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What is Home Automation?


Home automation is quickly becoming a buzz word in marketing for technology products.  Everything from thermostats, to lights, to alarm systems, and even appliances are now being controlled via our smartphones or our computers.  You’ve probably even seen major alarm and cable service providers pushing home automation systems lately.  Can you turn on a light in your home while you’re at the office? Sure.  How about setting your alarm from the airport when you realize you left the house in a rush and never turned it on?  Of course.  But a properly designed system can do so much more…

So what is home automation?  It is the integration of all the systems in your home into one smart design that works for you instead of giving you more things to do or worry about.  Instead of being able to turn your lights on and off while you’re away from home, how about a lighting system that knows when you are home, because it can communicate with your alarm system and knows when it is armed in away mode for instance.  A smart home would also know what time of day it is and even be able to measure how much natural light is in a room, allowing it to dim and adjust lighting in a room based on all these factors without you having to touch a single button or open an app.  You may have seen some smart locks being sold in stores.  Can you imagine your home knowing who has arrived, and based on the time of day you’ve arrived, setting the lighting mood you prefer, turning your audio system or TV on to your favorite station and arming your alarm in the “stay” mode for you automatically?  This is true home automation.  You may be conjuring up images of the Jetsons and Rosie, their robot maid, cleaning up and cooking for the family, and thinking this is just a cartoon.  Technology has finally caught up to our imagination and allowed some of these things to become reality… Although we’re still waiting for our flying cars.

With so many systems already installed and operating within our homes such as, lighting, HVAC, Audio, Video, Security, etc… doesn’t it make sense to get the most out of what you already have in your home.  We actually want the left hand to know what the right hand is doing in this case.  We can leverage so much information from one system in your home to make other systems feel like they know exactly what you want them to do without you having to tell them.  With so much technology at our disposal, it shouldn’t feel like we have more things to do or check up on, but that’s exactly what it seems to be doing.  A well planned home automation system can make your life easier and less clumsy to get the most out of the investments you’ve already made to your home.  Call First Priority Audio today to let us get the most out of technology for you and your family.

Music changes your home. I can prove it!


I did not grow up with music playing in my home every day... maybe the occasional Saturday or Sunday as we cleaned the house.  If there was music playing, it was in my room as I played video games as a kid.  My wife, on the other hand, had music playing in her childhood home much more than I did.  I'm assuming that's part of the reason she can recite lyrics from decades old songs from memory as though she was forced to memorize them for an exam.  Either way, she lived with music in her home and she has grown into an adult that loves to add music to any occasion or task.  When we first moved in together I noticed that I was playing music in the home much more often than I had when I lived alone.  As we add whole home music to more and more rooms in our home, this has become even more common. If we aren't actively watching something on TV, there is music playing somewhere in the home.  Our shower routine will never be without music again... a la Ferris Bueller!

Recently, Sonos in conjunction with Apple Music conducted a study on music's affect in the home, and the findings were nothing short of amazing.  The study was led by Daniel Levitin, who has literally written the book on music's affect on your brain.  In short, 30,000 general music listening people were polled, and more importantly an experiment was conducted in 30 homes throughout the world. For 1 week, those homes were not allowed to play music aloud... then the next week they did.  Levitin called the findings of the study "a nexus of intimacy and togertherness".  Music really does bring people together.

Here are some of the findings that jumped out at me:

  • The average distance between household members decreased by 12%.
  • In the US, family members spent 4 and a half more hours together with music playing than without.
  • People were 33% more likely to cook together & 58% said the food even tasted better...
  • 85% more likely to invite friends and family over...
  • 15% more likely to laugh together...
  • 18% more likely to say "I love you"...
  • 24% less irritable...
  • 25% more inspired...
  • 16% increase in overall positive feelings...
  • 22% more physically active...
  • 66% more intimacy...
  • couples spend 37% more time "awake in bed" (you know what that means)...
  • and household chores were 80% easier to complete

As you can see, a whole house music system can really change the way you live and love in your home.  With more and more technology pushing relationships away from face to face interaction, a home music system can bring everyone back together.  I can honestly say from experience that it has changed my home life and I'm sure it will do the same for you.

