LAKE TAHOE — With the growing number of options for flooring, woodwork, custom cabinetry, granite, lighting, and dozens of other choices during the building process, it is easy to forget the role that low voltage wiring and electronics will play in the home.Most homes are wired for the basics. You are going to get cable or satellite, phone and Internet, but with a little planning, any home can be turned into a “smart home.” Think about being able to make a call from your cell phone that would turn on your front porch light prior to your arrival, or sitting at an airport on the way back from a business trip and turning up the heat so you are greeted home with the perfect temperature.How many times have you wondered if you left that one light on after you are miles down the road and wished you could just go back and check? No problem — the entire house is networked so that you can control it from anywhere in the world.The first stage of designing a home that will fulfill the entertainment needs of your family is to talk to your contractor. Chances are they either do the pre-wire for these systems or have a subcontractor who specializes in home integration to take on the project.The pre-wire phase is critical in new construction because once the drywall is in, it becomes increasingly difficult to go back and run new wiring. Even if you are not planning to install all of the electronic equipment right away, make sure the home is pre-wired for projects you think you may want to do in the future.You may want to have speakers outside on the patio for summer months, or you want a room originally designed for the kids turned into an office, and thus you want a flat panel television and Internet installed. Make sure you ask your contractor to provide you with a detailed wiring diagram so you are not left wondering where the wires are run years down the road.The pre-wire phase of construction is typically the most economical way to future proof your home. It is also a great way to ensure if you sell your home, it can be listed as smart home ready.Once you have the home pre-wired, you can move on to selecting equipment. Think about your lifestyle and how you spend your time at home. Do you spend a lot of time listening to music? You may want to consider a distributed audio system that will allow you to listen to music from your iPod, radio, or satellite in any room of the house.There are systems that will allow you to listen to something different in each room of the home, or, if you have a household that can agree, the same music can be filtered to each room. Installing flush mount ceiling speakers in each location allows for the equipment to go unnoticed, which is a huge benefit for the overall cosmetics of the room. Add a sleek flush mount keypad on the wall to control the system and you are set.If you are someone who watches a lot of movies, you may consider putting in a dedicated home theater or multi-purpose media room. With the cost of high definition projectors coming down, and the cost of movie tickets going up, it is now more practical than ever to install a front projector and a screen to give that true movie theater feeling.Couple that with the growing numbers of practically priced surround sound systems, Blu-ray players, and media servers and all you need is the popcorn to make that old guest room into the family’s favorite place to spend time.One thing is for sure — these technological advances are amazing and only get better each year. With the Consumer Electronics Show in full swing in Las Vegas this week comes the release of hundreds of cool, new and improved, home solutions. Everything from robots that roam the house with a light when you are away to give that “lived in” look to the industry’s first active 3D LCD home projector. To see highlights of the show go to www.cesweb.org.To schedule a consultation with a smart home designer or contractor, visit the CATT (Contractors Association of Tahoe Truckee) website at www.ca-tt.com and check out the list of qualified members.
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