We get asked this question all the time at Livewire and we’re always amazed at how many of our industry colleagues shy away from the question lest they scare away potential customers. The truth is the truth and solid information about the total cost of ownership associated with a solid home technology system is paramount to make an informed buying decision.
Investing in home technology is a lot like considering a car purchase. How much does a car cost? It depends. A cursory glance at any car lot shows vehicles priced anywhere from a few thousand to well over $100k. Just like the car lot, home technology follows the same analogous path. By spending some time early on to figure out what drivers are most important to you, frustration is far less likely to ride shotgun. What are the home technology equivalents of car amenities like leather seats, power windows and sophisticated entertainment systems? Let’s list them out one at a time to better arm you for the road ahead.
Think about where you live. Are you building a new home or trying to retrofit existing? How old is your home? All of these factors impact the complexity of pulling wire and the number of wireless repeaters you’ll need for solid WiFi, security and other technology systems which all need a solid network to work well. Older homes and complex retrofit solutions could double or triple the labor costs associated with the project.
Think about the last restaurant you went to. Was it fast food or fine dining? Just like the restaurant, you get what you pay for and it’s not a matter of one being better than the offer. They’re different and cater to different audiences. Heck, oftentimes restaurants are catering to the same audience depending on the time of day. Outfits like Geek Squad and Amazon cater to price conscious clients but won’t deliver concierge level service. Companies like Livewire focus on concierge style service which tends to require more time with customers, hence they tend to be more expensive than their fast food counterparts.
Are you a DIY type or want someone to “Do It For Me” or DIFM? If so, you’ll save a ton of money doing it yourself. If you have a tech background or passion for our industry, it could be a lot of fun! If you want to fast forward your timeframe and feel more confident in the gear installed in your home, hiring a professional might be a good choice.
You can buy an Internet router for $50 or $2,000. What’s the difference? Reliability. How important in uptime to you? If you live in a world where downtime will cost you money, consider paying more upfront for better gear. It will last you longer and produce less headaches. Not as concerned with uptime, maybe rolling the dice might be worth it. The most common scenario we see here is clients using indoor TVs in covered porch outdoor applications because they don’t want to spend the additional 30% for an outdoor rated TV. We generally see buyer’s remorse later when clients decide to roll the dice. “I wish I would’ve just done it right the first time,” is something we hear more often than we’d like. Not a sermon, just hard facts to consider.
This is a big one. Do you want a single app/control system from a company like a Crestron, Control, Savant or others who promise to combine all your home technology onto a single platform? Or maybe you don’t mind having a collection of separate apps on your smart phone where you jump around depending on what you need. This decision could drive the price of your system up or down as much as 30%. Give this some serious thought before talking to any home technology professionals. There aren’t any right answers here (contrary to what the manufacturers will tell you).
If you want the latest and greatest display technology as soon as it comes out, be prepared to shell out big bucks as an early adopter. If that’s your thing, the tech world is full of first to market gizmos which are constantly vying to be brighter and shinier than all the others. Thanks to Moore’s Law, we’ve been doubling computing speeds every 18 months since the early 70’s. That’s meant all our technology gadgets are accelerating in their development cycles, making them at once frightfully expensive when launched and insanely cheap over time as they mature.
If you’re willing to wait, there’s a point in any tech category when the technology gets out of the way. That’s a great time to buy. If that’s for you, let the market test all the gear and clear winners emerge organically.
If you’re still reading, you might be mad that we haven’t told you how much a smart home costs. Then again, if you’re still reading, you realize that the answer is in your hands and you knew it all along: it depends.
Good luck on your search and try to first pick who will help you before picking what systems to use in your home.