5 Tools Every High-Tech Homeowner Needs


Guides, reference manuals and back-up CDs can come in handy after your custom electronics pro leaves your project.

Jul. 13, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

You’ve just invested a huge amount of time and money on having electronic systems installed into your home. Everything seems top-notch and is humming along nicely … until you press that mysterious button on that beautiful rack of audio/video equipment.

Suddenly, your home theater isn’t working right. No matter how carefully your custom electronics pro design (CE pro) and install the gear, glitches are going to happen. To save homeowners the hassle of calling in a tech every time there’s a snafu, most CE pros offer their customers a few tools to troubleshoot their own systems.

Here are five of the most helpful tools your CE pro can provide.

An Operations Manual. “There’s a learning curve associated with any type of remote you use to control your system,” says Marc Huebner of Enhanced Home Systems. For this reason his company will put together, upon request, an operations manual that walks you through the steps involved in, for example, playing a movie on your big-screen TV or broadcasting music throughout the house.

“The manual [shows] our customers exactly which buttons to push to get their system to do certain things,” Huebner explains. Within a couple of days of using the cheat sheet, most people have the procedures mastered.

Remote Access. We all love the instant gratification of bringing home a new piece of equipment. If your house has already been set up by an electronics professional, though, adding that new component may not be as simple as just plugging it in.

“We don’t discourage customers from hooking up something new,” says Dennis Erskine of the Erskine Group in Marietta, Ga. “But we want them to call us when then do. We want to make sure they plug it into the right input and, more importantly, that it gets programmed correctly into the remote.”

To simplify this task, it’s important that your CE pro can access your systems remotely. “With the customer’s permission, we’ll put in virtual private network that’ll let us make programming changes, diagnose problems and fix issues right from our office,” says Erskine, who only charges for major fixes. “It saves us a trip and our customers a hefty service charge.”

Diagnostics Guide. Your home enjoying your system when the power goes out. Power resumes a few minutes later, but your audio system still isn’t working.

Here’s when a diagnostics guide can come in handy, says Erskine, who provides one to every customer as a courtesy. The guide tells you exactly what to do to get your system operating again, no matter what the circumstance.

“It could be something as simple as making sure the green light on the front of your receiver is on,” he says.

Wiring Schematic. “No matter how small or how big the job, we always provide our customers with a set of prints that show where the wiring is,” says Huebner. Although you may rarely need to refer to this guide, knowing where the wiring rests behind the walls of your home will simplify installations.

Software. Some manufacturers design their systems to allow homeowners to make simple changes to the programming software. For example, you might be able to tweak the lighting levels of a previously programmed scene or create a new playlist for your music distribution system.

If this capability is important to you, make sure the systems being recommended support this feature. If you get in over your head when programming, it helps to have a back-up CD that’ll allow you to reload the software in its original state, advises Erskine.

Return to full story: