Total Control Remotes offers programming services for dealers who don’t have the skill, bandwidth, time or desire to do it themselves. But can it improve your golf game? Here are ten reasons to use us for your control system programming:
10) We are highly trained in the control system companies we support, keeping up with the constantly evolving technology and enhancements, while continuing to train on a regular basis.
9) We love what we do, taking great pride in our work and attention to detail.
8) Creating a positive image for our dealer-based clients is something we take very seriously. We want to deliver the best solutions for our dealer’s customers, and take every measure to do so.
7) We work with the most talented graphic designer in the business, and invest a great deal of time in refinement, graphic utilization and personalized interfaces that appeal to all different types of clients.
6) Understanding the equipment, we are controlling is essential to providing an optimum client experience. We are authorized dealers for various product lines and have a great deal of equipment on hand to test on a regular basis. We easily translate that experience in our control systems and take advantage of some great features.
5) Nurturing our dealers who are new to the control systems they are dealing is part of our business model. We understand that it takes considerable time to learn some of the quirks and intricacies of most control systems and try to help educate our dealer-based clients at their own speed.
4) By helping our dealers with the design process even well before the client proposal, we help ensure that the hand selected components integrate best with the control system. We want the client to take advantage of the features as well as have the most reliable control options available. We help the dealer understand the limits and caveats that may apply to certain items, so they can manage client expectations accordingly.
3) We have been programming various control systems for so long that chances are, we have seen everything. If a problem occurs on the field we can help save time during any troubleshooting process, saving our dealers hours of wasted time on site.
2) Our programming includes support during and after deployment. We are available seven days a week and safeguard our client files and documentation. Utilizing remote access, cloud-based utilities, and other technology, we can help our dealers all over the United States and beyond.
1) By taking advantage of our programming services we hope to alleviate time you can spend with your family and friends. Avoid those all-night sessions. Spend those extra hours this summer refining that golf game, which if anything like mine, could use the extra work.
Contact Total Control Remotes for a welcome package explaining our services today and finally get a handle on that golf game.
If you are like most people, you realize the importance of maintenance. We are all affected by maintenance, like it or not. If we do not perform regular maintenance, we understand that things will either not last as long, not work as well, or break down. We maintain our bodies, our teeth, our minds, our finances, automobiles, and even our lawn mowers. Why don’t many of us place the same importance on our expensive home theater system?
If you own an intricate home theater, control system, whole-house muse music system, or any sophisticated entertainment system, you know that technology changes rapidly. Your system is constantly getting bombarded with firmware updates, or not, while the AV world moves at a lightning pace. New features, enhancements, bug fixes and updates are probably available for most of your components, and hopefully, after many months of usage, everything still “plays nice” with each other.
As a home theater specialist, we often see the ramifications of a system that is not properly maintained. Many of our calls involve addressing problems with projects that we did not install. Unfortunately, many of these new clients think the system is not functioning properly because of something the original AV company did, when in fact, the system was installed and calibrated perfectly! The failure of the client to properly maintain the system, or the original company to not offer regular maintenance service is the reason why the system is not working properly, or is not up to par with expectations.
What happens from the time your AV installer leaves your home to the time your system starts to show some compromise? Is it a little gremlin that runs around your equipment rack, ripping out wires and pressing buttons it shouldn’t? Is it that you opted for the cheaper package and your equipment is not of adequate quality? Could it be that the equipment only works properly for 2 years? The answer here is assuredly, no to all the above.
Chances are the system is not being properly maintained. Just like making regular trips to the doctor, or the local oil change, your home theater system relies on regular maintenance. How often regular maintenance is needed probably depends on the size of your system, type of components and technology, and many other factors. Things happen over time such as cables and emitters coming loose and unplugged (usually due to a third party interacting with the rack, like the local cable company), firmware updates that are not run, or not run properly, or create havoc for another component, something breaking down for one reason or another, (if maintained will almost always be caught during a warranty period), or some other system affected by weather, the cleaning lady, or too much heat. By subscribing to regular maintenance service from your AV installer, you can avoid problems before they happen, and enjoy the latest and greatest features of your entertainment system.
Here are some tips on how to insure your system is being maintained properly:
Now that home technology systems are connected to the Internet, your system can last for a very, very long time without becoming very outdated. By putting a regular scheduled maintenance plan in place, your entertainment system will provide you and your family with enjoyment for many years to come.
When your AV installer asks you if you are interested in network power management, learn more about this exciting new technology before you dismiss it.
First, to help you understand what this technology is, network, or IP power management in simple terms, is the ability to locally and remotely monitor, control and schedule your power outlets to turn on and off. Some of these components have available phone or tablet apps, some allow for a web interface, and some allow all of these control methods. In addition, many of these can be integrated into a third party control system, increasing your possibilities and ease of use. These units, which also employ surge and power filtration, come in all different sizes and styles. Many resemble typical rack mountable surge protectors with LCD display readouts. When adding the network feature, they become powerful power management tools.
Why would you need one? After all, power protection and line conditioning is an expensive proposition as it is. There are many features and advantages to owning one of these. First, and foremost, you are protecting your system from spikes and other electrical disturbances that can disrupt or damage your equipment. With power filtration, your equipment will perform better and last longer by providing a consistent power flow to the underlying components. Second, they are incredible energy savers. I have a client who lives in New York City and is in Brazil most of the year. He can power his system by scheduling most of the outlets to turn on for an hour a day, just to insure firmware is updated, and integrity of the system is maintained. Equipment that consumes outlet power, also known as vampire power, is off for 23 of 24 hours a day, saving energy. Another client only wants his children to access the game systems for a certain time of day and the system will not power on during other times. You can schedule outlets to turn on or off and adjust schedules based on the day of week.
Another great feature is the automatic processing it can do. For example, since the unit is connected to the internet it can detect when there is no internet signal by pinging IP addresses or websites of your choice. If it determines there is no network connection to the Internet, it will perform a power sequence of outlets that you can specify with delays and number of tries. So if there is no Internet, it will reboot the modem, wait 5 minutes, reboot the router, wait 3 minutes and reboot the access points. That feature is effective for catching problems as soon as they happen.
