Are you looking for a design and installation expert to assist you with custom home theater, media room or home automation installation or? Finding a professional installer to design your home theater or media room may seem like a daunting endeavor. You’re dealing with home electronics, after all, and electronics can be intimidating. But hiring a professional installer is really no different than hiring an architect, interior designer or other professional. In fact, a good number of custom AV installers work with builders, architects and interior designers. The most important factor to consider is experience. You want someone you can trust who isn’t going to “drop the ball” halfway through the project.
There’s no need to feel intimidated, either, because an experienced firm recognizes the importance of establishing a good rapport with their clients from the start. Your future agency should make you feel relaxed and appreciated, not patronized. Any lack of knowledge about electronics on your part should be met with an enthusiastic and sincere desire to educate you. The installer should be willing to take the time to help you understand the options available to meet your requirements and your budget.
Before you begin your search, ask yourself these fundamental questions:
Make sure you understand the differences between simple systems (not necessarily easy to use or future upgradeable) and expensive systems. Generally speaking, the easier a system is to use, the more expensive it is to purchase and install. With custom-installed home media systems, the old adage, “you get what you pay for” applies in spades.
The following guidelines will help prepare you in your search for the technical “guru” you’ll be relying on for years to come. As with any professional relationship, make sure you look for the right fit between you and your installer. This isn’t like having appliances delivered and hooked up by someone you’ll never see again. If you’ve chosen well, you’ll be in contact with your custom installer for many years to come. Check References of Comparable Projects
Ask for References
Request that these references represent systems of comparable scope to yours. Ask references the following questions: Are they happy with the system? Are they satisfied with the work performed? Can they actually operate the system with ease? Was the installer responsive to their needs and requests? With hindsight, how would they have done things differently, if at all?
When obtaining references, acquire at least three from the “trade,” ideally the architect, interior designer and cabinetmaker, if applicable. Whether or not you’re working with one is unimportant. An installer’s ability to work closely with a design professional is a good barometer of his or her professionalism.
Did the installer keep the project on schedule to the satisfaction of everyone involved? Would they recommend the installer to their own clients? Was the installer instrumental in preventing, or overcoming problems through good communication? Did the installer contribute innovative ideas and solutions?
Inspect the Facility or a Client’s Installation
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a visit to the installer’s showroom is worth thousands of dollars. A visual inspection of the installer’s operation will speak volumes about his work. Granted, not every installer will have extensive display or demo facilities. All you want to ensure is that this firm is neat and committed to its business. A quick check of the staff experience and service, attention to detail and business management is indicative of their ability to service your needs today, and tomorrow. Trust your instincts. Call the office. Do you get a “live” person, or an answering machine? If it’s a machine, do they return your call promptly? Can you reach your contact when you (or other professionals such as cabinetmakers and interior designers) need to?
Whose Products Do They Sell?
Examine the installer’s overall product mix and ask why certain suppliers were chosen. The answers can be very revealing about the company. Make sure the installer is a factory authorized dealer for those products that are vital to your system. Another important point regarding authorized dealers concerns prices: Installers cannot carry every brand on the market. They select specific manufacturers’ goods based on their own preferences, the availability of those products within their region, the reputation of the manufacturer for reliable servicing and competitive pricing. For a full discussion see our article on how we select brands.
Explore Their Knowledge
AV installation firms don’t just install equipment. First, they must identify the client’s needs and expectations. Then they must identify limitations and problems. They must analyze wiring schematics. Then they must plan the system, recommend equipment and quote a price. Sometimes this process must be repeated to accommodate a budget. All of this is very time consuming. However, a qualified installer can offer a realistic quote much quicker than a novice. An installer with extensive knowledge of technologies and products currently on the market, who also knows what may be obsolete in a year or two, can save you a lot of money and heartache. It’s important, therefore, to hire an installer who’s done this before; the more education he or she has concerning electronics and related studies, the better.
Interview your Firm
Ask what his or her educational background is. Why did she become interested in custom installation work? Where was he previously employed? Was it a consumer electronics store, another installer, an alarm company, an aeronautics firm? Ask about her views on audio and video, and future technological advances for the home.
Use Common Sense
Once again, trust your instincts. If a “deal” seems too good to be true, it is. Remember, you’re buying the entire company when you purchase an installed system. Look at the company as a whole and make your decision based on your impressions of everyone who works there. When asking questions, don’t try to intimidate the installer; but don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. If their answers are vague, be skeptical. In addition to experience, you’re primarily interested in their enthusiasm. They should be passionate about what they do.