electrician vs home theater specialits

lowballMarch 15, 2010

We are getting close to breaking ground on a new house. Size will be 4500 on top two floors and 1400 in the basement. I want the house to be wired for 5.1 systems in the family room and basement plus speakers in the kitchen, dining room and two outdoor locations controllable via touchpads. I would also like to control lights, hvac, alarm, etc. My question is, does a good electrician know how to do this or should I use a dedicated home theater specialist?

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Hire a specialist for each one, home theater, home control etc. May want to go with 7.1 or higher once itÂs been wired hard to update.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 8:37AM
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A lot of home theater specialists are jokes just as an electrician that claims to be one but is not really. A well rounded electrician would be best, one guy taking care of everything and integrating it together. Have to check out their website or research products they want to use, might check some references too. The price goes up with better quality in control and extra wiring for flexibility. For example my friends Electrical/AV business bid $60k on a 2 mill house for having distributed high def, audio, and everything. A big chain store bid against him at about $1,000 plus some equipment and tv's. At finish, nothing worked and the TVs only received standard cable TV. Turns out each place had only 1 cat5 wire or 1 cable TV wire, often running to complete random places. My friends business got called in to give them a bid to fix, post sheetrock. Going up $20k in price from his last bid, they had to settle with rigging the wiring together and using basic universal remotes.

If you want control of all aspects, check out the website for Elan home systems, they can locate a dealer. It integrates nicely with several brands of alarms, t-stats, ipod, lutron lighting. They have a basic touchpad with an LCD screen that tells you what is happening. Also a full touch screen that can view cameras, have lots of buttons, and even watch TV on the screen itself. I use it in my own home and haven't found much it can not do. Adding the alarm system I just installed to it only involves adding a re-made driver to the touchpad/screen programming. The stuff is not cheap at retail, ($1,000 touch screen, $350 touch pad, $1000 radio tuner, $600 Ipod dock, $1,000 6 zone switcher/ amp) But it is serious stuff that will not be screwing up and breaking.

For lights, if your A/V company is not already an electrician. Make sure to find an electrician that offers lighting control and that it is compatible with the A/V company you chose. It is often not good to have someone else come in to put lighting control on the other electricians wiring. Especially if you homerun lights to a control panel instead of conventional switch boxes. A very basic, lowest bidder would say, "Huhhh... we can't run the lights all the way there..."

Just check what your getting. Telling someone you want sound in those rooms could result in them popping in an A-bus keypad that only does volume and sounds like crap with being powered by cat5.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 10:37AM
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if you're putting in a home automation system DO YOUR RESEARCH! Also makes sure the person doing it knows what the hell they are doing and is certified on whatever system you're putting in if they're supposed to be. I can't stress that enough. Don't go off what someone tells you something can do or what they themselves can do.
I've seen it too many times and been on too many jobs where somebody sells someone on some crap smart home system tells them how wonderful it is and it doesn't even work, or they don't have a clue how to install it or set it up right for the home owner.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 7:07PM
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Thanks for your thoughts. I have been doing more research on this site and others. There are a lot of nightmare stories out there. I am thinking a smart home may not be that smart, especially given the cost.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 8:50PM
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The more you control the more it will cost. If you get into alarm, lighting, audio, video, surveillance, and HVAC all combined, you have to spend a lot of money. Of course I was able to put everything in my own home buying the stuff on ebay used for 15% of its retail. Since I am the installer and only spent $3k on used equipment, I was able to pull off a $50k plus system for $3k. Go ahead and wire for it. In each major room run a cat5, coax, and 18/2 to power any controller or touch screen. To each TV run 2 coax and 3 cat 5, and possibly RGB5 (costs like $2 a foot so might skip and buy a balun instead which runs over cat5) Home run each pair of speakers. Run cat5 to the T-stat and alarm panel (for potential control)

You could then buy a simple 6 zone system with 6 touch pads, and Ipod dock, and a tuner ($6k equipment) Not do the whole house video distribution yet (just put a cable box in the room with the TV) For lights, wire the house as normal and retrofit Lutron radiora2 dimmers later, (no control wire needed) Your touchpads will start with music only and you can add in the lights, hvac, etc later. Any dealer of Elan or other companies can for sure pull of a system that small. Then if you want to add more control later, you're already wired for it and you won't have to throw equipment away because it all is expandable.

You don't have to go the complete smart house route. But stay away from a stereo with a bunch of volume controls. I find that if in order to turn on the speakers in the master bathroom, you have to walk to the family room and turn the stereo on and push a selector button... You will quickly quit using the speakers. A touchpad allows you to turn them on and pick a song in the actual room.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 9:48PM
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Home theater and wiring is like "GUYS STUFF." It is great if it works and you have the time to understand and live with it. Also note that your state of the art system specified now, will be out of date in a year. I.E. just when you are finishing off your build. The real pain is usually TV sizes, you sheet rock an inset only to find that the TV you wanted is no longer made, and the new version has different dimensions and hence no longer fits well.

The way these Home theater things go is everybody plans, but by the time you are done, you have already spent the money elsewhere on "unforseen" bits. I have never known a house to come in within budget.

One way to go is to build in some future proofing at reasonable cost. This usually comes in the form of putting extra wire behind sheet rock. At an extra perhaps 1000 to 2000 dollars I would recomend:

1) Fit surge arrestor / supressors on your power panels at your home entry
2) Have a Earth, Neutral Live wire to all light switches. This is so that you can put in Z-wave lighting later easily by yourself. Or have someone come in and do it for you.
3) Put in Coax to all rooms for cable TV, and home run it to a spot in your basement where the cable TV cable will come in.
4) Put in Two CAT5's per room. One for phone and one for Ethernet. Hone run this to the basement.
6) This is difficult. Try and figure our where your TV's will be and where your DVR, cable box etc will be. Then place a bunch of cables behind the sheet rock to do this. Avoid Monster cables, way too expensive. Try Pacific Cable on the net. A bunch of cables 30 feet long will run perhaps $US 200 after you have all the RGB, Audio, S-Video, HDMI etc. per TV placement. You need 30 feet plus after you wind it behind the sheet rock.

Other extras which are nice to put in now are Lightning Protection, expensive perhaps $US 9000. But if you do it now they can hide it in the frame of the building rather than have wires on the outside.

Finally a generator, we though nah a generator ... after 5 days of black out we got one. And we have used it quite a few times since. Again expensive $US 5k and up.

None of this is high tech, a good electrician can do this. Note generators and lighting are somewhat more specialized and a specialist is the way to go there.

Best, Mike.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 8:48AM
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