Category Archives: Residential

The Importance & Value of Surge Protection

Storms wrecking havoc on your AV and computer systems?

Are you running around the house shutting down your TV and computers, pulling the power cords out of the wall as you hear a storm approaching? If so you are doing the best thing possible to protect your investment. You read that right, unplugging the power cables from the wall outlet is the best thing to do when there is a storm approaching. The reason behind this is simple. NO household electrical protection device will stop a direct/near direct lightening hit.

Thankfully most of us will never experience a direct lightening strike on our house. I’ve seen them and the results are catastrophic. We will however have our electricity flicker, spike up, drop down and go off as a result of a storm. This is where power protection devices can save the electronics that are connected to them.

In a home and small business there are typically two types of power protection devices deployed; Power Strips with overvoltage protection and Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) also know as battery backups. The type of power protection device used is dependent on electronic device that it is protecting. TVs, audio components etc. are typically protected by Power Strips. PCs, surveillance cameras & DVRs are usually on a UPS. The correct device to use starts with a couple of simple questions. Do I need the electronic device to keep working through a small power disruption? Does the electronic device have moving parts like a hard drive that could be damaged during a momentary loss of power? If the answer is yes to either question then a UPS is the direction to go. If the answer is no to the two questions then the use of a power strip will most likely do an adequate job of power protection.
There are many other factors to help decide what works best and HNS will gladly help in the selection of the appropriate protection device for the application.

TV shopping list

We are NOT a retailer. We are an AV Electronics Integrator, fancy name for a Home Technology contractor. That said, we sell TVs and other electronics as a means to an end. We design a system based on what you want and then identify the components that would fit those needs. If you want to stream movies off your computer, we are going to discuss a TV that allows you to do so. If you want a TV for the guest room and only want to connect it to your cable, then we aren’t going to recommend a TV that has extra internal functions that you would pay hundreds of dollars more for.


We know the prices of TVs on Amazon, Best Buy, HH Gregg, etc., so when we quote TVs and other store/internet electronics, we quote a price that is competitive to them. Is it the same? No. There is a chance our TV may cost a little more. We include a small mark up to cover our costs to order, receive (which can even mean driving to the distributor in Maryland for larger TVs), and bring the TV to you on installation day. If you ask us why our TV is $100 more than the one on Amazon, we will not lie. We will tell you it is a convenience cost. This is no different than if you bought milk at a 7-11 vs. a warehouse club store.


If you want to buy your own TV, by all means, buy it. I repeat, we are NOT a retailer, you will not hurt our feelings. We want to be the company you use to install the TV and perhaps other electronics that go with it to create your custom entertainment system. If you don’t need the convenience of us getting your TV, then you may not need to buy electronics from us either. But please, keep in mind that we do get good pricing too, so don’t automatically think we can’t price as well a big box or warehouse store.


So, now that we’ve told you our deep, dark secret about how we price TVs, we want to give you a cheat sheet to take with you when you go TV shopping to ensure you are getting the “right” TV. Print and clip the next section of this newsletter & take it with you when you go shopping or have it ready for your Internet purchases.


LED vs. LCD vs. Plasma – From a display panel perspective, LCD & LED are the same. The difference is what provides the lighting behind the panel. Standard LCDs use a compact fluorescent light (CFL) which is either on or off. TVs with LEDs for the backlighting have the ability to dim the LEDs to create darker scenes (i.e. you get dark black with an LED vs. a lighter black, almost grey on an LCD). Plasma TVs are a tried & true technology that uses a different panel construction that allows for a wider range of color creation and truer creation of black. Plasma displays use glass on the front of the panel so glare can be a problem depending on where you are putting it.


720, 1080, 4096 – These numbers all have to do with image quality. Think of them like you would a camera. Camera #s are based on pixel count which is how many tiny blocks of color/image are used to capture an image. Obviously a 5 megapixel camera takes a better picture than an old 1 megapixel camera. In choosing which TV to get, consider the size of the TV. There is no reason not to choose a 720 model on a smaller TV because of its size. However, when you are looking at a larger TV, i.e. 50″ plus, there is a noticeable difference in the picture between a 720 and 1080 TV. By the way, the 4096 is the new 4K TV. Be sure to take a look at one at retailers that are selling them. They are at the introductory stage of technology and the pricing reflects that, but the image is unbelievable. Think of a 2 mega pixel camera image (1080) vs. an 8 mega pixel camera image (4K).


i vs p – This is how the image is painted on the screen, p is what almost all HD Flat Panel TVs use today. The technical description is too complex to briefly explain. If you come across a “deal” on a TV that is 1080i, then stay away from it.


