Category Archives: Residential

Fall Checklist

It is that time of year again to go through your pre-holiday season electronics checklist.

As we get closer to holiday season, (what we consider Thanksgiving through Super Bowl Sunday), it is time to check your electronics to avoid last minute scheduling conflicts.

1. TVs: Do they all work? Check picture quality, sound, remote control usage, connections to components, i.e. blu-ray/DVD, game stations.

2. Audio: Check sound quality of each and every speaker. You need to literally put your ear to the speaker to ensure sound is coming out. Keep in mind, you will not get sound from rear speakers of a surround sound system if you are not playing a surround sound source, like the news or older TV shows and movies. Check for quality, i.e. fuzzy, static sound. Don’t confuse the sound of the operation of the speaker with it being flawed. If you are very close to a speaker, you may actually hear a slight hiss. That is ok. You won’t hear that as you move away. But, unusual sounds could mean either a problem with the speaker or a calibration issue with your receiver.

3. Quantity/Quality of Electronics: Do you have what you want? Is your TV the size you want for your extended family to watch the Thanksgiving football game. Don’t wait until the week before to go out and buy the 65″ TV to be mounted the week of Thanksgiving. You may need a new mounting bracket and of course, an installation crew. If you get a good deal on a TV and buy it, just set it on a stand until it can be wall mounted later if that is what you want. However, be sure it will fit the area as once you buy and use the TV it is not returnable without a restocking fee.

4. Renovations: Many people start renovations now to prepare for the holidays, i.e. redo their kitchen, family room, etc. If you are starting renovations, don’t forget about your wiring. While general contractors will put in low voltage wiring, it is not their specialty and we have seen many instances of it done wrong or with poor quality cable. You may want to have us quote you on doing the wiring, as we won’t just wire it, but design the wiring around your current and future needs and wants. If you’ve already started renovating, wiring needs to be put in right after electrical, so call right away to see if we can help.

5. Plan for future purchases. If you know you are going to get electronics either during Black Friday or during the holiday, and you are going to want those electronics installed, you can still get your home pre-wired now. We can route the cable & have the wire in place, so as soon as you get it, all we have to do is come back, cut the drywall where we left the cable, pull it through, install the mount & attach the components. That way, you aren’t waiting weeks from the time you get the TV, speakers, etc. to the time you get to actually enjoy it.

If you have any questions regarding electronic changes for the holidays, email us atinfo@home-netsolutions.com and we will reply. Keep in mind that we can’t really tell you what make or model to buy, as that is a personal choice based on many factors. However, for TVs we recommend Samsung for LED, LCD and Panasonic for Plasma, as a general guideline. Our October newsletter will feature an article on “How to Select a TV” so be sure to check it out.

 

Why we like Bose®

in memoriam to Dr. Amar Gopal Bose who passed on July 12, 2013

While we try to remain vendor neutral when specifying systems to clients looking for a home audio or theater system, Bose® has always been a preferred brand so in memory of Amar Bose who passed away on July 12, 2013 at 83, we’d like to tell you why we like Bose®and why we suggest Bose® audio to many of our prospective & existing clients.

Quality

Bose® hasn’t been around for nearly 50 years by providing poor quality products. They spend years researching sound and don’t put a new product on the market until they have created something that uses their own unique technology to create a great audio experience for the consumer. Bose® is not the top choice for serious audiophiles who are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars for their sound quality. But these are not the people Bose® targets. As they say on their website “our vision is guided by human interest – how better sound affects us or what it means to find joy in products that work exactly how you want them to…”

Customer Service

We have been reselling and installing Bose® for 10 years and of all the companies we have dealt with, they are by far the best in customer service. We have assisted clients with damaged Bose® systems due to storms. Even when the product is out of warranty, the cost to replace pieces of a system are extremely reasonable, and the process is fast and seamless.

Training/Education

Bose® has high expectations of the people that install their products and will not sell certain lines of products to just anyone. If they feel that the customer will not get the full experience of their product without the installation being done by a certified installer, they will not sell it to the consumer, nor to anyone that has not been through their training and passed testing. That is why we are a Certified Bose BUILT-INvisible® designer.

