If you’re starting a new home automation or AV project, here are a few ways to prepare yourselfthe situation at hand.
Communication is critical.
Having clear expectations and 100% transparency regarding time frames for equipment arrivals and project start dates is essential. We try to accomplish this by providing regular updates from vendors and informing our customers of the current environment from day one.
While we all thought many supply constraints were beginning to ease, that hasn’t been the case with some categories. AV receivers, for example, can still have a lead time ranging from several weeks to several months, depending on the model. Also, try your best to be open to product substitutions if time is of the essence.
Prepare to be invoiced upfront
Nobody likes being charged upfront and waiting to receive what they’ve already paid for. We get it. The reality is that some vendors are now billing for back-ordered products upfront and won’t even lock pricing in until the item has shipped.
When you consider some prices have risen by as much as 20%, it’s a necessary compromise to secure your place in line.
Occasionally prices change:
While we typically can absorb small price fluctuations between signing a contract and installing equipment, that isn’t always the case anymore. So be willing to work with your integrator if a supplier makes a radical price change.
Find your zen place.
Above all, embarking on any construction project right now will require some patience. Dragging a project out is not in anyone’s best interest, so try to be understanding and bide your time patiently. Delays make things stressful for everyone so remember we’re all on the same team and have to work together to bring your project to successful completion.
The process of working with a home technology integrator or AV company on your new home can seem daunting. So much so that even many builders avoid getting involved in the process altogether. While they have an entire army of subcontractors for pretty much anything else, when it comes to technology, you’re lucky to get a shortlist of contractor recommendations. Usually, you are sent off on a harrowing pilgrimage of discovery with nothing more than a prayer that you’ll find a trustworthy soul to enlighten you along the way.
Education is an essential part of our job. If you’ve never had the opportunity to build a custom home before, chances are you might not be aware of the technology that exists, and we try to at least inform you of all of the possibilities. While some things may not ultimately be in your budget, the worst thing that could happen is to find ourselves in a situation where we didn’t mention a product or solution, only for you to hear about it later when it’s too late to include it.
As integrators, we wear a lot of hats and can be involved in nearly every facet of the design of your home. If it’s not plumbing or basic electrical, there’s a chance you’ve entered a corner of our Pandora’s box. Whether it’s things that immediately come to mind like AV, home theater, and Wi-Fi, or more leading-edge systems like motorized shades, lighting control, and home automation, the possibilities are dizzyingly endless. Unfortunately, over time, we found there was so much scope to cover that most people didn’t completely understand what they were getting, let alone exactly where anything was going.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
When we first started the process of rethinking the template for our proposals, I was surprised to see there were no off-the-shelf options for making presentations to clients easy and understandable. So, with a background in graphic design, I decided to invest the time (which admittedly was an easier decision to make during the early days of the pandemic) and create an entirely custom set of icons and graphics that more effectively convey the design of our projects.
The main goal of this investment was to make sure people could easily see what was going where. This approach goes a long way towards ensuring clients understand what to expect when their home is complete and hopefully helps avoid some of those “I didn’t realize this is what you were talking about” moments.
While you don’t have to worry about how any of the magic works, I think it’s critical to provide a clear visual picture of where things are placed throughout the home. We got lots of feedback along the way from clients and family and have further streamlined the process as we’ve gone along. For example, each system is color-coded on the pricing proposal, matching our plans’ icon coloring. So if you see a blue security camera listed on the proposal, it makes it easy to look across and locate exactly where that piece is.
A fresh take on TeCHNOLOGY PLANS
At this point, we’ve ended up with an entirely new process for presenting proposals that I feel provides plenty of easy-to-consume information. At the same time, it doesn’t require an electrical engineering degree or honorary Geek Squad nametag. When clients understand what they’re looking at, they can provide meaningful feedback and ask questions that help make us more effective members of your team. It’s been a worthwhile step and helps move us closer to our goal of delivering an experience that’s true “Audio Video Luxury“.
