Contractors Can Take the Lead on Smart Homes

by Karla Allen on 2017-03-15 12:53pm

 

image: wirelessdesignmag.com

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the smart home technology industry grew by 32% in 2015 and then increased another 64% in 2016. What does that mean for contractors?

Let’s start with the basics, what exactly is a ‘smart home?’ A ‘smart home’ is a residence that integrates and uses new technologies for major systems, such as climate control, lighting, or security, and is controlled with a device such as a smartphone, even remotely if desired.

Some clients may already be familiar with smart home technology. These homeowners may have relatively simple individual systems in their homes now, such as intelligent personal assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home) or electric door locks and security systems, indoor or outdoor lighting on timers, or even a robot vacuum (like Roomba) sweeping the floors all day. Many consumers are also starting to expect this type of integrative technology in new construction, so any client who has been new house shopping or watching HGTV in the past couple of years will likely be familiar with many of the smart home options available.

Since contractors are the professionals who have the knowledge and skills to build or remodel these systems, they are uniquely positioned to take the lead on smart homes. Contractors with the know-how to incorporate current and future technology into structures will have an edge over those who don't.

So how do contractors sell smart homes to their clients?

The construction phase is obviously the easiest time to develop these integrated systems for a whole house. Starting from scratch, an entire house can be designed so that the climate control, security, lighting, entertainment, etc. can be controlled from one hub and then personally adapted once the homeowner moves in.

The next time to strike is when a client calls requesting a quote on an upgrade to one of their home’s major systems, such as the heating and HVAC system. That’s the time to have the ‘smart home’ conversation. Have a plan for this discussion, whether that’s as simple as a go-to checklist, or a full web presentation that outlines all of the ‘smart’ options available to the client.

Upgrades can be expensive, so often a client will choose to wait until their home thermostat, for example, needs a fix before just upgrading for the purpose of converting to smart home technology. But if a consumer needs to repair a system before the next season hits with full force, such as installing or upgrading an HVAC system before those dog days of August, that may be the time to introduce the upgrade of remotely controlling the air flow.

Another question to start this conversation is finding out whether the client has specific situations with which integrated smart home technology could help. Does the client have care of an elderly parent or in-home childcare? For those situations a security and video system would be ideal. How about daytime workers, such as the dog walker, who need access to the home? In that case, integrated door locks would provide access as well as keep track of all the comings and goings. Do the homeowners leave home early and come home late? A programmable thermostat and adjustable lighting system might be just what they need. Have the clients purchased a hybrid vehicle and therefore need a residential electric vehicle charging station installed? Time to overhaul the entrances and exits to the garage and the home. A contractor can do all of this.

Many consumers start small with just one system, such as lighting. However, once consumers start integrating these systems they realize that they could have the lights on, the heat turned back up, the new smart lock preventing the babysitter from locking everyone out again, and the bonus of a higher resale value of their house. Suddenly the upgrade may just sell itself. The possibilities for the smart home, and the contractor, are exponential.

So where can the contractor start? Knowledge. Stay current with new technology as it enters the market to learn which systems work together so that in creating a smart house plan for a client, it is a plan that can grow with the homeowner as he or she chooses to upgrade systems.

Then create a plan based upon what the client needs upgraded. Does the client want to start at the front door? Then start at the front door. New security systems for door areas (front door, back door, and garage doors) can all be integrated however a client desires. A smart, non-key based door locking system can be the first step for many clients to see how smart home technology can simplify and securitize their home and life.

Once the client’s front door is secured and he or she sees the advantages of smart home technology, a contractor can encourage them to look at upgrading other systems. Using a smart hub and a cell phone app, thermostats and lights can both be programmed, entertainment options can be integrated, health and wellness can be logged, external gardening can be managed, utility use monitored and, lastly, security goals achieved. These systems have a variety of price points as well, so a contractor can keep in mind the client’s budget as he or she puts together a smart home proposal.

What does smart home technology mean to the farsighted contractor? Opportunity. And even more than that, opportunity to take the lead on a fast growing area of the market. Does everybody set their thermostat before they leave work with their smart phone and have a robot vacuum shuffling around the house? Not yet. But soon enough they will and contractors can be right out in front.