Since these units normally have a web interface, or app for phone and tablets, they allow you to control your outlets remotely. They also integrate these features into third party control systems in most cases so that your Crestron, RTI, Savant or Control 4 system can reboot outlets as well. This comes in handy when some of the underlying components act up by crashing or freezing. Cable boxes are the main culprits for this type of situation.
With these apps, control system and web interfaces you can easily see what outlets are on, off or alerts that are caused by irregular voltage, wattage or other abnormalities that are related to the power. It can be configured to email or text you when all or any of the outlets are off, or if any of the voltage or wattage levels are abnormal. This can alert you to a power outage or problem with the circuit breaker. The safety of your family, home and equipment is an important part of what makes network power management worthwhile. There are many great companies and technologies that currently exist, and they keep getting better. Ask your AV technology expert to go over each of them with you and decide what best suits your needs. Network power management in an integral part of smart home technology and is here to stay!
Total Control Remotes LLC
When we offer our clients products or packages, we refer to them as “Good”, “Better”, and “Best”. Other companies may offer different scales and you may hear names like “entry level” or “advanced” or even “audiophile” or “videophile”. We feel these scales just make clients feel bad about their purchases. We don’t like to herd all the great products and put them in a category that would make a client feel like they were wanting more. Rather, we take into account several factors when we separate our products, programs and packages.
First, it is important to know that we do not sell everything. We only take on products that meet certain criteria as it relates to our business model. While not all products have to hit a bulls-eye in every category, it is important that they can be considered. Here are some of our criteria:
Some companies take on products that carry the most margin and make them as profitable as possible. While that may be fine for some, we like to look at value and bang for the buck. For example, we feel that there are many products and lines that tend to have a better reputation than what they deserve. That is not to say they are not god products, but the valuation on these products can sometimes be artificially inflated. Rather, we are constantly searching for products that have excellent value vs. what they offer acoustically. Our goal is to give our clients the very best for their money.
Quality is essential and some products that exist have specific issues or problems that could be specific to the product line or model. It is our job to weed out these products and have an ear for the issues that arise. Providing our clients with components that are well-made are essential to our business. If quality is not a concern the end result is a poor client experience.
We understand the features and benefits that our clients are looking for. It is important that we take on products that not only have these features, but utilize them in a reliable and enjoyable way. A feature that is not presented properly should not be considered if a client has a hard time using it, or if it does not present well.
The bottom line is that the product must perform well to be considered. If we feel there is no “wow factor” we will not consider taking on a product line. The product must be able to exceed our client’s expectations, whether that means audio, video, control, networking, or all of the above. We want to offer you an experience you can’t buy in a store, and we expect our products to perform.
Many times our clients do not recognize the importance of this factor, but it is actually extremely important. We need to take on products that integrate well with other products. This means the manufacturer has to go out of the way to form relationships with other companies. For example, an AVR manufacturer makes its API (or instructions on how to control it) available to control system companies. In turn, we can provide our clients with the best possible control experience. That is a simple example, and integration can take on a lot of meanings, but it is important that the manufacturers recognize that consumers want products that “play nice” with other products.
Another factor that is essential to our product selection is how good the product customer service support is. That does not mean simply fielding phone calls and helping people through problems, it also means being proactive. Listening to the issues that are being encountered, feature requests, and other customer complaints are vital. Being able to address the issues that arise on the field allow us to do our job and get our issues addressed without it infringing on your time or expense are important factors to consider. We will never take on a product line that is not thoroughly supported.
WARRANTY AND REPAIR
Let’s face it, components can sometimes break or become defective over time. It is our mind-set that the longer and more inclusive warranty period a manufacturer offers the more value that is tied to the product. We want clients to purchase products that last beyond a reasonable time of usage. In the least, we want them to know that if the product should fail over a reasonable amount of time that there are warranty and repair provisions that are there for them. Not only does the manufacturer have to provide a term that is fair, but also needs to make the return and/or repair process as easy as possible.
AUTHORIZED DIRECT DEALERS
We try to take on products that we can sell through an authorized channel. It is unfair for us to sell you a product that does not give you all the benefits and warranty originally designed for you. Many internet sales boast cheaper pricing and major discounts. Beware of these products as there is no warranty provision or support attached to it. These shops claim they are authorized to sell a particular product or service, but in the end you are left holding the bag. They will not help you should you require a repair, return, or some level of support. We stay clear from products that are mass sold on the internet by dealers claiming they are authorized.
In this day and age, appearance is really important to many of our clients. Sure it has to pass the other tests, but in the least, it has to be able to blend in with the design and décor of the home or office. Manufacturers are in tune to this philosophy and are now making products that are sleeker and designed for appearance. We realize that some of our clientele prefers the natural and “old school” type of design, but many also prefer the aesthetic value that is becoming more popular. We try and take on a balance of the two.
There are many other smaller type of criteria that is less important but nonetheless considered as well. Things like shipping policies, ease of ordering, sales support, parts and accessories, general availability, price fluctuations, internet sales, reputation and a variety of other smaller considerations. We try and evaluate all of the less important aspects of a product because they can tie in to experience as well.
Okay, now that we have provided our multiple quality checks that go into each and every product we carry, you know that we are not selling anything low grade, low quality, and low value. That means that the products and components we use in installation and that we sell direct to our clients have touched and passed on every single point mentioned above. We have rounded these products in a “Good”, “Better” and “Best” category to make it easier for clients to choose their experience. Usually as you move up from Good to Better to Best, the performance, quality, features and possibly some of the other attributes improve.
Total Control Remotes offers many packages and products sorted in “Good”, “Better”, and “Best” categories. Stay tuned for a future article on some of our G, B & B picks by product category.
When purchasing a home of any age there are many things that I like to consider the “little things” that make the most sense when scrutinizing the decision to purchase. Imagine buying a home with little to hardly any water pressure? Seems like something that would hardly impact a decision, but the thought of taking a lifetime of showers without any water pressure would bum me out. This is a crude example, but my point is that the little things can really determine how you perceive your home, and most of all enjoy its amenities.
