DIY Done Wrong

March 6, 2014

I never realized how much I loved my home theater until it was gone… For the past seven years, there had been a magical space in my basement for watching movies on the big screen, catching the big game as big as life, or escaping the noise of raising young daughters. And just like that, it was gone. How I got it back up and running took far too long and cost much more money than it should have.

Shortly after I moved from New York City to Indiana and into my first non-rental home in 2006, I began building a dedicated home theater filled with high-end electronics. Thanks to generous gifts from industry friends, accommodation pricing, and donated labor from family, the project cost me very little money out of pocket.

I had mostly been successful at going it alone and was very proud of the results, until late last year when I finally met my match. Right before the holidays–when I would need my projector the most–it simply stopped working.

I first consulted with the manufacturer, then with a locally based veteran calibrator, and finally a local dealer, who offered to run a diagnostic report but surmised that it might just be a lamp problem. The dealer, sensing my reluctance to spend much money, provided the contact information for an after-market lamp supplier. Amazed at the relatively inexpensive price, I ordered a lamp, installed it myself, fired up the projector, and…nothing. I bit the bullet and hired the local dealer to run an RS232 error report. It was inconclusive, so he recommended that I ship the projector to an out-of-state repair center. The diagnosis? The lamp was installed incorrectly. I’m still reluctant to believe that I could have made a mistake during such as simple process, but the repair center got the projector working, and I have to trust their conclusions.

The upshot is that throughout the entire life of my home theater, I have avoided hiring an integrator. That sounds really bad I realize, but I guess I’ve always wanted to learn to do what CIs do by doing it myself. That mentality, which has helped me understand and write about our industry through my own hands-on experience, finally caught up with me, and, in the end, my value-oriented approach actually cost me more money and time.

Had I simply hired a custom integrator from the start, I would have saved a little bit of money and wouldn’t have missed out on all of that big-screen fun over the holidays. Then again, I also would not have learned how easy replacing a projector lamp is if you don’t screw it up (or screw it in the wrong way, as it were).

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