Category Archives: Residential

How Smart Do you Want your Home

Do your homework before buying Smart Home products

I clicked on the latest email sent to me from Home Depot because it said Smart Home, and I had to see what they had to offer. The page I was sent to was quite impressive, as it should be from a large company like Home Depot.

They categorized Smart Home Technology by
• Safety and Security
• Home Access
• Lighting
• Automation
• Energy Management
• Appliances
• Electronics.

So, what to buy? The products that Home Depot sells are all considered to be products that any DIYer can install. But, just as I don’t know how to tile my floor or install carpeting, not everything within these categories may be a project I would want to attempt (leaving Lew out of the picture).

I encourage you to go to their Smart Home page to see what might interest you. I then, encourage you to dig deeper into the actual product, through that manufacturer’s page to see if there are other products needed to make it work (I guarantee there are) and to better understand the installation of the product.

For example, I have a Lutron control for my bedroom lamp, which Home Depot sells. You plug the lamp cord into the device that plugs into an outlet & that’s it. I love it, simple and inexpensive! However, when I wanted to control overhead lights in my bathroom and bedroom the same way, that was a whole different story. This was going to be costly as there were more pieces to make it work and the installation required an electrician in addition to Lew’s expertise.

My point is don’t buy first and ask questions later. There are some wonderful things you can do now to make your home “Smart”. But, be sure you fully understand the cost of ALL products and installation if you can’t do it yourself.

Is Your Home System User Friendly?

And what to do if it Isn’t

Do you have a lot of people using your home’s technology? If you do, then you want to be sure that your electronics are easy to use. If only one person in your home understands how to turn on the TV, speakers, lighting or camera system, that could be a problem at some point.

I say this because I am as guilty as many others. Lew set up our system and other than the remote control devices, and Bose system, I’m pretty clueless. I don’t even have the camera app on my phone, even though he and my daughter do. I have no idea how to reset the network. I always call him when something goes wrong.
If something (God forbid) happened to Lew, I’d have to hire a competitor to explain how all this stuff works in my house.
That said, here are some suggestions to get everyone in the know.

1. Create written instructions. Grab a pen and paper and write instructions on how to use the electronics in your home. That includes TV, Audio, Gaming, Cameras, Lights, etc.
2. Have a training session. Once your instructions are written, make some popcorn & have a training session. The kids will probably balk at this, as they will think they know it already, so have them be the ones to explain how things work. And, don’t just talk the talk, demo everything. Mess things up too and have them fix it.
3. Make things easier. If it takes 5 remotes to watch TV, perhaps it is time to go to a universal remote control system. You are, most likely, not going to be able to train grandma to push 15 buttons to watch a movie.
4. Get as much on the cell phone as possible. Everyone uses cell phones today and the new generation learns apps fast.
If you don’t want someone in the home to know how to use something, i.e. kids and cameras, then be sure to set up parental controls, such as passwords, to ensure they aren’t messing with something they shouldn’t, like turning off the cameras during the hours they are throwing that huge party with their friends while you are on vacation.

Beware of New Home Builders Going Wireless

Let them know YOU want cables!

If you are looking to purchase a newly constructed home, be sure to question them about their internal wiring structure. While wireless today is pretty awesome – it’s no way to prepare a home for the future.

In fact, we will need more cabling to ensure uninterrupted streams of high-resolution audio, video, and countless other services coming soon. Prewiring for wireless is a mere prerequisite for a future-ready home. It is a poor excuse, however, to eliminate other infrastructure cabling. In addition, it will only cause problems later when the homeowner is looking to sell their home to increasingly tech-centric buyers.

If the new builder isn’t running cables to every room, talk to them about getting it done BEFORE the drywall goes up. It is much less expensive to run cable during the framing stage than later. Even if you aren’t sure what wall the cable should run to, get at least one termination point into the bedrooms and multiple ones to the main level and basement rooms. It is easier to move the cable out to another location within a room than bring a new one into it from the basement structured wiring set up.

3D TVs going the way of the dinosaur

When 3D TVs launched in 2010 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we were there to see it. 3D was everywhere and it was the next big thing in the consumer electronics industry.
Now 7 years later, most TV manufacturers have stopped making 3D TVs and support of 3D TVs has become difficult to get. Unlike the flat panel TV itself, 3D TVs didn’t get a standing ovation when introduced in the first place. Early adopters either loved it or hated it.

So what really killed 3D TVs? We think several factor led to its demise.

Glasses: While people didn’t think it would be a big deal to wear glasses to watch their 3D movies at home, it became a big deal. Glasses were uncomfortable, couldn’t be worn over prescription glasses, were very expensive if additional ones needed to be purchased and prevented multi-tasking, which we all know is prevalent in our society these days.

Timing of TVs and content: The 3D TVs came out about the time that most people had just purchased a flat screen TV, so to buy another TV just for the purpose of having 3D wasn’t cost-effective for most consumers. In addition, there wasn’t that much to watch on these TVs. Manufacturers were not putting out many recent movies in 3D and the really good ones, such as Avatar, were only able to be watched on one manufacturers TV, Panasonic.

Cost: 3D TVs had quite a large premium price on them so given most people had already traded in their tube or projection TV for a flat panel, it wasn’t worth an upgrade at that price point. 3D DVDs were also expensive and most were packaged in multi-packs with 2D disks, so the price was upwards of $30 back then.

So, if you have a 3D TV, enjoy it while you can. If you don’t have one and want to see 3D, go to a movie theater where you get fabulous 3D quality, lounging chairs, popcorn and can ditch the glasses on the way out.

Remodeling?

Home improvement contractors ARE NOT electronics technology contractors. If you are remodeling a part of your home, inside or outside, you should consider the technology that you want to incorporate into that project.

Home technology includes audio, video and most importantly networking. If you intend to use any WiFi devices, you will want to ensure that the project includes infrastructure to support your system.

Too many times we get calls from homeowners asking us to incorporate technology into their project when it is half way done or even worse, at its final stages. You should be getting a site survey and estimate at the same time you are getting your design and estimate from remodeling contractors. Not only will this ensure you aren’t scrambling later, but it will aid in your total project budget planning. It also prevents delays in construction so that the electronics contracting work is done when the contractor is ready for it.

Some contractors will offer to perform the electronics technology needs. That is perfectly fine if they have designed it from start to finish and plan to do it all (cabling, terminations, electronics and networking set up and configuration). If your contractor says they can do the electronics, be sure they are bringing in a qualified electronics technology subcontractor. You wouldn’t want your electrical or plumbing done by anyone other than a licensed tradesman, so treat your electronics the same way.