Category Archives: Residential

Spring Storm Preparedness

Protecting Your Technology

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 lightning 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 known as battery backups. The type of power protection device used is dependent on the 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. If unsure then you should always go with the UPS.

Remodeling?

When do I plan for my home’s technology set up?

Whether it’s time for a new bathroom, kitchen or even a deck, it is best to plan early for your data, video, audio and possibly telephone needs. Let’s face it. You always have some sort of technology altered/installed in any project nowadays. Your contractor should be asking you about these things when discussing your renovation project. If they are not, then you need to address it with them. If they don’t work with an AV integrator, then you will need to bring one in at the planning stages for design and an estimate. Deciding after the project has been started by the contractor could result in major headaches from poor budgeting, renovation delays, and worse case…not being able to get what you want or who you want to perform the installation because you waited too long.
Here are some popular add-ons to rooms that are generally not thought to need AV or data.

Kitchen: an in-ceiling speaker, a small mounted TV or iPad docking station. How about a centralized charging station for the household cell phones?

Bathroom: in-ceiling speaker with controls, small TV

Deck: multiple outdoor speakers, outdoor TV, outdoor box for control of audio, network expansion

Household Networking: How does it perform? Is the Wi-Fi signal getting to the right places? Are your streaming media devices using Wi-Fi instead of being hardwired? (which they should be) Remodeling projects are a great opportunity to run a few cables to increase the overall usability of the network.

Keep in mind too that remodeling contractors are not AV integrators. Most electricians want nothing to do with low voltage wiring and while the contractor may offer to run cabling, their main skill set is not in AV. If they don’t bring in an AV integrator, ask about their in-house person’s experience in AV. Would you hire an HVAC tech to run your electrical wires? Then don’t hire a carpenter to put your AV system together.

Communication carrier changes

What to do!

We are aware that the major communications carriers, i.e. Verizon, Comcast, etc. are raising rates and also requiring fully digital services. Please read this article in its entirety before calling your existing carrier or a competitor.
We wrote an article several months ago titled “Cancel Your Cable?” This article addresses deciding between having or not having cable. We will address some other issues below that have consumers questioning their cable services.

The first thing to do when you receive information that you will need something else or an additional charge has been added to your service is to call your carrier. No one likes to call the comm. companies & getting a human being can take a while, but you have the right to review your services with them, find out if there are any options to keep your costs where they are, or even lower them, i.e. bundling, removing channels, etc. When you buy a cell phone, you probably spend hours in the store not selecting the phone, but selecting the service that fits your lifestyle. Why not do the same with your communications carrier.

Then, if you are not happy with the end result from your existing carrier, you need to call another communications carrier that services your area. Be sure to have a grocery list of services so you can compare Apples to Apples. If the other carrier doesn’t offer wireless services and this was bundled into the plan offered by your existing carrier, then you need to remove that cost and be sure you have the “non-bundled cost” to compare. So, before calling, review the carriers’ websites to see what services they offer.

Note: Communications carriers provide these services: landlines, cell phone (not all), cable, Internet and even security. But, they don’t all offer the same services, i.e. Comcast doesn’t offer cell phone service like Verizon does.

After you have figured out what your communications services will cost, you then can compare them to the cost of changing services. But, there is one more factor to consider before you decide to change carriers; how will it impact your technology infrastructure and what is the cost to make those needed changes. These charges can more than offset the savings gained from switching providers.

Here are things that would have to be modified when you change systems and are not included in the cost to change services.

1) Remote programming: if you have a universal remote, you will have to have it reprogrammed to use (with the new equipment required for) the service. Communication carriers can set up their remote, i.e. the one that comes with a new cable box, but they will not touch a universal remote. Other (components) remotes may also need to be reprogrammed (if they interacted with things like the cable box) such as a smart TV or audio system.

2) Network infrastructure: if you have set up a network infrastructure tied to your cable’s existing service, the network infrastructure will have to be re-engineered to accommodate how the new carrier functions. For example; if you switch to Comcast and have your network set up for Verizon, there could be additional cables and or equipment required for the existing network to operate correctly. The extent of the re-engineering depends on the service that you get and the equipment that they provide.

3) Stability of the new service:
You might want to check with neighbors who have the competitive service to see what they think it. How often do they lose their cable? If you are considering changing Internet too, what speed do they have and is it reliable.

The big question is what do the numbers work out to? If you are saving $25 per month by choosing another carrier, that totals $600 over a 2 year period. If it costs $500 to make the necessary remote or network adjustments the net savings is only $100. That begs the question… Is $100 worth the pain of the change to another carrier?

What to do when something isn’t working

Try these at-home troubleshooting techniques

Before you schedule a service call, we encourage you to attempt to resolve the problem yourself. Here are some basic ways to troubleshoot your problem. If the problem cannot be resolved, please call our office to schedule an appointment for a service call.