In terms of what to look for when buying or purchasing a home, there are the large ticket items, and there are many small ticket items. Anyone who has watched the home improvement channels or has conversations by the water cooler knows what these things are. In no real order of importance, these are the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding if you should buy your home, or determining what the true value of the home is. My definition of the true value of the home simply means, how much does the house cost after you purchase it and have made enough improvements so that you can live comfortably, combined with the peace of mind that a major repair is not imminent?
1. How much is the home priced per square foot, and is that figure in line with surrounding homes?
2. Is the home the right size for you and your potential family and guests? Think of the home with a few more people.
3. Is the property tax and homeowner insurance affordable? Get a quote from your insurance agent and ask the township for the tax statement.
4. Find out how long the house has been on the market and if there is a reason the sellers want to move. Look into the pricing history of the home as well as surrounding homes to see if you can make the most intelligent offer possible.
5. Is the home safe? Make sure the steps are not steep and everyday items such as walkways are not perilous in any way. These can pose a risk to you and your visitors.
6. Pay attention of the person who is showing the home. Watch their body language. If they are trying to steer you away from a room or area, chances are there is an issue there. Take your time and show them you are curious and careful. It is their job to hide the blemishes and only show you the good stuff.
7. When choosing an inspector ask to see a sample of his reports. You can easily tell a thorough inspector from one who is just looking at the “big things”. You want someone to be as forensic as possible, and focus on all matters – no matter the size or importance.
8. Is the home plumbing using a septic system vs. public service?
9. Identify how the home is being heated and cooled and determine if it is economical. Find out the age of the system, and get a copy of the gas and electric bills to determine efficiency and budget.
10. Inspect the windows and where the floor meets the wall to determine if the home is properly insulated or if there is any exposure to outside elements within the house. Do a thorough inspection of all the rooms and nooks within the home.
11. Insure the windows and framing around the windows does not require replacement. Push your finger into the wood to see if there is dampness, and examine how many coats of paint appear to be in or around the frame. Insure the paint is not cracking.
12. Examine the walls to determine composition and any imperfections as well as uneven areas. Damage by hanging pictures and other fixtures must be repaired with Spackle so try to identify as many areas as possible.
13. Size of the home is important, but noticing little things can help. For example, notice if there are any doorways, stairways, or bends around the home that would make purchasing and delivering furniture difficult; any narrow areas or areas where access is difficult could prevent you from properly furnishing the home. If there is a basement take measurements or check the size of the entrances and stairs to make sure you can fit large items without damaging the home.
14. Try to imagine “your stuff” in the home and determine if there are adequate storage spaces or options. A home without proper storage will clutter easily and make the space feel smaller. Make sure you have the space and proper climate for your storage and valuables.
15. Determine if the current homeowners are smokers. Inspect for damage in the ceiling, walls, and underlying areas. You should be able to detect by the smell alone.
16. Determine if the current homeowners had pets. If the house is carpeted this could mean allergens could be present. This could lead to issues for you and your guests and you should condition that the carpets are properly cleaned prior to move in date.
17. Find out about the condition of the roof, and a 15-year history of tear-off, repair, and replacement. Ask if there is any outstanding warranty on the current roof and how long that is.
18. On top levels of the home if applicable, look at the ceilings to see if there is any moisture or water damage. Spots are usually evidence of a leak or issue with the roof.
19. Determine if gutters around the roof are clogged or inefficient. Poor water circulation will lead to bigger issues.
20. If there are carpets find out what is under them. Pulling the corner up in a closet or unexposed area will reveal any wood flooring.
21. If the carpets are what you want, make sure there are no major stains. They can be very difficult to remove. Have the owner remove them to insure they are not your problem.
22. If you see area rugs, take a peek underneath. Make sure there is no mold or damage that is being covered, sometimes on purpose.
23. You fully understand you are going to need to paint, but how much? Factor that into your costs, and make sure you realize that dark walls are hard to paint without priming first. That goes for every wall, every ceiling, and exterior items such as fences, shutters, or trim.
24. Walk around and listen to the home. Make sure conditions are quiet. Do you have steps or flooring that creek? Walking barefoot can help you “feel” for problems, but use your eyes and ears and make sure the home does not exhibit sounds that are distracting and annoying.
25. Bring a small night-light with you and plug it into various electrical receptacles to insure there are no electrical issues. Make sure the outlets are all properly grounded, and that GFI outlets exist in areas like bathrooms and outdoor areas that could be exposed to moisture.
26. Try to inquire about power outages in the area. If there is a generator on premises, find out when it was installed, what type of installation and what circuits are enabled when power goes out. If you are in an area that is constantly experiencing power outages, you need to have contingency in place at all times in case the outages are extended.
27. Make sure the bathrooms are properly ventilated with fans that are not very noisy. Also, make sure the location of the bathroom is not in an area that is not appropriate. A bathroom off a kitchen doesn’t really work well.
28. Determine how many amps are running the home to see if it is enough. Any home 2,000 square feet or more should have at least 200 AMP services. Inspect the electrical panel to see if it is organized and neat.
29. Outlets should be plentiful and located throughout the home. Any heavy usage or productive areas should have plenty of outlets. Make sure you not only observe for outlets, but you test them with the night light.
30. Check out your cell phone reception inside and outside the home to determine if you are going to be living in one of those homes that cell phone service doesn’t work well in. While there are boosters that can solve the problem, there is an expense.
31. As you walk throughout the house, snap some pics if you can to remember certain details that require feedback or more research.
32. In every room, find out how that room will receive light, either through natural sources or fixtures. Ideally, you don’t want to rely on lamps in every room, especially in key areas. A fixture or in-ceiling lights will provide all the light you need and make the room look brighter and less dull. Fixtures like chandeliers will exist in the center ceiling.
33. In rooms where light is an issue, determine if there are windows and if they are positioned properly to provide sunlight during the day.
