Discovering Home Automation Solutions for Smaller Projects

A few years ago, we still sold mostly one-room solutions when it came to remote controls. Whenever we ran into larger apartments where clients wanted multiple remotes, or things centralized in a rack, it was challenging to design the control system. A colleague of mine was also struggling with using the single-room solutions for multiple AV rooms. He was also struggling with expanding his business by offering more options to clients. He recently became a Control4 dealer and hasn’t looked back.
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A few years ago, we still sold mostly one-room solutions when it came to remote controls. Whenever we ran into larger apartments where clients wanted multiple remotes, or things centralized in a rack, it was challenging to design the control system; we had to make sure we had enough flexibility in the remotes to work with all of the rooms, and enough range on the remotes to reach the closet. Or, we had to put RF base stations in each room, with IR emitters running back to the closet. It was messy, difficult, and not very efficient. As we grew, however, we shifted to a Crestron solution, which made sense in larger installations with lighting, shading, HVAC, and security control.

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A colleague of mine whose business is in the $500,000 range and does mostly $10,000 to $30,000 projects was also struggling with using the single-room solutions for multiple AV rooms. He was also struggling with expanding his business by offering more options to clients. He recently became a Control4 dealer and hasn’t looked back. One thing he recently mentioned to me, which I hadn’t really thought of, is how much easier having an integrated automation solution makes doing these smaller jobs that were just not good fits for single-room solutions. For example, worrying about the distance from a remote to a processor really isn’t as much of a concern, because each processor acts as a ZigBee repeater (or InfinetEX in the case of Crestron) and it is relatively easy to add ZigBee antennas to extend the mesh. If there is lighting control in the system, then each in-wall or plug-in dimmer acts a node as well, to help extend the range and create a stronger mesh.

Additionally, programming is much easier, as everything is in one project and all of the programming flows together and is developed holistically, instead of on a room-by-room basis with separate components for each room. And centralizing in a rack is much more cohesive, as one processor can handle the load for multiple rooms and the IR ports can be spread over multiple processors—maybe one behind the TV for controlling the TV and a different one in the rack that is providing IR, serial, and IP control for everything in the rack for all of the rooms. Also, IP control means fewer IR emitters, and therefore easier wiring and fewer service calls, because emitters don’t get knocked off when someone is dusting the TV.

He also feels much more comfortable offering lighting control, HVAC, and other home automation options as they are native to the control system and work flawlessly with one another. This is allowing him to gradually expand the business without having to take on and learn any new lines.

Most importantly, he feels more confident walking into a proposal situation when meeting with a client, knowing he has a solution that can handle almost anything they can throw at him. Before, he was always concerned he would be asked about things outside of his comfort zone and outside of the core capabilities of the systems he was selling. He would often talk clients out of upgrades like lighting control or HVAC because he wasn’t comfortable integrating it with piecemeal solutions. Now he feels comfortable that he can successfully integrate these systems and he has been more successful selling them in, which means his business will grow by simply increasing the average ticket instead—something most of us want to accomplish.

So the message here is that home automation is not only for the $50,000- or $100,000-and-up clientele. Implementing, selling, and installing home automation systems works with small projects, as well; he can comfortably handle jobs as small as $2,000 with a controller, remote, programming, and a few components like an AVR or Sonos Playbar, up to the $50,000-$60,000 projects he had aspired to but couldn’t achieve with the solutions he was offering previously.

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