Ask any integrator why they do what they do and you’re liable to get a boatload of answers. However, I’m sure one of them—and a common one at that—will be something along the lines of, “I want to be able to help bring greater value to a client’s home.” What that “value” is to the client is another question entirely. When it comes to some as varied in offerings as home technology, how do you even define valuable?
Are we talking about monetary value or comfort value? Well, let’s say for the purposes of this article, we’re talking about achieving both at the same time.
In a conversation I had with Joe Borress, President of Tri Star Electric & Automation, what makes a home technology upgrade valuable relies on two factors: “One, what is going to make sense for the homeowner now. And two, what is going to provide them or the next homeowner with a good experience later.”
The first aspect is a given with any project and lends itself to value through comfort and convenience, but it’s that second one that can make a home incredibly valuable when the time to sell it rolls around. Get both right and you have a solid value proposition for just about any client.
You’ll also be doing yourself a favor by staying one step ahead of the market while also making it so the design and architecture of the home won’t need to be tampered with as much on future projects.
We asked Borress what he sees as being some of the most valuable home technology upgrades to be offering right now, and here’s what he had to say.
‘No Home Should Exist with Conventional Lighting’
When asked about what the most valuable piece of home technology an integrator can provide today, Borress called out the lighting almost immediately.
Aside from the universal convenience of being able to turn everything on and off with a few simple commands, modern lighting control solutions offer incredible customization easily tailored from one homeowner to the next. Plus, light plays a considerable role in how we perceive our environments, so on top of control, good lighting has a universal appeal as well.
“Every new build should have a lighting control system with panelized lighting,” Borress says. “Just talking about downlights for a second, they’re immediately a better option than most forms of traditional lighting in a home. Why? Because they do so much more. Get bulbs that are tunable white, dimmable and have high CRI and you have something that people are going to never know they needed until they experience.”
Because of its value, Borress also sees more light fixture manufacturers engaging in direct dealer channels with integrators, making it far easier for them to find and source fixtures for projects.
‘I See a Lot of Motorized Shades on Projects’
Borress also mentioned that motorized shading can bring significant value to a home by complimenting the existing lighting system. They’re also incredibly easy to incorporate into modern lighting control systems.
“I see a lot of motorized shades being part of the jobs now,” Borress continues. “A lot of people will even pre-wire for them and install motorized shades and drapery tracks so they can be integrated into the lighting controls or home automation system later. It just continues to create that user experience.
“It’s another thing most people don’t realize how much shades can do. It can help preserve the thermal comfort of a room by keeping the sun out during the summer or the heat in during the winter. It can darken a bedroom at night so you can sleep. Keep sunlight off valuable artwork, protect floor finishes, and it can do all this automatically on a control system. Lot of value there.”
‘Outside is Just as Important as the Inside’
The pandemic really got people across the world into thinking about developing their outdoor spaces, but as Borress notes, that trend had long been rolling in more fair-weather areas of the United States, such as California and Texas.
“If you’re in a place like Southern California, the outside is just as important as the inside, and the experience usually starts at the front gate and goes all the way to the property line in the back,” Joes says. “And it’s all about the entertainment here. The things people are going to get the most value out of in their yards are music and TV.
“You have a lot of fire pits, pools, spas, plunge pools, infrared saunas. These are place where people are looking to relax, and when you have something like audio wired in these spaces, that creates ambience and mood.
‘The More Integrators Can Emphasize Finishes, the Better’
According to Borress, design-conscious technology holds more value for a variety of reasons. When the biggest concerns among designers and architects is technology getting in the way of appearances, design-forward home technology (like the Samsung Frame, for instance) can become part of the home’s design instead, making it more flexible from project to project.
Borress makes careful distinction between design-forward technology and technology that is meant to disappear completely.
“The invisible category is great, but that’s just for the luxury client, you know, so that’s going to be more driven based on individual preferences from the homeowner. It also just adds more cost to the job, which, again, a luxury client might not mind it as much, but it’s not going to be for everyone in the same way a nice-looking lighting control keypad will be.”
The Most Valuable Home Technology Upgrade: Proper Cabling
Remember how I said Borress almost said lighting first? That’s because before anything else, he laid out how valuable pre-wiring and cable is for any home technology, both currently planned and future potentials.
“When you’re going into an existing home, you’re only ever going to be able to be as good as the guy that did the original cabling, so if you have the opportunity to, always offer as thorough a job as you possibly can,” Borress says.
“It’s important to design the job based on the client’s needs now, but when I say anticipating what the next guy needs, this is the most valuable service you can provide. Because for you, it’s all about seeing what you can to be able to expand on services later on down the road.
“That way, if the client or the next person to buy the home wants to add Wi-Fi over by the pool as a compliment to their audio system, you can say no problem because you did a robust wiring job on the previous project.
“Of course,” Borress notes, “This like with anything else is going to depend on the home and the price point, but you should always be offering this as a service, because it’s the most valuable service you can offer. You’re basically future-proofing a house for both you, the client, and every other potential client that moves in after them.”
What High-Value Technologies Should Integrators Be Looking into Now?
Aside from the current, we asked Borress what he thinks future homeowners are going to want to put in their homes so integrators can start looking into these types of products now. One of the biggest ones, he said, was voice control technology.
“Josh.AI and voice control in general is going to be the way of the future,” Borress says. “The only reason we’re not seeing it as widespread now is simply because the technology isn’t quite there yet for that seamless experience clients are after. With all that’s going on with AI today, though, I think we’re probably not too far off from that one.
“On the security side I also see one hundred percent cloud-based IP security gaining over NVR as something every client is going to want. Even now, it’s a great thing to offer. It’s more resilient and hugely scalable, and a lot of the systems out there nowadays offer really good facial and license plate recognition.”
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