In the Caribbean, we generally don't have the convenience of drywall construction in our homes because, the majority of the time, we build the whole house out of concrete blocks. This means that if the provision wasn't in the plans, chances are you will have to undergo a substantial renovation in order to implement smart home functionality within your home.
Follow these 5 tips to make sure you have things in place whether you are thinking about smart home features now or in the future!
TIP #1: Don't Use 3x3 Backing Boxes For Your Light Switches!
Most of the older homes in the Caribbean use the cheap and cheerful 3x3 backing box. While these switches work well and are pretty durable, the 3x3 backing box that goes with this type of switch, doesn't work with the popular smart switches such as Lutron, Cync, Savant Lighting which all use 2x4 or decora style backing boxes. With the correct type of backing box, you can retrofit your home with smart switches at your convenience.
TIP #2: Have An AV/IT Equipment Room!
Your equipment needs a home and it is best to have a utility room or garage area that is dedicated for your IT & AV equipment such as the network switches, Flow or Digicel box, amplifiers for distributed audio etc. Even if you don't start out with a rack, just having a dedicated area will make future upgrades easy. For those of you that don't want to see any cables... this is a BIG tip for you guys, because cables are the veins and arteries of a great smart home.
TIP #3: WiFi is King!
Having reliable WiFi is critical for the modern home. Even though the router from your ISP (Flow or Digicel) may be adequate for a non-smart home where you can live without internet in the far bedroom or bathroom; in a smart home, robust wifi coverage is a must because a lot of your control will be via voice commands or mobile device control. With spotty coverage, you will find that the commands take long to execute or they just don't work. Using wired access points is a must, especially with our concrete bunkers we have as homes. You also should always use a third party router instead of the built-in WiFi from your ISP. Brands such as Luxul, Ubiquiti, TP-Link, Netgear and the like, all work well for this application.
TIP #4: Pre-Wire for all Eventualities!
In Barbados, we build our houses with concrete and because of this, conduit runs are paramount to future proof any potential smart home. Think big picture, your end goal, what would you want your house to do or be like in the next 5-10 years tech-wise of course; and run the conduit for those eventualities. For example, you may love music and want to have the same music or podcast playing throughout the house no matter which room you are in, or you may want to have a landline service in the future or automated blinds, gate openers, lighting in your garden, etc. Make the conduit provisions for them now at the planning stage so that those things can be in place, whether or not you decide to take steps towards your implementing your smart home goals. Taking it a step further, you can run the cabling the same time and just leave blank plates for the time being. All of this is good practice for the future.
TIP #5: Don't Be Afraid To Reach Out For Help!
We know that trying to navigate the necessities of smart homes is a daunting task for some. You may not know the first thing about is needed, the types of cable, access point locations, etc. That's where we come in as AV (Audio-Visual) professionals, to guide you towards your smart home goals in a budget-friendly way. We offer free consultations if you want to bounce some ideas off of us, pre-wire design services for those who may want to get it right for the future, and full design, procurement and installation of all smart equipment for your home. We can take the guess work out of it and provide you with an awesome smart home experience wherever you are at in the process.
BONUS TIP: It Is Not Too Late
If your house is already built and you want to get the benefits of a smart home without replacing your 3x3 backing boxes, or surface running your network or audio cables, etc. There are ways of working around these things that may not be the ideal situation, but it gives you the ability to add smart tech to your home without performing construction. Give us a call and we could discuss your specific needs and the best way forward.
- Christopher Maughan, Sonix AV Solutions.