Refresh rate – given in Hz. The higher the number the better the quality, but be aware that most manufacturers have created their own marketing name for the refresh rate, i.e. Samsung uses something called “Clear Motion rate” which is their own proprietary calculation for the clarity of the image that is often confused with the refresh rate Hz definition. Refresh rates affect how movement is seen because it is how quickly the image can change. If you like sports, action movies, then you should look for a larger Hz rate. Want something to watch the news, TV and old movies, save the money the go with the lower Hz.


Size – does matter. Don’t go huge just because you can afford it and it fits on the wall. Choosing a TV size should be based on viewing distance from the TV. Unless you want to feel like you are sitting in the front row of a movie theater (and some people like that), then maybe go for the 55″ instead of the 70″ TV. Toshiba provides a webpage to assist you in selecting a TV size. http://www.toshiba.com/us/recommended-tv-viewing-distance. Keep in mind, they are a manufacturer and could be biased towards the the purchase of larger TVs. Personally, we agree with their minimum size, but have some reservations about the maximum viewing distances. 10.5′ for a 65″ TV is too close by our standards, but again…preferences to distance are a personal choice. When shopping, stand where you would sit when looking at sizes. Also, keep in mind aesthetics. While a 70″ TV looks tiny at a warehouse store, it will be huge on your family room wall if you have standard ceiling heights and the room isn’t large.


Bells & Whistles – You may have heard the term Smart TV, Intelligent TV or something similar. These TVs are built with inputs and outputs that allow you to hook them up to components for streaming video and other purposes, i.e. gaming. Know what you want your TV to do. Again, if this is going in the guest room, bathroom, kitchen, or even the bedroom, you may not want a “Smart” TV (which will cost more). If you are shopping for your family or recreation room TV, you will most likely want those features. However, go back to last month’s article on compatibility issues. You may buy a TV that has the capability to do one thing, but your older DVD player or even your speakers may not work with it, so now you need more electronics.


We could go on and on but that’s about it for this article. Here are a few closing thoughts. If you are going to stand your TV up on an entertainment system or other piece of furniture, keep in mind stability, especially if you have small children. If you are considering mounting it and want to hide the wires in the walls, depending on the size of the TV, type of mount, and where your components are located…the TV could be the least expensive piece of your entertainment system. If you plan to mount it yourself, don’t go cheap on the mount. It is holding up a very expensive piece of electronics that you hope will be with you for years to come.

Compatability Issues

We are always happy to work with your existing components, but many times we find that the experience you want can’t be created with your existing components. For example, TVs that were built even just 5 years ago may not have an HDMI (high definition) input. So, if you want to add components via an HDMI connector, it can’t be done with the existing TV. Sometimes, there are work arounds, but generally these do not produce the same quality and we try to stay clear of them.

 

Compatibility issues

Major issues involve receivers that don’t have the right input or output connections or enough of them to allow you to add input components such as Apple TV or output components like speakers. Most older equipment has fallen victim to what is referred to as the Analog Sunset. In 2010, Hollywood started embedding something called AACS in its Blu-ray disks. AACS is a new set of copy protection rules within HD movies and playback equipment. In a nutshell, no HD quality content will be allowed to pass through the analog connection of a device in a High Definition format. This means that for that Blu-ray of Thor to play, the devices must be connected by a digital connection, i.e. HDMI. HDMI interfaces carry the AACS copy protection schema via HDCP (High bandwidth Digital Copy Protection), so now we are right back to the first topic, compatibility.

 

Design Issues

What we hate to see the most is when potential clients buy components from the Internet or a Big Box retailer & they won’t work with what the person has at home. You can even buy the wrong mount for an existing TV if you don’t ask or provide the right information to a knowledgeable salesperson. These are assumptions made all the time, resulting in compatibility issues.

 

You can avoid buying the wrong things by having a site survey done before you purchase products. Let us tell you what your existing products are capable of doing. Then, if you choose to buy from someone other than us, by all means do so. Our pricing on electronics is competitive as we know the pricing of our competitors. But if you want to get a brand that we don’t sell, you are more than welcome to do so. You just want to be sure you are getting the right components to do what you want it to do. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole and that is exactly what happens when you don’t mix and match your components correctly.

 

What to Do with the Old Stuff

Please, please, please do not just throw your old electronics in the trash. E-recycling locations are increasing all the time. A lot of Big Box retail stores will take your old items. A little further down in this newsletter is a company that we have worked with that does E-waste recycling. Recycling anywhere is better than the regular trash.

 

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.