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12 Questions to Ask Any Integrator To Save Time & Thousands of Dollars

By Cathrine Hosking 2 weeks ago
Home  /  Smart Home  /  12 Questions to Ask Any Integrator To Save Time & Thousands of Dollars

Would you use an Architect or Builder that wasn’t certified or registered in New Zealand to design or build your house? Probably not.

Then it’s about time the smart home industries secret got let out. “There is currently no overarching regulatory body setting standards or enforcing them in the smart home industry in New Zealand” There, we said it. Now, this is actually pretty alarming because a smart home is a considerable investment and with no regulatory body to be accountable to, companies have started promising customers the world and have ended up leaving them disillusioned and dissatisfied.

Moral of the story, don’t be fooled by cheaper pricing and empty promises. If the person or company you are working with cannot answer these simple 12 questions it’s time to walk away and speak to a professional.


12 Questions to Ask Any Integrator To Save Time & Thousands of Dollars


1.Do you have CEDIA trained consultants and CEDIA certified installers?

The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association(CEDIA) is currently the only recognized certification for the smart home and home technology Industry. That is why first and foremost, we’d recommend asking the company you are planning to use for the design and installation of your home whether their consultants are CEDIA trained and their installers are CEDIA certified.


2. Will the wiring in my home be done according to the minimum specification for NZ homes?

The company you use should ensure all wiring and cabling be both designed and installed according to the correct New Zealand standards outlined in the latest TCF specification document. This will ensure your home is wired for the future and the installer doesn’t cut any corners. If they don’t mention TCF, mention that you are looking elsewhere. Click here to view the updated minimum spec for NZ homes.

3. Are you certified by the Ministry of Justice to consult, design and install my security system?

Any person or company installing security systems or offering security advice must be Ministry of Justice approved and the company must have a current Private Security Personal License. To do so without a license (while surprisingly common) is an offense under the law.

4. How much experience do you have with the level of smart home I am looking for?

It is common for Electricians to give complex projects a go because of the high dollar value attached. Before you allow yourself to be their guinea-pig ask about how complex the jobs are that they have done in the past and only proceed if they allow you to speak to more than one previous client (with a house of similar size and spec to your own). Also, always ask to see the wiring documentation from those jobs, does it conform to the minimum specification for NZ homes? More often than not these systems and their wiring do not conform and have not been properly documented for future maintenance and serviceability. This should be a major red flag.

5. Will the system that you are suggesting be fully integrated with all my subsystems, controlled by one app, and have all the functionality I’m looking for?

The last thing you want is to wait months and months for your system to get installed only to realise that the company that installed it ‘tactically’ left out the fact that your lighting cannot be controlled from the same app as your music, and your security system actually does not integrate or function in the way you envisaged.

Look out for these common sub systems that companies ‘tactically’ don’t talk about:

  • Pool lighting Systems (You get stuck using the made-in-china RF remote for control while your $100k smart system sits on the wall useless)
  • Heat pumps (You get stuck with manual, or at best, on-off control, instead of full functionality)
  • Control Apps (You get stuck with 10 different mobile apps for all your sub systems that you have to manually jump in and out of and none of them communicate or integrate with one another).

Without being able to access the full integration and functionality of your sub systems you are going to wonder why you paid for a smart home in the first place! Don’t settle for basic control, always ask if you are getting a fully integrated system and the functionality you are looking for.

6. How easy is it to expand the system you are recommending?

The way you live in your home five years from now will probably be different to the way you live in your home today. Moreover, technology will continue to evolve and later down the line you may want to expand your system through prewired cables or wireless modules. For these reasons, it’s important that a smart home system can be easily expanded vertically to incorporate additional products and horizontally to support additional rooms.

Ensure that:

1. The company you are dealing uses products that allow for this.

2. They talk to you about prewiring for future possibilities.

3. They ensure your networking infrastructure can support future wireless module extensions.

Manufacturers like Crestron (our product of choice) have built-in expandability. Ask how easy it is to expand the system your company is recommending.

