You interact with your home technology multiple times every day, so choosing the right tech expert is vital for both a problem-free installation and years of enjoyment to follow. I have been a custom installation professional for over two decades and it still amazes me when someone hires a home tech integrator without doing any due diligence. Unfortunately, a lot of homeowners don’t realize that the relationship with their tech expert should be viewed as long-term, not as a one-off.
Here’s why: One, technology never stops changing; and two, technology is never 100% reliable. For those reasons, you will inevitably need an upgrade or a fix somewhere down the line, so you need to partner with someone who is knowledgeable, capable and reliable. Here are the things you should know before choosing a home technology integrator.
1. Make sure they have experience with projects similar to yours.
If the AV firm you’re considering is a specialist in 20,000 square foot businesses with complex control systems, they may not be right for you if all you want to do is have them install a simple 5.1-channel home theater in your living room. Likewise, if you have a large-scale full-home system or custom-built screening room, the guy that specializes in smart doorbells and entry-level audio components is probably not a fit. Get references for the firm from clients that have hired them to do projects similar to what you have in mind. It’s not out of line to ask the provider if you can tour a home they recently completed so you can get a sense of their craftsmanship and quality.
2. Verify that the installer is authorized to sell the products they offer.
You want to be sure that when you need service, you have a dealer that has formal relationships with the manufacturers and can stand behind the products they sell you. Purchasing from an unauthorized dealer may affect your warranty and ability to obtain service for the product. If an integrator is not an authorized dealer, they are not getting the latest training on how to properly configure and install the product.
3. Determine your service requirements.
Some companies only work 9 to 5 during the week, while others are available 24/7. Before hiring a firm, find out when they are available for service. Ask if their support is telephone only or if they will actually send a technician for an after-hours emergency. Most home technology firms offer remote monitoring. This is a great feature that you should consider, since it allows your integrator to check the health of your system remotely and even perform system repairs from their office or mobile device. A two-minute remote fix is a highly desirable alternative to waiting hours for a tech to show up at your home.
4. Don’t undervalue the importance of the installer.
A great installer is like a great chef. They can take a variety of ingredients and make them work together to create a perfect meal. Electronics is no different. You can have a fantastic surround sound system but if your installer cannot integrate it correctly with your video components, remotes, cable boxes, Wi-Fi routers/extenders and other smart products, you are not going to have a great experience. An installer needs to understand all of the disparate products individually and have a mastery of how they interface with everything else in the system. Not only that, they have to deal with products that change every six months! It is a hard job to do well … and an easy job to do poorly. Picking the right technology partner is crucial.
5. Check their certification.
Before you hire an AV installation company, go to the Home Technology Association™’s website (www.htacertified.org) to see if they have been certified. Every firm that has passed the certification has been thoroughly vetted, with all of their licenses, bonding and insurances verified, and all certified companies have submitted a minimum of nine references. There are hundreds of firms to choose from, so there should be several options for great installers in your city. The HTA website also provides a handy budget calculator to help you formulate a budget for your home technology project.
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