Low Voltage Guy "Won't Install Other People's Products"

building_a_houseFebruary 16, 2013

I have been researching options for whole house audio. I met with the LV installer recently and when I told him about a possible option ( http://www.htd.com/Products/mid-level-whole-house-audio ) that I had read about (ahem... on GW of course) he said, "Yeah I can't touch that price".

I also told him that I have used Monoprice 6.5" speakers in the past and I think they are excellent for whole house audio. Again, he said he couldn't touch their price with any of his products.

Then he went on to say that he would run the wires but wouldn't install any of the products if they weren't his. He touted his service as being just as important as the product which I appreciate but not if his cost is 2-3x what I can get on the internet for what I view as a comparable product.

My question is this: If I have him run the Cat6 and speaker wire to all the locations who could I get to install the control pads on each wall and the speakers in the ceiling?

Please advise. Thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: HTD Whole House Audio

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He does not want to provide warranty of equipment he does not know the performance of.

There is a lot of stuff out there that is not well made, and he may well be on the hook under state laws for some type of warranty.

You are likely to cal him when something does not work, and he will spend HIS time (=money) to come out and show it is not HIS work but the equipment.

Or do you plan on then paying him?
The equipment manufacturer is not very likely to.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:37PM
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I am fine with him not covering anything he installs that is not his. In fact, I would even be willing to sign some sort of waiver that he is not responsible for anything except the Cat6 cable and terminations for the cable.

My question is if all he will do is run the Cat6 to the wall control and speaker wire to the studs/walls who do I get to actually install the wall control and speakers in the ceilings?

What's a ballpark estimate of labor to install each wall control and each pair of speakers?

Or is this just something that I should do myself?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:41PM
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I suspect these online systems are usually installed by homeowners. You can't blame a professional installer for not wanting to install a system you bought over the internet. What would happen if the system did not perform properly?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:56PM
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Again, I am not asking him to cover the system or any of its components. I fully understand why he would not cover it and I wouldn't expect him to cover something that he doesn't sell.

What I am asking is if he absolutely refuses to install it (but will still run the Cat6 and speaker from the central hub area to the wall) despite this caveat what type of contractor do I ask to install it? Drywall installer? Electrician? Etc?

This post was edited by building_a_house on Sat, Feb 16, 13 at 18:02

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 6:00PM
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You can easily wire speakers. Its 2 wires and they usually just push in and you tighten down a screw. Control panels are also easy (come with instructions). I used to install audio/video for a living and believe me when I say, anyone can do it if they have the tools. Crimping cat6 is simple. The control panel might not even need to be crimped. Just check out youtube for videos. If you are up to the labor, you could save some good money.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 10:07PM
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Thanks for the reply.

Will the speaker wire be hidden behind the drywall or can they drill a hole and push it through so that I could just cut out the hole later? If they drilled a hole and pulled it through at least I would know where it was located instead of having to guess after the drywall was up.

Just thinking (typing) out loud here.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 10:44PM
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I haven't made up my mind yet of what I want the final setup to be for our current build.
Esp. with technologies being so fluid.

So I made a baseline list - of what I wanted - for my LV contractor (similar to your) to do final trim out with. Bascically put in speaker endplates & Video/data endplates.

I referenced some stuff from monoprice that I wanted equipped similar for - even if I know the sub would charge me 4x what monoprice would charge me for.

My setup is Coax & CAT6e all over the house in case I wanted to distribute video from a central NAS. in the future.

The final end state for me was to do IR/RF repeaters to boxes in a closet & control multiple TV's anywhere in the house.

Otherwise, I really wanted to IR/RF control boxes located in a closet somewhere.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 2:08AM
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I am getting more confused the more I read.

The ease of use of getting a few Play:5 Sonos is really tempting and just scratching the in-ceiling speakers all together. Then you just need 1 Cat6 outlet in each room (which I will have) and you can put the Sonos wherever you want.

