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It’s never easy to decide on electronic systems for your home.There are simply too many remarkable products to choose from. But remember, just because a system is cool doesn’t mean it’s going to be right for your house. SmartHouse shows you how to how to get the most out of your kitchen.

There are many exciting options for smartening up your home: plasma TVs, “invisible” speakers, security cameras that plug into the Internet and touchscreens that operate everything including the kitchen sink are just a few of the cool products that can easily capture a homeowner’s fancy. But the key is to select items that will suit your lifestyle and fit into your family’s routines. Remember, as long as the electronics you choose enhance the comfort, convenience and enjoyment of your home, you can’t go wrong.

THE KITCHEN


People gravitate to kitchens, why not make the most of them as an entertainment area? Your kitchen already has technology. A fridge, microwave and dishwasher are the cornerstones of every modern kitchen. But this space can be so much more than a place to cook, store or serve foot. It can be a great spot to entertain friends and family, watch a movie, surf the Internet, pay bills, even relax and do nothing.

Depending on how you plan to use your kitchen, there’s a bevy of electronic systems ready to be incorporated into it.

A multi-room music system lets you have tunes in the kitchen without a boom box eating up precious counter space. In fact, a multi-room music system requires no extra space at all. Depending on how it’s designed, it can pull tunes from a family room CD player, a digital satellite receiver and other audio components. The music travels from the source over cables to speakers in the kitchen. An installer can route the cables behind the wall (a task that’s much easier and less expensive during construction) and mount the speakers flush with the wall or ceiling surface so that they stay hidden.

Depending on the design and size of your kitchen, you’ll probably want to plant several speakers throughout the room. Identify areas where you will be most likely to listen to music, such as in the breakfast nook, by the sink and stove, and around any workstations.

The only part of a music system that you’ll need to have nearby is some type of control device. This might be a simple volume control knob or a full-blown keypad that lets you do everything from select a song to adjust the tone. Either type of control can be mounted to the wall.

It’s also a good idea to incorporate a display into the kitchen. To preserve counter space, you can ask your installer to mount the screen into a wall or hang it from the bottom of a kitchen cabinet. Many under-cabinet TV mounts are designed so that you can flip the screen up and out of the way when you’re done watching it.

You may never sit down in the room to watch an entire movie, but with a TV available, you’ll be able to catch the news over your morning coffee and entertain as you cook. And when you need to break away from a movie that’s playing on your big-screen TV in the family room to make popcorn, you can turn on the kitchen TV and never miss a minute of the action. You’ll most likely need the expertise of an installer to enable the kitchen display to receive video sources from your main viewing room.

Satellite office
For serious computing, nothing beats having a dedicated home office. But there are other places in your home that deserve a little computing power as well, and one of the best places to set up a satellite office is in your kitchen.
The location is great for multitaskers. You can zip off a few emails while keeping your eye on the stove. And thanks to wireless technology, just about any countertop in a kitchen can serve as a temporary desk. A wireless networking system can let your laptop in the kitchen access printers, computers and modems located elsewhere in the house. You’ll be able to surf the web from the convenience of the kitchen counter without even having to plug in your computer.
However, if you envision having a computer be a permanent fixture in the room, you’ll want to build a dedicated area for it. Separating the computer area from the cooking area is good idea for the safety of your equipment and for the design of the room. Position the computer and other equipment away from water, cooking grease and hot plates.

To keep the space from becoming too cluttered, place the printer, modem, fax machine and other peripherals in the pantry, a nearby closet or another room altogether. To accomplish this, you’ll either need to have your house wired with Ethernet cabling while it’s under construction or have a wireless networking system installed. Opt for the wiring if possible, as the computer will be able to communicate with the equipment more reliably that way. For the communication to happen, you’ll need to have a networking jack and a power outlet installed at each equipment location. As for the computer station, load that area up with multiple jacks and outlets to accommodate any new technology you might add.

Cooking
No matter how much entertaining or web surfing you do in the kitchen, it’s never going to take the place of a family room or a home office.
With a refrigerated oven, for example, you can pop in a casserole before you leave for work and have it hot and bubbly by dinnertime. The oven keeps the dish cool until the preset cook time. If you’re running late, the oven goes back into refrigeration mode so that the food doesn’t spoil.
Also available for your cutting-edge kitchen are refrigerators with built-in TV screens and Internet connections.

Sucked in
Central vacuum systems do more than offer a convenient means of cleaning areas of your home. They help reduce allergies by picking up dust, dirt and pollens that traditional vacuums leave behind. And you don’t need to build a new house to have one: Most homes can be retrofitted for a central vacuuming system.
Central vacuum systems are largely distinguished by their filtration methods. Many use bag systems with cloth filters, while others use cyclonic systems to separate larger particles and exhaust the finer ones into the outside air. Still others use a combination of filtration methods. Be sure to match a central vacuum system with the size and demands of your house.

Household management
The kitchen is a most convenient spot from which to monitor and control your home’s temperature, lights and security sensors. From one keypad mounted on a wall in the kitchen, you could set the thermostats, turn off the lights and arm the security system before you leave for work. Some keypads can also function as intercoms, which make them incredibly handy to have around.[endlogo]

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