The home cinema is the big Hollywood celebrity of the smart home specification game. Everybody knows them, most people like them, and you don’t have to put them in the middle of a complicated plot to get people interested.
Smart spotlight is a regular feature where we’ll be taking a closer look at one of the aspects of a smart home for homeowners and home designers alike. We’ll be asking what it is, why you might want one, and what you might want to think about when buying or specifying one. It’s more of an introduction to ideas than a technical deep dive. Either way, we hope you like it.
For as long as I can remember, TVs have stood firm at the top of the home appliance popularity stakes. Most of us spend longer staring at them than our beloved ovens, fridges, and washing machines put together and demand for them transcends class and earnings. Millionaires and minimum wagers alike are wont to invest significant portions of their income in getting the right one.
It’s probably no surprise then that their descendants – smart TVs and home cinema systems - have led the way for smart tech, selling hundreds of millions when many smart home appliances are still pushing to manage a hundred thousand.
Like televisions before them, smart TVs have diversified to satisfy every niche and income bracket. While you can grab a cheap 'smart' TV for £200, the smart home cinema and its elusive sibling, the media room have risen to occupy the upper echelons of the AI-TV market.
Premium offerings offer far more than a massive screen on one wall: Smart media management, lighting, heating, air conditioning and audio compliment mind-blowing interior design and some serious screen-seating comfort to create a unique experience in front of the screen. Meanwhile, ultra-HD TV, multimedia services, gaming and smart home control give a whole host of spectacular options on the screen.
As you may have guessed, home cinemas and media rooms occupy significant spaces within the home. When designing a home cinema as a professional, be prepared to match the impressive piece of tech that occupies that one wall with something equally breath-taking between the other three. For many homeowners, the home cinema is an opportunity to express their wild and hedonistic side within the home. Think snazzy lighting, super cool décor and ridiculously comfortable seats that are often prone to vibrate and change temperatures on command. Some go for smooth and sophisticated, instead of hedonistically overloaded, while others opt for the traditional dark walls and subdued lights. When the film comes on, it’s all in the dark anyway, right?
We know what you’re thinking. A media room sounds like somewhere the PM might tell the nation about hands, face and space, or that place in every spy film with an unfeasibly large number of TV screens. In fact, there’s very little to distinguish it from the home cinema.
Despite the formal-sounding name, media rooms are often cosier and more relaxed than home cinemas in layout. More like living rooms where families can be together than theatres where audiences sit in rows. While the cinema / TV is still a major focus, media rooms often incorporate other home comforts and sources of entertainment, from VR goggles to mini dance floors to pool and football tables.
All it literally means is a space where people can gather to enjoy high-quality media.
This could be one of the shortest benefits sections in this series. While it takes a while to explain why one might want smart air conditioning, the benefits of a home cinema are obvious. I can sense the film buffs and binge-watchers getting excited as I write. For the sake of appearance though, I’ll lay out the main benefit:
The home cinema is your own private cinema...
...Not to mention games room, and super-hedonistic TV space. You can decorate it how you want, enjoy all the comfort you want and watch whatever you want, all at a cinematic scale with first-rate audio and visual tech.
As already mentioned, film buffs and Netflix bingers will love this option, as well as gamers who want to level up their playing time. But the home cinema and media room is also a great option for those who like to share family time enjoying something a bit different. Those who like to entertain can also get a lot out of a home cinema, inviting friends round for a blockbuster night or simply a supersized viewing of the latest Goggle Box episode.
Smart cinemas and media rooms can also be useful for businesses, providing for unforgettable pitches and presentations that competitors can’t match. They can be especially useful for highly visual high-ticket industries such as design, advertising or holiday sales.
The main point to make about home cinemas is that, unlike many smart home options, they require a big space commitment. In most cases they will require their own room, although they can integrate well with games rooms and dance floors, which can benefit from a shared or linked sound system. These would generally be installed behind the cinema seats, which are often in rows or a horseshoe shape facing the screen.
Media rooms are generally more flexible and can range from fairly focused setups to living rooms with a little extra investment in audio-visual tech.
To a greater or lesser extent in both cases, allowances for sight lines and audio fidelity place strict limits on some design aspects of the room. Meanwhile, the desire for a little flare in this room can make for some exciting and demanding design briefs. Lighting design and light exclusion are also fundamental to a good home cinema.