Someone tell me why this is a bad idea...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 10:08AM
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"My question is if all he will do is run the Cat6 to the wall control and speaker wire to the studs/walls who do I get to actually install the wall control and speakers in the ceilings? "

Call another Low Voltage guy. I live in a relatively small area, but there are several low voltage companies. I worked with two different ones, and they were both willing to hook anything up even if I bought it online. I know this because the markup my first guy charged was way too high for me to have him buy product..... and we discussed that.

They will not have the wires drilled and sticking out of your walls. The low voltage guys install their wires before there is drywall/paint/etc. If items are just prewired, they aren't going to come back to drill into your newly perfect walls. I took lots of photos of where the wires were in each room, in case I ever wanted to handle the install myself. I know the low voltage reps use a tool to locate the wire when they do the install.

I can't guess at the labor rate for your area, but to hook up an already-prewired surround sound the quote was around $400. He had to climb around in the attic to move wire (due to a change in type of speakers I used,) locate the wires, drill and pull them through, unbox and install the item, turn it all on and program it to make sure it ran.. Nothing is complicated, but I have a tall ceiling in that room, and it was not something I was comfortable doing myself mostly for that reason.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:34AM
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Posted by building_a_house (My Page) on Sun, Feb 17, 13 at 10:08
I am getting more confused the more I read.
The ease of use of getting a few Play:5 Sonos is really tempting and just scratching the in-ceiling speakers all together. Then you just need 1 Cat6 outlet in each room (which I will have) and you can put the Sonos wherever you want.

Someone tell me why this is a bad idea...

If you are asking if wireless speakers are the way to go...then I'd say no - they aren't up to snuff yet with the wire speakers.

If you are asking if streaming music & video is the way to go...then yes we're mostly on our way if not almost there.

In my particular situation -where video distribution & surround sound in one particular room is important - then the combination for the above respectively are the Cat6/Coax & the speaker wire runs.

But rooms where audio is mostly an afterthought: secondary bedrooms or patio, quality & aesthetically pleasing to look at wireless speakers in those area ought to receive streamed music.

We're definitely on our way as a entertainment society to getting quality audio/video streams; it's just finding the right balance of information & costs that is the key.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 12:30PM
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" I would even be willing to sign some sort of waiver"

In the name of consumer protection' there are laws all over the place (as in many locations & differently written laws), and at least some of them CANNOT be waived ('for consumer protection').
Even with a waiver in hand, he is still going to have to show the problem is NOT with his work.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 12:31PM
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Your wires should be pulled through an electrical box if you are not using in ceiling or in wall speakers. These boxes will be routed out by your sheetrock guys. If you are using in wall/ceiling speakers then just measure it out from your walls as a reference point. The speaker locations should be figured out before pulling wire so they know where to pull it to.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 4:30PM
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@pbx2: I agree that wireless speakers are inferior which is why the sonos are intriguing. You plug them in to a cat6 and power outlet and you're done. Nothing wireless about them except for their control.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 5:19PM
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@brickeyee: Thanks. Didn't know that was an issue.

Looks like I might have to find someone else to help then.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 5:40PM
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So assuming I wanted to pre-wire for future expansion/updating I would have to have a Cat6+Speaker wire to each wall control panel (and then continue the speaker wire to the appropriate place in the ceiling) and then also a separate Cat6 wire for hardwired data in that room? Correct?


I just sketched out my runs and if I ran Cat6 + Speaker (to the wall control and potential/future speakers) and Cat6 (for data) to most of the rooms on the first floor alone this would result in...

9 speaker runs
9 wall plate runs
16 data runs

For a total of 25 data (Cat6) and 9 speaker runs.

Does this seem normal? Roughly how much per run should I expect to pay???

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 6:54PM
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If he did not want to install your equipment I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all. As long as he installs your wire correctly you will be fine. You can actually install the equipment yourself if you like which isn't that hard to do at all. There are many tutorials and videos online to show you how to do it correctly. For keypads you would just be punching down some cat and speaker wires (positive and negative) are self-explanatory. HTD is a great source of showing you how and what to do. If that isn't something you want to do you can easily find someone who can come in and install them for you once you move in with no problem.

