Q: What should I look for when hiring a pro?
Like any other installation job in your home-plumbing, electrical, carpentry-a comprehensive electronics system may involve hiring a professional to do the work. That means everything from the design phase to the installation to the finishing touches. It also means having someone there to teach you how to operate your brand new universal remote control, video projector, media server and more. Finding a quality professional isn't as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, but you still don't want to prick your finger with a poor installation experience. Here's a checklist of items to consider when choosing a pro.
- Watch Out For the "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" Types
It's a common phrase in the industry to signify companies that promise they'll do any system you need-only they forget to tell you that they're mediocre in half of the installation categories they offer. Not everyone who builds a home theater can install a control system, for example. Find a specialist, or even companies that subcontract work for which they don't have expert personnel. (This may include focused areas such as home control programming or security installations).
- Check Out Their Work
The industry is full of "trunk slammers" who have earned that moniker for a good reason. Look for reputable tradespeople who can demonstrate their electronics expertise to you either in their showrooms or in actual customer homes. Often a system installer's showroom acts as a home, with rooms that replicate those in an actual home. Keep in mind that many of these businesses, especially those that tout high-end systems, earn customers based on word-of-mouth referrals.
- Consider an Installer's Attention to Detail
Right down to wire runs from the AV rack and structured wiring boxes, make sure a potential installer can demonstrate a meticulous work ethic. Some firms gain several job contracts a year by being hired to clean up another company's mess. A comprehensive showroom may have an equipment rack to highlight the company's precision and dedication to detail. You'll want that same level of perfection implemented in your own home.
- Can You Understand What the Installer is Talking About?
Are you getting too much technobabble? While the inherent nature of an AV installer's job requires a significant amount of technology know-how, some do a better job of breaking it down into layman's terms. Others try to use it to their advantage and talk you into upgrades you may not want. If an installation firm's employees make you feel at ease as they listen to your wishes and present ideas in return, then chances are you'll develop a comfortable working relationship with them.
- Get to Know the Dealer's Circle of Industry Partners
Electronics firms frequently maintain relationships with homebuilders, woodworkers, masons, electricians, interior designers and others. Refurbishing a basement or bonus room takes much more effort than just deciding what size projection screen will fit the space. Will you need to shop around for a cabinet that can house your new TV and AV components, or does your potential installer know a carpenter who specializes in custom work?
- Not All Installers Are Going to Have Diplomas on The Wall
Many gain certification from an organization like CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association).
- Choose Someone that Understands Your Goals and Dreams
Try to find someone that thinks like you do and really seems to understand your ideas, your budget and your plan. If they have a good track record as an installer in other critical areas, they might just be the perfect person for the job and more than likely will come up with ideas that you may not have thought of.