SEVEN

10 Common Home Automation Mistakes Made by Self-Builders

For anyone considering a self-build home there are some things you just can’t do without. Increasingly, home automation is one of those things, whether it be a single room with some basic lighting control or a fully integrated, connected home. Mistakes and omissions can be expensive to rectify so here is our list of 10 common home automation mistakes:

  1. Failure to plan – This is by far the most common and most expensive mistake we come across. I have lost count of the amount of times we have been called by people who “have almost finished a renovation and want some home automation put in”.  If you are using a specialist contractor, they will need to be involved as early in the design process as possible. Get them involved in meetings with your architect and respect their advice.  Housing all your equipment is something many overlook. An equipment rack can easily be 250cm high, it’s no good thinking you will tuck it all in the cupboard under the stairs.
  2. TV on chimney breast – I know, it’s so tempting and sometimes it just can’t avoided, but mounting your TV above the fireplace is one of the worst things you can do both for your TV and for your viewing pleasure. Firstly, the heat and soot will get into the inside of your screen and reduce the life of it. If your manufacturer notices this they will likely void your warranty. Add to this it’s literally a pain in the neck. A TV should be at eye level when you are in your normal viewing position (generally seated on a chair / sofa). Mounting your screen above the fire means you are recreating a viewing experience akin to sitting in the front row of your local multiplex. Finally, although better now than it has ever been, LCD screens in particular suffer from “viewing angle” meaning that for every degree off 90 degrees you are sitting, there will be a degradation of picture quality. This is apparent as you watch an LCD screen from the side as well as viewing from above or below.
  3. Wire for connected TV – Just about any flat panel you buy now will be “smart”. This means it can be connected to the internet, which whilst right now may not be important to you, in two or three years time it will be. The model of how we watch TV is changing from broadcasting to the masses, where execs sit in an office and decide what you can watch – when, to narrow casting to specific markets. YouTube, Amazon, Netflix are all bidding to buy original content for their respective internet video offerings. Of course, these connected smart TV’s will generally come with WiFi built in but a TV is not something you are going to move to regularly and so if you can hard wire, then hard wire.
  4. Ventilation / cooling for rack – Have you ever put you hand on top of a Sky box and been surprised how hot it is? Amplifiers, hard drives, streaming devices, even a router all give out heat and all have a specified margin of tolerance within which your equipment will work perfectly well. But, allow your equipment to overheat and you will run into trouble shortening the life and reliability of your electronics substantially.
  5. Back boxes – when trying to cut cost, speaker back boxes are often the first things to go.  Sound is basically movement of air picked up by our ears. A speaker generates that movement of air by moving back and forth and so the is as much movement of air going out the back of a drive unit as comes out the front. An in-ceiling speaker placed between a living room on the ground floor and a child’s bedroom above without a back box is going to generate sound leakage to the bedroom above. Not only that, your in-ceiling speakers will perform better if they have a known cabinet space to work within. A back box creates that cabinet space and thus you will get the best from your speakers.
  6. Data points – WiFi is a great technology, but it was designed for horizontal buildings with dry-line walls and open plan areas. In the UK we tend to build up and we build with stone and this causes problems with signal deterioration. Added to that, when you plug a laptop for example into an Ethernet socket the transfer speed you get is 100Mb/s or possibly 1Gb/s dedicated to that device. When you connect using WiFi, your bandwidth is shared with anything else that is connected. So in a family with two kids streaming movies on Netflix and two parents downloading music or on BBC iPlayer you can start to understand where there might be some lag and hang.
  7. Mine’s bigger than yours syndrome – many self-build properties include a home cinema. The desire to have the biggest size screen possible for a room is, on the surface, an attractive option. Unfortunately this can be taken too far. There are careful calculations and formulas used when calculating the best size screen when compared to how far back the seating is, what projector you are using and even your own visual acuity.  As a general rule of thumb, for a 16:9 ration (widescreen format) screen the seating distance should be 3x the height of the screen. Any consultant worth their invoice will use a calculator and discuss with you which format screen will suit you best 2.35:1, 16:9, 4:3 (unlikely you will want this last one).
  8. Not integrating – Having all these systems, lighting control, heating control, security, AV, phone is great but where the magic really happens is integrating them all into a single solution. Perhaps someone pressing the call button at your gate could activate a sequence of events that pauses the movie you were watching in your home cinema, raises the light level slightly and displays the gate’s camera image in a window on your screen or tablet or phone and allows you to speak with the visitor and allow them access – or not. The press of a button could then return the lighting levels and you can rejoin your movie. Aesthetically, it means you can replace several switches and keypads with one  keypad or touch screen control panel.
  9. Low-level cameras – Not something even you security consultant might suggest, and we found out the hard way. We all naturally think of putting cameras up in the corners of rooms looking down on the room. Unfortunately criminals know this and where baseball caps pulled down low to cover their face, meaning you will be lucky to get a decent face shot and even luckier to trace the low-life later and prove it was them helping themselves to your possessions. Putting a camera at a low level looking up towards points of entry will allow you to get a good face shot making it far more likely the Police can do something with all the footage you supply them following a break-in.
  10. Not using a CEDIA Certified Consultant – CEDIA is the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association. A global body who’s objective is to promote training and best practice within it’s members. Using a CEDIA member to help with your self build will ensure you don’t make any of these mistakes and will get the very best home automation solution that your budget allows. Visit www.cedia.org to find a consultant near you.

You can, if you wish, ignore points 1-9 as long as you don’t ignore number 10. If you get a CEDIA Certified Consultant like Seven Integration on board as early as possible, they will take care of 1-9 for you and make sure you get the best solution for your budget and don’t make any expensive mistakes. A FREE initial consultation is common practice and any good consultant will want to be as involved with the design process as you and your architect will allow them to be. Call us now for a chat about what you want to achieve with the home technology in your self-build project.