Value and Longevity

Before we started Home Network Solutions, we owned Bose® speakers. Eventually we upgraded to a Lifestyle® system, but we still have the surround sound speakers set up on a 2nd television. That set was purchased around 2001. They still sound great and while they are larger than the newer ones & the subwoofer is “huge by today’s standards” we know that until we decide to retire them, they will continue to give us quality sound.

Ease of Use

If you compare a Bose® control device to any other you will find it has a lot less buttons to push. That is because Bose® wants you to get to your sound quickly without jumping through hoops. Their new Lifestyle® system allows you to hook up your portable device to it versus downloading CDs as previously done, thus giving you even more control over playing exactly what you want based on your music library.

Variety

Bose® has just about any product you need for an audio experience. We don’t sell the personal line of products but their headphones are top rate and their WAVE® Music system is great for apartments. Bose® audio can also been found standard in many automobiles or as an upgrade. As for their home audio speakers and theater surround sound, they offer different choices at different prices from stereo bookshelf speakers to choices of sound bars with and without subwoofers and 5.1 Home Theater systems. From our perspective, we like the fact that if we recommend a specific system to someone and the pricing is a bit out of their budget, we can come back with another Bose® system at a lower price that will still give the client a great sound experience at a lower cost.

 

Thank you Dr. Bose for your technology, your contributions to MIT and to the world. We know your values will continue to keep Bose®in the forefront in consumer audio. For a biography on Dr. Bose & company remarks visit  http://www.bose.com/remember/statement.html.

Saving Electricity with Electronics

Inexpensive Solutions

Summer is here and we have begun to run air conditioning. The kids are home from school using computers, TVs, opening up the refrigerator and leaving lights on after leaving a room. So, we thought these tips might come in handy.

Tip 1: Lights left on in rooms can use up a lot of electricity. You can change to compact fluorescent bulbs, or if you are determined to stick with regular light bulbs, switch to motion lighting, even if you only pick a few rooms, such as the kitchen or hallway where you will be moving only when you need lights on. Bedrooms or other places that a person might sit still (reading) are not always the best choice for motion lighting, as you’ll be waving your arms about to keep the lights on.

Tip 2: Nighttime shut-down. This is not just good for electrical savings, but also
a good idea given the number of storms this time of year. Be sure your computers are plugged into a power surge suppressor & turn it off at night – complete shutdown of computers, printers, etc. You can also do this with your TV and components.

Tip 3: Pull the blinds and curtains when away. If you are not going to be home or
using a room, pull the blinds or shades to darken the room. This will keep the room from heating up and require less air conditioning. Also, control your thermostat if you have multiple air conditioning/heating systems in the house. If you are not going to use the upstairs during the day, you don’t need to cool it. Same goes for nighttime usage of the downstairs. Most thermostats allow you to automatically adjust the temperature at different times of the day. If you don’t have one, consider getting one…they are not expensive.

Tip 4: Group laundry & dishwashing. Even if your teenagers are at an age that they should do their own laundry, having them wash 1/2 loads of their own clothes is going to crank up that electric. Same goes for dishwashing – be sure you have a full load before running it and do it late so you can set it to the energy saver & let the dishes self dry overnight.

Even if only one of these tips works for you, you will see a savings in your utilities bill.

Solutions that cost more now, but pay off later

These solutions will cost you some money up front, but research has shown that in the long run, you will have huge savings and of course, contribute to saving our natural resources.

Lighting: Switch to a lighting system. Lighting systems allow you to control the
lighting in your house in a variety of ways. You can have lights turn off and on
at a set time, control lights via your smart phone or pad, synchronize lights to
do what you want. For example; instead of going around to check that all lights
are turned off before you leave or before you go to bed, you can press one button and all lights that you have designated to turn off will simultaneously turn off.

The nice thing about lighting controls is that you can start small and build your
system over time, adding devices and rooms. A central unit is needed to create the system and then individual units are needed for each light or group (i.e. recessed ceiling), throughout the home. HNS prefers Lutron lighting and is fully trained & licensed to sell their lighting control systems.

