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  • Writer's picturePacific Sun Technologies

Should You Hire a Pro to Smarten Your Home?

Should You Hire a Pro to Smarten Your Home?

As smart-home platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s HomeKit, and Samsung’s SmartThings have matured, it’s now entirely possible to set up a robust smart-home system all by yourself. The downside? Doing it yourself can still be a tremendous pain in the ass. Cameras need to be mounted, thermostats have to be installed, and smart locks require you to tug out your old, non-smart deadbolt before they can be installed. Beyond the physical installation, there’s also the struggle of getting all your disparate devices and services talking to each other; you don’t want to lay out for a smart home if it means juggling ten different apps before you go to bed each night. Luckily, there’s a rapidly growing number of professionals happy to help you get your smart home up and running — for a price.

Here are some questions to consider and things to keep in mind as you ponder whether to call in a pro to help you get a smart home up and running.

How handy are you?

If the thought of pulling out light-switch plates and determining whether you have neutral wires installed fills you with trepidation, you may want to consult a pro. You can certainly get many smart-home installs without being Bob Vila, but a robust home-automation solution will require some hands-on installation work and the right mixture of intermediate electrician skills and IT know-how to ensure everything is running smoothly.

What’s your budget?

If you’re considering hiring a smart-home installer, realize up front that it will likely cost much more than if you went on a smart-home shopping spree at your local Home Depot or Best Buy. Including labor, you’re likely looking at a budget that’s going to be more like a home-improvement project, and less like buying an Amazon Echo and a few smart light bulbs.

A low-end install — a smart TV, a good audio setup, some smart lighting, and a universal remote to control everything — can cost “$3,000 to $5,000, and just set up the living room,” says Jason Madlin, an installer and co-founder of Smart Spaces Group in New York City. A more ambitious project can easily run into five or six figures. The price of smart-home tech is dropping every day, but like nearly every home-improvement project, it’s easy to spend a lot. Before you make your first phone call, have a firm idea of the maximum amount you can spend.

What exactly do you want to do in your home?

Maybe you want a security-focused setup that lets you keep an eye on your home when you’re not around, or make sure your kids are getting home from school each day. You may be more interested in making your home handle heating and cooling more efficiently. Or you may just want a home-entertainment setup where your shades automatically lower and your lights dim when you start up a Netflix binge session. Or maybe all of the above. Before approaching a professional, try to have a good sense of what in your home you’d like to make smarter.

A visit to a local smart-home showroom floor can also be helpful. Many installers have a retail-space setup you can tour to get an idea of what exactly you can accomplish, and in major metro areas like New York City, many smart-home manufacturers will have showrooms as well. A visit with them can give you both a sense of what’s possible, and help you figure out what pain points you want to address.

If you do decide to use a pro, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

Learn the basics

“A dream customer, for me, is a well-educated client,” says Todd Puma, owner of home-installation company the Source Home Theater. “Setting expectations for them is easier, and you can have a better conversation with them.” This doesn’t mean you need to come in with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things smart home. But it can be helpful to have a general sense of what a professional will likely be offering you.

One major advantage a professional can offer is a central controller system, which will allow for extremely robust integratio