You need to upgrade your Flash Player or enable Javascript in order to view this Flash presentation. You need at least Flash player 8 to view this.


Award-winning theater brings attention to energy management upgrades



When Cambridge resident and local TV and Radio personality Pat Carlini decided to make her home ‘smart’ for her family of 5, she enlisted the help of the electronic systems integrators at DistinctAV.

The theater and pre-wire was the first part of a whole-house upgrade plan to evolve the home to add Smart Home features, a technology where all the built-in electronics can be controlled from simple remotes, laptops, cell phones, any number of in-wall touch screens, and the home “brain” controller. Her husband, John Miller, wanted lots of features for entertaining throughout the house, but was concerned about the reliability of these complex systems.  “I didn’t want part of my house to not work.  We use every room and with my schedule I didn’t want to spend time troubleshooting it” says Miller.

These were the first steps in a long-term plan Derek Cowburn developed to reach the Millers’ goal of consistent convenience, luxury, and efficiency.  “We know some clients don’t want to do all the upgrades at once so we design a plan where each project adds to the overall system capabilities.”  Derek and his family also reside in Cambridge since moving to Indiana in 2002 from New Jersey.

“I knew Pat & John from various get-togethers around the neighborhood”, Cowburn says. “When Pat asked us to look at her basement project my designer came back to the office and said ‘That’s Pat Carlini!’  I said ‘Who’s Pat Carlini?’”  Not being from Indiana, Derek didn’t recognize such a well-known local personality.  He laughs now recalling “I guess I should have known better after seeing all the Bob & Tom and NBC-TV memorabilia–I thought she was a big fan!  Interior Design requires a lot of focus and imagination so it really gets my gears turning sometimes.”

Cowburn also points out that “Total Cost of Ownership is what counts when you’re looking to save money.  A system that is not maintained will go unused, and that’s an enormous waste of resources.” Monitored solutions by DistinctAV keep their clients systems running like new.  “It’s impressive how they [DistinctAV] can connect into our home and diagnose issues within minutes” says Carlini.  “I’ve received an email telling me there was a problem but it was fixed before we even noticed it.  It’s all part of the affordable service plan and I don’t have to worry about it.”

You don’t have to compromise on style when adding smart home features.  Pat, who loves the latest design trends, had her style wishes granted with leopard print fabric in the two rows of custom theater seating and carpeting, a tropical fish tank screensaver that turns into a 106 inch virtual fish tank, and the animated cheetah which appears on the ‘please wait’ pages of the remote control.  The basement project won the prestigious 2009 Electronic House Magazine Home Theater of the Year in the $25,000-$50,000 category.

When asked about the award, Derek said “Although our specialty is whole house systems, winning this category is ideal beause it’s well within the budget of many households and people can easily relate to a home theater.  We had so much fun working on this project with Pat and John.  They both have great opinions and involved the whole family along the way.”

With all the TVs running, the Millers can run up quite an electric bill.  In addition to showing Pat’s favorite weather maps and airport delays, the touch screens show which TVs are on and how long they’ve been running.  Pat says “It’s so convenient to leave the house and press the button from my keychain.  It activates the security and turns off all the electronics.  No more running around the house!  It even closes the garage door after we leave.”

Cowburn points out that “Reducing energy usage is half equipment and half about adjusting occupant behavior.  You can build an Energy Star, LEED-certified, high-scoring USGBC home but operate it wastefully and still use more energy than poorly built homes.  Automation is the key but it has to be done right or people will get frustrated with it and disable or bypass it.  It’s tough to avoid the gimmicks because they sound so good—at first.”

Derek should know.  He’s been designing advanced automation systems for Pharmaceutical facilities for almost 20 years.  “I applied all my commercial and industrial experience to the residential designs.  The monitoring service is even more advanced than my commercial solutions and had to be done at a fraction of the cost to have a positive ROI for residences.”  The displays and interfaces provide gentle feedback to let the homeowners know there are potential savings opportunities and the automation controller and sensors take care of the mundane energy management activities.

When asked what’s next for DistinctAV, Cowburn says “My primary role is to analyze new products and integrate the ones that really work well into the DistinctAV solution set.  I work directly with several product manufacturers to help them improve their products to give our systems some unique abilities.  I also provide most of the project design consulting with our clients–which is the part I love most because people really respond when they know you care so much about their needs and their home.”

More information on this project including ways to Green your home ‘the Smart Home way’, is available at  For additional information on Electronic House Magazine visit or Winner Article.

ABOUT DistinctAV – DistinctAV is a custom electronics systems integrator that makes homes and offices convenient, efficient, and secure to operate.  Thoughtfully engineered systems are efficiently designed, programmed, tested, delivered, installed, and supported across the U.S.

- END -