34. Inspect and run every faucet and shower, including hoses and water stations in and around the home. Determine if the water pressure is sufficient and inspect for any leaks or old/damaged hardware.
35. In the same token, flush all the toilets and make sure there is no clogging, weird noises or any type of notable issue with pressure or discoloration in the water.
36. Open the doors under sinks and faucets and feel around for moisture. Look and see if there are any signs of mold or previous water damage.
37. Have a drink of water (let it run for 30 seconds). This is the water you will be drinking with, cooking with, and bathing in. Hope you enjoy the smell, color and taste.
38. Open all the closets and doors and inspect areas within the home that are not out in the open. Look for light within closets, and electrical receptacles.
39. Determine the style, age, efficiency and functionality of the appliances in the kitchen / laundry room to determine if replacement or alternate options are necessary.
40. Get model numbers on everything that is included, especially appliances. They will tell you the true age, and can be difficult to repair with replacement parts if they are discontinued or really old.
41. If there is a basement, try to get a good sense of how it smells. If it smells moldy and damp, there is a good chance that it needs to be treated. Look along the walls in exposed areas (near sump pump) to see what the exterior looks like and if there is any moisture on the walls. Ask if it has even been flooded and make sure a mold test is performed. If there is mold in the home, it will most likely exist here.
42. Determine how the home is equipped to deal with heavy storms. Drainage, shutters, storm shields and other items should be evident.
43. Examine the foundation of the home both outside and at the lowest level. Cracks and stains should be carefully examined to determine structural damage as well as water damage which can weaken the foundation. The structure of the home is extremely important, and possibly one of the most important parts of the home inspection. Bring up anything you see with the home inspector.
44. If there is an attic, examine it thoroughly. Check for insulation, moisture, mold, or foul smells. Determine if it can be used for storage which is a plus.
45. Walk outside the property and get an idea on how the land is pitched. Obviously, if the land is tilted to your home, that is where the water will run. A house that is slightly elevated with the land pitched away from the home is ideal as it will be less likely to flood or incur poor drainage conditions.
46. Look for puddles around the exterior to see how much water collects (and where it goes). You want to make sure you don’t have a swamp after every rainstorm. That is why the grade of the land is very important.
47. See if there is any drainage system installed around the home or if one is needed to properly steer water away from the home and backyard.
48. Look at the efficiency of the home to funnel water off the roof, down spouts and direct away from the home. Visiting the home on a rainy day is the best way to do this.
49. Determine how noisy the area in the home is, especially in bedrooms and work areas. Visiting the home during the week at various times of day as well as weekends and weekdays will give the best perspective. Listen for trains, local traffic, and make sure you are not underneath a flight path.
50. Examine landscaping to see if there are any large tree roots that are invading too close to the home. In addition, determine how extensive spring and fall cleanups will be around the home by trees around the areas of the home and yard.
51. Bring a small hand shovel and sample some of the soil in the backyard to determine soil type. Soil plays a big role in planting, irrigation, and absorption. Check areas to make sure the soil is not like quicksand. Soil should be soft, but not so you sink more than an inch when walking. You may want to “sneak” a sample of the soil and have it analyzed by a landscaper if you are really interested in cultivating.
52. Determine what kind of animals and pests habit the area and eat your plants and crap all over your yard. Check other homes to see if they have taken any preventative measures. Chances are you will need to do the same.
53. In terms of landscaping, by observing how well kept (or not well kept) the homeowner treats his landscaping is a clue to how he treats the rest of the home. Typically, a properly maintained home will exhibit care in the landscaping.
54. Determine what direction the house is facing. Use your phone compass. This can have an impact on natural light entering the home which could add to light and warmth.
55. Try to examine the architectural details of the home. Is there crown molding? Is there any special attention to detail? Look for design inside and outside of the home that set it apart from other homes.
56. Make sure items like stairs, rails, banisters and any other structure is not loose. These are the types of repairs that you want the seller to address before you move in.
57. Find out where the gas meter, electrical panel, water service, outdoor hose and water access is. Make sure they are easily accessible, in ideal locations, and are properly functioning.
58. Make sure you have adequate storage of valuables, hardware, tools, outdoor equipment, clothing, and anything else you can think of. Determine if conditions in the attic, basement, shed or any other applicable area is sufficient.
59. What is included with the price of the home? Don’t put any value or perception on things such as window treatments, fixtures, appliances, area rugs, furniture, or any entertainment system that is not included in the price of the home.
60. Low voltage wiring, if it exists, can be very helpful. Examine each room where it is needed to see if it is wired for cable or satellite (coaxial cabling), phone/fax (Category 3/5 or 6 wiring), Ethernet/data (Category 5/6 wiring), speakers (14-16-gauge speaker wiring) or home theater (HDMI, audio/video wiring).
61. Find out who your local cable and satellite providers are, if they offer the channels you watch, and what type of pricing and installation is required. If you are moving out of state there is a good chance that you may lose some of your local networks and sports team designated channels, so make every effort to look into all your options.
62. Outdoor lighting is essential for the security, ambiance and safety around the perimeter of your home. First, make sure all the outdoor fixtures that are attached / mounted to the house work. Next, see if there is any low-voltage landscaping lighting around the front yard in and around shrubs. Make sure this works as well.
63. Determine what the seller has done in the last 7-10 years to create efficiency within the home. Feel the exterior walls to determine insulation factor. Feel along window base and framing for drafting. Observe doors and make sure there are no spaces when closed to allow air to enter or escape. Buying a home from someone who is energy conservative and environmentally conscious will make for a “green” home.
64. Is there fencing around the home? If so, walk along the perimeter on the inside and out and examine the fence for any defects, aging characteristics or damage to determine if this is something the seller should take care of. A fence is ideal for pets and privacy, but make sure it is sound.
65. Any area of the home that concrete exists, look closely for cracks and trip hazards. Examine the perimeter of the property for any damage and make sure to uncover any areas where the ground is masked with leaves or debris. It is your responsibility to make sure the home is structurally sound, both inside and out, as these repairs are costliest.
66. Once you are set on a home, be sure to visit it on different times of the day and different days of the week. Determining noise, light and ambiance of your surroundings is critical.
