The Ultimate Smart Home: DIY vs. Professional Install
For some homeowners, smart-home tech has become a hobby. But integrating devices can take time—and a little savvy. Is it time to hire a professional?
If you’ve followed the Ultimate Smart Home series I’ve written over the past year, you know how deep I’ve gone down the smart-home rabbit hole. My wife and I now have 48 connected devices in our house, which was just built a year ago. These devices run across six systems controlled by no less than 12 apps on our phones. In total, we’ve spent $4,989.87, not including any theater equipment, sound systems, or TVs.
Over this past year, I’ve done plenty of research to make sure to the products are compatible with one another, allowing us to set up automations across devices that help save time and energy. It’s something I enjoy playing around with, but I realize it may be frustrating for a less tech-savvy homeowner.
Companies are constantly pushing out new updates, so occasionally things that used to work together cease to function. In August 2019, Google discontinued its Works with Nest program, which has left users waiting in limbo until manufactures could work through and get approved for the new Works with Google Assistant program. Google has moved towards the “walled garden” approach similar to Apple, opting not to work with competitors and instead expand their own solutions.
More than one in three adults experience issues setting up a smart-home device, which leads to an estimated 22% of consumers returning the product for a refund. According to Forbes, smart thermostats are cited as one of the hardest smart-home devices to install. This is likely due to each HVAC setup being different, and many older homes not having a C-wire, which is used to power the thermostat. Dual-zone or additional heat sources, features like humidifiers and air exchangers, can add a level of complexity that is beyond a typical homeowner.
Just this last week, I saw a fellow agent requesting a referral for an HVAC professional because her new Nest thermostat was not working as expected. Outside of hiring a licensed HVAC professional or electrician to help install smart home devices, companies like Best Buy and Amazon Smart Home Services offer local pros who can help, starting around $100.
Dan Pidgeon of Goodman Networks, one of Amazon’s largest and top-rated service providers, recommends looking for a professional who has been trained by the brands themselves. Each of their technicians receive four to six weeks of hands-on training, undergo background checks, and are employed directly by the company. They can complete tasks such as mounting a TV or installing a Ring doorbell. Their partnership with top brands helps decrease returns and increase overall customer satisfaction.
Homeowners who are serious about whole-home automation could benefit from working with a local expert such as a Control4 dealer. By using a professional, you’ll have an expert guide who can help design a system that fits your needs and provides one app with every device integrated together. All components and wires will be hidden, the system is guaranteed to work, and it includes ongoing support.
The award-winning Control4 Smart Home OS is a robust and reliable smart-home operating system that connects and manages nearly 14,000 devices from hundreds of third-party manufacturers. Through an easy-to-use interface, a homeowner can personalize and control their lighting, comfort, entertainment, security, surveillance, communications, and so much more using voice, mobile, touchscreen, keypad, or remote-control devices. Control4 systems are available in more than 100 countries through a network of authorized dealers.
I contacted a local dealer in my area, LelchAV, and stopped by their design center in Minneapolis to learn about their approach to home automation and try some of the products out myself. They partner with a number of other companies that integrate with Control4, allowing them to bring everything together so the homeowner does not have to use multiple apps. Everything in the home can be controlled with a panel in the room, on an iPad, or with the smartphone app. While different devices connect us to the world, they fail to work together to create a more elegant experience as a whole—this is why LelchAV emphasizes a seamless experience. Their goal is to make interacting with your home’s smart features a pleasure. Alex Lelchuk, owner of LelchAV, considers Control4 the glue that holds all of the different pieces together so that a homeowner can control everything in one place that’s very easy to use. They work with their client’s budget to design a system based on their needs, handle installation, and offer on-site training and ongoing support.
Prior to the arrival of the LelchAV tech, we discussed which products we already have in our home and what we’d like to be able to do with the remote. While on site, they were able to connect and program all of the devices in our house to work together on the Control4 app, including our Ecobee thermostat, Ring doorbell, Lutron Caseta switches, Sonos sound system, and Sony TVs—all in about two hours.
I am also impressed by the new Neeo remote, a highly intuitive smart remote that gives full room-level control and provides easy touchscreen shortcuts to access all of your favorite streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. My wife and I put one of these in our main entertainment area and we were able to consolidate our TV, receiver, and cable remote all into one.
Later on, we wanted to add a short cut button for Disney+ on the touch screen remote because we can’t get enough of baby Yoda. LelchAV was able to login remotely at 10 p.m., and get that added for us within about seven minutes of me emailing a request. I was blown away with the level of support provided as well the possibilities that I got to play around with in their showroom.
For example, in the showroom I discovered Josh.ai, a voice assistant similar to Google Home or Amazon’s Echo that uses natural language processing. This means you can speak normally and guests are better able to control devices, as opposed to needing to know the specific command that was programmed for the device. In April 2019, Josh.ai announced a partnership with Sonos to introduce VoiceCast, a new way to interact with Josh throughout the home. VoiceCast enables Josh to use compatible Sonos devices to broadcast voice responses throughout the home, instead of relying on the built-in speakers that come with the Josh Micro device.
When working with a professional, they really pay attention to details. Lelchuk showed me a solution from Leon Speakers called Tonecase that they use to match speakers to the natural wood in the house and to hide wires for a truly professional installation.
While you may end up paying a little more for professional services, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that everything works the way it should, and that support is available should an issue arise.