Why You Need to Stop Going to Big Box Stores for Your Smart Home Needs

Why You Need to Stop Going to Big Box Stores for Your Smart Home Needs

Here’s an all-too familiar scenario: You go to a big-box retailer thinking they have the answer to all your smart home needs. Yes, they have a massive store to go with all their shiny stuff, but too often they’re not the type of products you need for your space. Their retail clerks usually don’t really know what you need.  It's not unusual to even see some of them avert your eyes once they see you approaching them. And when you ask them questions they can’t answer, they may also become visibly irritated and frustrated. A constant refrain, “We don’t do that” could actually mean, “We don’t know what we’re doing.” 

However, many fall prey to a store’s marketing efforts because they’re big enough to market to a mass audience. So for those who are not too familiar with the products and services they need, here’s one thing to keep in mind: You should NOT trust the same guy who only installed a TV bracket to build your smart home system

There’s the better option of actually choosing the real deal – the smart home integrator with fully certified technicians that can customize your smart home system to fit your lifestyle. Just as you wouldn’t trust a plumber to do your electrical needs, you can’t rely on a TV mounter to build your smart home or smart enterprise. You could end up spending $7,000 without seeing any work done, as one of Premium's customers experienced. 

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Big box stores are product-focused, not system-oriented 

Smart home systems could involve a variety of things – from any or all of the following, integrated together to give a better experience, for your enjoyment, convenience and even as a way for you to conserve energy. 

  • audio or video installation
  • a home theater
  • smart lighting
  • smart door locks
  • automated window treatments
  • surveillance cameras
  • secure networking
  • a climate control system
  • structured wiring for enhanced automation
  • even a flood protection system, and many more

Of course, smart home automation is still something new to most people which adds complexity to the process of choosing the right smart home integrator. It doesn’t help that smart home technology extends to other spaces – offices, stores, even yachts which can all be automated with smart technologies that can be controlled using touch screen devices – a remote control, phone, a tablet computer and a touch screen panel lodged on a wall to make it part of a space on a permanent basis.

Yes, you will find a smart bulb, a surveillance camera and your favorite voice assistant brands but these are standalone devices. A legitimate smart home integrator can make your products communicate with nearly every device and every part of your space. 

It’s hard to find these products and types of service in big box stores because they are more product-focused than system-oriented. You may get the product you want but you will often find yourself doing your own research to find out how to pair them with your purchased item. 

Many big-box retailers are simply not trained to provide the knowledge and expertise you need. The problem is when they may claim more than they know which leads to many complaints when something goes wrong and the customer finds himself in a tight bind. He has to make the big box store dismantle what they did wrong before a smart home integrator can come into the picture.

This can be very frustrating for customers who have to endure the bad service of the big box store, but they have no choice anymore when they’re in so deep. To stop hemorrhaging money and the pileup of mistake after mistake, the only thing they can hope for is that the big box store didn’t make a complete mess up and that things are still salvageable – for the right smart home integrator to right the ship.

10 questions to ask smart home integrators

The bare minimum a smart home beginner can do is search for the right smart home integrator on Google. For those who live in South Florida, Premium Digital Control & Automation can handle both small and large-scale smart jobs. Here are 10 tips to make sure you select the smart home integrator for your needs:

  1. Ask them if they can program your entire home, office or yacht. The first thing you will need to know about smart home integrators is that they are programmers first and foremost. Yes, they can mount TVs but that’s the least of what they are capable of doing. They should be able to program your entire home, office, store, building and even yachts to respond to automation controls using a custom-specific device or any mobile device. 
  2. Ask them, do they form part of a team that installs smart systems? If you’re building a smart home system, it means the work will require team effort with experts in audio-video systems, network racks and equipment, smart lighting, speakers, home theater systems, video walls, and surveillance cameras, among many others coming together to integrate your system. Teamwork is essential in this industry.
  3. Are they for wired or wireless connections? If they recommend a wireless home theater system before they recommend a wired connection, they only know how to install a TV and a soundbar. 