67. Look for any signs of damage caused by rodents, insects, etc. Any evidence of wood fray, waste, or odd smells could attribute to the presence of these types of pests. Examine joists or any exposed wood for any compromises or termite damage.
68. In terms of valuation, the most important features of a home are found in the kitchen and bathrooms. Style plays a huge role, but if the seller has an updated kitchen consisting of the following characteristics, they will demand top dollar:
a. Granite or other stone counter-tops and back splashes
b. Cabinets that are newer and have no defects
c. Newer appliances
d. Flooring that is newer or updated
e. Overall size of area, kitchen island
f. Quality, name brands and size of equipment
g. Fixtures, faucets, lighting, ranges and hardware
69. In bathrooms, consider the following:
a. Granite or other stone counter-tops
c. Faucets, hardware, and lighting
d. Type of flooring
e. Size of shower and/or bath
f. Updated toilet and shower
70. Overall flow and layout is important. Make sure you don’t have to tip-toe through a bedroom to get to another room. Make sure the layout matches your lifestyle. Imagine yourself in the home, your guests and family being comfortable, and a floor-plan that makes sense.
71. If you see skylights you should be skeptical. Most of them leak, or allow water to find their way into the ceiling, causing damage. Examine areas around them and see how the water funnels around them.
72. If there is a room with an addition, make sure it is properly heated or cooled. Rooms that are added sometimes can be disconnected to the rest of the home’s heating and cooling systems and result in uncomfortable temperatures. Since they usually don’t exist on top of basements or below attics, they can be more difficult to wire, so be sure the electrical and low voltage wiring is sufficient.
73. Curb appeal of the home is not only important for perception, but also can drive the price and marketability of your home. In addition, inspecting the shingles, vinyl siding, stucco, or brick on the exterior is important. Painting or changing the color of a home can be expensive and invasive, so make sure that meets the standard.
74. Drive around the area, and around the block. Make sure the block is not a “main vein” for traffic and that the block has the type of location that would limit traffic if possible. In other words, try to select blocks are out of the way and do not have bus routes, or other busy characteristics that would invite a lot of foot and car traffic.
75. If there is a fireplace make sure there is a guard on top to prevent unwanted guests. Make sure all mechanisms are in working order, and that the firewood stack, if any, is away from the house. If it is too close to the house carpenter ants, carpenter bees and termites can be an issue.
76. Look for small cracks and crevices especially in the kitchen and areas on the exterior to see if there are pockets or spaces where insects and rodents can get in. Those locations need to be plugged.
77. Make sure there are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home and in places deemed mandatory by code. Find out if the system is wired into the electric and centralized so that fire and police are notified should a problem occur.
78. If the home has a security system make sure there is a panel at any entrance and if there is a panel in the Master Bedroom. This will allow you to invoke security easily and arm the home conveniently. Check along windows on the front and rear for contacts that will trigger the alarm should a window break or open. Inspect the integrity of the contacts for wear and firm connection.
79. Your grass will need to be watered regularly in the hot summer months. Find out if you have sprinklers, ask to see them run if possible, and figure out what areas are included. You will have to water the rest if you want a nice green lawn.
80. Determine how much land needs regular landscaping maintenance and how much that service typically costs for the amount of land in that area. Asking neighbors, townspeople, or even contacting a local landscaper is important. Find out what services they offer besides lawn mowing:
a. Trimming and maintenance
c. Lawn Care
e. Snow/Ice removal
f. Spring and Fall cleanups
81. Getting a true cost of annual upkeep is important to determining if a home is affordable. The above services are needed.
82. Find out about other services in the area you may need. Make sure they are reliable and professional.
b. Doctors, Dentists and Healthcare
c. How far are you from a hospital?
e. Eye Doctors
f. Specialists that are applicable to your situation
g. Restaurants and local shopping
h. Grocery and convenience stores
i. Handyman Services
l. HVAC / Climate Maintenance
m. Movies and other entertainment
n. Places of worship
o. Post Office
q. Local hotels
r. Banking – is your bank there?
s. Parks, Ponds, recreation
83. Avoid homes that are in close proximity to these places:
a. Schools or universities
b. Fire houses
c. Police stations
d. Commercial zones where heavy trucks / machinery
f. Airports or under flight paths
g. Truck stops
h. Sports Stadiums or large venue halls
i. Race tracks
j. Highways or very busy roads
k. Gas stations
l. Garbage dumps
m. Bus stations or Bus stops
n. School Bus stops
o. Factories and large warehouses
p. Large shopping centers
84. For all of the above, drive around the area several times to insure you are located in a location that has or does not have some of these facilities.
85. Find out about local pricing in the area. For example, how much are staples, like milk, bread, etc.? Where can you find the cheapest and closet gas station? Try to get an idea of general pricing in your area vs. where you are coming from.
86. Make sure that you are not miles away from convenience stores which can be extremely important before natural disasters, such as storms and bad weather.
87. Observe neighbors and engage them if possible. Determine if they keep up with their homes, their ages, and if they are going to be a potential nuisance. Carefully observe without being nosy the condition of the homes they live in.
88. Try to get a perspective of the politics and general history of the town you are moving to. Looking into town policy, terms, people in office and their history, as well as what kinds of issues are coming down the line can give you a longer term look on where you are living.
89. Check the sexual predator database to make sure that nobody in your area has committed a crime and has been classified as a sexual predator.
90. Google the hell out of your street, home and area. You might find out some cool things – or not so cool things.
91. If you see a piece of furniture that is desirable, especially large pieces, make an offer to the buyer. They will be happy to not have to pay for it to be moved.
92. Make sure your block is well lit so you don’t need to use a flashlight when you walk your dog. It’s also safer, and easier for your guests to find their way around.
93. Make sure that parking is possible, especially if you have more than a handful of guests for a party. Parking on the lawn is a no-no, so make sure parking is not impossible.
94. Buy some very local newspapers or try to access them online to try and determine some of the crimes that happen in the area. There is usually a police blotter in every newspaper. Use google maps to determine the proximity. Avoid areas that are considered active in that area.
