One of the joys of building your own home is taking full advantage of exciting technologies that are widely available today but that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
Homes today can be built with everyone in the family in mind. Smarter design techniques and tech allow for lots of possibilities. And why not take advantage of that, since your building it, build it the way you want.
Your new home can be a very entertaining space, so it’s not surprising that, according to a 2018 New Home Insights study shows, about 91 percent of homeshoppers are interested in including smart home technology in their new homes, and that 30 million households are projected to add smart home tech into there new homes through 2020. Wiring for and adding smart tech now will help with resale value down the road.
Despite these numbers though, many of these options weren’t even available just five years ago.
All of this adds up to lots of good reasons to bring in a tech specialist from the beginning. Here are some things to consider about tech when building your next home...
Clearly, we’re not going to become any less dependent on technology. The pace of change and innovation will only accelerate. While you may not be able to fully imagine the next big thing (unless you’re the next Steve Jobs) you can pre-wire your new home in flexible and robust ways.
Ensuring that conduit for data and video wiring is in place when you build a home is by far the most effective way to plan for the future. It will always be more expensive to upgrade a house for technology once the walls are put up. But even if you just run wiring and no conduit, building a strong infrastructure now for Data is what will pay off in countless ways over the many years you’ll live in your new home. Don't be afraid to pay a little more for the bigger/newer wire now, such as Cat7 instead of Cat5 data cable, or fiber optic instead of copper, these will make a huge difference in just a few years.
“I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Man, I just pulled too many wires in this house,'” said David Pedigo, senior director of learning and emerging technology for CEDIA, the Consumer Electronics Design and Installation Association. “We’re starting to get to a point where builders, architects and interior designers understand that it does take proper planning and consideration. If you’re going to incorporate a digital experience, you need to do it at the start.”
The abundance of wireless components on the market may make it seem like pre-wiring a house is a waste of time and money. Not so, in fact your home needs more wiring than ever. Wireless, especially now, should be reserved for just those devices that absolutely need to be mobile.
Wireless works great for some applications and devices, such as printers, but it just really doesn’t work very well with ultra-high definition video and hi-resolution audio for mission critical uses, such home theater. Video bandwidth is accelerating at a much faster pace than wireless systems are able to handle. So much so that its even outgrown copper wires. That's right, we are now wiring homes with fiber optics! Sounds futuristic, but it's a reality. And of course built-in speakers will always need wires, sure there are great wireless speaker options now and they have there place, but why bog down your wireless system if you don't need to.
You really need to hard-wire the data connections to all the electronics that are consuming large chunks of data, like Gaming systems, these interactive devices share tons of data in a single session. People are remotely meeting everyday from home now, and there is a ridiculous amount of content available for streaming. With a TV, computer, mobile device, steamer, etc. in every room. It get costly to have a wireless system that can handle all that traffic. Imagine a highway with no lane dividers. It’s just chaos. Hard-wiring helps relieve this.
Living with and making room for Tech
Beyond the need to pre-wire a house for current and future technology needs, even architects and home designers are recognizing the need to ask their clients about their entertainment choices. But, a good Custom Electronics Integrator specializes in best knowing how to integrate tech into your lifestyle, and can really help guide your decision making.
Consider at one time a video game only provided exercise to your thumbs. Now, there are systems that have players jumping, ducking and dancing around the room. That means more open space in front of the unit and consideration of where the sensors are to be placed and wired.
Then there are the TVs and speakers. If you don’t plan for big TVs, you will be up a creek in the next year or so. And we need to consider if you want to see your speakers, or hide them in the architecture.
The rest of the gear also needs a place to live, tech now often has its own room or space in your mechanical room. Where are all those wires going to go to?
If you plan on using an interior designer, be sure to let your tech specialists know up front, as they are used to working together with these other independent trades like your designer, and that can help insure a seamless experience and beautiful end result.
While entertainment applications might be the most exciting area of home technology innovation, home automation is another area that’s expanding rapidly, now that the iPhone or Android smart phone in your pocket lets you handle everything from securing a dinner reservation to making a bank deposit. Controlling your home is the next evolution, in fact its already very much here.
A common requested feature, and expected even, is automated lighting control inside and outside of the home. Of course, so is heating and security. And costs have come down significantly, making it more accessible to everyone. And while we have integrated control solutions to make it all seamless, you really don’t have to buy a separate control system to control these systems, as we said, your already walking around with a $600 controller in your hand.
These Comfort Controls as we call them, also functionally help you reduce power bills as well. For example, Nest components (tstat, smoke detector, alarm, etc) all work together to “learn” how and when you use energy – when you make breakfast, take showers, head out the door for work or school and when you go to bed. As Nest learns these patterns, it makes automatic adjustments to maximize energy efficiency.
Home automation can also help aging or disabled homeowners via motion sensors that turn on lights as they go down a hallway, reminders to take medication, or alerts to a family member that a loved one has fallen.
And just recently we now Voice Control which can overlay these systems to give a more seamless and automated form of control.
Look to the Future
At our last CEDIA meeting, we saw things you haven't even imagined possible. There’s some really cool stuff coming, real practical stuff too!
And that’s just what the professionals are talking about now. "It’s hard to imagine what might be the next innovation. Whatever it is, it’s going to need wires.", Pedigo says. The best place to put those is inside the walls when your home is being built of course, so consider hiring a professional consultant.
Your local tech consultant is the only one who will be able to steer you in the right direction for all this wiring and technology that's available now and coming soon. But also keep in mind, sometimes it's still an educated guess even for us.
What to expect from a Specialist firm
Typically most specialist firms, including ours, are a bit different than the other trades on your home build site. While you tend to not interact with them directly, you instead deal with your GC. It's quite the opposite with tech, in order to insure that the systems are tailored to your specific needs, your specialist will instead work with YOU directly. You will be responsible for not only hiring them, but you will also pay the specialist directly. The specialist will work with other trades or the GC as needed directly on your behalf, but you will need to speak to the specialist directly for anything to do with the tech. While this may consume a bit more of your time, it will result in a better finished product in the end.
Make sure your specialist will supply the products, specifically make sure they are an authorized dealer or installer, and use this service if at all possible. Allowing the specialist to spec and supply the product they will be installing will not only insure the gear will work as spec'd, but the firm will also handle ordering and timely delivery of the gear to the jobsite as needed.
A common misconception is you will pay more if buying product from the firm, versus a local store. But any authorized dealers (whether specialty or retail store) will sell products for the same msrp price. You often even get a better deal through a specialist when combining multiple parts with installation.
Talk with your builder or GC, tell them you want to bring in a specialist from the beginning. The sooner you can get your a specialist on-site the better the outcome will be. And not just during the building process... it's important to note that hiring a home technology specialist insures you also have a relationship with them after you move in, for continued support of your systems, as that is something your builder or GC will not do for you.
When considering hiring a specialist, look for one that has good industry affiliations to insure they are up to speed on the latest standards. CEDIA and AVIXA are two respected industry groups that require continued education of their members.