Practical, profitable home technology
authors Rob Heselbarth | March 10, 2014
Home technology is more popular than ever with consumers, which is why remodelers must familiarize themselves with technology products and their capabilities and learn how to work with an electronic systems contractor. Rob Dzedzy, owner of Media Rooms Inc. in West Chester, Pa., and member of National Association of the Remodeling Industry, knows the critical technologies homeowners want, love and need.
First on the list is lighting control, which provides the ability to automatically turn lights on or off, dim them or control them from smartphones and other devices. Lighting is a home’s second biggest consumer of energy behind heating and air conditioning, so precise control can save plenty of money, Dzedzy says. Lighting control also provides the convenience of turning all lights off or on with the push of one button upon entering or leaving a home.
Another essential technology is motorized shades, which can reduce heat gain and stop interior décor from fading. “Of course they can also raise and lower with one button push to control natural light,” he says. “Programmable internet-connected thermostats can save a significant amount of energy and allow homeowners to control interior temperatures from any internet-connected device such as smartphones, tablets and computers. Distributed audio can add music throughout a home using wireless technology. Music also can be streamed from internet services or the home’s iTunes account on a local PC, and sent to any room in a home.”
Bells and whistles
Beyond the basic technology such as lighting control, motorized shades, internet-connected thermostats and distributed audio, it’s always nice to add a few extra, non-essential features to a client’s home. One of these technologies is enterprise-grade wireless networks. More products every month are network dependent, and most homes have inferior local networks that can successfully handle only a few products at a given time. In many situations homes today have one or more tablets, multiple wireless PCs, streaming video on multiple TVs, streaming audio on smartphones, wireless thermostats and more. All of these devices need a robust wireless home network with whole-house coverage to work properly.
Another nicety is 4K ultra high-definition TV, which has twice the resolution of today’s 1080p television units. The picture quality is outstanding and noticeably sharper than 1080p. Several ultra high-definition TVs are on the market. To feed these incredible TVs, consider a movie server, which is a device that can store all of your movies in digital format. Once a movie is ripped from the disc, the physical DVD or BluRay disc no longer is needed, similar to the way music is ripped from a CD.
A dedicated home theater can feature screens that are 120-in. or larger, a great high-performance surround-sound system and comfortable reclining chairs aligned and engineered for a perfect viewing experience. If a homeowner wants to watch TV outside the home theater, a distributed video system can push videos from, for example, three cable boxes to 20 TVs.
What remodelers must know
Remodelers should discuss home technology and related products with a home technology contractor prior to any project. Prior to demolition and construction, remodelers and home technology contractors must know where keypads, speakers or motorized shades will be installed so wall space and wiring can be accounted for. “Also, if the home will have a central location for home technology products, space for the equipment and wiring must be provided early in the design phase, because even wireless technology requires wires at some point,” he explains.
The best relationship model for remodelers and technology contractors is a partnership. “Just as a home technology contractor probably does not know everything about windows, insulation or shingles, a remodeler is more than likely not familiar with home technology. By building relationships with home technology professionals, remodelers can introduce a higher level of expertise and performance to their clients who are looking for ways to save energy, add lifestyle conveniences and blend new technologies into their homes,” Dzedzy says.
The remodeler/technology contractor relationship is like that with a subcontractor, he says. “In many situations home technology systems are an integral part of the construction or remodeling process. Electronic systems must be planned for in the very beginning of the project. Technology parts and pieces will be installed during construction and final trim-out will be required. In many projects the home technology contractor will be the last person on the job site. In addition, the home technology contractor will need to educate the homeowner how the electronic systems work, and therefore spend time building a relationship with the homeowner,” Dzedzy notes.
Selling the homeowner
Most homeowners are interested in home technology, but many think it is too expensive or complicated to make reality. Neither is true, Dzedzy insists. “Involving a technology contractor early in the project will help a client feel more comfortable with technology and how it can help save energy and add convenience to their lifestyle. Technology should be part of every remodeling or construction budget in the early stages of a project. I believe that in some cases remodelers are reluctant to discuss home technology with homeowners for fear the homeowner will shift funds away from the remodeling budget to accommodate technology. However, home technology must be considered and sold as a value-added benefit to both the homeowner and the remodeler. We have seen many circumstances where the homeowner is willing to expand the budget to include technology.”
Rob Dzedzy is founder and president of Media Rooms Inc. in West Chester, Pa., which provides and installs home technology equipment for remodeling and new construction projects, and also designs and builds custom furniture and interiors in its in-house woodshop. Managing these two distinct business segments puts Dzedzy in the unique position of understanding both the remodeling business and home electronics integration. His firm consistently wins national awards for its theater installations and build-outs. Dzedzy is a member of the NARI/CEDIA Remodeling & Home Technologies Council and is a CEDIA Registered Outreach Instructor. Media Rooms Inc. is a full service design, construction and installation company specializing in integrated electronic systems and related custom interiors. We combine the art of creative custom cabinetry and decorative interiors with the science of today’s high tech audio/video systems, home automation and electronic systems integration. We design and install lighting control systems, automated shades, distributed music systems, home networks, home theater and home automation systems.