As with any home improvement project, it pays to do your homework before you hire a professional to do the work. There are lots of independent companies that can help create an integrated home system that will meet your needs.
Start by asking friends and family who already have systems that they are happy with. Get referrals from them and contact the companies they have worked with. If you are building a new home, your architect, designer or homebuilder may already have a design/build firm on board who will work with you.
For a remodeling project, check out websites such as the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association to find a professional in your area. This trade organization offers a complete list of qualified electronic systems integrators that will help guide you through the project.
By working with a professional, they will design, build, install and maintain your system so you don't have to hire separate contractors such as electricians, media system designers or security system installers to do the work. "There are no barriers of entry into this industry," says Michael Pope, owner of Audio Video Interiors. "You want to be sure to ask how long the company has been in business and how much training they have," so that you are not suffering through a learning curve working with a company that is just starting out.
Also, beware the rash of security-based companies or utility companies that offer to design and install an audio/video system as well. While they can create and install a security system, they may not have the expertise to handle your entertainment needs.
Once you find a professional, they will ask you the important questions to design a system that's right for you. "We ask you what you want to accomplish," says Joe Corona, owner of Corona Integrated Systems. "We ask about your wants, needs and budget and determine if your wants and needs fit your budget."
He suggests you look at the big picture rather than just a simple security system, for example. "People are not changing or flipping houses as much as before because of the economy, so they need to think long term. You might want a system that you can build on and expand if you enlarge your existing house. You might need a bigger system if you add on," Corona says.
Before you start your integrated home project, find out what you should expect and do-it-yourself options.
Consider how an integration project will impact your routine and the do-it-yourself options available.
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