Top 4 in-wall speakers That your designer will Love
Usually, when installing speakers in ceilings or walls, the goal is to make them disappear. If I had to summarize the most common request we get from clients, it would go something like this; “I want it to sound good, but I just don’t want to see anything.” It’s sometimes even a stretch convincing someone they’re markedly better off with a subwoofer tucked in the corner of the room rather than being completely hidden away.
I understand the quandary entirely; when you’ve worked hard with an interior designer to make your space just right, the last thing you want to do is clutter up the design with ugly utilitarian speakers boxes.
That’s why most of the time, making things vanish is the best course of action.
While my inner modernist rejoices at the simplicity of the “heard and not seen” approach (Trust me, I AM a modernist), There actually are a few in-wall speaker options that can take your design up a notch rather than mucking things up.
These posh in-walls are constructed with a baffle from a single piece of aluminum and built to the same exacting standards as KEF‘s fabled Reference series.
As part of THX Ultracertification, the extreme series can fill even the largest rooms with audiophile quality sound while adding palpable visual interest and modern punch to your design.
#2 – Focal 1000 Series In-Wall
While they may be lacking some modern bling compared to the KEF’s, The Focal 1000 series sport a clean industrial design that would be equally at home in a basement speakeasy or the most well-appointed living spaces.
You also get the bonus of a great conversation starter, a pure Berrilyum tweeter crafted in France from one of the planet’s rarest materials.
#3- Klipsch Reference Series In-Wall
At #3 we have our first American-made entrant into the battle of the beautiful. The Klipsch reference premiere series features their signature copper-colored drivers. In addition, the bold Klipsch Horn gives the speaker an almost art deco look.
These are considerably more affordable than our first two options and prove you can still make a statement without breaking the bank.
#4-Dali Phantom S280 In-Wall
Danish hi-fi company Dali has taken a different approach when it comes to their flagship in-wall systems.
You can choose to display these vintage-vibe speakers ala Christopher Lloyd or use their included grills for a refined but modern appearance. We can’t help but think these would be the perfect addition to a listening or music room.
If In ROom is an option
Focal Kanta 3
While they may not be in-wall, if you want to add some stunning visual appeal and jaw-dropping sound, you might be looking for Focal Kanta. Hand-made in France and featuring automobile quality paint jobs and a vast array of color options, this in-room option is A+.
Do you want to learn more about Surround Sound & Home Theater?
Editors Note: If you're entirely new to home theaters and AV or are trying to gain a basic knowledge of technology in new construction as a homeowner, I would suggest you start your journey with our New Home Technology Guide. It's more of a bird's eye view of what's possible and serves as a great primer on the topic.
Now that you’ve been warned brace yourself for a deep dive into the how. If you’re planning to DIY the wiring of your project, or you want to be very well versed when communicating with your installer you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started unpacking the process of designing and wiring your smart home from end to end!
The importance of Design:
During the planning stages, anything is possible. As long as you take it into account during this phase, you can integrate a vast number of systems. Of course, it can vary from project to project, but we usually start with the following outline:
Take an inventory of what will and will not apply to your home. For example, if you don’t have a pool or sprinkler system, “Water & Aquatics” can be struck from the list. Next, let’s hash things out a little further. Split each category into detailed subcategories. Here’s an example of the expanded list.
You’ll need to create a symbol or marking to delineate each type of device.
Placing your AV Rack and Low-Voltage Panel
You need to consider two critical pieces of equipment when beginning to lay out your wiring plan. The first location is for your equipment rack; the second is for the low-voltage panel or “Smart Panel.”
The rack will hold all of the home’s central nervous system, including patch bays, network switches, audio amplifiers, video distribution equipment, network routers, and your automation system controller. If you decide to centralize your entire home altogether, you might also have cable boxes, satellite receivers, and even more.
The low voltage panel is installed directly into the wall. We find it most useful for housing the coaxial system and all camera-related wiring. Separating the surveillance elements from the rest of the rack enables you to lock the panel up securely. Hence, things keep functioning even if someone attempts tampering with the equipment rack.
