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A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH TO HOME AUTOMATION

Home Automation Installation

When most people think about having a home automation system installed, the incorporation of scads of high-tech equipment naturally springs to mind. While the installation of the gear is certainly an important part of the process, there are many other steps that should be followed to ensure that the system suits all of your needs. A home automation Dealer should be able to lead you through the procedure, but it never hurts to know what to expect along the way. If you spend some time thinking about the steps below, you’ll be better prepared and able to contribute more to the project and end up with a system that is customized to your needs.

STEP 1: FIND YOUR HOT BUTTON(S)

In most households, an automation system can make a huge positive impact, but only if you first determine which areas of your life could benefit the most from the technology. Do you envision it as a solution to your family’s exorbitant use of electricity? Or perhaps you see it as a way to better manage your busy household? Or maybe it’s simply the ability to incorporate music into every room of your house. Think about the areas of your home and life that could use improving or added enjoyment. Having a well-defined focus can help when it comes time to select and design an automation system for your home.

STEP 2: GATHER IDEAS

If you’re unsure of what you really want out of an automation system, or even if you already have a fairly good idea, be sure to visit the showroom of a home automation Dealer, and if possible, a model home that has been outfitted with technology. Here you’ll be able to experience the technology first hand, get the full picture of its capabilities, see how it enhances the look and feel of a room, and try out the controls for yourself. These demos—whether in a real home or simulated—will make it easier to envision a system in your own home and will likely introduce you to new features and functions you may have not have previously considered. You’ll also gather a sense of how the technology can be integrated in a way that complements your home’s design and décor.

STEP 3: AUDITION DEALERS

Once you have good idea of what you might like to accomplish in your automated home, it’s time to find an automation Dealer to implement it. You may have already met a few qualified Dealer during your visits to showrooms and showhomes. If your initial meetings with these Dealers were informal, you may want to learn more about the companies. What do they specialize in? Are they well practiced with installing systems in both new homes and older (retrofit) houses? How many years have they been in business? And so on. At this point, a good Dealer will likely pose several questions to you as well. Be sure to visit a few and gauge not only their business acumen, but also their personalities. Remember, depending on the scope of your project, this company will be working closely with you and your family for some time, and even in the future if you choose to add on to your system down the road, so you’ll want to feel comfortable with the designers and integrators on a Dealer’s team.

STEP 4: INITIAL HOUSE CALL

After your first visit, your Dealer may have a pretty good idea of the type of system and products he/she would recommend for your house; however, it’s only after a visit to your home that the Dealer will be certain of the best course of action. The size, structure and design of your home, whether it’s being built or already finished, and the devices and systems that you may already have, will all impact the decision on which types of technology to incorporate; for example, hardwired or wireless, types of subsystems, special features, etc. During this first visit to your home the Dealer should walk through the entire residence and inspect areas like basements, attics and closets for locations to stow equipment and run cabling. Before or after the tour of your home, expect very direct questions about the sorts of features you’d like to incorporate.

STEP 5: SEEK BIDS

After touring the home and gathering more information about the needs of you and your family, a Dealer will be able to recommend systems and provide a quote for materials and labor. Be sure to get a few quotes from different Dealers. Understandably, you might be tempted to base your decision simply on who offers you the lowest bid, and while price is very important, it’s critical to understand exactly what that bid includes. Some integrators charge separately for their design time and installation labor; others roll both into the total cost. Maintenance might be included in one quote, but treated as a separate charge in another. Make sure you understand how the integrator handles maintenance and follow-up once your system is designed. Also, as you would with any contractor, ask for references and check them before agreeing to work with a Dealer/integration firm.

STEP 6: DESIGN & PRE-WIRE

Believe it or not, a big part of an automation project can be handled right at the Dealer’s office. Based on the conversations you’ve had with your Dealer, he/she might be able to program some of the settings of your system offsite. At the same time, other integrators on the Dealer’s team will run the necessary cabling. This can take a day or a few weeks depending on the scope of the project and the types of products being installed. Often during the design and pre-wire phase, the Dealer may also be “racking” your system. This involves placing all of the various controllers, amplifiers, switchers and other gear within the shelves of a specialty equipment rack. Depending on the size of the project, some Dealers may choose to dress the rack at their office where they can test the system before installing it in your home.

STEP 7: EQUIPMENT INSTALLATION

After the system has been designed and configured and the necessary cabling fished behind the walls, the Dealer should be ready to install the automation components. This will likely include an equipment rack, as well as keypads, touch screens, speakers, TVs … basically anything attached to the walls, ceilings or floors. If the Dealer has done a good job designing and pre-wiring the system, the actual installation shouldn’t take long. At this point, it’s just a matter of hooking everything up and trimming it out by patching drywall, applying fascias to flat-panel TVs and painting over built-in speakers.

STEP 8: TRAINING

Again, if the design of the automation system is solid, learning to use it should be a cinch. Still, your Dealer will likely walk you through the process of using your phone, touch screen or some other device to control the different parts of your home. Not only will this help familiarize you with the system, but will also give you a chance to voice any concerns. Maybe the lights in the “Good Morning” scene seem too bright or the music in the den sounds a little harsh. Be sure to mention these issues at the time of the initial walk through; your Dealer may be able to fix many issues on the fly with minor programming modifications to the software.

STEP 9: FOLLOW-UP

As you use your system, you will likely discover parts of the system you’d like to change. This is fairly typical, and shouldn’t be an issue. Your Dealer should provide routine maintenance of your system, including minor modifications and additions. Even larger additions, like the integration of a swimming pool or the distribution of audio to a new wing of your house can usually be handled by the same firm that installed your system initially.

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