No one wants a poor installation performed by an unqualified cowboy, but how do you differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to picking your smart home technology provider?
Is your installer qualified?
Membership to CEDIA – the smart home trade association – is important to establish. There are roughly 350 installers in the UK and this can usually – but not always – be taken as an indication of basic competency. It is also worth asking after other accreditations, such as ISO9001:2015 – a quality management standard that indicates that the company is capable of consistently delivering an excellent level of service.
There are also several industry awards awarded annually that recognise the very best in smart home design and installation, both from CEDIA and other industry bodies such as the Consumer Technology Association, as well as individual product manufacturers such as Lutron. A decent trophy cabinet lends weight to an installer’s reputation, indicating that their work ranks highly amongst their peers and suppliers.
Do they have the right experience?
The technology that underpins the smart home is not a unified, monolithic entity. Instead, a patchwork of systems, platforms and protocols are tied together in different ways to meet the incredibly varied needs of properties encompassing all shapes and sizes. Make sure that your installer is experienced in the technology they are planning to implement – particularly if it is an upgrade of an existing legacy system. Although a sole trader might do an adequate job for a small project, they might not have the in-house expertise needed to support various systems. If you are unsure, ask to see examples of a company’s previous work and ask for client testimonials.
At the same time – it is important to try and chose a solution that is supported by several companies. Choosing a solution that only one or very few installers can support means that you may end up in a situation where you end up without long-term support (should the installer go out of business) or with fewer options in terms of maintenance and support providers.
Do they have the right staff?
A smart home company should have thoroughly vetted its staff before letting them on site, including CRB checks and both financial and employment history. Ideally, the majority of critical staff should be in-house rather than outsourced, and there should be clear evidence that the company invests in its staff to increase their skills (i.e. training such as CEDIA certifications).
Do they have insurance in place?
A reputable company should have a number of insurance policies in place, including legal requirements such as employer’s liability and public and third party liability.
Professional indemnity is a particularly important thing to check, as it covers any errors on the installer’s side in terms of design. Incorrect installation, badly laid cables or failures due to negligence could end up requiring a substantial amount to rectify later on.
Do they offer good value?
Price can be a false economy when it comes to the smart home, as it is often worth paying a bit more for quality equipment to avoid problems in the long term. If a company is offering their services at a price that seems too good to be true, it could be a sign that they are cutting costs elsewhere – i.e. using cheaper materials or cutting corners on the installation – or that their business model isn’t sustainable.
Quality over quantity
Smart home technology is coming along in leaps and bounds but, like a fitted kitchen or a loft extension, doing it properly remains a substantial investment. Considering that your smart home systems will need to perform for a number of years after installation, it is definitely worth spending a bit more on quality equipment with solid warranty guarantees, ensuring cables are run correctly and that everything is health and safety compliant throughout the property.
Taking the time to dig a little deeper will tell you whether a company is likely to deliver value for money. Take a look at their project portfolio, see if any clients have provided testimonials and check out exactly how extensive their maintenance and support packages are. Typically, getting to know more about the smart home installer you’re intending to use before making a final decision about whether to hire them will give you a better idea as to whether their costs are justified or whether they’re taking shortcuts simply to win business.