95. Try to follow the news in that town via Internet during the time you are looking for a home. Reading local news can get you up to speed quickly with the politics, events, and issues that are going on within a town without getting a biased opinion.
96. Learn the history of the home (if any), town and surrounding areas.
97. How is the school system in the surrounding area? Very important since neighborhoods with good school systems tend to attract more affluent and the type of element that encourages growth in the community, while maintaining and putting money into their homes, making your home go up in value.
98. Many people stay in local hotels for extended periods of time to inject themselves into the town and see the area at all times of the day and night. This is a good idea if you are considering a home in area that you are not completely familiar with, and allow you to perform thorough research.
99. Make sure your home is not subject to any town ordinances or landmark type restrictions that require you abiding to a certain footprint, color, architecture, or any type of permission or permitting on general repairs and remodeling. At the same time, make sure you understand the types of permits, applications, rules on trees, and local laws by consulting your township website.
100. Visit the home repeatedly during the consideration period with family and friends. They can give you other points of view and may be able to see things that you missed. Expect criticism and look into all the insight they provide.
101. When you find your home that feels right, you may instantly fall in love with it. Be careful about getting too attached to the home before you buy it. There are many things that can and will go wrong, and if a deal falls through it could leave you feeling heart broken. As therapy, continue to look at other homes during the process to keep your options and mind open to other possibilities should things not go your way.
I am sure there are many other items that are worth considering, but I hope I gave you enough information in order to make perform all the diligence required when purchasing a home. As you can see, this can be a daunting task and you will always inherit something you didn’t quite anticipate. Hopefully using this as a checklist will limit your downside and allow you to make the best deal possible. Have any of your own ideas that were not mentioned? Send me an email and I will post them for you.
No matter how big or small a custom integration firm is, it can be a huge challenge to focus across all businesses. From precision installation, to internet networking, system calibration, contingency plans, programming, and meeting client requests, the “to-do” list can be daunting. While the goal is to do everything to 100% efficiency, something is bound to go wrong. Unfortunately, this usually translates into something not getting done properly or effectively, and the client will probably not be happy with the end result. It is very common to see control system programming suffering the most. There are many reasons why control system programming winds up falling short of the custom integrators expectations, and ultimately, the clients. Control programming can be time consuming and require a good amount of thought and resources. While there are ways to streamline, and “cookie-cut”, no two systems are ever the same, and clients have preferences and priorities that need to be addressed. If every other aspect of installation and calibration is done perfectly, a control system that is not programmed with care and attention will be the client’s final and overall impression. Even in the rare occasion where everything works, the control interface should be something the client takes great pride in, showing off to his neighbors and friends alike. But again, the burden of providing something bullet-proof, simple, entertaining AND stunning rests solely on the shoulders of the installer or programmer. These days hiring a full time employee dedicated only to programming is rare; often these employees “double-up” and then the same problem occurs. The more time and effort dedicated to the programming process, the easier the system will translate to the client, and the more reliable it will be. Making it visually stunning certainly doesn’t hurt, and customized themes can really make a client feel it is a first class operation. Why may companies neglect the programming? There are many reasons:
1) Bandwidth. Shops are so busy these days and after proposals, payroll, accounting, service calls, installation and meetings there really is not a lot of time to program and perfect the craft. Employees are wearing multiple hats and simply do not have the time to dedicate to a decent programming effort.
2) Budget. Everyone wants a full-time programmer (or two), but a smaller shop often need to keep headcount and expenses to a minimum. This forces the installation team to perform functions outside of their range of knowledge or comfort level.
3) Knowledge. Because of bandwidth, it is very difficult for smaller companies to keep up with control system innovations, new features and technologies. This can lead to ineffective programming or programming that resembles a lazy effort on the custom integration company. The firm may have enough time to program, but not enough time to continue training and keeping up with the rest of the market.
4) Desire. If you are a custom integrator you have a unique set of skills and want the client to have the ultimate experience through quality craftsmanship and technical training. You would rather not be bogged down with the commitment to programming and the time it takes to provide the image you want to portray.
We have all seen or come across bad programming on the job. Usually our first impression was that the firm before us was unqualified or not skilled. We realize then the importance of providing our clients with an end product worthy of praise. The controller is the last thing left in the client’s hands before we move on, and that experience they will have every day will reflect how they feel about us, and how they feel about recommending us. By subbing out programming services the installer can benefit in many ways. They can free up time and focus on what they do best. They can save the expense of hiring a full time person dedicated to programming and only use the programming service when they need it. They don’t need to invest money and time in training, graphics and related programming expenses, or keeping up with the latest technology. How does the process work? Here is a typical timeline:
MONDAY 9:00 AM ABC Installations has already reviewed the job and have submitted a proposal to client Smith. Client Smith have called and agreed to the proposal in full and installation has been scheduled for the upcoming Friday morning at 8:00 AM.
MONDAY 3:00 AM ABC installations downloads a client profile sheet from Total Control Remotes website which details all the equipment, specifications and special client requests for client Smith. ABC installations emails the completed file to Total Control Remotes and follows up with a brief phone call to discuss the project.
MONDAY 5:00 AM Total Control Remotes gets backed to ABC Installations with a price quote and minor questions about the install. ABC quickly accepts the pricing which is extremely competitive. Total Control indicates that they need about 2-3 business days to finalize the installation and will have the system files available well in time for the install on Friday.
TUESDAY 2:30 PM Total Control Remotes calls ABC installations to clarify some options and recommends a better way to accomplish one of the many client requests. ABC agrees and saves some money at the same time.
WEDNESDAY 5:00 PM ABC Installation receives the client programming package which consists of the programming file, special instructions, the client profile which details all connections and setup information, and final invoice. Since installation is two days away, ABC does not have to do anything else.
FRIDAY 6:00 PM ABC installations has booked a 5 PM – 6 PM time slot for client support, but is tied up. Total Control Remotes agrees to extend the support time. ABC deploys the system and requests a couple of small changes. Through remote access, Total Control Remotes makes some minor changes to the programming.
