Light It Up
Lighting is a natural complement to music. There's a real art that goes into illuminating the landscape of a yard, so for excellent results, it is best to hire a professional landscape architect to arrange the lights. After that, automate.
By automating the landscape lights, you can make the yard virtually come alive and in synch with the music. A photocell perched on an eave of the house, for example, can automatically snap the landscape lights on at dusk and off at dawn. It notices and responds automatically to the subtle changes in sunrise and sunset throughout the year.
Of course, you probably don't want the exterior lights on all night. Here's where a timer comes in handy. For the best of both worlds - photocell and timer - use a product that combines both technologies, like the Clipsal Automatic Sunset Switch ($130 RRP).
Basic lighting effects like these can be accomplished with affordable X-10 (powerline-based) products available from Eon3 and associated Eon3 dealers.
You'll need a more intelligent lighting system to brighten and dim groups of lights to spe-cific intensities (basic timers and photocells can only turn lights all the way on or all the way off). Some systems, like the iCONTROL from HPM Industries, can be installed into an existing home. Others, like the Grafik Eye and HomeWorks Interactive from Lutron (and also the iCONTROL), are hardwired into a home while it is being built.
One of the most practical areas to apply technology to is the driveway to your home. Sensors planted underneath or beside a driveway can elicit a variety of sensational effects that set the tone for any type of backyard get-together. For example, when a car rolls onto the property the sensor can activate a path of landscape lights that lead guests from the gate all the way to the front door. Other lights can brighten to accentuate the architecture of the house, gardens and other outdoor elements. At the same time, a driveway sensor - such as the Clipsal Infrascan at $175 RRP - can sound a chime or buzzer to alert you to an approaching car.
Driveway sensors come in a variety of styles. Sensable Sensors from Seadan Security and Electronics (around $300 uninstalled) offer an intelligent probe system, an inductive loop that's set under the ground, that distinguishes between a car that's entering or exiting the property. As a result, the system can elicit different responses based on the direction of the car.
Then there's the gate. Departing vehicles trip the sensor, which signals the motorised gate to swing open. An entry keypad is offered as an accessory to Magic Door Industries' range of LiftMaster products, for motorising either swing or sliding gates (from around $1460 installed). On the other side of the gate, mount a numeric keypad or proximity unit that grants visitors access to the property (such as the Servant Vandal-Resistant Q41 keypad at around $295 uninstalled from Seadan Security and Electronics).
Complement the keypad with a door answering system. The Aiphone by Audio Products Australia, for example, offers the convenience and security of speaking with visitors waiting at the gate. When a visitor presses a button on a doorbox installed near the gate, the telephones inside the house ring with a distinctive tone to let you know that your guests have arrived. You can then pick up any phone to converse with them.
The system sells for around $192, which is significantly less than the sophisticated multi-line telephone systems that provide the same gate-to-home communications feature.