1) Check that the power plug is plugged in. Yes, this sounds common sense, but if you know you didn’t unplug the electronic device, you may assume it is plugged in, when in fact a cleaning person, child or other member of the family may have unplugged it. A lot of components have power cords with multiple connection points. It starts with a power cord that is plugged into the wall outlet. That cord plugs into an external power supply. A separate cord from the power supply plugs into the device. Check the entire connection chain.

2) Check that the cables are tightly secured. Reseating (unplugging and plugging back in) the cables can resolve the problem. If components were moved even slightly, a cable could have come loose, especially HDMI video cables. Obviously, if a cable is lying on the floor, it most likely came fully out and needs to be re-attached. Otherwise, just push each cable gently into the component to ensure it is secure.

3) Reset electronics. To reset any electronic device, you need to turn it off completely, i.e. power it down either by unplugging it or turning off your surge protector, not just hitting the power button of the remote or on the device. Wait 30-45 seconds & turn on or plug back in. This can resolve problems caused by power sags/ surges & updates that did not restart the device properly.

4) Reset your router. If your communications carrier had even a short blip in their service, your router may have been impacted. Go to the router, find the power source and turn it off. Wait 30-45 seconds & turn it back on.

5) Testing to see if your TV is broken. If it doesn’t come on at all and is plugged in, it is dead. If it comes on but the picture is not normal, it is may be broken. It could be a loose cable or a problem with your cable/satellite service. Check to be sure you have cable/satellite service at other TVs, as you don’t want to consider it broken if cable is down or your cable box is broken. If you can’t get your channels to change with the remote, use the buttons on the front of the cable/satellite box. The problem may be with the remote.

6) Testing to see if your component is broken. Most components either work or they don’t. Try the power reset described above. If you are using a universal remote control try using the specific remote that came with the device to see if it functions correctly. For example; for a Blu-ray DVD player, use the Blu-ray/DVD remote, turn it on & off, open the disk tray.

7) Testing to see if your remote control is broken. The number one thing to check is that the batteries are fresh/charged and that they are seated properly in the remote. Remotes take a lot of abuse. If it gets dropped on the floor the batteries could have come loose or unseated just enough to cause the remote to act strangely. If the equipment is being operated behind closed cabinet doors then there is a secondary device that facilitates that function. It could be either a separate electronic device that talks specifically to the remote or a universal IR relay system. Both use little “emitters” that are attached to the devices that they are controlling like the cable box. These emitters sometimes get knocked off or the adhesive holding it on has failed. Just placing the emitter back on the unit may fix the problem. Additionally there is an IR sensor that is usually attached to the front of the TV. This also may fall off and needs to be reattached.

8) Reset network. If you have more than a single network device resetting your network when it isn’t operating correctly can take more than just resetting the router. All devices such as network switches, wireless network extenders, etc. need to be reset. As a general rule of thumb turn everything off first and leave it off. Start with the cable modem (router if you have Fios) and power it on. Wait 1-2 minutes then power on the router. (already done if you have Fios) Wait about 1-2 minutes then start powering on the network switches and wireless extenders. If you follow that sequence then all of the settings will be exchanged properly between devices and the network will have a clean start.

We highly suggest you print this article out and keep it somewhere handy so that you have it should you need to troubleshoot.

2016 Consumer Electronic Show

The Consumer Electronics Show is over and the word around town is that it wasn’t a whole lot different from the 2015 show when it comes to AV electronics. Not surprising to us as we generally get wind of anything really HUGE hitting the market, at least in our industry.
Lew & I attended CES back in 2010, shortly after I joined the business. It was the year the super thin LEDs TVs were launched. Now that was exciting. An entire convention hall filled to the brim with thousands of flat screen TVs set up in every possible contortion by the big name manufacturers; Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Sony. Truthfully, it was overwhelming, but very cool to see.

It was also the year of 3D TV and yes there were quite a few people that looked rather green after trying out the new glasses. There was still some work to be done and perhaps still is to this day.

What is interesting is that some of the futuristic products back then are now making their “go to market” debut this year, and they are even more impressive, such as smart appliances. If you want a refrigerator that can tell you via an app what the inside of your refrigerator looks like, then it is here now. With an infrared camera inside, you see the contents via an app and then can stop by the store rather than call your kid to ask if you are out of milk.

Wearables are very big this year. From smart bracelets, to belts to ski vests, electronic manufacturers are counting on consumers expanding beyond the smart phone for information.

Robotic devices are also the rage. AI technology we once only saw in the movies is now becoming a consumer reality for security, information, cleaning, and even simply friendship, with limitations of course.

If you’ve never been to the Consumer Electronics Show and that inner geek has you curious, you won’t be disappointed. One…it’s in Vegas, Two…its dirt cheap, if not free and Three…you are more than welcomed by a hoard of manufacturer reps who want to sell you on their latest & greatest device that will…maybe…be available that year. Of course, I spent my time in 2011 learning about wall mounting brackets, cables, and other non-exciting but totally necessary products for an AV integrator. Yes…they do have pretty much everything at CES. Maybe, just maybe we’ll go to the 2017 show. It has been awhile and…it is in Vegas. Yippee!

Written by Bonnie Little