FRIDAY 6:30 PM ABC installations has tested the system and has given the client a demo. The client is thrilled with the simplicity and overall design of the remote, and everything works great.
As you can see the process is very organized and predictable. However, subbing out work should not be taken lightly. A company that provides programming for you is an extension of your own. They may or may not interact with the client, but the end product they create can give you a leg up on competition. Also, programming is only as good as the support they offer. Be sure if you need anything on-site or if there is an urgency they are ready to deliver. If the right fit is made, it can alleviate valuable time and allow you to perfect your trade skills – not to mention spend more time with the family.
We can be the ultimate solution for your programming needs. We hesitate to define our role as “subbing out programming” because we take your client’s satisfaction our top priority. Give us a call today to discuss your client’s needs and we can help you.
Often, many clients express a shocked look on their face when you let them know how much a universal remote, or control system costs. If the client is not familiar with technology and exactly how these systems work, the reaction could be even worse. We want our clients to know this is certainly not a conspiracy in the AV world. By educating them on the different options, levels and ultimate price points they can pick something out that matches their needs and budget.
There are many different choices when purchasing a remote control. There are two distinct categories – consumer grade and professional remotes. Let’s first define what a remote control is; it is simply a single remote device that can communicate using the same infra-red technology as the remote that came with your equipment. The only difference is that it has the capability to store separate IR codes for 2 or more pieces of equipment. By following the instructions that come with the universal remote, anyone can effectively calibrate them to control a TV, DVD Player, Receiver, even Apple TV by following a few simple procedures. Various code sets are included in the instruction booklet and by trial and error a user can effectively switch between equipment by pressing one of the few buttons on the top of the remote that read “TV”, “DVD”, “AUX” and possibly a few others. Depending on how many devices this simple but effective remote can control, it may go up in price, but these solutions typically start at $20 and can go up to about $50. This is the most simple option you can choose, but while these remotes allow you to control your devices with a single remote, it is still usually complicated as you have to press TV, then power to turn on the TV, then RCVR, then power to turn on the receiver, and a sequence of other commands in order to get your system ready. This is, in our opinion not simple. The only merit is that you don’t have to press all those buttons on separate remotes, but you still must press all those buttons on the single remote.
Now let’s get more sophisticated and go with a consumer based remote that will require the same steps as above for calibration, but will allow you to store routines, or macros, into the remote buttons. You probably need some software, web based or pc-based to identify your equipment and record commands that perform those button presses automatically. For example, now, when you press “CABLE” it will turn on the TV, and all underlying equipment and switch inputs for you. These remotes can be enough for some people, but usually leave them wanting more. They are not very easy to customize or tweak to precision, and users usually want something at least a little better. These remote control systems start at $100 and can go up in price depending on features and control options. They round out the consumer grade remotes and from there, some of the features start to get more involved. These remotes can also start controlling some automation features based on the wireless technology and accessory equipment they utilize; that is why they can be priced from $100 to several hundreds of dollars.
Let’s discuss consumer grade options that could greatly impact price. One aspect is the presentation of the remote. The remote could incorporate graphics and have a touchscreen combined with hard buttons. Some think that this is easier for people to control since they are graphically presented. A picture of a DVD with the text “Watch DVD” is always a bit warmer. Another physical characteristic is the battery life. Does the remote require regular alkaline batteries, or is it rechargeable via lithium? Does the remote incorporate radio frequency and or other types of wireless signal such as Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or Bluetooth? These types of technologies make the remote open to automation features such as lighting, door locks, security, shades, climate, and a host of other functions. Best of all they allow you to control third party equipment through walls and doors up to a hundred feet away by purchasing optional accessory devices. This can bring the price tag way up, and worse, can require a good deal of technical knowledge to set up to work perfectly. It is this reason the need and market for professional based systems cost, which I will discuss in the next few paragraphs.
For those who never purchased or used a high-end professionally programmed remote the idea of spending hundreds, even thousands may seem ludicrous, the same way one would not dream of purchasing a 40,000 dollar projector or a $25 thousand pair of speakers. While a good control system can be relatively expensive, it is only a multiple of the investment you make in audio and video, and plays an important role in the overall experience as you interact with your system. In fact, it can be the difference between some people in the home being able to use the system or not. Instead of being completely intimidated by a pile of remotes that need to be utilized in order to turn the system on and set it to the right input and setting, one would simply press a single button the professionally programmed remote. The pro remote stores multiple command sequences which have intelligence to treat the system differently if the system is already on. For example, when you turn the system on the TV and Receiver need to warm up for a few seconds before accepting an input command. The remote knows the system is on or off and handles the situation accordingly. The pro remote provides an activity-based appearance. Instead of meaningless buttons, the remote may include a “Watch Cable” or “Watch Movie” button. Once pressed, the remote performs a series of commands and primes the system perfectly. It then takes you to the respective control page for that device in a much more aesthetic and ergonomic appearance.
However, appearance is only one aspect of professional remotes. While a programmer can spend countless hours developing custom graphics and interfaces that encapsulate all the features and desires of the client, the technology is the key difference. How the remote communicates to the home and components can drive the price exponentially. Signals such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth and other proprietary frequencies can communicate with lighting, thermostats, shades, energy management, and obviously audio/video devices. In many cases, a control system consists of more than just a remote. Control processors and base units are needed to allow the remote to control equipment in other areas of the home, through walls and doors, and over great distances. We will be writing a separate article called “Remote Control vs. Control System”, but the more you control, the more the need for a control system vs. just a universal remote. All in all, as expensive as these items are, they only wind up being a percentage of what the entire system purchase is. And the fact that the controller is your ticket to experience, we believe it is well worth the price tag.
Hopefully this has given you some insight into the world of control and how professional controllers and control systems justify the high price tags. To summarize, your money goes to the technology, service and advanced programming that your custom integrator performs. The end result is a way for you to enjoy your home and have all the functionality and feature set at your fingertips.
