By Elissa Sard Pollack March 10, 2011 8:30 AM
Switching Things Up – Cutting-edge controls signal a new level of sophistication
Imagine a world where you can touch a screen in one room of a palatial home and change the color of the lights or the look and sound of any of five different water features on the property. On the same screen, you can view the car approaching in the circular drive, and then switch the view to see whether or not anyone is in the pool or spa at the moment. Touch the screen a few more times to bring up current temperatures in the pool and spa and adjust them if necessary.
Visit one particular home in Florida and see all of that and more happening for real, right now. The 25,000-square-foot home featured on these pages has a swimming pool and attached raised spa, a reflecting pool, two tiered fountains and several other water features, all illuminated with color-changing LED lighting and controlled using pool/spa automation that is tied into the home automation system. This level of sophistication reflects two important trends: increasingly reliable wireless digital communication and increasingly sophisticated mobile-device and touch-screen technology. It also demonstrates that the pool industry has at least a few manufacturers and builders keen to embrace those trends.
Joe Dudash, owner of Water Designs of Sarasota, built the pool, spa and water features, working alongside other design and construction professionals including a home automation contractor for whom Dudash had previously built a pool. Having that positive relationship going into this project helped the two work well together to achieve seamless results for their shared client.
Among the client needs met by the automation controls is the ability to turn each water feature on and off independently from the others and from the pool and spa. It took two high-end control systems with expansion kits to provide all the necessary hook-ups for the pool lighting, spa lighting, four variable-speed pumps, a blower, deck jets and multiple fountains.
In the near future, Dudash expects to install cameras selected to work with the pool automation controls, in addition to the home security cameras already in place. With cameras trained on the pool equipment, Dudash (or the homeowner, or anyone else with Internet access and the appropriate login information) would be able to get a visual read on the equipment from an office or any other location with Internet access.
Even without the auxiliary cameras, Dudash, whose company currently has a pool service contract for the property, expects the client to upgrade so he will be able to monitor, troubleshoot, and adjust the pool equipment from any remote location via the pool automation system. “If he goes for the full package, and I think he will, my service guy will be able to sit at his computer and monitor that property over the Internet,” Dudash explains. “He’ll be able to test fire heaters, check flow, adjust saline output for the salt chlorine generator, and diagnose problems.”
Because all the conduit and other infrastructure is already in place, that upgrade will require a relatively simple interface, not unlike a basic modem with an IP address that can then be accessed through a Website provided by the controls manufacturer.
Once that is in place, the homeowner will have remote control access of his water features, lights and other equipment via an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, and Dudash or his employees will be able to run complete diagnostics without going to the property. Both are critical and exciting elements of state-of-the-art pool automation.
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