Ten years ago, it might have been difficult to find a qualified home systems installer in your area. Back then, only the rich and famous could afford a home theater or a home control system so there wasn’t a huge demand for these professionals. Thankfully, prices have dropped, and today, many electronic systems are within the financial reach of most homeowners. These homeowners are jumping at the chance to affordably incorporate home theaters, lighting systems, home control systems and other electronics into their abodes. Now that electronic systems have moved into the mainstream, the need for home systems installers has never been greater. The good news is they are fairly easy to find … if you know where to look.
In “Finding Inspiration” (see page 19), we recommended visiting an electronics boutique to learn about the different products that are available. There’s another reason to pop in: to find someone to design and install the products into your home. You might speak with a salesperson initially, but most electronics boutiques have a design and installation department. The individuals who work in this department typically spend their time out in the field, so you may need to arrange to meet with one of the project leaders at a later date.
When you’re through window-shopping, the project manager, the salesperson or both of them will talk with you in detail about your lifestyle and what sorts of electronic systems interest you. Based on the information you share with them, they may suggest other systems to consider. Naturally, if you hire the installation crew, the store they work for will expect you to purchase the systems there.
Often, home systems installers are subcontracted by homebuilders to incorporate certain electronic amenities into their model and spec homes. Because they have actually worked with a crew of installers, homebuilders can be your best resource. Call a few of them in your community to see if they can refer you to installation companies. If a builder speaks fondly of a firm, take it as a very good sign. Builders have a reputation for being slow to warm up to new technologies, so if a home systems installer has impressed a builder, you can be sure the work was top-notch.
Choosing a builder who has worked with the same home systems installation firm on several projects is smart if you’re planning to incorporate electronic systems into a new house. A solid rapport has likely been established between the construction and electronics installation crews, and together they’ve probably figured out what works and what doesn’t. For example, by working closely with home systems installers, the builder may have discovered that it’s important to construct a niche in the family room so that the homeowners have a place to tuck their entertainment system. If you happen to find a builder who is accommodating of technology, you might consider hiring him as well as the installation firm he works with. When a builder and home systems installer are in sync, the entire project progresses smoothly.
Naturally, you’ll want to learn more about the builder and home systems installer before you sign on as a client. For starters, you’ll want to make sure that their style of construction fits your tastes. A builder who constructs contemporary abodes, for example, won’t be a good choice if you prefer a traditional Colonial-style house. The same goes for the installation company: If it specializes in security systems and you’re interested mainly in home theater, you’ll want to look elsewhere. You can tell a lot about a homebuilder and the home systems installer he works with by visiting one of their model homes.
Home systems installation is becoming an increasingly popular profession, so unless you live out in the sticks, you should be able to find a firm by looking in your local Yellow Pages or through a national online directory. Look under the headings Electronics Installation, Audio/Video Specialists and Home Automation in the phone book.
However, don’t let geography limit your search. Most installation companies are willing to travel a few hours for their clients. So even if you live in Podunk, Michigan, you should still check out installers from cities like Detroit or Grand Rapids.
Several sites, including www.cedia.org, www.electronichouse.com and www.techhome.org, can provide useful information as well. Companies listed in these directories have typically been in business for a few years and have good track records. If a company web site is listed, definitely check it out. You can learn a lot about the company’s services, clientele, philosophy and professional certifications by browsing its site.