9489 E STAR WATER DRIVE – A Technology House

The first time I saw this home it was a WOW. I love the layout, the appliances, the attention to detail in every room. Then I stepped out into the garage where I saw a room. You don’t usually see a room built into one of the garage bays, but there it was and when the door was opened it was pretty amazing. This was the tech brain center of the home.

Below is how the owner describes it for anyone looking at this home. As I read through the well documented pages of all that he had installed in this home I was even more impressed with the forethought that went into this place for future scalability. I’ve adapted the documents format for the web, All the words are directly from the home owner who installed everything to turn it into technological wonder home.

Technology

The house is designed to accommodate pretty much any technology available today as well as future emergent technologies. The house contains a 10’ x 10’ computer operations room with its own air conditioner. This room is the hub for all the technology used in the house. Composition is as follows:
Internet connection comes into this room and terminates at a fixed in-place rack on the east wall. Cox has certified that the connection can easily accommodate Gigabit transfer speeds. Currently the connection is running at 400 Mbps or more than 10 times than the average Tucson household. This means I can have Netflix 4K movies playing on all TV’s and computers while cruising the web on the cell phones simultaneously and still have plenty of bandwidth available.

There is a dedicated rack on the east wall to place telecommunications and computer equipment. Currently, that rack holds a patch panel that connects all Ethernet and voice outlets throughout the house (rooms have a minimum of 4 ports – 2 for data, 2 for voice). The way the patch panel is designed allows for easy reconfiguration of ports to accommodate whatever the need is, i.e., all ports for data, etc. For example, in the home office 12 ports are configured for data except for one voice port (a lot of equipment in room). The wiring is composed of insulated Category 5e cabling allowing for very high speed and power over Ethernet capabilities.

The rack also has a Cisco ASA Firewall appliance to protect all electronic (Nest thermostats, Ring Doorbell, Internet of Things appliances, and even cell phone connections) and computer activity within the house from outside intrusion.

The rack also has a Cisco Ethernet switch that connects all ports throughout the house. The switch can accommodate not only computer equipment, but any equipment that can take advantage of Power Over Ethernet such as IP phones, media servers, etc. In the past traditional land lines and IP phones were used in the house, but now with modern cell phones Wi-Fi calling is used throughout the house saving substantial money by not having to pay for landlines, IP lines, and saving on the use of mobile data. These savings account for 1⁄2 the current Internet bill from Cox – more if you include the savings of using Roku and not using Cox cable for movie channels.

The rack also has an APC UPS that provides an hour of up-time to all the equipment in the rack in case of a power outage.

The rack can easily accommodate additional equipment such as a rack mounted server or rack mounted storage (currently this type of equipment is in another rack system).

 

Photos related to Internet capabilities and computer operations room follow.


For the purposes of illustration, this section will describe how the equipment is set up to meet the current needs of the household.
In a separate mobile rack there is a server, a Synology Network Attached Storage device, and a UPS.  They are connected to the equipment on the fixed in place rack on the east wall.  The server is virtualized and provides for the following key services:

  • Email (Exchange mail server).
  • Web (personal web sites).
  • File (storage of documents, i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, photos, etc.).
  • Print (HP and Epson printers spread throughout the house).
  • Application (Calibre for Kindle and MyMovies, Cyberlink, MMBrowser, and Plex for movies and music).
  • Personal Skype system (for teleconferencing to external computers and cell phones).
  • Personal SharePoint system (for discussion boards, group calendaring, document library, and website services).

The Network Attached Storage (NAS) device is also connected to the server, but can also operate separate of the server which comes in handy when trying to connect remotely. The NAS contains 72 Terabytes of storage and currently holds the following:

  • Over 1,000 Blue Ray movies.
  • Over 30,000 songs.
  • Over 1,500 Kindle books.
  • Ring doorbell video storage.
  • Myriad of personal documents, apps, etc.

The movies and songs can be streamed to all TV’s, computers, and cellular phones in the house. Currently only 26% of the NAS storage is used allowing for a lot more movies, songs, and Internet of Things technologies to be added over time such as August Lock, SMART appliances and security systems. Through the Ethernet network movies and songs are sent to the receivers connected to all the TV’s to ensure maximum video and audio fidelity.  Via a secure VPN connection, the movies and songs are available from anywhere in the world where there is an Ethernet connection with appropriate bandwidth.

To make it easy to select movies and songs, a media server PC is set up to use MyMovies, Cyberlink, and MMBrowser software to make it easy to point and click on the TV the movie or song you want to see or hear.  Plex is used to access the media content externally on computers or cell phones. Synology apps are used to access personal documents, etc. Roku, Harmony, and Alexa devices are also used throughout the house and they have all been programmed to work together, i.e., having Alexa via voice commands adjust lights and turn on the TV, receiver, and Roku device and start the Amazon Prime channel and play a particular movie or series or having Alexa tell the Nest thermostat to raise or lower the temperature or the Ring doorbell to communicate via voice and video with someone at the door.

Photos of how MyMovies work on the system follows.

A key capability of the system is that it was designed to ensure that all activity inside the house such as Ring door bell, Nest thermostat, computers, laptops, and cellular phones are extremely difficult to hack by anyone outside of the household.  It is also designed to easily accommodate other systems over time such as CO2 and fire detectors, security systems, etc. Gaining access from outside the house to these systems require that a PC, laptop, cell phone, etc., have the appropriate security certificates installed, use a VPN and 2 Factor Authentication to gain access.

There is a lot of information provided about the system, but it is there to assure any prospective buyer that the technology infrastructure of the house is robust enough to accommodate any existing and future technologies should the desire be there to take advantage of them.  The in-wall rack will be left in place as will the patch panel.  It should be pretty easy to replicate what is currently in place and a parts list could be provided.

A key capability of the system is that it was designed to ensure that all activity inside the house such as Ring door bell, Nest thermostat, computers, laptops, and cellular phones are extremely difficult to hack by anyone outside of the household. It is also designed to easily accommodate other systems over time such as CO2 and fire detectors, security systems, etc. Gaining access from outside the house to these systems require that a PC, laptop, cell phone, etc., have the appropriate security certificates installed, use a VPN and 2 Factor Authentication to gain access.

There is a lot of information provided about the system, but it is there to assure any prospective buyer that the technology infrastructure of the house is robust enough to accommodate any existing and future technologies should the desire be there to take advantage of them. The in-wall rack will be left in place as will the patch panel. It should be pretty easy to replicate what is currently in place and a parts list could be provided.

Audio fidelity was a major requirement

Family room is 7.1 audio channel capable (front and rear surround speakers are wall mounted).
Library is 5.1 audio channel cable (all speakers are ceiling mounted).
Master bedroom is 5.1 audio channel capable (connection points for all speakers are wall mounted).
All audio wiring connectors are designed to connect to in-wall audio / video receptacles that use banana clip plugs to allow for easy insertion and extraction.

It is my intention to leave the library speaker system as is. I plan to take the Infinity surround sound speakers that are in the walls in the family room as you generally want to have speakers all match up for better sound quality. If the speakers were left the new owner would need to buy Infinity speakers for the left, right, and center channels. Not sure they would want to do this. However, I am willing to leave the speakers providing I get a reasonable price for them.
The speakers in the master bedroom would go with me as they are all external speakers that connect into the wall audio / video connectors.
I don’t intend to leave the TV mounts on the wall as they are not generic wall mounts – they are built for the specific brand and model of the TV they are holding up. The new owners would have to buy the exact same TV’s to use the mounts. That would work for the LG OLED TV as it is still being made today though most people are not as crazy about video like I am and probably would not buy a $6,000 TV just to take advantage of the mount, but not for the Pioneer Elite Plasma TV as it is no longer being produced.

Kitchen – Southwest Kitchen & Bath Designed

  • Miele electric cooktop with pot filler
  • Miele electric dual ovens
  • Miele electric speed oven
    • The double ovens and cooktop vent to the outside of the house via dedicated exhaust tubing.
  • Miele super quiet dishwasher
  • GE Profile French door and bottom freezer refrigerator with Wi-Fi capabilities
  • Sub Zero 64 bottle wine cooler with dual controls for red and white wines.
    • Willing to sell both the refrigerator and the wine cooler if the price is right
  • Reverse Osmosis System
  • Medallion Cherrywood cabinets are designed for ease of use, i.e., pantry and pot shelves slide out and the drawers are two level with slow close mechanism
  • Granite counter has a beautiful chiseled edge
  • Breakfast Nook
  • Breakfast Bar

Lighting

  • All high use rooms like kitchen, family room, dining room, library, office, and bedrooms use Lutron dimmers. 
  • All the major light fixtures – kitchen, dining room, living room, and upstairs hallway are fairly high end and expensive.
  • While the track lighting in the dining, living room, and stairs is dated, it was designed for ease of upgrade, i.e., wiring all ends up in the same place allowing for upgrading of transformers, etc. making it easy to upgrade the actual light fixtures. 
    • The lights used in the track lighting and in-ceiling canisters are museum quality Solux 50 watt bulbs which are very expensive but provide extremely consistent and accurate lighting (6500 Kelvin).  Perfect for artwork.
  • There are dual controls for the dining, living room, and stairs – one is downstairs and one is upstairs.  There are dual controls for the plant shelf.  All the light controls use electronic controllers but are not limited to low-voltage applications.
  • All the lighting fixtures are set up to allow easy upgrade to wireless / remote control.

Master Bedroom/Bath

  • Balcony with Mountain Views
  • Extended bedroom seating area
  • His and Her Walk-In Closets
  • High-end Kohler and Hans Grohe equipment – sinks, toilets and faucets.  Kohler toilets are ADA height compliant.
  • Master bathroom sinks and tub also have granite tops.  The height of the counter tops are a few inches taller to make it so that one doesn’t have to bend over as far.
  • Shower has thermos-static valves to ensure consistent water temperature
  • Jetted soaking tub
  • Make-Up Vanity

Miscellaneous

  • Library/Den with window seat could be a 4th bedroom
  • Upstairs floor, except for shower area in the master bedroom and all of the guest bathroom that have floor tile, is composed of solid Brazilian Cherry and can easily be refinished at least 6 more times.   No refinishing has been done since the floor was put in.
  • Stairs are all solid oak as is the railing.
  • In 2007 I replaced heat pump with a new Trane system.  I upgraded some of the components, i.e., the air filtration system was upgraded to a HEPA system to help with both dust and allergens in the house.  In December of 2017, the compressor started to give me problems and I replaced it and the fan motor which seemed to be getting a bit loud and drawing more electric load indicating imminent failure.  All the capacitors were replaced as well as I didn’t want to run the chance of them going out either.  So, for all intents and purposes the heat pump is a little less than a year old. In the Spring of 2017, I replaced the air handler fan motor due to it failing.  Seems York had issues with a batch of motors which they remedied by the time my motors were replaced.
  • All showers have thermos-static valves to ensure consistent water temperature
  • Bathrooms all use high-end Kohler and Hans Grohe equipment – sinks, toilets and faucets, and the Kohler toilets are ADA height compliant
  • Dual and Triple Pane Windows
  • Clerestory Windows
  • Cozy Wood-burning Fireplace in Family Room
  • Sept/Oct 2018 the porch / deck were completely demolished and a new one built.
  • Should the new owner decide they don’t want to use the computer operations room for any purpose, it is easy to disassemble.  The east and south walls are held together by 2 bolts each in the cement floor.  Remove these, slide the walls from the bottom out, and the 3rd bay is usable again for a car, etc.
  • On the south wall of the computer operations room there is a water line right behind the existing refrigerator.  It comes in handy for having additional ice during holidays or parties.
  • House had all the polybutylene water lines replaced
  • Cul-de-sac
  • 3 car garage
  • East side corner of the house at the front of the house on first floor eave is a two outlet electrical plug that is tied to the outside lights timer.  We use this during the holidays to connect lights to the outlet and have the lights come on and off automatically with the outside lights.

New Owner Easy Upgrades That Can Be Done

I added the information on wiring and future proofing as it was my intention to replace the current Lutron devices with Wi-Fi and voice activated capable switches for all the lights and fans. I was also planning to replace the current smoke detectors with Nest CO2 and Smoke detectors. My intention was to put in a Nest home security system and to replace the front door lock with an August Lock system. It would have been extremely simple to do all these upgrades because the wiring and network was set up to accommodate these new systems easily –pretty much plug and play.

Community Features

Pool, Spa, Lake, Tennis Courts, Playgrounds, Walking/Jogging Paths, Clubhouse, Fitness Center,
Basketball Courts, Wildlife Viewing & Fishing.


See what I mean.


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