Just a couple of years ago, if a client wanted a simple, one-room solution to control their living room AV, I didn’t really have much to offer them. While there were solid solutions out there — a URC Complete Control system with an RF base station and remote; a Pro Control processor and remote, or an RTI processor and remote — we weren’t selling those lines and the lack of expandability (except for maybe RTI) made it difficult to turn a profit on such a job. The challenge we had been having was meeting a price point. While clients appreciated the benefit of long-term expandability and scalability, they were hesitant when the price was more than $2,000 for something that a remote, base station (or processor) could do for around $1,000 (fully programmed), and they may never take advantage of the scalability.
Image: Thinkstock I understood their hesitancy. It is not easy to grasp the benefits of home automation with lighting, security, shading, and HVAC control until you’ve lived it. Many clients just wanted a single remote to control their TV and components, because that is what they had seen at a friend’s house, or they were frustrated with the difficulty in using multiple remotes. A single remote made sense, and they could easily see the benefit, but spending more than $2,000 was just not within the realm of reality or possibility for them.
There were several of these sales situations where I knew — based on our conversations — that the client would benefit from and enjoy home automation. The challenge faced was getting it in their hands to really try it out and live it.
I think I’ve cracked that nut. We’ve lately been having success with a Crestron package that includes an entry-level processor, programming, and iOS control for a similar price to what a “one-room solution” would cost. The benefit is that we will often throw in a single lamp dimmer at no charge so that the client can live the benefits of home automation. Essentially we give them a taste of what an integrated solution can do, and they can’t help themselves; they want more. I know because that is just what it was like when I first installed Crestron into my own home.
I started with some lighting, quickly expanded to full lighting control and shading, then I added in HVAC and door locks, and finally put touchpanels everywhere in the house. The convenience and functionality is difficult to convey with words, but once a client turns on the TV and the side table light dims so that there is no glare on the TV screen, they are hooked.
While the package we are offering may be small potatoes, once we factor in setting up all of the components as well as add-on sales like a handheld remote, additional lighting control, HVAC, whole-home audio, and other automation features, the profitability model starts to shift dramatically. We may not make a lot of money on the initial one-room solution, but it gives us a foothold with the client for add-on sales, a potential source of referrals, and it at least enables us to break even for one day of a tech’s time, and a service call or two afterwards. The customer is happy, we’ve sold a bit of work and possibly got additional sales to come with that client and maybe some friends of theirs will hire us, as well. We’ve also been able to support our architectural and designer partners with smaller projects, so they don’t go looking for someone else to handle the small jobs, which could then open us up to losing opportunities with larger jobs from those partners.
Each of the home automation manufacturers have opportunities to take the small one-room project business and turn it into larger home automation projects. Control4 has the EA1 Bundle, with a controller and remote for $600 retail. With Savant, an integrator can sell a processor and iOS control at a competitive price point, and URC has the MRX8 at $600, which with iOS control or an inexpensive remote, is well within the ballpark as well. So with all of the entry-level home automation options out there, why would you sell a one-room solution that is limited to a one-room solution? Sell an automation solution and throw in a lamp dimmer. I guarantee that you will see your add-on sales skyrocket.