In a world of visually and aurally exciting residential AV systems, power management is probably not the first thing clients ask about. But as a targeted area for CI growth, it’s important to present power management to prospective and recurring clients, explaining how it serves and protects the entire AV system.
“Clients generally have little to no knowledge about power management; they usually think a power strip is the same as a surge protector that provides filtering,” says Kevin Isleib, sales/technical manager, Main Line Sound & Video, a Panamax/Furman dealer. “Bringing up the benefits of power management in the basic system design, including protection and the ability to solve problems remotely and quickly, is key. These benefits of cleaner power for system performance need to be explained, along with selling the remote management capabilities of systems like Bluebolt from Panamax.”
At Wicked Smart Homes, a RoseWater Energy dealer, the approach for clients with new construction and remodeling projects is generally based on their equipment choices, says general manager, Jim Sanfemio. “Networks, lighting control, and an AV package are disciplines that always scream out the need for a discussion on power management. We always have the ‘What’s your power plan?’ conversation at the beginning of each project so our clients clearly understand how the local power issues will affect their homes. This is when we discuss the benefits of the Hub’s power conditioning. Unfortunately, if they don’t agree to power management, they eventually understand the benefits after a few service calls related to surges and sags off the grid or generator. The clients with RoseWater’s Hub just don’t have those problems.”
At a high level, the goal of power management is to ensure availability and uptime, not just in a moment in time, but for the full lifecycle of an AV installation, notes Vince Luciani, design/presales support, SurgeX. “Many homeowners looking to spec a new AV setup might perceive power management as a defense against one-off power events, but protecting devices from damage and degradation long-term is another essential role of these power management devices. Due to the scope of power management’s role in an installation, education about the value of power protection is key in helping clients understand anomalies and risk to their new systems, which technologies can best prevent interruptions, which remote monitoring and resolution solutions are available, and more. The presence or lack of a power foundation can make, or literally break, the entire installation, so presenting these devices as an investment to protect the full setup is a great way to communicate their value and necessity.”
When the power management conversation begins, most clients have a surface level understanding of power events such as a power outage or surge at some point, he adds. “But there’s much more than just those visible events happening behind the scenes, issues that are not protected by solutions like hardware-store power strips. As an example, the built-in MOV surge protector strip is self-sacrificial and usually not suitable for today’s complex systems; these can only withstand a small strain from power events before being degraded or damaged, giving a false sense of security when left in place long-term.”
While a client typically seeks a surge protector, integrators should branch the conversation out to include a deeper understanding of power distribution and networking, the types of power anomalies within an environment, how they will likely cause interruptions if not resolved, and what needs to be specified to prevent degradation or interruption, Luciani says. “Technologies like remote monitoring, diagnostics, UPSs, IP and IoT connectivity, voltage regulation, and power conditioning are not always well-known, so that initial conversation is important to establish an understanding of the complexity of power and which risks are present.”
Beyond the Battery
“The main interest/feature we hear about from clients is battery backup; which is the first misconception that must be addressed,” Sanfemio says. “In reality, battery backup is secondary to the real feature needed, which is 24/7 power conditioning. Battery backup certainly comes into play when there is total loss of power.
“For the past few years, we’ve been installing the RoseWater Hub SB20, or multiple ones, with the extra battery packs and/or with a solar box if panels are involved,” he adds. “We’ve already pre-ordered the new SC40 for some of our jobs later this year. The 24/7 power conditioning and lightning protection are by far the most important features of the Hub. We’re based in Florida where power is infamously bad even without a storm. The Hub can take two direct lightning strikes and continue to work with no effect on the home. Even with generators, notorious for the power extremes they output, the Hub’s power conditioning protects everything connected to it.”
Sanfemio says his clients are not typically as concerned with energy cost as they are with having consistent power and having their network, lighting, and entertainment systems working. “Clients can get some cost savings if the Hub is used in coordination with solar panels.”
Main Line installs and recommends everything from the basic Panamax PMB-av to Panamax’s larger component-style MR4000/4300/5100 and the Furman Elite series 15/15pfi/150Mi, as well as the Panamax Bluebolt M4315 rack mount and the VT1512P vertical strip for mounting in the rear of AV racks.
“I’m partial to the VT because it has 12 outlets,” Isleib says. “Protection is always number one but remote management and being able to fix a frozen cable box, Apple TV, and so on is the best thing for both the client and the business, saving time and truck rolls. We really don’t address energy costs at this time; most of our systems are designed to be on all the time and must stay powered in standby mode for IP control to work reliably.”
Other than protection and remote management of the electronics it’s important to think about all the wiring from the main structure of the project such as for IP cameras, gate control, even outdoor landscape speaker systems, he adds. “Those connections should also be protected so that something that happens outside the structure doesn’t feed back into our system and damage the connected electronics; those parts are small but important to the overall reliability of the systems we install.”
Every power environment is different, Luciani notes. “We always like to recommend that integrators come equipped with a vast spread of technologies to ensure that there’s a combination of solutions for any power issue clients are facing or prone to. In my conversations with integrators this year, one technology that is coming up increasingly frequently is the double-conversion online UPS. These devices allow battery backup in the event of an outage or surge with virtually zero transfer time to ensure no interruptions occur. And, especially with the latest innovations in power management solutions, many of today’s online double-conversion UPS devices incorporate surge protection and voltage regulation and can serve as a comprehensive foundation for devices in susceptible power environments.”