Wired connections are the backbone of your smart home system. Avoid a self-professed smart home integrator who can only recommend wireless systems.

Wired connections are the backbone of your smart home system as they guarantee you internet connection, among a host of other things for your smart devices to work together almost seamlessly. Wireless networking is good on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Ask them if they have both low-voltage technicians and electricians. The former installs and maintains low-voltage wiring systems, which include alarm systems, security equipment and fire alarms – less than 50 volts, providing little risk compared to power cables done by full-fledged electricians who install electrical wiring following a home or building’s code or requirements. 
  2. Ask them how many years of experience they’ve been installing for homes  and commercial enterprises. No one comes to this business without some credible experience, considering how many of these products require different skill sets that can only be accumulated over a certain period of time. 

If they’ve done this type of work for 5 years, there’s a strong chance the team behind it can do the work. At Premium Digital Control, lead technicians have more than 20 years of years of experience, on top of the South Florida company having a total of 15 years, and several awards to boot.

  1. Ask them about their process and how they collaborate with key partners. Good smart home integrators know how to plan, design and work with architects, interior designers and electricians. They should be able to envision what the clients want even in an empty room or house and work well with others. 
  2. Ask them if they do proper preparation and clean up. Professionals that provide a white-glove service in this industry mean they make sure they keep areas clean and undisturbed during and after each job – a true mark of professionalism on the job. Laying down drop cloths over furniture and wearing the proper attire and shoe covers is essential to keeping a space clean.
  3. Ask these professional technicians how much they know about one product or brand over another. They should be able to talk to you about Control4, Coastal Source, Crestron, DMF Lighting, Ketra, Lutron and Savant to name a few, and to explain how they are going to use each brand or their respective products for a particular type of space. Find an integrator that is willing to help you find the best “brain” brand for your space.
  4. Ask them if they can do more than install cameras and some security systems. If they can only do these two things, it’s better to find someone else who can do more as an investment in smart home technology means you’ll end up buying more devices, making sure they connect with your old or current devices. And if a store offers surveillance cameras, make sure to check sample footage. In many cases with security companies, you’ll find some footage that looks terrible because they’re of lower resolution.
  5. Ask them about their projects as well as certifications. Photos, descriptions and awards can help but talking to an actual technician is vital. They should be able to provide diagrams and architectural drawings. 

Ask them if they have certifications as well. Other than being insured and bonded, Premium Digital Control has in-house technicians certified by the prestigious CEDIA, Control4, Crestron, Ketra, Lutron, Savant and many more. 

CEDIA stands for Custom Electronic Design Installation Association, the world’s largest association of smart home professionals, that helps with resources like educational programs and networking opportunities and connects them directly with manufacturers.


What’s in a name? Because smart home systems have not settled on naming conventions, the smart home professional falls under many names or labels, including smart home integrators/installers, home automation specialists, smart home technicians, custom electronics dealers, smart home programmers and A/V installers. 

The important thing is that they must be armed with tools, resources and experience to build truly smart spaces, having undergone work with manufacturers and received training as well as done actual work with other technicians on several projects. 

For those with a small window of time to choose from a wide selection, find out if they do the following very early in the process: 

  • They pre-wire a space to hide wiring without having to tear down walls
  • They know where outlets need to go for effective coverage and how the interior decorator can better hide them
  • They work with the general contractors to leave room for any speakers or electronics that you want to have built-in or hidden inside the walls
  • They advise homebuilders about using building materials that will not disrupt wireless signals

Overall, a high percentage of big box retailers lack this mindset when approaching a smart home project. It’s easy to quickly spot someone with inadequate training. Ask them if they were promoted from the computer repair department to work as a smart home installer, without training. 

Has anyone here gone through any problems with big box retailers? If so, please share your story by emailing us at info@premiumdigitalcontrol.com.


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