Q. I had $27,000 worth of home automation from Control4 installed during the pre-construction phase of my dream home in late 2005. The dealer was a “gold” dealer recommended by Control4, but my system has never worked as promised. I’ve had power surges, data loss, and constant crashes with the DVD and CD controllers. My dealer is gone and no other dealer wants to put the time into trouble shooting the poor installation. What should I do? – Rob, Chattanooga, TN
You are stuck in a rock and a hard place and I have seen this many times. Let’s discuss the possible issues going on here. I am going to split these up into dealer, manufacturer, and homeowner responsibilities. I will then discuss why other dealers do not want to get involved. Finally, I will give you some possible solutions to your problems.
First of all a dealer has many deliverables to a client. Some of these may include depending on your contract:
1. Written scope of work.
2. Quality working design and documentation that includes wires schedules, system schematics, user manual.
3. Clean and timely installation of hardware programmed into a collective whole for ease of use.
4. Systems that functions consistently.
5. On going support.
A manufacturer’s responsibility and contract is with their dealers. These include:
1. Designing and manufacturing quality equipment that will last and is free from defects.
2. Training of the dealers with respect to installation and programming.
3. Providing equipment that performs to their specifications as described in training.
4. Supporting their dealers (as much as possible) in a troubled installation.
5. Choosing quality dealers that understand and support their product.
Homeowners responsibilities include:
1. Doing their due diligence in selecting a partner/dealer that is trusted and CEDIA certified.
2. Going on “field trips” of installations by the dealer at homes showing the product they intend to install to see if it “works.”
3. Getting references and calling.
4. Agreeing to a scope of work and not changing.
5. Not selecting their dealer and manufacturer by price, but by services, product, years in business and reputation.
Unfortunately, I cannot guess as to what happened at your home. You say you have had power surges. Even with Monster Power Equipment this does not mean your equipment will be protected from brownouts. As well, if the product was installed correctly you could be protected from losses. However, ultimately does your home have a complete surge system if this happens so often?
Let’s look at your equipment not working. Is this a result of poor design from your dealer? Did you check out his references and see other homes that he installed or did you just go to a showroom? Could this be a result of a manufacturers glitch? Possibly. Control4 was at the beginning of their product lifecycle at the time of your installation. Not knowing your installation, was this the correct product for your home or was it it chosen just for price?
As you can see, there are many different answers and questions. And this is exactly why another dealer does not want to get involved. It is a no win for them. Electronic system contractors make money from hardware and installation. They need both for survival. At this point, any dealer coming in assumes all your problems.
So what to do? I assume you called Control4 and asked for their best dealers in your area to help you out. I would also ask them what they can do to help you out. You may want to get an independent consultant to discuss the various equipment agnostic approaches you could take and the relative price points each solution would cost. Most wiring configurations are very similar. You may not be happy with the prices you hear to pay for a NEW system. Ultimately, you have probably gotten burned by the combination of yourself, your dealer, and the manufacturer and there is no good solution.