When you are ready to add life to your home with a whole house audio system, First Priority Audio will be there to help you!

Isn't there an app for that?


Have you ever experienced first hand a fully automated home? You know... where you walk into a house, press one button by the door, and magically the lights turn on, the music system starts playing your favorite station, and your alarm is disarmed? A true smart home allows you to integrate multiple parts of the home into one system, so you have one point of control for everything in your home.  From shades and lights to audio and video, and everything else in between an automated home can bring it all together.  The beauty of an automated home is made in the background... in the programming! Your home integrator really earns his keep making sure all the systems communicate with each other, allowing you to create the perfect scene in your home with the touch of a button.

If you've ever looked into a home automation system though, you know they can get pretty expensive. The questions we get most often as home integrators is... "Do I really need that?" That answer, unfortunately, isn't an easy yes or no.  It all depends.  Do you really need all your home systems to communicate with each other?

Let's face it... We live in an app based world and we all have dozens upon dozens of apps on our phones and tablets.  Some of these apps we use on a daily basis and some we don't even remember why we downloaded in the first place.  But when it comes to controlling our homes, we may not need an automation system to connect everything together.  Some of us are perfectly happy having one app to turn on our music, another app to control our lights, and another to check on the home alarm or security cameras.  Sure it's really cool to press one button on your keypad and have the lights to your TV room turn on for you to light the way, and have the TV turn to your favorite channel before you even hit the couch... but that simple enough task brings with it more electronic components and programming time that you are ultimately paying for. Don't get us wrong... We'd love to sell you a true home automation system! But it's not for everyone.

Some of the better companies out there like SonosNest, and Vantage Controls offer amazing apps to control their products.  You should certainly leverage their research and development teams and use the apps they are testing and improving on every day.  Think about it... These companies only have to focus on improving their product, and not on communicating with every other product on the market. This allows them to funnel a lot more of their resources into user experience... giving you a stellar app to use every day.  Sure you can't turn on your lights from your music app, but do you really need to? If you are comfortable with the concept of one app for each system in your home... and you know where the home button is on your phone... I think app based control is for you!

If you're ready to explore app based home control further... First Priority Audio is here to help.

I’m smart… I’ll make my home smart too


A study conducted by Coldwell Banker and CNET in August of last year found that 28% of homes in the US have smart home devices… And that number is only going to grow in our opinion. But what is a smart home device really… and how smart are these devices? Are we talking Skynet from Terminator or more like Jarvis from Ironman?  We are still years away from artificial intelligence of that magnitude so no need to worry about T2 showing up at your door!

Today’s smart home devices come in all shapes and sizes from the Nest thermostat to the Amazon Echo, to complete home automation systems from companies like Vantage Controls or Elan.  On one end of the spectrum we have products like Nest that are truly great at what they do, which is manage and automate your air conditioning system. They also have a great app with an easy to use interface that makes interacting with the system a pleasant experience.  You even have the ability to control your air conditioning from anywhere in the world that you have internet access.  But it stands alone in your home and doesn’t really communicate with any other smart devices unless you add a middle man like the Echo or a full automation system.

The Amazon Echo allows you to ask it questions and “communicate” with it a la Jarvis in the Ironman movies.  Sure you can have the Echo turn on lights and even adjust your air conditioning by asking it to, but there are several limitations.  First, and most importantly of which, is that this is a do-it-yourself product and you are now the technician assigned to keeping up with software updates and figuring out how to make all the smart devices “talk” to each other.  Secondly, you are limited to using only approved products that the Echo can communicate with.  Will that list of products grow with time? Sure, but it is likely that the list will just accumulate more and more do-it-yourself products.  What does this mean for you? More software updates and technical understanding of how it all works together.  This may work for the more techie consumer, but it is likely not the route most people want to take.