If you are building I can already tell you that builders like to charge a premium for this as they have access to the house while the walls are open and it’s so much easier to run wires. Not sure what it cost in your area looking back at my paperwork our charged $340 for one room of prewire. This consisted of (1) cat5e & (1) 16/4 homerun from each keypad back to the main hub area and (2) 16/2 speaker wire runs from the keypad up to the ceiling area. This is the preferred method of wiring as it will offer you the options in the future to change zones/sub-zone around or choose an amplified or a-bus system. I personally am not a fan of a-bus and will be going with the HTD mid-level system as well. The keypad areas have blank plates you can remove and pull the wire thru at a later date. The speaker wires were ran to the ceiling area where each speaker would be and connect to ceiling joist with a twist tie behind the drywall (I would not have speakers wires pulled to a box in the ceiling because I didn't want blank plates on my ceiling before I installed the speakers). This would allow you to pull the speaker wire anytime you were ready to install speakers and not have speaker wires dangling from your ceiling. After he finishes wiring the house it will be very important for you to go in and takes lots of pictures and video would be great as well. This way you will know where everything is behind the walls and avoid poking holes in drywall looking for wire.

I had planned for 12 zone of whole house audio (6 zones and 6 sub zones). A sub zone is a zone that piggy backs off a main zone and have to play what the main zone is playing. A sub zone is controlled by a volume control. Therefore my charge would have been from the builder $4,000 plus not including any equipment just to wire my house. That was absolutely crazy to me and something I was not willing to pay for. Not sure if you will have the option or even wanted to but I ended up pre-wiring my own house. I spent about $1,000 worth of wire (cat5e, 16/4 speaker wire, 16/2 speaker wire, 12 gauge wire, RG6QC wire, misc. item) and over three days with my nephew’s help was able to finish. I would also suggest while the walls are open you go ahead and decide if you want to run 5.1 or 7.1 for surround sound speakers and have those wires run as well. I would also have them run hdmi cables as well (I didn't and ended up having to climb in the attic as my equipment is across the room from my TV).

Now if you don't have the option to run your own wire and are looking for ways to save some money here are a few options:

1. Use cat5e instead of cat6. I won't get into the debate of which catxx cable is better but do your research and you will see cat5e will suffice for whole house audio and any data you need in your house as well.

2. Look to see what type of attic access you have. If you have a two story house some rooms will be virtually impossible to get to without tearing out drywall, etc. So if you want whole audio in those rooms, I would make them a priority on the 1st floor to get pre-wired. If you do have attic access and are handy those rooms whether on 1st of 2nd floor can be done at a later date (don't forget your patio also :)

3. For areas over fireplaces or where TV’s will go have them run conduit(flex tubing) so if technology changes you can run your new wire thru the conduit.

4. If you haven't thought about it I would also run future tubes from basement to 1st floor or if no basement from 1st floor to 2nd floor so that you can have the option of running wires later.

Most builders are going to recommend high end systems like Russound, Nuvo, etc. For my needs HTD and Monoprice speakers will fit our needs. It all basically depends on how handy you are and what your budget is. As I'm sure you are aware now the pre-wiring can add up quickly so prioritize your needs versus wants and go from there. Did I need 12 zones of audio? NO, but that is what I wanted and luckily I was able to run it myself. If I didn’t have that option all of the rooms on the 1st floor I didn’t have access to from the attic and I wanted audio would have definitely got pre-wired and the 2nd floor would have waited.

Hope it helps,


    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 2:13AM
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Epiarch Designs

I built and installed plywood boxes above the ceiling in the speaker locations I wanted while everything is getting roughed in. I just made 10x10x4 boxes that screwed to the attic truss. I will then feed the speaker wire into the box, leave extra wound up, and caulk the hole. That way they can foam the outside of the box and blow insulation on top of it. Later I can cut the circle out of the ceiling drywall and have a nice, clean, air tight box to put the in ceiling speaker into.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 10:41AM
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