By February 24, 2017 Read More →

8 steps to make a living as a smart home installer

8 steps to make a living as a smart home installer

Thinking of entering the smart home installation market? Follow our eight steps to success!

Over the last decade, smart home technology has increased in popularity but there are still many misconceptions among consumers. At Voltimum we often discuss how users see this new world, their fears and hopes, mostly because we believe that these discussions can help installers in guiding and educating consumers through their options.

However, what is less often discussed is how electricians, electrical contractors and installers can gain real money-making opportunities from this developing sector. You do not have to be an IT expert to get started. In fact, if you have installed a dimmer or ceiling fan with a remote control, garage door or motion sensor light you are already on the right track.

If you are looking to break into the home automation market here are eight simple steps you can take to help you get started:

1.      Become an expert

In the UK, there are an estimated 1,250 integrators of smart solutions. The market is worth just under £1 billion per year and, as demand increases, so too will the opportunities for ambitious installers.

Over the next five years, home automation technology is going to become ever more prevalent in society. There will be a demand for install professionals who can put together cohesive smart and connected home systems. So, it is important to educate yourself right now.

Become an expert in all the various types of smart home systems and products you will need to be able to install. Invest in training, go to trade shows and attend seminars. Some manufacturers are offering training courses and approved installer schemes. All of these will help you gain the knowledge to present and deliver these solutions to your clients.

Gain a firm understanding of the range of smart hubs that are available – different hubs have been designed to accommodate different requirements and it’s important that you can match your client’s requirements with an appropriate hub.

2.      What does the client want?

There are several ways to bring up a conversation with your clients about smart home solutions. However, before your start talking products, take the time to find out what the client wants to achieve?

Is it to make their lives more convenient? Increase energy efficiency? for entertainment purposes?

Are you working with a young family concerned about raising children? Is the client retiring? Will accessibility be an issue?

Only after getting to grips with the WHY, can you effectively start a conversation with the client about the WHAT?

Once you know a bit more about the needs and wants of the client you then have the opportunity to not only offer a solution that meets their requirements but also upsell any other features you feel could fit their particular needs.  e.g. Nest is not just a thermostat that remembers your heating patterns after a week, you can add hardware that tells you when particulates are in your air, or foxes are in your garden.

3.      Debunk myths

As an expert, you can debunk common myths and stop consumers from purchasing smart solutions unsuitable for their needs. Homeowners often think smart home technology is far-fetched and reserved for those with money to burn. Some will probably be concerned that  they have to go all-in with a system that will require them to tear down their plastered walls for cabling. This isn’t always the case. By explaining how they can start small and end big, contractors can get people across the line and showcase a variety of different solutions suitable for different budgets and applications.

4.      New build vs. retrofit

Familiarise yourself with the differences between a new build and a retrofitted home automation system. If your customer is not sure if they want to go all in, they are likely to ask which products can and can’t be retrofitted later. Product longevity is key to them. Replacing obsolete products can be both costly and time-consuming and beyond the capabilities of the homeowner themselves. By knowing the benefits of installation during a new build, you are more likely to encourage them towards a big purchase right from the beginning. You can also use your knowledge to flag that technology -such as multi-room distributed audio- involves routing cables through walls and ceilings, which can be a major inconvenience to do in hindsight. They also may not have considered the improved reliability of a wired system in a new build. But remember, not to push them if they are not sold on automation and let them know retrofitting is still a feasible option. Your reputation should be kept intact by letting them know there are many solutions designed to work around build constraints.

5.      Develop a scope

Success requires adequate planning across budget, functionality, aesthetics, scalability and efficiency. Time is often what customers are not willing to compromise on, but as a professional, you will be able to assist busy customers with your knowledge of how products will suit their specifications. By mocking up a choice of different electrical designs within different budgets, you can move home automation from the ‘too-complex-to-have’ to a fun and exciting experience.

6.      Conduct a design audit

After the scope of work has been defined, it is important to undertake an audit of electrical infrastructure, including power points, electrical appliances, communication wiring, zoning and cabling. Having awareness of all the electrical products in the house avoids mistakes when it comes to implementation, and allows you to consider the home as an entire ‘ecosystem’ so upgrading the technology, or adding to it later, is easier. A design audit is also the ideal time to ask your customer about their wireless connection to ensure they have considered how all their products will run and fit together. Good Wi-Fi is the heart of any smart home and even the best technology cannot work without a strong network. Recommend structured cabling as it is often the best option and leads to increased customer satisfaction in the long term.

7.      Infrastructure installation

As an installer, you will need to help keep things clear and ensure expectations are met. The infrastructure installation process is also the ideal time to project manage. Help the designers, builders and contractors understand the client’s exact requirements of the infrastructure and systems. Are you the electrical contractor? If so, open a dialogue about the best placement of products to ensure the home automation systems are implemented to the highest standard. Spending time developing a design audit should ensure the installation of infrastructure should be a straightforward process. Also, ensure your client is not kept in the dark about what products do.  This communication is critical throughout the infrastructure development process, otherwise, you risk the project failing.

8.      Product selection and installation

Often, a new exciting and trendy product is the deciding factor that prompts homeowners to seek home automation solutions; however, it is part of your job to advise your client to keep an open mind. Most of the DIY products in the current market can be limited in what they can achieve and offer the customer in terms of benefits, as well as being unreliable and can quickly become obsolete. You must remind your customers that once cabling is installed they can take advantage of more advanced technologies such as electronic locks and security systems. This is also a good opportunity to upsell to bigger and better solutions that will create value for you and your customer. Once products have been chosen, purchased and installed, help your client use them to their full capability, by providing ‘aftercare’ maintenance services. Make sure you stay in contact with them.

Following these eight steps will go a long way to ensuring you make a success of IoT installation. The rise in the adoption of automation technologies presents significant opportunities for the electrical industry sector, now is the time to make the most of these opportunities.

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