When deciding where to place your rack, first and foremost find a location with enough room to accommodate the equipment and plenty of room to work. As much as it might seem like a waste of space, your equipment needs to be located in a conditioned area. Heat is the number one enemy of electronics, so choose a location that’s well ventilated.
You’re also going to have to avoid any major structural members since drilling through them could compromise the integrity of your building. Start your search on an interior wall or under a staircase.
Taking control of your home’s lighting systems is a great way to provide both security and convenience for your home. Automation can set the mood, enhance safety, make things accessible for those with disabilities, and more!
Automating your lights also gives you effortless control of when they’re on and off for example, during peak energy hours, you could have them turn on at dusk or dim during the brightest parts of the day. In my home, we automate the step lights installed for our stairs. In practice, they fade on at sunset and turn off thirty minutes before sunrise. It offers great peace of mind with young children walking around in the middle of the night.
These are a few reasons why you might want to automate your lighting, but what’s the best way to make that happen for your home? There are several types of automated lighting systems available on the market today. Which one is right for you?
When you are planning and pre-wiring your new smart home, you have the most choices available to you. Automation can be included in lighting fixtures, light switches, smart bulbs, and even panelized lighting systems.
This article will serve as an essential guide to help you start the conversation with your home technology integrator about which lighting control system might be right for you.
THE THREE TYPES OF LIGHTING SYSTEMS:
1. SMART BULBS
Back in 2013, Philips introduced a product line that changed the game in intelligent lighting forever. They called it “Hue,” and with its release, your lights weren’t stuck being a shade of white; if you could dream up a color, Hue was happy to set the mood.
Philips’s Hue system is a good starter for those who want to dip their toes into the world of automated home lighting.
The lights are controlled via an app on your phone or tablet, and can be programmed with different flash patterns and color schemes to make it feel like Christmas all year long; they also work great when synced to your TV.
Hue is still the dominant force in the consumer and DIY lighting space, but plenty of more affordable alternatives are now available.
There are a few negatives to opting for individual smart bulbs, one being their significant price premium. Also, if you choose bulbs using wi-fi technology, they’re notorious for slowing down wi-fi traffic and crowding your network.
Our take: If you’re going to DIY, stick to Hue or LIFX branded fixtures. Between the consumer systems available, they perform the best, have the most significant app support, and seem to be more reliable than other brands.
2. DIMMERS & SWITCHES
Z-Wave or Zigbee dimmers can be an economic middle ground. They offer all the core functionality necessary for automation but can suffer from lag as the system grows. So as your device count starts to climb higher than 25 dimmers or switches, It’s usually best to start looking at more robust offerings fromLutron, Vantage, or Ketra.
One of the significant advantages of these types of dimmers is they work using standard light bulbs. So you’re only paying for technology in one dimmer and not in every bulb. But, of course, you also miss out on color options and some of the more novel features of smart bulbs.
3. PANELIZED LIGHTING
The last type of lighting control is the most intensive but also has a few very distinct benefits.
Panelized lighting is the gold standard in custom lighting control.
In a typical home, light switches are installed directly in each room, and the individual fixtures or loads connect directly to them. This traditional approach is simple and does offer savings on wiring costs.
When a panelized lighting system is employed, all switches and dimmers are located in a central panel (usually in your home’s mechanical room) and then remotely controlled.
This configuration does require a little more wire and planning, but the payoff is huge.
Panelized lighting offers the unique opportunity to automate your entire home and significantly reduce the number of switches on the wall. While this may sound like a trivial upgrade, in a large estate with complex lighting layouts, moving from a bank of twelve light switches on a wall to only one or two has a substantial impact on design and aesthetics.
If you want to take it a step further, you can forgo the physical switches altogether and control the lights along with the rest of your home’s systems from a single touch panel in each room. In addition, lights can be grouped for easy control, offering the pinnacle of clean design and convenience.
COLOR RENDERING INDEX
When you’re trying to gauge the quality of a light source while shopping, the easiest way is to look for a metric called the “Color Rendering Index,” or CRI for short, this number refers to a light’s ability to display a full range of colors accurately. Look for bulbs or fixtures with a CRI of at least 90. A high CRI is not only better for the brain but also goes a long way towards making people look their best in photos or videos.
