TECHNOLOGY BY DARLENE BREMER
Incentives that mostly cover the
energy and security aspects of residences
can be specific to region or insurance provider, according to Fritz Werder, Legrand
vice president and general manager for
On-Q and NuVo. For example, some utilities offer rebate incentives for the use of
home automation systems and the resultant energy savings from programmable
thermostats, lighting and motorized window shades.
“Shades, especially, can immediately
reduce temperatures by 15 degrees in a
sunny room,” said Delia Hansen, senior
residential marketing manager for Crest-
ron Electronics Inc., Rockleigh, N.J. “In
addition, solar-backed shades reflect light
and reduce heat, while photocell sensors
enable the use of daylight harvesting.”
Specific technologies and home-
owner demands are driving the growth
of the smart home market. The push for
better home security, including remote
and mobile access; the acceptance and
pervasiveness of digital audio systems;
and the increasing dependence of people
on their connected smart devices are a
few specific motivations.
“In addition, the competition in the
new home market, as builders look to
differentiate their homes, is driving them
to offer features desired by new buyers,”
Mainstream players such as ADT,
AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are driving
those desires for home automation.
“Although these companies are electrical contractors’ competitors, they
are generating homeowner awareness,
which can actually help contractors
to provide neutral solutions that give
homeowners more flexibility,” said Joe
Lautner, director of business development for Core Brands, Petaluma, Calif.
What do potential customers actually
want in their smart homes?
“Homeowners are motivated by convenience and comfort, security and life
safety, and energy conservation,” Lautner said.
To be successful in this market, contractors must learn to determine what
motivates the individual customer the
most and develop the expertise to provide that solution.
The convenience homeowners desire
is partially satisfied by the fact that home
automation systems increasingly are controlled by apps on smartphones or tablets.
“Devices in smart homes, such as TVs,
Blu-ray players, receivers, locks, security
devices, thermostats and so on, are now
coming with apps that enable some automation and allow homeowners to control
individual devices in the home without
touching them,” Hansen said.
There are still challenges smart
home service providers and ECs must
overcome for wider market acceptance
and growth. According to Parks Associates, one is the lack of a concise value
proposition. Smart homes may be able to
perform hundreds of tasks and generally
include a diverse group of products and
capabilities, but it appears that no “killer
app” is creating demand.
According to Werder, the challenges to
acceptance lie in educating the channel on
systems that are available and their price
ranges and understanding how to create
packages that meet consumer demand.
“Providers need to adopt a sales
approach that includes presenting
technology options to homeowners,
including how many systems are now
modular in design, which allows easily
configured packages that meet needs and
budgets,” he said.
Lautner said the biggest consumer
challenge, and an opportunity for the
electrical contractor, is knowing where
to get the technology.
“Consumers see the commercials, and
if the contractor is there, it can bring the
right solution to the homeowner,” he said.
But, according to Parks Associates,
motivating homeowners to upgrade,
replace a working product, or seek a
benefit they have lived without requires
strong, clear marketing.
Finally, price objections and deciding
how to spend resources can stop homeowners in their tracks.
“The industry needs to overcome the
misperception that home automation is an
all-or-nothing proposition,” Hansen said.
ECs can show homeowners how to
start small and then grow as their ability
to invest improves or how they can reap
the benefits of a true smart home. Eventually, new homes just going to include
some level of home automation.
The future holds tremendous growth
potential at every level of the market, from
new construction to remodels and do-it-yourself projects, according to Werder.
“In fact, the growth occurring in the
DIY market is helping to drive consumer
awareness and the adoption of smart
home technology,” he said.
Therefore, the outlook for electrical contractors is especially positive.
As smart home technology becomes
increasingly mainstream, there will be a
great need for an efficient infrastructure
to support these systems.
“Beyond that, consumers will be
looking for their contractor to offer the
conveniences of a smart home,” he said.
Editor’s note: See Home Automation Controls products on page 58.
Your Home’s Rising IQ
What’s the status of the smart home?
RISING ENERGY COSTS, maturing technologies, simplified interfaces, government
initiatives and utility incentives are all driving the predicted 29. 5 percent compound
annual growth rate of the global smart homes and buildings market, creating any
number of opportunities for electrical contractors (ECs).
BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL
CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.610.7164 and firstname.lastname@example.org. I S T