A realtor wouldn’t dream of selling you a house without understanding your needs and wants (or “must-haves” as they’re known these days). The same goes for the professional who designs and installs automation systems. In order to provide a customer with technology that will truly enhance the convenience, comfort and entertainment value of a home, he needs to learn about how you live in your house today, what you would like to improve, and how you envision life in an automated residence, among other tidbits. You’ll need to build a solid relationship and communicate openly with your home automation integrator. Here are 10 tips on how to effectively work with a home automation professional.
1. Open House Policy A home automation integrator needs to know whether you plan to automate an existing house, are planning a large remodel, or if you would like to put a system into a house that’s on the drawing board. This may give him a good starting point, but to gauge the complexity of the job, he’ll need to see the house and/or blueprints. Provide him with ample time to visit your home and poke around the property. If you’re building, hand over the blueprints.
2. Air the Dirty Laundry Everybody can rattle off a few items they find annoying or inconvenient about their home. Maybe it’s the closet and bathroom lights that nobody bothers to turn off, or the tedium of locking up and shutting things down before bedtime. A home automation integrator wants to hear your pet peeves so he can design a system that takes care of those trouble spots. Don’t hold back, and make sure every member of the family has a say.
3. Financial Situation Having a budget in mind helps a home automation integrator tremendously. He’ll be able to choose products and systems that will fit your budget. And when the integrator presents you with his budget-minded plan, understand exactly what you’re paying for and when before proceeding. And remember, a great automation system gives you the opportunity to add-on as your budget allows.
4. On the Clock Is there an upcoming special event by which you’d like the project to be finished? Relay this information to your home automation integrator immediately. Based on the information you’ve shared with him, your integrator is probably already visualizing a system. However, if you want it done in three weeks, he may have to rethink the plan, subcontract out some of the work or may even bow out if you’re firm on the deadline. Be clear with your timeframe; be flexible if you can.
5. Special Assistance Speaking of subcontractors, depending on the scope of your home automation project, it’s possible that your integrator may use them for certain aspects of the job. For example, a lighting designer may be able to help craft the automated lighting schemes or an A/V specialist may be needed to weave a whole-house music system into the automation routines. Naturally, you’ll want to know about these extra people on the job. Be sure to ask your integrator if subcontractors are part of the plan.
6. Comfort Level How do you use technology in your home now? For example, are you a fan of streaming music and video services or do you prefer discs? Do your kids do much of their homework online? What about mobile devices? Are they loaded with apps? A home automation integrator can tell a lot by your current use of and familiarity with technology. For example, if everyone in the family is an avid user of an iPad, your integrator may design a system that lets you use this device to manage and monitor your smart home.
7. Lifestyle Lifestyle is a big buzzword in the home technology industry, and for good reason. A candid discussion of your way of life will likely reveal the most important pieces of information an integrator needs to design and implement a system that is so in sync with you and your family that you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. At the very least, expect to divulge your household status (single, married, kids, elderly parents), your family’s schedule (work, school, travel), your social life (do you entertain frequently?), and your hobbies (sports, exercise, photography, art collecting, etc.). If your daily routine involves a half hour on the treadmill, perhaps you’d like to have some music piped in over in-ceiling speakers rather than be tethered to an iPod; or maybe create the proper lighting environment for displaying artwork.
8. On- and Off-Site Access Naturally, a home automation integrator and his team will need to frequent your house to run wire and install equipment. Do you feel comfortable having them in your house while you’re at work? Discuss your concerns up front and try to be accommodating. And remember, a good portion of the work that needs to be done can often be handled remotely.
9. Aesthetic Preferences Do you want to show off your home electronics investment or keep it under wraps? Divulging your aesthetic preferences will help a home systems integrator decide whether he should install speakers that recess into the walls or models that stand out in the open, for example. If you like the idea of having all of the automation and A/V equipment hidden completely from view, by all means tell your home automation professional. There are lots of clever ways to hide technology.
10. Active Participation Believe it or not, most integrators relish clients who actively participate in projects. Your input throughout the process is valuable, so don’t be shy. If an idea strikes you in the middle of the night, share it with your integrator the next morning. Or maybe you’d like to see how systems are programmed. Chances are, your integrator would be happy to have you involved. And who knows, he may even let you program some of your automation system yourself.