Far too often in our industry, we encounter people who have had bad experiences with home automation. They swear they will “never touch that stuff again.” We understand their feelings. They usually feel this way because they picked the wrong contractor and ended up with a lot of promises and no performance. This is an industry where it is possible for almost anyone to claim to be home automation specialist. There is currently no licensing and almost no government standards for this technology.
What do you do? The good news is, you have the chance right at the start of the process to make sure you are getting involved with the right company.
On this blog, we have looked as some of the ways you pick a contractor. We want to make this as simple as possible. When you sit down with a potential home automation provider, have a sheet ready with the following questions:
1. What is your company profile?
One of the questions people will often ask is “How long have you been in business.” That may or may not help you in this case. Home automation specialty companies are a fairly new concept. Just because a company is fairly new, it doesn’t mean they don’t have experience. That’s when you go the question about experience and certification. Another question that is often asked is “How big is your company?” as if size was the same as quality. In fact, many people are finding that bigger isn’t necessarily better. A really large company can have high overheads that increase prices, use sales reps under strict quotas that encourage them to load you up with gear you don’t really need. It can also lead to a less personal approach that can sometimes leave you being passed from department to department when you just want to talk to someone about your home. It is now common for companies to deliberately remain smaller and more agile and use a regular stable of outside suppliers to help them. There’s nothing wrong with that. It provides a personal touch that may otherwise be missing.
2. Are you certified, licensed and insured?
These are questions that should be easily answered. While there are no government standards for home automation, there are legal standards any contractor, including an automation company, should meet. They should be certified by one of the major manufacturers like Crestron or AMX as installers and programmers. If they are doing audio visual as well, they should have certification from Infocomm. In most jurisdictions, they should be registered as a business with the government. For insurance purposes, they should have some kind of liability insurance, though they may only need to insure that specific project.
3. Can you actually show me what my user interface will look and work like?
A reputable company will have sample product on hand, and/or good support from the manufacturer so that they can show you exactly how the interface you will use every day will look and feel. The type of touch screen and buttons you want to use is a huge choice. You need someone who can really help with this part of the job.
4. What does your paperwork look like?
You don’t want to deal with a company that sketches out systems on the back of a napkin. They should have examples of previous projects that show the quality of their documentation, including wiring diagrams, rack elevation and functional drawings. There can be no excuse for using poor paperwork.
5. Who owns my program?
This is often overlooked. Home automation systems are programmed using a special code that your friend who is good with computers knows nothing about. You can be held hostage in a service contract if the supplier won’t give you the code and passwords. Make sure early on that these will be turned over to you the day the system is completed.
6. What happens after the job is installed?
What do you get in the way of a warranty? If a potential integrator tells you that the manufacturer’s warranty protects you, a red flag should go up. The manufacturer takes no responsibility for the programming, for removing and re-installing equipment or for problems caused by simple mistakes like accidentally shutting off the power. You need to know what the supplier will do for free and for how long, and what happens after that for both programming and equipment issues. You need to know how many times they’ll come to your house before they start billing you. A good supplier will offer you the option of an affordable long-term contract that will give you peace of mind knowing your system will be supported now and in the future.
7. Can I please have your references?
You don’t want to be any company’s first customer, so they should have references. When you contact the references, there is a different set of questions you should ask. Keep this list handy and take notes about the answers.
What work did the contractor perform for you?
Did the contractor meet or exceed your expectations?
How did the contractor treat your home while they were there?
Was the contractor punctual?
How well did the contractor communicate?
Have you had any issue with your system, post installation and, if so, how did the contractor address the issue?
If you could change one thing about your experience with the contractor, what would it be?
Taking the time to find the right technology partner is an essential part of doing your homework. It’s the way to make sure you’ve made the right choice of integrator. At OneTouch, an educated client is our best friend. We believe we have the right answers to all your questions and the skills and experience to fulfill all your automation needs. Get in touch when your ready to make life in your home a better, safer and greener experience.