7. How easy and affordable is it to upgrade components in the system you are suggesting?

Those touchscreens and black boxes may look impressive, but it’s what you don’t see that holds the true power of a smart home system. The software is the driving force of a smart home system. The more sophisticated that software is, the more the system can do.

As technology changes, so must the software. Before you buy any system from a company ask how it works with software updates.

Have they ensured that you can still use your system during an update?

What happens to 3rd party integrated software after an update, does it become unusable?

What can be done remotely and what can be done onsite?

How easy and affordable is it to download and upgrade software and what has to be done automatically vs manually?

8. How much customization will I have and are there a variety of user interfaces?

There are a number of different ways you can control the electronic systems in your home: by pressing the buttons of a handheld remote or wall-mounted keypad, by touching colorful icons on a portable touch panel or by sliding your finger across the screen of your phone or tablet.

Depending on your family dynamic, budget and preferences, you might like to utilize a variety of different controllers and interfaces. Ask the smart home company you are considering to show you all the different interior design options for interfaces and check online whether the manufacturer of those products is regularly updating the interfaces and options on offer.

9. How many years has the manufacturer of the system and products you are suggesting been in business?

No one, except for serious early-adopters, likes to be the guinea pig or beta tester, so choose a smart home system with a proven track record. The same goes for the person who installs the system into your home. You should be able to gather some historical background about manufacturers and installers from their company websites and it’s always good to ask them whether they test their products in a showroom environment for 6 months or more prior to selling them to customers.

It’s important to ask this because many companies are so passionate about the industry that they cannot wait to sell their customers the latest gadgets from their chosen manufacturer. We recommend that you never accept a new product, even from a quality manufacturer, if the installer has not personally tested it for at least 6 months prior to it being installed in your home.

Real IT has a strict 6 month rule and to give you a benchmark for our chosen manufacturer, we use Crestron, which has been making smart home products as the industry leader for over 40 years now. For more information on Crestron Smart Home products click here.

10. Is your system built with energy management as a core feature?

One of the hottest topics in the consumer media right now is energy conservation. Energy conservation is more than just power conservation, its about monitoring and managing water, solar and gas conservation too. It should be said that some systems do this a lot better than others so ask about the energy-saving features of your system before you buy.

Will you be able to monitor and manage everything from individual to group circuits as well as the pool pump and irrigation system? Will your system automatically harvest daylight to reduce your reliance on the HVAC? The answers should be, yes.

11. What redundancy and backup will you include in this system?

You want to hear words about layers of protection and backup recovery. What happens if the internet goes down, can you still control everything in your house? The answer should be, yes.

What happens if there is there is a power cut? The answer should be, the power turns off until the backup generator kicks in (or the power is turned back on). You should never have to worry about a manual reboot, losing settings or having to reprogram anything. A good smart home system will do all that for you.

12. What kind of after sales support comes with this system and do you offer remote monitoring?

This is probably one of the most important questions you should ask, especially for larger systems, and this question should apply to the installer and the manufacturer of the products you will use. Find out what you can do without professional help, can you make basic changes such as setting a new scene or adjusting pre-set lighting levels? The answer should be, yes.

For things that you cannot do by yourself, Professional Integrators should offer support packages at every level from basic to 24 hours to cater for your needs. They should also have remote monitoring and access set up so that they can make changes to your system without having to make a house call. If you are making a significant investment, make sure the company you use has the team and expertise to provide you with the support you need.

Lastly, quality manufacturers back up this promise by providing you with a second layer of protection should your smart home company go out of business or otherwise fail you. No one can predict the future, always check whether the manufacturer of your smart home products will support your system before you make a purchase.

As an example of what we believe should be standard in the industry, Crestron’s award-winning True Blue Support line + Online Helpdesk provides 24/7 support, 365 days a year, worldwide to all its Crestron product customers.

This gives you access to a professional support team of engineers and technicians should you be unsatisfied or unable to get support from your smart home integrator.

If you would like to learn more about Crestron products you can contact a member of our team here.

  Smart Home