After 16 years of enjoying the suburban life in Auckland, successful electrical business owners Chris and Chantelle French decided it was time for their family, including two teenage children to make the move back to a taste of country life.
The dream move
“We'd been in town for a long time and we both grew up on farms when we were kids. So we were keen to just come back out into the country - we wanted that ruralness to be brought up with our children. It was always a bit of a dream.” said Chantelle.
After spotting an idyllic lifestyle property for sale on the outskirts of Auckland in late 2021, they sold up their home and decided to make the big move.
The large sun-soaked open plan living area with floor-to-ceiling windows, high pitched roof and majestic views over tranquil farmland and Rangitoto Island was perfect for the busy family. An impressive pool and spa area also offered easy outdoor entertaining surrounded by the distinctive sounds of farm and bird life.
“It’s the lifestyle, it's got everything here, it's nearly off-grid. So, that was a dream of mine is to go off the grid. And we're nearly there with that. The challenges are that we've had to learn to live off tank water again, but it brings back those childhood memories. It's been a nice challenge - refreshing actually.” Chantelle says.
The family found a home that had the conveniences of still being close enough to make the commute to school, work and all the essentials, while also being able to realise their rural aspirations.
The backwards step
Yet after falling in love with the home and the location, they soon discovered there were some compromises moving into the first home which they hadn’t custom designed themselves.
One of those challenges for the tech-savvy family who also own and run a successful electrical business French Electrical is that they moved from a fully automated SpaceLogic C-Bus smart home, where their daily schedules were all part of the electrical plan, and which had energy efficiency at its core, to a home where the electrical design was all completely manual.
Missing the smart home experience
“It was a big challenge. People think that it's probably weird, but when you've lived in a house that has been automated for a large part of your life, to come back to a normal standard house, it was a bit frustrating constantly leaving lights and things on. In the kitchen, light switches were everywhere. I had to switch maybe about three or four different strips of LED lights on separately, where I was used to just walking in and then flicking one on.” Chantelle says.
Qualified electrician Chris was quite bemused to discover the only five-year-old home was so behind in its electrical design. “This house had no automation at all, literally everything was manual. I mean there wasn’t even two-way switching in places which would have been incredibly logical like the main bedroom.”
The Wiser solution
Fortunately for experienced smart home installer Chris, it was a challenge he could easily solve. Using a smart home system called PDL Wiser which is designed to be retrofitted into existing homes, Chris was able to upgrade to more modern electrical technology using the existing wiring in the home, which meant the home didn’t need any extensive renovations or cut-outs to the walls, which would have needed re-plastering and re-painting.
“At this house we had a lot of single switches, so rather than running extra cabling it was just as easy to put in a couple of Wiser smart mechs and then programme them so that the lights come on together. There was an area of the home where the roof was really low, it was going to be really hard to get wiring in there and very labour intensive. With the smart mechs this whole procedure was finished within about an hour.”
“The good thing about Wiser is it can be done slowly. You might have budget for the kitchen area or main hallway or something. It doesn’t need to be done all at once. It’s the building blocks basically. You don’t have to rewire the whole house.” Chris says.
Safe and stylish upgrades
With safety and security top of mind for the family, Chris also included a few surprise extras to help the home operate more efficiently. A smart motion sensor is used to automatically turn on the lights in areas of the home, helping Chantelle who is an early morning riser safely navigate around the house, and there is even a sensor on the front door.
“One thing probably Chantelle and the kids don't realise I’ve done, is there's a wireless sensor on the front door so that when the door opens in the evening the hallway lights automatically turn on. It’s great for if you've got guests coming or for the kids if they’ve been out somewhere, they open the door and the lights are just on.”
Adding in Iconic Styl
Along with adding in new smart home technology, the switches and sockets through the main areas of the home have been updated to the PDL Iconic range. With its array of colours and designs, it makes it easy to mix and match the style to suit the design of the room. In the kitchen Iconic Styl in Silver has been used to complement the tiles, where in the bathroom Iconic Styl in Silver Shadow was preferred due to its darker hues.
Energy efficiency focus
Another benefit the French family has experienced since the home was updated is energy efficiency. “We have now managed to automate the entire house and I've got it so that at ten o'clock in the morning each day, all the lights and anything plugged into the smart power points are turned off. So cost-savings are quite good.” Chris mentions.
Along with the smart home system, fast USB charging has also been installed which can charge an average smartphone up to 70% charge in just 30 minutes. “The problem is we've only got one, so the kids fight over it” Chris laughs.
Having converted the electrical into the twenty-first century, it now feels much more like home, and ideal for this modern family. “It changes the whole ambiance of the house. It feels like home again.” Chantelle says
Their advice to anyone planning a new build or renovation is to get involved with the electrical. “Create the atmosphere. At the end of the day you are living in it and you want your home to be as personable as possible."
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