By David Wilcomb
Are you beginning a new project, adding to or improving your home’s electronics? Where do you start? Now, should you wire every room with CAT5, CAT6, CAT7? Use RG6 coaxial cable or QuadShield? In-wall or free-standing speakers? If you have no questions about any of those terms you are either a very good DIY with years of experience or you are a home integrator and a good one at that. The rest of us might want a little help.
One excellent way to start your search for a home integration specialist is to check with the Consumer Electronics Design and Installation Association, CEDIA, for short. While far from the only source of information, CEDIA’s website at http://www.cedia.net/ has a search function which lets you search by location, services offered, professional certifications and other criteria.
CEDIA members are bonded, insured and have all necessary licenses. They subscribe to a code of professional conduct and ethics designed to give you peace of mind. CEDIA members include home theater installers, but they provide much more than home theater services. CEDIA members tend to stay on top of technological innovations in home security, networking, entertainment, automation, health, energy management and future technologies. That’s a big plus, whether you’re building, remodeling or upgrading any of your home tech.
You can help avoid unpleasant surprises by checking with the BBB before you even meet with anyone involved. The BBB website at https://www.bbb.org/search/ can give you valuable information on customer complaints about businesses and reviews, favorable or otherwise. Search by business name, or category to start, then narrow your field of interest for more information. The listings are not complete but they can be a great help.
Both of these organizations are useful, but there are other avenues as well. Referrals from your friends are a very good way to continue your hunt. In Arizona always check the Arizona Registrar of Contractor’s website at http://www.azroc.gov/ to see the installer’s standing. Check first to see if the installer is licensed, then check for complaints. If there is no license, pass that one by. There may be a complaint or two, depending on how long they have been licensed, but more than that should be a red flag.
Do they have a showroom?
If you’ve found interesting-looking companies via CEDIA or the BBB, why not actually meet them. If they have a showroom, visit it. Reviews, recommendations and certifications are great but face time is important. Since a functioning showroom is a huge investment, it’s also an indication of commitment and knowledge as well as a way to get an idea of actual looks and operation of the system.
Ask for demos of the recommended equipment. For home automation products try to get hands-on experience with controls to see if the products are user-friendly and work as described. Bring your plans with you or have a very good idea of room use, furniture placement and your actual needs. The more the integrator knows about your expectations, the more likely you will get stellar results.
Try for sit-down time with the recommended speakers, and LISTEN. If you can, bring your own music to supplement the integrator’s choices. If you love Mozart you probably won’t get much use from a demo of hip-hop, and vice-versa. If you like vocal music, try for speakers which showcase voice. If singers sounds like they’ve cupped their hands in front of their mouth, move to the next speaker. If you hear screechy highs and thumpy lows, you know—vocals, (since they are in the middle) will suffer. Listen at a volume you would actually use at home.
Ask questions: How will all this work with my existing equipment? Can my mother make this work? What is your install labor warranty? What’s your upgrade policy? Will all this still be current when you’re finished? What’s your estimated completion date? Have you worked with my builder before? Will you be providing follow up service if I need it?
Another good source of recommendations may be your builder or main contractor. They may have someone they work with all the time, or they may be familiar with some of the potentials on your list. If your builder has an in-house integrator ask if you must use them or can choose another. In-house integrators have the advantage of being familiar with the builder but they can also limit your choices.
If you’re using a decorator or designer you can include them in the process. They have a vested interest in your happiness and can do their job better when they are informed. On the other hand, if you have found a home integrator you feel confident with, listen to them. They do not choose room colors, fabrics or furniture but they do know about the equipment. Take time to think about how exposed equipment will look in your home and where concealed equipment will go. Then work with your designer to make a satisfying whole.
If you’d like more information or would like demonstrations please contact Watt Integration for an in-home consultation or a visit to our showroom.
7430 E. Butherus Dr., Suite C
Scottsdale, AZ 85260