Finding the right home systems installer for the job may seem like an overwhelming task, but it’s crucial to the well-being of your home. With the help of a knowledgeable and skilled installation firm, your house will be ready to handle the technologies available today as well as those that will be available in the future. The trick is to hire a home systems installer early in the building or renovation project. Ideally, you should have him on board during the design phase. That way, he can establish a relationship with your architect, builder and interior designer right away and coordinate his efforts with theirs to create the house of your dreams.
Signing the Contract
The contract with your home systems installation firm should describe the scope of the work for which the company is responsible. For example, if the firm is to install a whole-house music system, a home theater and a lighting control system, the contract should clearly state that. Be aware that some installation companies charge separately for consultation and design time.
At this point, having specific makes and model numbers of products on the contract is not necessary. In fact, it may be a detriment. Your installer needs the freedom to deviate slightly from his original plan as the project progresses. Otherwise, you may end up with a TV that’s too big for a wall niche or a pair of speakers that clash with the architecture.
No electronics systems are installed while the house is being framed. But the home systems installers are still busy ordering equipment and indicating the positions of that equipment on the blueprints. The location of each device is based on the information and plans provided to the home systems installer by the architect, the builder and other subcontractors. Be sure the home systems installer reviews the equipment locations with you right away. Ideally, you should walk through your unfinished house to visually inspect where each piece of equipment will be situated. If you feel uncomfortable with anything (maybe you’d like a keypad on a different wall, for example), now is the time to mention it to your installer. It’ll be easy for him to make the change while the walls are still exposed.
After you’ve given your installer the okay on the equipment placement, all of the necessary wiring for the audio and video systems, lighting system, security system, home control system and other systems can be installed. It’s better to have too much wire than not enough, so encourage your installer to route cabling to the attic, basement, guest bedrooms and other areas. Who knows when you might decide to convert one of the guest bedrooms into a home theater or the attic into a listening room?
After all the wiring and mechanicals such as the plumbing and ductwork have been installed, the drywall goes up. At this point, your home systems installer may start programming the systems and designing the button layouts and control menus of the keypads, touchpanels, remotes and other interfaces you might be using to control your home’s lights, security devices, audio and video gear and more. Just about anything is possible through programming, so be sure to offer your input. Perhaps you’d like the screen of your remote control to match the faux finish of the living room walls. Your installer should be able to program that feature into it. Or maybe you’d like to be able to see who’s knocking at the door without leaving your home theater. This can be accomplished by creating a special security channel that tunes the big-screen TV to the surveillance camera aimed at the front door.
Installing the Equipment
After the drywall is complete, the home systems installer can attach your speakers, keypads, and other equipment to the finished walls. Installers sometimes wait to put in the TVs, surround-sound receivers, DVD players and other freestanding equipment until after you move in so that there’s no chance that the components will be stolen from the job site.
Tweaking and Training
The systems went in perfectly, the house looks awesome and you can’t wait to fire up the home theater. But wait. Before you wave goodbye to your home systems installer, you need to learn how to use the systems. If the installer has done his job well, it should take no more than 30 minutes for you to master the keypads, remotes and touchscreens that operate the various systems of your house. However, during your initial training session, and even after months of living in your house, you may discover a few glitches in the systems. For example, you might decide that the lighting in the kitchen is too bright, and the intermission button on your home theater remote control is too difficult to find. A home systems installer should be able to fix minor problems like these without any difficulty. Remember, even with the best-laid plans in the world, it’s virtually impossible to know exactly how well the systems will mesh with your lifestyle until you’ve lived in your house for awhile. Modifications should be expected. Just be sure you understand what types of modifications are covered under the contract and for how long. Some installers may give you a 60-day period where minor alterations to the systems are free of charge. Thereafter, you’ll need to pay them for their time and labor.