Tech Concerns, Part 1: Money

posted on Dec. 20, 2018, at 9:00 a.m.

NKBA Staff

Clients are wary about the cost of smart-home technology, but designers can alleviate those fears by talking about overall value. By Ed Wenck, CEDIA

When it comes to smart-home technology, consumers have concerns: A recent NKBA survey noted that homeowners had some trepidations about a variety of issues, from affordability to reliability.

They’re all concerns that Amanda Wildman of the Grand Rapids, Mich., integration firm TruMedia has heard before. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed were concerned about the expense of technology in their homes, but Wildman has an elegant counter-example: Lighting.

“The kitchen is probably the room with largest number of light switches in any one room,” notes Wildman. “If you’re working with your technology designer, and you’re just looking at upgrading switches from standard to smart, yeah, it could get expensive. Most people will say, ‘I should drop that money into my stone countertops, which are going to last longer.’”

Wildman, however, knows that the modern smart-switch can consolidate functions. “You have multiple lights? We don’t have to have switches for each.” And there’s an aesthetic consideration here, too: “That beautiful backsplash? Let’s not clutter that up with a four-gang box on one side, say, and a three-gang on the other side. If I could take care of all of that with one single gang, I’ve brought down your cost and I’ve improved the look of the kitchen, too — now you can see much more of your beautiful backsplash.”

“The other thing to consider is the advances in voice control. I can help people program a smart speaker to handle lighting, music, name it — all from a single module that’s getting smarter all the time,” notes Wildman.

“I’m aware that you still need plumbing. You still need countertops. You still need entry doors,” says Wildman. “Building and remodeling are expensive, and you have to prioritize and budget, but if I can show you a way to integrate technology that is cost-effective, in a system that’s going to be buildable, and will enhance the way you live in your home, that’s a great value proposition from my perspective.”

Wildman has another point to make regarding solutions like this: “It’s great when the kitchen designer includes the technology designer early in the process. A little bit of planning on the front end allows us to deliver for your client, while also saving some money.”

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