Human-Centric Lighting can improve your health & wellness.
Human-centric lighting or HCL is a splashy term used to describe lighting that complements the human body’s natural circadian rhythms. In 2021, a modern human now spends over 80% of their time indoors and under artificial light.
Before the invention of the light bulb, routines were largely dictated by the availability of natural light. The rise of the sun signaled to the brain it was time for work. This bright white light naturally had an energizing effect on the human body. Conversely, the warm orange light of the sunset signaled an end to activities for the day.
HCL seeks to replicate that naturally occurring change using tunable LED lights. It accomplishes this goal by matching color temperature indoors to be similar to the light from the sun outdoors.
WHAT IS COLOR TEMPERATURE?
At its simplest form, color temperature refers to the frequency at which light is emitted. It’s expressed as a value in “Kelvin” or “K” for short. You’ve probably noticed some light bulbs cast a bright blue light, while others, like candlelight, have a soft orange hue. Generally speaking, 5600K is considered to be “daylight” balanced lighting while 2700K is Warm White or Tungsten.
HUMAN-CENTRIC LIGHTING IS NOT JUST ABOUT IMPROVING OUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS, HOWEVER; IT ALSO BENEFITS YOUR PRODUCTIVITY.
The NIH conducted a study in 2012 which verified the positive effects of higher color temperature on both alertness and individual performance. HCL assists our bodies by naturally aligning with sunlight during the day, thus helping us get more sleep at night.
If you’re looking for lighting control or home automation in the Nashville, TN area, please don’t hesitate to REACH OUT. We’d love to help!
Want to find out more about Home Technology for your new home?
It can be tempting to put an arduous amount of effort into a cutting-edge projection system and surround sound only to neglect the one equally important piece of gear, the seats! But, just as you probably don’t want to hike fifty miles of the Natchez Trace in flip-flops, you’re not going to get maximum enjoyment out of your theater or media room with a traditional sofa and chairs
Dedicated theater seating is the secret sauce to making your new space somewhere you’ll love to spend time.
Types of theater seating:
Individual Recliners are connected and arranged in a straight line or arc to help maximize the viewing experience. Since these recliners are purpose-built for theater use, expect to find extras like cup holders, snack trays, LED lighting, and more.
Some manufacturers even offer seats in staggered heights to improve sightlines with the screen while avoiding the need for a riser on the back row.
Loveseats & Sofas
Think of a loveseat as a recliner for two. A loveseat offers all the same features and extras of dedicated recliners without the pesky center armrest to keep you apart.
A chaise can be an opulent and attractive way to take in a movie with loved ones without dealing with reclining. With so much room to spread out, you might be tempted to take a nap after the movie!
Bean bags are the often overlooked but unsung hero for adding extra seating to your theater space. While I wouldn’t suggest them as a primary choice for the whole family, They’re a perfect way to add additional seating for kids.
As a bonus, they sit low enough to the ground that others can easily see the screen overhead.
Look for high-quality options from Lovesac or MoonPod. They’ll fit right in with the rest of your room’s interior won’t turn into a lumpy pile of mush after a few years.
so how much is this going to cost me?
Home Theater seats are usually priced “per seat,” and there can be an extensive range in prices depending on your chosen materials.
While there are some cheaper options out there, I would suggest budgeting a minimum of $1000 per seat as a rule of thumb. Of course, you’ll be missing some of the higher-end materials and extra features like power recline, bass shakers, and LED lighting, but you can expect quality construction at that price point.
If you’ve chosen to decorate the rest of your home with quality furniture pieces from Restoration Hardware, West Elm, or the like, expect to pay anywhere from $2500-$5000 per seat for theater seating of similar quality. Just remember that you’re looking at fully custom furniture at the higher end of the spectrum, and you can have almost anything you can dream up! Top grain leather, vintage velvet, personalized embroidery, and lighting are all on the table!