You've decided that it's time to upgrade the aging technology in your home and you've been busy researching the options. "Distributed audio" systems that spread music around the house, big-screen home theater with 3D and stunning surround sound, automated systems for energy management, lighting and security that provide 24/7 control via a smartphone.
The possibilities are exciting. Things are finally starting to come into focus as you get ready to make a final decision. But the next step is daunting, and you want to be sure you're getting the best possible performance for your home technology investment.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you consider how to get the most out of your home theater or home technology upgrade.
1. Behind Every Great System Is a Hidden Infrastructure.
The features and benefits of today's home technology are so cool that it's easy to lose sight of the underlying technology - you know, the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes it possible to access a home security camera on your smartphone or turn down the thermostat from your office PC.
But the hub of a modern control system is a robust network that lets you monitor and control home electronics and makes it possible for devices to "talk" to one another. In other words, don't forget about the costs associated with setting up wired and wireless networks, which often involves snaking cables throughout the house.
Also pay attention to what can be done to future-proof your network so it can be updated as new technologies come along. The last thing you want is a system that becomes obsolete in a few years.
2. Control: Keep It Simple.
Technology should be liberating, not cumbersome. So make sure the systems you are considering can be integrated with one another and operated via a single, easy-to-use control system. You're buying an experience, not just a bunch of equipment, and you want to be able to easily take advantage of all it has to offer.
3. Quality Costs More.
When upgrade options are presented, always weigh the benefits of moving to the next level before settling on the cheapest solution. Buying better equipment today could save you money and headaches tomorrow in terms of system reliability and longevity. And depending on the systems(s) involved, paying a little more up front could make it easier to update your system in the future.
4. Get a Demo.
Would you buy a new car without taking it for a test drive? Of course not. Same with home technology. You're about to make a major investment, so choose a professional who can provide a hands-on demonstration. There's no substitution for first-hand experience. While you're at it, ask about the company's service policies so you will know what to expect if you have a problem.
5. Communication Is Key.
If your home-technology upgrade is part of a larger new-construction or remodeling project that involves an architect, builder and/or interior designer, make sure the electronics professional you're working with is in the loop from the get-go. If you want to avoid costly and time-consuming changes later, electronics gear must be part of the planning process and not an afterthought.
6. Think Green.
Saving the planet is a noble cause but there are more immediate issues, like saving money. It pays to not only choose energy-efficient electronics but to consider installing an energy-management system that lets you monitor and control household energy usage so you can lower your utility bills. Small changes can add up to big savings over time.
When you're ready to advance to the commitment stage, consult a CEDIA professional who will review your preliminary plan and help you refine it. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member electronic systems contractors in your area.