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3 Product Categories Poised for Comebacks

Will central vacuum, multiroom audio and structured wiring rebound along with new home construction or has the landscape changed?


Will profitable products like Beam’s new Alliance central vacuum system give integrators an edge with builders as the housing market picks back up?

Now that new home construction appears to be on the comeback, which home technologies will stand to benefit the most?

Several product categories that are extremely dependent on new construction have certainly had a tough time migrating to the existing home market, namely central vacuum, structured wiring and multiroom audio.

What are the prospects for these three as the market rebounds?

Structured Wiring: During the housing boom, some integrators were installing tens of thousands of structured wiring enclosures. But even with the market on the rise, has new wireless technology made this category obsolete? Not really. A home will still need a centralized networking hub that combines hardwiring and wireless, but try convincing a builder of that!

Multiroom Audio: The category of distributed audio was on a roll when housing was booming, then the bottom dropped out. According to CEA data, sales of multiroom audio systems to dealers were $180 million back in 2008 then dropped by 22 percent in one year to $139 million in 2009. Today, the category is at $292 million, but that growth is mainly due to the development of wireless audio, not hardwired solutions.

Strong solutions from NuVo, Proficient, SpeakerCraft, Russound, Eos, Wasp Audio, Monster, Navvo/Voco, Crestron, Legrand, Soundcast, Channel Vision, Lightspeakers, Sony, DVDO, Casatunes, Dynaudio and the big kahuna, Sonos, that did not exist before the housing collapse are now the market. Heck, there’s now an entire organization - the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA) - dedicated to expanding the technology

But while these wireless audio products were developed to target the existing home market, they are also perfectly suitable for new construction. So the conclusion is that architectural in-ceiling speaker sales will jump as more new homes are built, but you won’t necessarily be running more speaker wire.

Central Vacuum: Much more than the other two categories, central vacuum is almost 100 percent linked to new construction. It is labor intensive and messy to retrofit an existing home with a central vac system, but easy as pie while the walls are open during new construction. As evidence, look at the CE Pro 100 Brand Analysis for the past three years. In 2012, only 36 percent of companies installed central vac. That’s compared to 45 percent in 2010 and over 50 percent in 2007. Electrolux/Beam has garnered the lion’s share of the market with nearly half the integrators carrying it.

One New England integrator recently told me that the housing crisis gave him an easy excuse to drop central vacuum, even though it was quite profitable. He has moved his company to the ultra-high-end of the market and determined that installing central vacuum systems gave the impression to architects and designers that his technicians were “less skilled laborers.”

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Article Topics

News · Business Resources · Audio · Distributed Audio · Wire and Cable · Structured Wiring · Central Vacuum · Beam · All topics

About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

2 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Grant Olewiler  on  10/31  at  03:34 PM

Thanks for bringing this to the light. You are right that many integrators do not see the profitability of the central vac. Actually the price and profitability have been increasing as the jobs have been getting more sparse because of newer technologies such as Hide-A-Hose. The product segment does not require any “tweaking” and properly installed, it is loved by the homeowner. If education is lacking on the product, I invite dealers to visit where we even have training DVD’s on existing home installation, technical theory, marketing, and service. Why leave $1-2k profit on the table for not offering this?

Posted by Brian Campbell  on  11/02  at  07:45 AM

You are absolutely correct that central vacuum systems are a definite growth sector for integrators and we are definitely seeing growth in new home installations.
Frankly, we’re surprised by the comment from one of the integrators you spoke with. The skill levels required to install central vacuum systems, especially installations in existing homes are on par with the skills needed for almost any high-end electronic system.  Perhaps the bigger issue is some architects and designers discount central vacuum installations because the components are out of sight—behind the walls and in a garage or basement.

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