By Ron Lennox and David Galea.
Helping you Choose an Integrator
In this article we are going to help you understand why it’s not easy to choose a home automation company and what you need to consider when hiring home automation installation services to install a system or update a current one.
We interact with a lot of clients that have already had some kind of home automation system in another home or had their smart home system “updated” recently. Usually the ones we hear about come to us because they are not happy with the results they’ve gotten, faulty control systems or spotty functionality usually. You may ask, “does this happen often?” and the answer is that it happens more often than you might think. Because choosing a home automation company, or an integrator, is not as easy as you might think.
I would note that, as Integrators, we interact with and control more diverse systems in a home than any other trade involved in it. We are often asked to make the lights, doorbells, automated shades, cameras, home theater, whole house audio, video, security system, irrigation controls, pool controls, garage doors, network, wireless devices, etc. all work together… seamlessly. Oh yeah, and we must make it easy enough for anyone and everyone to use as well… and hide all the wires.
But, with today’s technology and our expertise of more than 20 years in the business we can confidently say that most of the time, doing this is not a problem. Also, let me note here that not one of these home electronics products or the companies that created any of the diverse systems listed above probably ever thought about controlling them or making them work together. The seamless integration came later, after companies like us got involved.
A Few Things to Consider
When you’re choosing an Integrator here are a few things I would recommend that you consider:
1.) Do they have a design center or at least a showroom? And no, I don’t just mean a wall of TVs…
2.) Can they demonstrate working versions of what you want to be done?
3.) Can they prove that they can do the things you want done?
4.) If they have a showroom, is it complete, working, clean, and easily demonstrates their capabilities?
5.) Do they ask you a lot of questions about what you want to own and how you want it to work?
6.) When you do get a proposal, does it appear complete?
7.) Do they charge for design services?
8.) Are they the lowest bidder by a lot if you compare more than one Integrator?
Let me explain a few of the questions listed above in more detail and their answers.
If a home automation company does not have a working showroom, ask yourself “how can they possibly show me what an Integrated Home is all about and how it really works if they can’t even get their showroom working”? Perhaps they can talk the talk, but if they can’t back it up then your house and your life will be the ones where they will test things, and believe me, it will be a painful and costly experience.
Getting a Complete Proposal
Seeing other companies’ proposals is one of my favorite things. I cannot tell you how often we see “competing” proposals that not only include gear that is not comparable and cannot possibly do what it is sold to do but the proposal also has dozens and dozens of necessary parts just left out. This is a common trick to get you to sign on the dotted line to lock you in, then do “change orders” to get the job completed. Don’t get me wrong, no job is perfect from start to finish, but we like to get as close as possible on the first try. Products change, and the home or its designs change, but if you start with a bunch of things missing you will have to pay for those parts later.
DIY and “Saving Money”
Buying a DIY system may save you money in the short term, but those items are cheaper and easier for a reason. Buying a “like new” item is virtually a guarantee that you’re not going to end up with what you think you’re getting or a cheaper version that “does the same thing” usually won’t. If you get competing proposals from Integrators that are good at what they do and deliver what they promise then there would be very little difference in price from one to the other. If you get a proposal that is somehow significantly lower…there is a reason, maybe they forgot a component or maybe they’re trying to get by with second tier equipment.
Trusting your Integrator
If you’re about to spend significant money doing a lot of work to your most expensive asset, your home, then do yourself a favor and buy from someone that will deliver on your expectations with the proper design and follow-through with top-tier equipment from trusted brands. And don’t forget that this will be a long-term relationship and will not end after the system is installed, the truth is, it’s just the beginning so pick someone you trust and get along with.
Is Paying for Design Services Worth it?
What about charging for design services, why should you have to pay for a “simple” design? Unusually though, and more often than not, a design fee will actually save you time and money in the long run. If you’re paying for a professional designer to work on your project then you know that they’re working hard on it, it’s their job and they know all the ins and outs of a proper design. They might know the little things that integrators and contractors like to see more than some random off the street designer. This means you won’t have to pay for future unwanted renovations and redesigns.
BTA Home Simulator
And speaking of promises and expectations, back to the BTA showroom and asking lots of questions. We’ve built a simulator full of technologies from our trusted partners that can show clients all the possibilities they can achieve with home technology! Come into our Design Center in Boca Raton, Florida, to see every one of our capabilities up close with a list of emblems shown on the simulator while being able to test out small scale replicas of each.
Using premier partners like Josh.ai, Middle Atlantic, Murideo, AVPro, Kaleidescape, Control4, NAD, Triad, KEF, Ketra, Axion, Lutron and other pieces of equipment like Aprilaire, Roku and Apple TV this simulator will allow you to fully explore a completely automated smart home. Create scenes and commands that control not only the tech inside your home but outside as well. On this simulator’s small scale, you can replicate the functions explained with working speakers, TVs, doorbells, shades, lighting, and more!
Wrapping it all up
Learn how you can create lighting scenes that provide health benefits, reduce stress, and even save money! Synchronize your HVAC with shading and lighting for more effective heating or cooling, control your pool and other outdoor accessories from your phone or other control devices. Get a basic understanding of how in-depth smart home systems run throughout a home and how simple they are to control.
This is by no means an all-encompassing list of things to consider but I hope it gets you thinking about not only what your home can do but also what your integrator has to do to make it all possible.
Call us or make time to come and visit our Design Center, let us show you the systems working behind the scenes. We can give you a demo of what an entire home with all of the automated goodies looks like with our custom home simulator. Demo one of our complete media rooms or our reference level theater… they’re worth a visit on their own! Hear a HiFi equipment that will make you believe the musicians are in the room, see the gear that made it all possible installed the way BTA does things.
Ron Lennox – Ron is VP of Business Development at BTA and is always trying to save the world from bad Hi-Fi!
David Galea – David, as a part of our Marketing and Customer Experience Departments, is always searching for and writing about innovative solutions that fit into our company’s and our clients’ needs.