10 August 2017

Sound and Vision

Retrofitting the latest, smart audio-visual and security systems into an older-style home may be easier than you think.


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We talk to Alexandra Pardington from Automation Associates about seamlessly retrofitting the latest, smart audio-visual and security technology into an older-style home.

RW: What exactly is a smart home?

AA: A smart home, depending on your budget, includes multi-room audio and visual, and lighting control via apps, keypads or touch screens. You can also have structured cabling for phone and computer network flexibility, security (including alarms and cameras) and access control for remote vehicle and pedestrian gate release.

RW: So, for people renovating their bungalow or villa, what’s happening in the land of technology?

AA: There’s a lot going on at the moment, and about once a week we are asked to price automation or AV systems for people renovating these types of homes. The great news for owners of villas and bungalows is that they tend to be easy to work on as they commonly have space under the floor, an attic to crawl around in or, sometimes, timber-lined walls with no nogs, which makes cabling a breeze. If you’re wanting to knock out the back wall or pop the top, then it’s a fantastic time to incorporate modern technology into your home.

RW: Are a lot of people are retrofitting new technology into villas and bungalows?

AA: Yes, aside from when you’re building new, renovating is the next best time to carry out a retrofit as the cost is far lower. People who are renovating but aren’t quite ready to complete their technology install can choose ‘prewire only’ options. With this, they can have the wiring put into the wall while the gib is off, which will save money and a lot of hassle and mess in the future. Wireless technologies are readily available, but are better when wires are not possible, as our experience is that systems like wireless audio and wireless security aren’t as reliable as wired ones.

RW: Why are they putting new technology into their homes?

AA: The reasons vary as widely as the clients we look after. People who travel a lot love the one-button lock and leave that also triggers lights and blinds at appropriate times so the house looks occupied. Families with teenagers like to keep them at home (and out of trouble) with high-performance home theatre and gaming rooms. For those who entertain a lot, it is all about app control of music and lighting. One client has a system programmed so that if the outside temperature drops below 12 degrees on any given evening, the electric blankets will be turned on for an hour before bedtime. What can be done is only limited by the client’s imagination.

RW: What are the most popular systems for villas and bungalows?

AA: Music is number one, with security and front door release a close second. After that comes HDTV / Netflix / Apple TV upgrades, and surround sound is peaking again with the new Dolby Atmos surround system making a lot of waves for our movie-watching clients. 

RW: How easy is it to install this type of technology?

AA: If you have a space under the floor or in the ceiling it’s super easy; however, with retrofits there’s always an element of the unknown. We have retrofitted 100-year-old villas and found old clothes and newspapers stuffed into the walls – old-school insulation! Running into things like this can slow us down a little, but they are breeze compared to modern buildings on concrete slabs, with a flat roof and no ceiling cavity.

RW: Do people speak to you about concerns around aesthetics?

AA: We go to a lot of trouble to ensure the system both looks good and works well. When a system is done right you just don’t see it. Equipment is installed out of sight, speakers are frameless, and can be colour matched to your interior. Touchscreens today are all low profile, with a slim bezel, and you can operate it all from your smartphone or tablet as well – which leaves little or nothing to be seen on the walls.

RW: How much does all this cost?

AA: The cost to retrofit home technology depends on how extensive your renovation is. The more gib that’s off, the faster we can work. As a rule of thumb, people spend six to nine percent of their renovation budget on technology for the home. A popular option with people on a tight budget is to prewire now, as they are renovating, and add the hardware as the budget allows.

RW: Any tips for people considering technology for their home?

AA: If you want it but can’t afford it right now, prewire for it.

Don’t rely solely on Wi-Fi to control everything.

Relying on the apps that come with the TV, home theatre receiver and Apple TV to provide control can be frustrating. We strongly suggest either a single, handheld remote or single app to control everything from one place rather than app juggling.

Choose a company that has the resources and the capacity to ensure your job runs smoothly.

Beware of the phrase “this is the latest…” – you don’t want to be a test site for unproven technology.

Your AV integrator company should be a member of a professional trade association such as CEDIA or BICSI. Ask for references and call those people!

Engage a “do it right the first time” company – it may not be the cheapest quote at the beginning, but will likely save you a headache, and “unforeseen” costs in the end.

Relax and enjoy the process; a good company will make the experience enjoyable from first meeting to a beer at the end when it’s all up and running.

If you are thinking about technology give me a call on 3773778 ext 4101 and I’ll get you sorted. Automation Associates.

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