Shades: If you have a home with a lot of windows, then shade control can be a huge savings to your electrical costs. Shades operate similar to the light controls, in that they can be set to all shut, partial shut, i.e. up halfway, down halfway,shut in different rooms, etc. You do need special shades/blinds to have this capability,but if you haven’t already purchased shades/blinds or are ready for some new ones,then this is the time to consider going electric.

Whole house control: There are a variety of systems out there that control everything in your home. These come in stand alone, built in wall units and iPad application. They can control your lighting, HVAC, electronics, appliances, and more. What you want to control is dependent on you and you can add devices & control over time.

Power protection/Plugs: There are specially designed “green” plugs and power protection devices that will regulate your electronics. In other words, they know when to shut down devices based on usage of electricity. These are too complex to explain in a paragraph, but feel free to ask us about them if interested.

Keep the volume under control

If you have in-ceiling speakers throughout your home or are considering getting them installed, you need to understand the limitations to this type of speaker. These speakers are made for “easy listening.” When I say “easy listening” I mean, they are not made to crank up the volume on the receiver or your room’s volume controls to the max. If you want really loud music, you need to have floor or bookshelf style speakers that are created for “cranking it up” as my kids would say.

There are multiple dangers in playing in-ceiling speakers too loud. One; you can blow out the speakers in either one zone or multiple zones. Two; you can blow out your amplifier. Worse case, you can do both.

So how do you know if your turning up your amp or volume controls too much? In one word. Distortion. When playing your in-ceiling speakers you should be able to clearly hear the vocals and instruments. If the bass sounds “muddy” than you are possibly overdriving one or more components of the system. If the vocals pop or sound scratchy, the same thing applies.

So, to get the most out of your in-ceiling speaker system, you need to have a balance between your amplifier and your speakers. For example: a 100 watt amplifier driving a 50 watt speaker will work fine at low listening levels. But, if you turn it up, you will now damage the speaker because the amplifier overpowers the speaker.

Projection Systems

Is a projection system for you?

As flat screen TVs have gotten larger, you would think people would veer away from projection systems. But, once bitten by the “big screen” bug, many consumers just want more than what the market offers in flat screen TVs. This is especially true if you have the right room layout for a projection system.

So, if you’re looking for that movie theatre 100+ size image, then projection is the only way to go.

With projection systems, you have 3 major components: the projector, the screen & the sound. Obviously, wiring is involved, as it is with flat screens, and there are lots of extras, such as custom made furniture, acoustic sound silencing, universal remote systems, even devices to make your seats shake. But, we’re not going too fancy in this article. We’ll keep it to the basic three.

Projectors: Entry-level projectors at 1080p HD resolution will still cost around a thousand bucks. But for 1-2K more, you can get better video processing, features like 3D functionality and better contrast (Darth Vader looks black not gray). Step up to the big-spender category, and you can enjoy videophile-grade picture quality with great colors. The deepest blacks, and the kind of robust picture that might make you forget how much you paid.

Screens: Most people go with either mounted or drop-down screens. You can have a screen mounted to the wall or a screen that is ceiling mounted & electronically comes down the wall for viewing. There are benefits and drawbacks for both styles. There are also screens that are specifically made for areas of high ambient light so your picture is not washed out. If the room has windows or high levels of ambient light, there are other things that require additional analysis as well.

Audio: With a projection system, you have to have separate audio, so you need to consider a receiver and speakers. The size of the room that your screen is going in will determine your speaker requirements. You need space on each side of the screen and & underneath the screen for either in-wall or stand alone speakers. Then you’ll have at least two speakers behind your seating to create the surround sound. These can be mounted in the ceiling or from a back wall depending on the room. Let’s also not forget the subwoofer that you will need for the room filling low frequency effects.

The main considerations when deciding between projection or flat screen TV is “size” of the image, type of room, and permanency. While you can move a flat screen TV if you redecorate, a projection system is generally there for the long haul. Thus, most people who go this route make the investment to go above entry-level in all components. While components can always be replaced, good quality ones will last longer, have better warranties & most certainly make the investment worthwhile with the image and sound that you get from them.