You've done your homework and are ready to proceed with your home technology upgrade. Whether you're planning for whole-home automation, a dedicated home theater installation, or something in between, here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot.
Don't Be a Hero: Enlist the Help of an Electronic Systems Designer
Coming up with a solid blueprint for the system you envision is crucial, so plan on investing some time and money working with an experienced designer who can explain the pros and cons of different technologies and, ultimately, design a system that meets your goals and budget.
Talk to Family Members
It's important to consider how the system will be used and what kind of benefits it will bring. "Don't let a single individual take full responsibility for the design," warns Robert Gilligan, sales and design consultant for Engineered Environments, a San Francisco-based home technology pro. "Talk to the people in your life — your wife, your kids, your in-laws, the dog walker and friends who regularly pick up and drop off your kids. Ask a lot of questions to see if there's anything that can make life easier."
A professional integrator can offer many options for simplifying life — such as a "smart lock" system that lets you assign unique codes to everyone who needs access to the house and sends you a text or email when Johnny gets home from school or when the dog walker shows up.
Plan for a Robust Home Network
It's easy to lose sight of the importance of something you can't see, but a hard-wired/wireless network is the nucleus of today's home automation and whole-house entertainment systems. "The best thing a homeowner can do when they're planning is make sure the data network is well-thought-out," Gilligan says.
"The network is the digital foundation of the home," explains Aaron Gutin, vice president of sales and marketing for Los Angeles-based Access Networks. "Like a physical foundation, if it is weak in any way so are all the electronics that sit on it." Gutin urges homeowners to think of the network as an infrastructure investment like electric or plumbing.
It's also important to understand that the network will not be entirely wireless and to hire a professional who understands networking technology and knows which devices will benefit from being hard-wired - like an entertainment system designed to stream high-definition movies from the Internet.
Future-Proof Your Project
As Isaac Asimov once said, "The only constant is change." And in the world of custom electronics, one way to keep up with change is to install empty conduit in your walls. "The cables and connectors used for video transmission have changed five to seven times in the past 10 to 15 years," Gilligan explains. "You need empty conduit with a string in it so when it's time to upgrade you can pull new cables through the walls without having to rip everything apart."
For more information on planning your home technology project, consult a professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.