Al Nieber is a mechanical engineer with three patents to his name. So when he retired after 32 years of building production lines and other machinery, he was ready for a project of his own: constructing a 4,000-square-foot, zero-energy home in New Bern, N.C.
The energy-efficient home will have geothermal wells, radiant floor heating, an array of high-tech insulation products, and other green technologies like a solar-powered hot water system. “You can imagine the complex array of water pumps, electronic valves, temperature and humidity sensors,” he says. “That’s why I need a home automation system.”
As handy as he is, though, Nieber and his son Ross couldn’t do it alone, so he enlisted the aid of Snap Audio & Video, a custom installation firm in Havelock, N.C.
While some custom integrators are reluctant to work with do-it-yourselfers, Snap jumped at the opportunity to design the system, supply the products, program the Control4 automation system, monitor the DIY installation and provide consulting services as needed.
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Snap Audio & Video charged Nieber $2,000 for the original design fee, which included schematics, a DIY-friendly explanation of the products, and detailed information on how and where to pull the low-voltage wiring. For example: “Trim the wrap off the combo cable [two Cat 5e and two RG6 coax] prior to it entering the structured wiring enclosure. RG6 goes into the top left, Cat 5 goes into the top right.” Additional labor was charged at Snap’s standard labor rate. (Click here to view a slideshow of the home’s wiring.)
“Before [Al and Ross Nieber] started pulling wire, I did a walk-through and marked where things would go,” says Snap Audio & Video president Jim Allsopp. “I gave him and his son ideas as to how to pull the wire, which path I would take and so forth. I made several free spot checks when I was in the area on other paid business.”
Allsopp also went through several times and pointed out mistakes that needed to be fixed before the walls went up. He estimates that his firm spent about two hours at the house initially, and made roughly three visits (one hour each) to the site during the prewire.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.