Central Vacuum Systems Find Happy Home in Houston Builder Market

Using a new design center for demos, integration firm DataSmart in Houston finds success by weaving Beam central vac options into builder prewire plans.

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Home systems integrators—and increasingly also homebuilders and homeowners—realize that the easiest, most economical time to add technology to a house is while it’s being built. Before the walls are up, all of the essential low-voltage networking, audio, and control wiring—the elements that usually come to mind as a critical part of a prewire—can be installed several times faster and easier than had the wiring been added to finished space, and home systems integrators relish the opportunity.

DataSmart, a home systems integrator in the Houston area, however, is taking the pre-construction installation strategy a step further by capitalizing on an arguably less popular, largely overlooked “prewire” component—a central vacuum system.

Although central vacuum systems have been available for decades, it’s one of the newest product categories to join DataSmart’s portfolio of high-tech smart home options, and over the course of its seven years on the product roster, Beam central vacuums have played a significant role in the company’s ever increasing profitability. According to DataSmart director of marketing Jaime Garza, sales of Beam built-in vacuum systems, along with structured wiring, lighting controls, home theater systems, and security systems, represent at least a 25 percent growth in profits over the past two years.

As for the company’s decision to delve into central vacs, “It just made sense that we offer them as part of a standard prewire plan,” says Garza. “During this phase of home construction we can discuss with customers where to put central vacuum inlets at the same time as we’re deciding with them on where to put HDMI jacks, for example.”

Presented in this logical fashion, the uptake on Datasmart’s Beam central vac offering has been better than expected. “We had originally thought that it would be an item that would appeal mainly to owners of custom homes, but it’s proven to be a popular request across the board, from owners of production homes to those building semi-custom and custom homes,” Garza continues.

Successful Central Vac Sales Strategy

DataSmart attributes much of its central vac success to a unique sales strategy of locating its own design centers and sales staff inside the design centers or adjacent to the design centers of many of the area’s leading home builders, including Ryland Homes, Beazer Homes, Taylor Morrison Homes, and Newmark Homes.

“Our competitive advantage is our relationship with our builders,” Garza says. “When we are contracted by the builder to conduct a technology consultation with clients, we have a controlled appointment time with which to present the builder to technology and automation options that fit their needs and wants.”

Central vacuums are one of the options discussed and explored during every consultation, and after Datasmart explains the benefits of a Beam central vac system, and the fact that is can be installed easily and affordably, it’s an amenity many customers decide to add to their home tech package. “Some people are interested in having entertainment; others are more interested in convenience features like a central vac,” says Garza. “We never really know which technologies consumers will decide to invest in, but Beam central vacuum systems are always a big part of the discussion.”

Demos Make a Difference

A face-to-face consultation with clients prior to home construction is just one part of the DataSmart’s winning sales formula. Being able to demonstrate to clients how a Beam system functions and explain how it can be easily integrate their homes and lifestyle is what Garza says ultimately seals the deal.

“If you can show it and demo it, the customer is going to more seriously consider it. So, our take rate is directly tied to our ability to show the customers the product,” says Garza.

Showing for DataSmart involves letting customers who visit a design center feel the weight of a hose, connect a variety of Beam power head accessories to the hose, experience the ease of connecting the hose to a wall inlet, and inspect the size and features of the canister that collects the debris. At this time, DataSmart also walks clients though the floorplan of their home, indicating where inlets would be best positioned. Beam supports these efforts by providing DataSmart with all of the necessary equipment, as well as literature and visuals that help homeowners choose the right system for the size of their home.

Through this roughly 10-minute tutorial clients are able get well acquainted with the components that make up a Beam central vacuum system,  but DataSmart made the decision long ago to refrain from demonstrating a fully operational setup. Garza explains that the only place available to locate the power unit is inside the design center, which doesn’t accurately represent a recommended Beam system setup, in which the power unit resides in a garage or basement.

“This setup is not what happens in a real installation,” Garza says. “We didn’t want our customers to get the impression that they’d be dealing with having to find a spot for a power unit within the living spaces of their homes, so we elected to stick with simple show-and-tell style of demonstration, and it works.”

Capitalizing on Beam Success—from Production to Custom

Due to the success generated by DataSmart’s embedded production builder design centers, the company established in 2014 a stand-alone 4,000-square-foot design center to serve the Houston area’s custom homebuilders. Since opening this design center, the company’s Beam built-in vacuum sales have jumped by nearly 30 percent.

While DataSmart’s commitment to central vacs as a standard pre-construction component and a solid sales formula are responsible for an ever-growing vacuum business, having a reliable product backed by a reputable manufacturer that provides ongoing support to its dealers is has been a key component to the company’s success. 

About the Author

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Lisa Montgomery:

Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in adding electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home.

Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books.

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