At a recent seminar one of Bill “Wes” Westrum, Residential Systems Designer for Century Stereo lead a discussion on planning for home technology. As technology in the 21st century keeps evolving, it is increasingly necessary to plan and wire your home properly to accommodate all the technology contained in the home. During this seminar, Wes talked about structured wiring, the various subsystems and the process of planning for and implementing these subsystems in the home. In this post we’ll share some of the highlights. If you are planning a remodel or new construction project and would like to learn more we encourage you to attend any of our free seminars held throughout the year. To view these and register, visit our upcoming events page.
Not installing structured wiring in a home built now would be like leaving indoor plumbing as an afterthought in the year 1900.
– Better Homes & Gardens
Structured wiring refers to running cables through the walls of your home that can carry all of the different signals required to integrate computer networks, home entertainment systems, cable or satellite TV, telephone, climate control and even home security systems, all operated by a central control or remotely through the internet. What technologies you want in your home will strictly controlled by the wiring infrastructure you install. Get the right wiring in place and everything else is easy.
**Tip: Be sure to take advantage of open walls during new construction or a remodel and wire for home technology. This will save you time and money every time.
** Tip: Hire and electronic systems contractor to wire your home. Electronic systems contractors are licensed and properly trained in all the latest home technology systems.
Planning for Residential Systems
When we say “home technology” or “residential systems” we are referring to the various low voltage systems in the home. This includes:
- Home Theater & Media Rooms
- Home Automation
- Lighting & Motorized Shades
- Distributed Audio & Video
- Voice & Data Networks
- Security Cameras & Monitoring
- Systems integration with Security, HVAC, Irrigation
Technology in the home has evolved at such a rapid pace that these complex systems really need to be designed and installed by professionals. There are so many things to consider during the planning and design phase, that even the most ambitious Do-It-Yourself homeowner would soon be overwhelmed. You’ll want to engage an electronic systems contractor early in the process. The role of an electronic systems contractor is really to integrate all these disparate complex systems and make them functional and easy to use.
**Tip: Meet with an electronic systems contractor before construction drawings from the architect are finalized. This will enable you to integrate technology into the overall design versus adding it later. This way nothing is compromised.
When you first meet with an electronic systems contractor (ESC) they will ask you about your lifestyle, who will use the system, how you use technology and your desired use of technology in your new project. They will take time to educate you on what is available and the latest trends in home technology. They will often do a site visit and review your plans. Finally you will discuss your desired budget. With technology the sky is the limit, but budgets usually are not.
They will create a preliminary scope of work to ensure they have addressed all of your needs. They will address budget, review the contract and the change order approval process. Once you have confirmed that the scope of work is accurate, you understand the contract and change order process and the determined budget is agreeable, they will ask you for a design fee.
**Tip: Get it in writing. The contract, payment schedule, change order process and scope of what the system will do should all be communicated clearly in writing and reviewed. Both homeowner and contractor should be clear on what the expectations are.
The design fee is a percentage of the overall project and pays for the time it will take to design your system. Designs vary based on system requirements but the designer will produce custom wiring plans, cabinet design, theater design, and schematics for your project along with a detailed proposal of all items used.
Next, the electronics system contractor will coordinate with all key members of your team (i.e. contractors, interior designer, etc.) and work together to bring your dream to fruition. There will be site visits, phone call and emails. So it is important that all members have contact information for one another.
** Tip: All drawings and project documentation should be thoroughly reviewed and approved in advance by all stakeholders, including other subcontractors affected by the scope of work.
The final steps are the installation process which, especially in new construction, can be defined in four phases: rough-in, trim, finish and training.
Phase I Rough-In – this where all wired is pulled throughout the home, speaker pre-install kits installed. This as it sounds, is the rough sketch of the finished project. This happens when walls are open.
Phase II Trim– Once walls are closed, installers come back and terminate the wiring, install trim plates in the rooms and install the structured wiring panels.
Phase III Finish– Once all the other subs are out and the project is just about complete, the installers come back for a final time and install all the equipment and do all the necessary programming.
Phase IV Training– When the system has been completely installed programmed and tested your consultant or designer will personally walk-thru the entire system with you and show you how to use it.
But the relationship with your electronic systems contractor does not end there. It should last the life of your system. Your electronic systems contractor will address service, repair and upgrades and the occasional re-training but as Wes says, we program our remotes to be “baby sitter and mother-in-law proof.”
To get more in-depth information we encourage you to attend any of our seminars held throughout the year.
However, you do not have to wait for those to have your questions answered; our expert staff is available for you seven days a week.
Please call us to make an appointment.