Integrator or Not: An Industry Shifting Decision

Integrator or Not: An Industry Shifting Decision

As a builder, you make calculated choices every day that are collectively shifting the industry.

One of those decisions is whether to use an integrator or existing contractor (electrical or low voltage) when it comes to audio/video products in the home.

“We like to keep it simple, so we don’t want to make too many phone calls and add time to our schedule. So if it’s just a rough in, we go with the electrician,” says Kyle Beatty, purchasing manager at Bedrock Homes.

Bedrock is a high-volume builder out of Canada that builds 300 to 350 homes a year. With that many homes in the $450,000 price range, Beatty has to focus on project cost and time constraints.

“It’s definitely very important, not just on the upfront cost, but the cost of carrying that house for an extra week to bring in a second trade,” says Beatty.

His struggle is a reality for most production and mid-market builders. It takes longer to bring an integrator onto a project and it’s undoubtedly more expensive than utilizing an existing electrician. That’s why Beatty was pleased when he discovered Airhome.

Collage of Airtime panel.
Collage of Airhome panel.

No Integrator Needed

Airhome has a specific function. It uses AirPlay, which is a feature from Apple used to stream content wirelessly. That means anyone’s iPhone, iPad, iTunes or new HTC Android phone supports Airhome. The Airhome system is modular in design, so you only get as many amplifiers as you need for rooms where the homebuyer wants audio.

It works for a high volume builder, because the installation is very simple. It doesn’t have any proprietary connections or specialty terminations. It’s basically the Airhome panel. All that’s run to the Airhome panel is speaker wire,” says Jimi Gonzalez, VP of business development at Airhome.

Before Airhome, Gonzalez spent two decades in the integration world, both on the traditional AV and low voltage side. So he knows builders like Bedrock need home tech solutions that aren’t as complicated.

And Airhome is only one of the products on the market offering a simple solution that doesn’t require an integrator.

RELATED: Streaming Series, Part 1:Expert Opinions on High-Res Audio 

An Industry Shift

Gonzalez also knows there’s a time and place for integrators, but it may no longer be in the AV realm of yesteryear.

“It’s so against the normal integrator way of things being done. It’s hard, and people have to adapt,” he says, “But I think that there are a lot of products that are heavily consumer focused, and I think they honestly see the integrator as a hurdle to their business.”

Integrators have two options: continue their focus on AV and risk getting trampled by simple solutions where they’re not needed or switch focus to the network.

“You [the builder] can easily look through the yellow pages and find an AV company for your business, no problem. But the yellow pages don’t have IT companies for homes. That’s what an AV company is becoming. It’s really becoming an IT person for a house,” says Gonzalez.

Bedrock Homes show home.
Bedrock Homes’ show home showcases Airhome.

Specific Function vs. Whole Home System

So why do builders care?

You are the ones making these decisions that are affecting the future of our beloved industry. You must understand how you can best utilize your integrator.

You may not need an integrator for systems with a specific function, like Airhome, but you may want one if that system is being tied into the whole home.

For example, Bedrock brings in its integrator for tech add-ons such as custom automation, home theaters and multi room audio in its top tier homes.

“We pretty much leave interoperability issues up to the integrator. So if it’s a custom package that somebody has designed, we kind of make that his responsibility to make sure they know exactly what they’re getting. For instance, if they need to use apps or an actual control system itself,” says Beatty.

RELATED: 5 Questions to Ask an Integrator

The lesson learned, here, is that you want to bring in an integrator for more complicated whole-home systems. They are the experts. Also, if you are installing numerous wireless systems, you might want to consider bringing in an integrator to install wireless access points.

“Everything else that they’re going to install, all of the other devices, do require a network. It’s about the network, and if you don’t have a good network, your security cameras aren’t going to work,” says Gonzalez. In this case, it’s not worth avoiding an integrator to save a few bucks and risk installing a faulty system that you’re on the hook for.

The bottom line is to understand what your consumer want, be educated on different solutions and be smart about the decisions you’re making. They may not just affect you and your clients, but the future of the homebuilding industry as a whole.

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About The Author

Andrea Medeiros is editor-in-chief, multimedia director and content developer at TecHome Builder. She is a former TV news reporter turned home technology guru and is using her broadcast journalism skills to help our team deliver complicated, tech-focused content in a conversational way. She has a decade of experience in the editorial realm—interviewing, writing and editing stories as well as shooting, editing and producing video content. She is most interested in covering interoperability among smart devices.

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