How Security Integrators Can Progress in the Home A/V Market
The new construction home market has heated up and along with it builders are being advised to seek out skilled, low voltage integrators for A/V and smart home technology. Here’s how to ramp up your A/V acumen.
In case you haven’t noticed lately, the residential A/V market is a busy and profitable place to be working. If you are among the many security systems integrators looking for parallel technology markets to move into, but have been reluctant in the past, now is the time to get onboard.
Training support, new products and software now make this a great space in which to expand your technical and profit horizons. Let’s take a glance at some ways that you, the low voltage systems dealer, can progress in the home A/V market.
Room Layout & Design Fundamentals
The new construction home market has heated up and along with it, builders are being advised to seek out skilled low voltage integrators for A/V and smart home technology. One of the focal areas remains the home entertainment/theater room.
While anyone, including DIYers, can place a video projection screen and loudspeaker system in a room and call it a “home theater,” it takes A/V design and knowledge to make the experience pop.
Understanding entertainment room design concepts and working with the builder early in the construction process is important, and in the famous words of Humphrey Bogart in the movie “Casablanca,” for the opportunistic security dealer “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Determining the Optimal Viewing Distance
Here are some guidelines for screen/seating configuration. One can determine the closest optimal viewing distance by multiplying the diagonal screen size by 1.6 as a general rule of thumb. So for a 50-inch screen, you would not want to sit closer than 80 inches away.
Next, calculate the farthest optimal viewing distance. In this case you would multiply the diagonal screen size by 3. So again, for a 50-inch screen that would be 150 inches or 12.5 feet.
Determining the Optimal Viewing Angle
Let’s consider two industry standards. THX (Tomlinson Holman’s eXperiment) recommends a viewing angle of 40°. SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) recommends a tighter 30°. All the seating should be within these parameters; it’s not uncommon to install seating rows on risers for better sight lines.
Some other room design tips include:
- Place screen center height level or slightly higher than view eye level
- Add dimmers for lighting level controls
- Choose a soft acoustically friendly wall and ceiling surface
- Add extra insulation in walls and ceiling to acoustically isolate room
- Don’t skimp on the quality of the audio system; a good subwoofer is a must
- Don’t paint walls a light color
Training & Certifications Resources
Becoming an A/V expert may take additional training. Organizations such as CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, cedia.net) have supported the A/V tech community for years.
You may want to check out membership as well as the Home Theater Room Design (ESD232) online course. If you think your know your A/V tech stuff, then why not obtain certification to prove it and earn more income to boot?
Consider attending the next CEDIA Expo, which is chockfull of industry and manufacturer education and certification sessions. This year it’s in September at the San Diego Convention Center. Another program to consider is the THX Certified Professional A/V training. THX Certified techs are highly sought after for serious home theater room equipment calibration and can make upwards of $400 per appointment.
Support Tools Available
Support software can play a huge role in your A/V services. There are software packages for all budgets and some pretty impressive features to explore; here are a few options:
Sweet Home 3D — When proposing home theater rooms the trend today is to provide a good 3D visual presentation of the room layout. One popular package that has a sound reputation is called Sweet Home 3D, and it is free.
D-Tools — I’ve long been a big fan of the System Integrator (SI) software package from D-Tools. Its roots evolved from the A/V industry. Good first impressions with prospects are invaluable. This program, if taken seriously, can generate amazing proposals, track and diagram all project cabling, labor and product inventory. Bonus tip: check out and download their FreeTools PSL, a free professional A/V symbols library you can use with programs like Visio.
HD Benchmark 2nd Edition — This is a highly acclaimed calibration disc by Stacey Spears and Don Munsil. It contains a variety of tests for tweaking home theater audio and video installations.
When dealing with the many facets of integrating residential A/V systems it’s critical to have a distribution enclosure that can handle anything. The patented, modular design of the very flexible Verge enclosures from Primex provides simple scalability.
The plastic enclosure offers good RF support for easy WiFi equipment communications. The Verge enclosures feature 180° openings on the case to create more room inside the box, according to the company.
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One very easy way for a security integrator to enter this market is to offer the end user affordable, easy to install brands they already know. The mid-market consumer looking for a whole house audio solution will find integrating brands such as Sonos, Logitech, Nest and Lutron Caseta affordable. These systems will also integrate with voice control and/or can also be controlled with a Logitech Harmony Pro remote. These products make installation easy for the integrator and affordable to the homeowner while providing the luxury of whole house audio.