Many of my clients have the same reaction as I did after I put in my lighting control system. They wondered how they ever lived without one. Will lighting and shade control change your life? Maybe, maybe not. But I am here to tell you that there are clear benefits that deserve some serious consideration.
Let’s start with a couple of reasons that impact you and the family directly – comfort and productivity. Being able to set the right mood with scene based selection will always insure you have the perfect balance of light. This will make you more comfortable and increase productivity. You will notice the quality of your work will improve.
I bet you can guess that energy savings plays a role as well. I am willing to bet you still have switches in many places where a dimmer is more deserving. A lighting control system will almost force you to convert all your switches to dimmers, thus saving you energy. You can save about 20% of energy by dimming alone. Plus, a dimmer will afford you the ability to use only the light you need, and set the perfect scene for whatever it is you are doing.
A lighting control system includes shades because shades also control the amount of light you let in – or block out. Picture an automated lighting system that closes the shades when the sun is coming in through the windows and making the house hot during the summer. Cooling off the home and heating it with sunlight are excellent ways to not only save energy, but make your house more comfortable.
Having lighting and shade control keypads that are engraved with scene names like “Dinner”, “Party”, “Cleaning”, “Welcome” and “Goodbye” are not only cool, but a great way to set a mood with ultimate precision and speed. Pressing that “Goodbye” button when you leave the home will insure that no lights are left on. These keypads are great at the top of the basement stairs so you can turn off the lights the kids leave on constantly. Plus, walking around and flipping on and off countless dimmers and switches just to set a mood or shut the lights can be extremely annoying.
What other products are involved in designing a lighting control system besides shades and keypads? How about an occupancy sensor which will turn on light when you enter a smaller room like a laundry/mud room or pantry? If no motion is detected it will shut off and rest assured lights will not be left on. Using occupancy sensors can save up to 50% of energy!
Controlling it all with your phone, tablet or control system is also convenient, but you can also set schedules of your own. Turning on outdoor lights fifteen minutes after sunset and turning them off each night is common, but how about setting an “away” schedule that turns on random lights each day when you are away? With lighting control you are afforded so many possibilities and it is practically effortless.
I hope I left you with some of the benefits that a lighting control system can provide. Now you can be comfortable, productive and save a good deal of energy at the same time. Most of all it will truly make your home a “smart home” and completely change the way you think about lighting. Lighting systems are more affordable than ever and can be done by location, by room, or by floor and expanded as you wish. Let us design the perfect lighting system for you.
Many of us often wish we had certain wiring in place whenever we decide to take on a new project. Sometimes we wish we had wired speakers in certain areas so we can enjoy music when we are cooking or entertaining. Sometimes we wish we had wired internet connections around the home to really take advantage of the speed we pay the cable company for. Other times we wish we could hide all our equipment in one place, like that empty closet in the basement that we never use. These are things we try to remember when the walls are open during a remodel or new construction project, but I can tell you that no matter how well you remember it’s almost impossible to think about everything.
When the opportunity presents itself (and you are lucky enough to have the walls open for wiring) it is always best to consult a professional. A professional that specializes in structured wiring will not only remind you of what you can prepare for, but can tell you what type of wiring you need and how to run it. A poorly designed wiring plan is as good as no wiring plan and is a complete waste of money and resources. Nothing is worse than peppering your project with wiring only to realize that didn’t plan accordingly.
In our approach to wiring our first step is to interview our client and visiting the space. Many clients think that pre-wiring is a simple list of what the client wants to install in the home once the walls are closed. In fact, there are many other reasons to pre-wire. A comprehensive pre-wire plan might not add much to the value of your property, but it will certainly make your home more attractive to buyers. Buyers know that a house with a good wiring backbone is often cheaper in the long run to perform installation projects. They may pay more for your home or your home may be more attractive based on the wiring in your walls – used or unused. Another thing to think about is what you don’t want now, but may want in the future. If the backyard is currently a mess and you have not focused on improving the living space, pre-wiring for speakers is always a good idea. Most people stop there, but what about having a good internet signal? Maybe you want to control your pool when you finally get around to purchasing one? Could an outdoor television be an option? By wiring and preparing for those options now you could potentially save thousands of dollars in installation costs, but more importantly, be able to do the project whenever you get around to it with very little disruption and damage. As you can see, thinking about now AND thinking about later is important.
Our next approach is to suggest some technology and wiring plans as it relates to the structure of your home. That includes centralizing some of the wiring for items that conduct signal, like a wireless router. I am surprised at how many clients I visit that complain about the internet signal have a router located in some remote corner of the home, in some cabinet because that was the only option. Finding an ideal space for the equipment that conducts signals is important in every project. In addition, wiring to other locations for wireless access points is not only important in larger homes, but absolutely necessary. Running hard-line internet connections to high-production areas like a home office or bedroom desk is another great move. Why pay for that ultra-fast internet connection when it is reduced drastically by relying on wireless signals? A hard line connection will insure that you are getting your money’s worth in terms of speed and throughput from your network provider. Also, making sure every logical room has a video / cable connection and contingency wire will pay huge dividends later.
To extend on this concept, we ask the client to think about security. Security is not about alarms and sirens – it is the ability to have piece of mind in what is going on in and around the home at all times. Besides a good wiring plan for a security system you may want to wire for future surveillance cameras, motion detectors, door locks and garage control. People want to protect their homes from intruders, but they also want to keep an eye from the sky on their home when traveling, accepting deliveries, and making sure the kids got home on time – day or night.
Now that we covered some of the boring stuff, let’s get to the next part of the conversation – home theater, control and automation. Even though a lot of technology today today is wireless, there are many things to think about. Do you want to wire the home for whole-house music? Maybe you want to centralize all the equipment in one place and share it among the half-dozen televisions you own in the home? Controlling your lighting, climate, shades and door locks? Maybe not now, maybe not next month, but take my advice and wire for it. Remember, you may not use the wiring in your walls right away, in fact, you may never use it at all. But we guarantee you that you will never turn down the opportunity to take on a new project due to the in-feasibility of invasive wiring installation. You will also have a home that is more efficient, and less prone to the problems most people encounter.