homeowner complete control of the home's environment.

A home theater that's part of the home's automated system can have many more features than a stand-alone system. The same touchpad or internet connected device used for the rest of the system can also be used for the entertainment system. This controller has the power to turn audio and video devices on or off, adjust volumes, select media sources and distribute audio and video to other rooms. Many theater systems have a separate controller capable of the same functions as the master controller.

A whole house controller may also have the capability of scene setting. Before a movie begins, the lights are lowered, room temperature is adjusted and doors are closed. If equipped with a screen and projector, the screen can be lowered automatically and the shades or curtains drawn.

Installation

Theaters integrated into home automation systems are usually installed by professionals. Considerations for entertainment are usually planned for during the original automated system install. The theater and media components are customized and compatible with the in-place automated system. Adding a home theater is just a matter of installing components and programming the system for the additional luxuries.

Not all homes are currently laid out in such a way as to make the most of a home theater system. Having a dedicated room is ideal, especially if it can be closed off to limit noise and disturbances both to those in the theater room and those in the rest of the house. Many contractors will offer home renovation and extension services aimed at helping you create a home theater area, from state of the art basement theaters to small sections of the living room partitioned off and soundproofed.

There's a home theater system to fit everyone's budget. Whether it's a Home-Theater "in-a-Box", or a fully integrated automated system, the home theater experience is yours to enjoy.

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