NARI’s Research Panelists, in the 2013 Q1 Remodeling Business Pulse (RBP) survey revealed a new source of consumer spending directed at residential technology. Three-quarters of respondents (76%) reported client satisfaction as a benefit of including residential technology in projects.
Panelists also reported on which types of residential technologies their clients requested:
To better understand homeowner’s technological motivations, NARI reached out to expert Alexandra DeToro, co-owner of Techteriors LLC, based in Mequon, Wis., for insight into these top requested technologies and what NARI members can do to further this growing trend.
Lighting systems similar to cell phones?
It’s hard to imagine that something as ordinary as lighting has become one of the hottest technology trends until DeToro explains the transformation a lighting system can bring. “I equate it to the advent of the cell phone—where you cannot believe you ever lived without it, once you have it,” she says.
Light programming technology, also known as scene-setting, can change a person’s life, literally. From the time someone wakes up until bed, scenes are set on timers, and searching for a light switch in the dark or forgetting to turn off a light are things of the past.
“Lighting control can de-clutter walls by combining a bank of switches into one, and the settings are endless,” DeToro says.
People don’t typically miss something that was never had, why are they clammering for lighting controls? DeToro suggests it’s a matter of convenience and affordability: “Adding lighting control is now retrofitable, scalable and has become very affordable. A person can start with one room of their home at a time.”
There’s no better time to add a lighting control system in the home than during a remodel, and just like the phased remodeling trend, lighting systems are often phased into the home.
“Yes, I would say phased lighting is a trend—they try it in one room (typically a kitchen) and go from there,” she says.
What can a remodeler do to expedite this trend? Add more wiring in the wall, especially low-voltage.
Entertainment is becoming a significant part of our lives, and homeowners want some form of entertainment in nearly every room of the home. Had those early 20th Century builders considered people would be watching TV in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room, then integration would be simple. However, many rooms are not wired for entertainment systems, and it’s become beneficial for remodelers to ask how clients intend to use the room early on in the process.
“Would you like to listen to music in your kitchen or a TV in your family room?” is the typical question DeToro poses to clients.
Although clients may not have thought about watching television while folding laundry, the idea of having some form of entertainment becomes appealing once the subject is discussed. Technology integration is becoming more widespread as a result of affordability and design, such as flat screen TVs that can be mounted to any wall.
“Technology has come a long way, and the cost of the equipment has come down to where really nice equipment has become an affordable luxury,” DeToro says. “Electronics have become a commodity— there will always be a high-end brand, but in general, pricing has decreased.”
The other two selling points of entertainment systems are:
- Universal controls of entire systems (or entire homes, depending how advanced)
- Invisible technologies (wires hidden in walls/moldings, secret control rooms, speakers painted into walls, TVs masked behind mirrors, cabinetry, art, or stored in secret compartments and lifted into position for viewing pleasure)
“We can complete an installation without changing the aesthetics of the room— it’s completely out of view,” DeToro says. This trend is most frequently seen in smaller rooms, or those with limited wall space or windows.
Remodelers should design with technology in mind, if it’s part of the overall use of the room. Strategic placement of outlets, wiring, wall space to hang TVs, areas for hiding speakers are important to plan in advance. Also, if a universal control of entertainment systems is important, remodelers should refer to an expert for integrating networks to speak to each other in a centralized system, which can be a challenge later on.
Energy management saves little by little
When it comes to discussing energy management technology, DeToro has an interesting way of explaining it to clients: “I tell people that it’s not what they save in energy, it’s what they won’t lose,” she says.
Forming a mindset that energy management prevents wasting money on energy is a powerful selling point, she says. Best of all, energy-conserving technologies aren’t noticeable to clients once installed. Automated lighting systems can be dimmed ever so slightly or you can program automated shades to follow the astronomical clock lowering or rising as the sun moves through the sky to keep in warmth in the winter and keep the sun out in the summer, DeToro says.
Some estimates have shown dimming lights in the kitchen by 37 percent can save 29 percent in electricity and more than $60 over five years. Multiply $60 by additional rooms, and the savings grows.
Then there are the HVAC controls that can be programmed into smart thermostats that keep rooms within a certain temperature range automatically or allow homeowners to control temperatures remotely.
DeToro says that clients vary in energy management depending on scope of desired savings and size of homes, but energy-management technologies are widespread across most brands and are easily integrated into new systems.
Taking indoor entertainment outdoors
Creating an indoor setting outside is a growing trend moving far beyond decks and seating areas to full kitchens, fireplaces and even entertainment areas.
“This is becoming more popular, especially if people are choosing to stay in homes. They want to make it more enjoyable, and outdoor living spaces are now a key phase of remodeling the home after landscaping or adding a deck—it’s the ultimate next step,” DeToro says.
Typical outdoor entertainment technologies include music and speaker systems, lighting, all-weather televisions and theater systems. Speaker systems are becoming more invisible as they blend into the landscaping as a rock or planter.
DeToro warns remodelers that not all outdoor products are able to withstand all weather conditions. “Remodelers need to be careful using indoor equipment outside,” she says. “Some products are marketed as indoor/outdoor use, but it’s not ‘all weather,’ meaning [it’s not made to] be held outside all year round.”
She says a technology expert can advise on those indoor/outdoor products appropriate for a homeowners intended use of the outdoor space.
Remodelers should also be mindful of placement of the speaker systems. “It’s important for proper placement of outdoor equipment, so as not to disturb the neighbors and to maximize enjoyment for the homeowner,” DeToro says.
In the evolving technology world, remodelers looking to integrate residential technologies into projects should partner with an expert to deliver a quality system that can be expanded upon over time. “It’s important to consider how the room will be used and at the very least get the appropriate wires in the walls for future use,” DeToro says. “Getting an audio/video integrator involved early in the process helps keep costs down.” –Morgan Zenner
To download the Q1 Remodeling Business Pulse 2013 survey click here. NARI members can search for a qualified home technology professional with Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association’s (CEDIA) free online Finder Service or visit www.cedia.org for residential technology resources.