This is where complete home automation systems come in.  Sure they will cost more upfront and you won’t be able to program them yourself, but it will be a reliable and professionally installed system.  Do you want to build your own car from parts you ordered over the internet from different vendors, or do you just want to go to the dealer of choice and buy a fully functioning car? Expanding on the car analogy... When you have car trouble you typically take the car in to the dealership or your trusted mechanic, but who do you call when your Echo isn’t turning on the light you asked it to? Amazon? The lighting company? Your wifi router manufacturer? You see where I’m going with this?  With a professionally designed and installed home automation system you have one phone number to call when something doesn’t seem to work just right… and trust me that will happen no matter how “perfect” your installation was.

When you’re ready to make your home smart… Call First Priority Audio! We’re here to help you.

Why Invest in Landscape Lighting?


Have you ever been out for a drive or an evening walk and noticed a beautiful home that you can’t help but admire? The one thing they most certainly have in common is a properly designed and installed landscape lighting system. Many homeowners have spent enough hours and money on their landscaping that they could have taken a nice vacation with their family, and yet only get to appreciate their investment during the day when the sun is shining. Why would you add value to your home with landscaping, and not be able to enjoy its beauty at night as well? This is just one reason to install a landscape lighting system. Not only can you highlight the trees, flowers, and shrubs around the home, but you can highlight the architecture and charm of the home itself. Create the perfect ambiance for outdoor entertaining with mood lighting around your pool or fountain, your deck, or your patio area.

Aesthetics are not the only reason to install a landscape lighting system… How about enhancing security and safety? Statistics show that unlit homes are 3 times more likely to be burglarized than a home that is properly lit. Although lighting can't prevent crime, it will certainly make a criminal think twice about which house to approach, and more often than not steer him away from your well lit home. Do you have steps leading to your front door or connecting your driveway to your walkway? Lighting can prevent unnecessary accidents from tripping hazards by properly lighting a pathway and highlighting steps so that your family and guests can move safely throughout your property.

A properly designed landscape lighting system is usually not a "do it yourself" project. There are many variables to consider like type of light, wattage, location, and placement just to name a few. You may have seen a home with deep shadows creating a ghostly feel, or poor contrast creating poor color replication for the home. First Priority Audio has the experience and training necessary to make these design decision for you and create the best landscape lighting system for your home. 

We have tried and tested several landscape lighting solutions, and we know the critical details that make a solid product. First thing to consider is whether to choose a line voltage or a low voltage system. Line voltage products require electrical wire that is rated for in-ground use or have a professional install proper conduit and wiring for your environment. This can get costly in terms of labor, not to mention the lighting fixtures themselves tend to cost more than their low voltage counterparts. Low voltage systems tend to be easier to install because the risk of handling the wiring is much less than a line voltage system. The wiring and connectors themselves are critical in a landscape lighting system as well. You want to purchase a product that is well insulated and water/air tight so that it can withstand the elements, especially in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami where humidity and water are a given. Next you want to consider the range of fixtures available with the system and make sure that there is enough variability to cover all the needs of your project, including type of light, size of fixture, and finishes to match your décor. Finally you want to consider the product warranty. Since your landscape lighting system will be in direct contact with the elements and affected by your landscapers and gardeners, you want to have a warranty that keeps your investment safe.

Call First Priority Audio today at 954-650-3074 to have us design and install your landscape lighting system. Did I mention the products we have chosen to work with from Coastal Source come with a LIFETIME WARRANTY? Live near the water in Miami or Fort Lauderdale and are worried about saltwater damage? No need to worry… Our warranty covers that. Has your gardener ever broken a landscape light with their lawnmower? No problem… our warranty covers that too. We look forward to hearing from you.

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