Home cinemas and media rooms are highly desirable and very enjoyable. For home developers and designers, they’re easy to sell, but hard to specify. The benefits and the type of people who want them are both obvious. However, there are many occasions when layout or cost may require the owner to compromise on their idea. For new builds, layouts can be designed, but constraints are significant compared to other aspects of the smart home.
If you’re an owner and you really want a home cinema or a developer committed to providing one, we can support you to create an enjoyable highlight in almost all cases though. Find out more about our home cinema and audio visual offerings on our dedicated page. When you’re in the room eating popcorn and enjoying your favourite movie on the huge screen, you’ll know that it was worth it!
Images co. Christian Collins and Light Tape UK
If all this talk of home cinema has given you a taste for movie magic in your home, book in a meeting to start planning yours below.
Whether it’s for the environment’s sake or because of the ever-increasing cost of power in 2022, saving energy at home has never seemed so important. Efforts are being redoubled to reduce the effects of climate change and energy prices are being pushed up to new heights by the energy crisis. Both of these things can be aided by effective use of smart home tech.
The good news is that savings from this are very impressive at the moment and set to get even better as technology advances and use becomes more widespread.
I’m going to start by warning you that there’s a lot of bad news in this first section. Everything gets rosier as we look at the current and future potential of smart home technology further down the page though.
Let’s kick off with a review of recent developments that could come as a big shock to many:
In the year 2000, fossil fuels supplied 80% of the world’s total primary energy consumption.
What do you think the percentage was in 2019 after the Kyoto Protocol took hold and The Paris Agreement had been reached?
That’s according to a report by Professor Mark Diesendorf, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTech Sydney
It's a sad state of affairs. In 2019, fossil fuels supplied more of the world’s total primary energy consumption than they had nineteen years earlier. That number outlines the urgency with which we need to alter our energy habits in order to promote real, positive change.
Around a quarter of the UK’s energy consumption is accounted for by domestic use. The industrial sector has cut its consumption by around two-thirds since the early 1970s. unfortunately though, British homes are still consuming the same amount as they did seven decades ago. Serious change is needed, and there are two big steps to be taken:
The importance of insulating homes to energy efficiency has been known for a long time. Yet despite the issue becoming more pressing and innovations making insulation more widely available, installations have fallen off in recent years. This is largely due to a lack of government funding or initiatives. Around 63% of household energy consumption is used for heating and as few as 9% of qualifying homes have modern solid wall insulation. Hence, it is clear that more focus and investment can make a big difference in this area. A well-insulated house consumes around 15% less energy overall than one without insulation.
Installing smart lights that are only on when they’re needed slashed lighting energy use by 87% for King’s College London’s halls of residence. These few buildings alone save 34.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually as part of an institution-wide carbon cutting drive. It acts as a clear example of just how much of a change smart home technology can make to emissions and the environment.
Energy-efficient Smart home systems can manage the consumption of many household devices. Smart devices chosen over their older equivalents often use a fraction of their energy, managing power and turning off when not in use. Smart plug sockets and similar solutions can smarten up the devices you can't or won't replace, turning them off automatically when not in use too. This could save close to 10% of household energy, which is otherwise used by devices on standby.
These savings – 87% of light energy, 10% of household consumption on standby, 12% on heating – are all impressive on their own. However, they’re only the first chapter in a much bigger story.
The new generation of smart devices go beyond cutting energy consumption by being off when not in use. They can reduce it far further by using a fraction of their full energy when partially in use. Imagine a fridge that only cools the parts where it knows there is food. Think of a laptop that lets you type a document in low power mode before waking up fully to run something more demanding. These aren’t distant dreams. I’m writing this blog on just such a laptop and we’re already specifying a wide range of super-smart appliances for our customers.
Synergy with other innovations takes the story further. Next-generation smart homes can save supermarket trips by reordering shopping and having it delivered by efficient drones. Meanwhile, smart boilers and batteries in future homes will have a big role in solving the storage problems of renewable energy. Tomorrow’s homes could loan each other energy when their batteries are too full for efficient generation. They could even plan the amount sold to the grid for maximum effect. Communities in California are looking to combine all these innovations to become energy-independent smart towns. These will save CO2 while cutting the fire risk of long-range energy transfer via pylons in hot weather.
Turning a home into a smart home can be a major step toward environmental sustainability. A well-managed smart home refurbishment can reduce your energy consumption vastly, paying off in carbon terms in only a few years. As well as owners, home designers and creators can make their practices more sustainable and valuable by incorporating smart tech.