Central Vacs, Intercoms: Selling Home Automation Add-Ons for Added Profits

As a security dealer, offering central vacuums and intercom systems may not be your forte. However, installing and servicing these products for homeowners can generate extra revenue for your business as well as create solid relationships with homebuilders.

Entering these niche markets requires a dealer to be very proactive with homebuilders, especially since they look for single-source installation specialists. The integration phenomenon is directing homebuilders, as well as consumers, to installers that provide a one-stop shopping experience. Since installing central vacuums and intercoms is considered low-voltage work, who else would be better to do the job than the security dealer who is already installing a security system in a home.

Although there are certain factors to consider before offering these products, such as the building of solid relationships with homebuilders, the amount of time, money and inventory needed, and the planning and installation process, security dealers have a well-positioned channel to enter if they aggressively tap into these markets.

Small Adjuncts Serve as Part of a Larger Package

In the long list of products available for home automation, central vacuums and intercom systems have been effective add-ons to sell and install.

A conventional vacuum system will remove dirt and dust, but it also “throws” the air in the vacuum back into the breathing zone. A central vacuum is deemed to take 100 percent of that air out of the home, never being recycled back into it.

In the case with intercom systems, many homes 20 years or older have systems that still function or are out of service and have become another decoration piece in the house. Whether or not these homes have intercom systems because the first homeowner requested it or the home already had it installed, they are now offered as part of a bigger package.

Intercom systems are affordable substitutes to wholehouse sound, and augment perimeter alarm systems. Sensors placed outside a home pick up noise or movement and activate the intercom, alerting occupants to unusual outside activity before someone breaks a window or kicks a door.

Central vacuums and intercom systems have been around for decades, so consumers have become aware of their purpose and availability. As a result, it may not be as hard to convince a consumer to buy it, but it does take strategy and smart interaction with homebuilders to get the sale.

Converting Negatives Into Positives

When it comes to evaluating the pros and cons of offering central vacuums and/or intercom systems, the negatives can be converted into positives. The challenges for dealers are to learn, in detail, the product lines and models and their installation guidelines, since homes vary in architecture and size.

The very first step to entering these markets is finding a manufacturer that carries a reputable product line. In the central vacuum market, there are less than 20 major manufacturers. There are also a good number of intercom system providers that carry a variety of product lines.

In terms of dealer support, most companies offer training seminars, videos and manuals on installation procedures. Some companies will help dealers with marketing, offer model home programs and co-op advertising.

After choosing a vendor to work with, dealers must then look into finding good homebuilding partners. They should always pay close attention to new home construction in their areas to find out who the homebuilders are.

Considering Inventorial, Financial Factors

Knowing how much inventory to have in stock may vary due to a dealer’s manufacturer partner. Some vendors will require their dealers to purchase a predetermined amount of equipment. In the case with intercom systems, most companies will require their dealers to use their own wire only. If their wire isn’t used, the product’s warranty to the dealer will no longer be valid, even if the system functions properly. Some lifetime warranties may also change every couple of years.

Depending on the market in a dealer’s area and a dealer’s gross sales, he or she can start off with approximately $1,000 worth of stock. Some dealers invest as much as $10,000 in stock. What is deemed as must-have items for central vacuums are the power units.

With intercom systems, the wiring and some prewired stations are necessary. Typically, an average home will require four interior speakers, a master control and a front door bell.

Installing Piping, Wiring Right the First Time

With intercom systems, consumers are also aware of a system’s potential features. As a result, dealers need to make sure that they won’t have to return to fix or reinstall anything. That’s why a system’s layout is key.

In new home construction, installation for central vacuum systems is usually in two phases: roughing and finishing. The roughing stage is completed at the same time as the structured wiring phase.

All of the central vacuum piping is done in this phase. In homes that are being retrofitted, the installation can be more challenging. Since there is no roughing stage, installers must have good drilling techniques; the first attempt must be correct since the home is already furnished and decorated.

With an installation in new home construction, the man-hours for roughing and finishing is about one hour per inlet. In a retrofitted home, the man-hours can double for each inlet. Another aspect of a new home to consider is laminated beams.

With intercom systems, there are two basic types. The all-call system allows a user to push a button in one room while being heard in every other room. It is wired in a daisy-chain fashion, with two twisted-pair wires running from station to station. A direct-select system selectively calls another station. This now requires additional selected wire, making it more challenging to install.

Some specifics for this installation are that dealers should use a plastic sleeve with two nails vs. metal staples when attaching the wire against a wall. Metal staples can act as an antenna so it can cause some humming in the system and even pick up two-way radios from outside the home. Paying close attention to high voltage when running wire is also important.

After installation, dealers should also handle the service and maintenance of the systems.

Product Demo, Sales Staff Help Secure Work

Whether through the homebuilder channel or a dealer’s existing client base—which is also always important to target—one optional investment is to purchase a full demonstration system to show to prospective working partners or clients.

Also, if the business is growing and a dealer is looking to hire more employees, a salesperson would be an ideal choice. He or she will be able to focus on only selling central vacuums and/or intercom systems. This can help dealers mark up the price on a system. For example, a complete standard central vacuum system that might have cost a dealer $500 can be sold for $1,200.

Special thanks to the following manufacturers for contributing to this article: Beam Industries; Hayden Mfg.; Jeron Electronic Systems Inc.; TekTone Sound and Signal Mfg. Inc.; M.D. Mgf Inc.; and Aiphone.

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