How to Find a Systems Integrator -- And Other Tips on Estate Management

By Alex Sulpizi

If “A Dashboard for Your Home” (Winter 2007 issue) has persuaded you that integrating the systems in your home would be worthwhile, you’ll need to find a reliable electronic-systems integrator to design and install that system. Residential systems integrators combine expertise in system design and contracting to provide you with a one-stop system installation suited to your specific lifestyle.

You could, of course, ask for a recommendation from someone you know. Many homeowners today have discovered the value of complete home systems integration beyond the typical audio video aspect. You may have a trusted friend who has had a good experience with a specific integrator. Another good option is to turn to the industry trade associations.

The leading trade association in the residential technology industry is CEDIA, founded in 1989, which has more than 3,000 members worldwide. CEDIA’s members are established and insured businesses with bona fide qualifications and experience in this specialized field. The member classifications include residential electronic systems contractors, manufacturers, sales representatives, distributors, consultants and affiliates. (Electronics systems professionals have emerged as the “fourth contractor” in the building and remodeling industries, alongside electrical, plumbing, and HVAC professionals.)

CEDIA sponsors an intensive certification process for residential system designer and contractors. Successful home system integrations start with a solid design. There are both designer and installer certified members, some even have both. Those with both should be able to provide you an end to end solutions right down to the ongoing system maintenance and support.

The most comprehensive of certifications offers no guarantees about the way a firm conducts business or about the business’s track record. I would always suggest a thorough interview process to gauge experience and accomplishments of a specific integrator. Don’t rush into hiring an integrator, start the process during the home design phase. If you discover halfway into your project that a specific integrator was not the right choice, it is extremely difficult to cost effectively end the engagement. In addition, once you bring in another integrator they need to “ramp up” on your project and it will likely cost you time and money.

I always recommend bringing an electronic systems designer in during the architectural design phase of a project. By designing the electronic systems in your home in conjunction with the architectural design you are assured you’re your systems run the way you want them to. Anything from hidden TV’s to “integration ready” product specification from the mechanical contractors to ideally located equipment closets will not become an afterthought. This design will also lead to the next most important item, the systems integration budget. Investing a few dollars up front for a professional design allows you to make good decisions concerning not only what technology is right for your lifestyle but also what will be done now vs later. All this leads to creating a very important specification plan which will allow you to correctly pre-wire your home. Some of our designs have been 100% phased over several years after the original pre-wire. Even with changes in technology, everything goes much smoother when you have a master plan.

To find CEDIA’s directory of contractors, go to www.cedia.org and use the locator tool under “Find an Electronics System Contractor”. This will produce a list of all members in your geographic area. To narrow down from there be sure to check for the specific designer or installer certifications that the specific member holds.

Alex Sulpizi is founder and president of Amnet Technology Solutions of Stamford, CT, a firm that specializes in the design and installation of integrated electronic systems for the residential and business markets. Amnet’s vigorous internal R&D certification process has resulted in national recognition for producing some of the most powerful, yet easy-to-use, system installations. www.amnetsystems.com 203.355.2400.

O and G