Tips for Adding Lighting & Shades to Your Offerings
Adding lighting and shade controls to an alarm system can enhance security for homeowners. By finding the approach that best fits their business model, dealers can transition into these lucrative categories.
Because light is a natural deterrent to crime, adding lighting controls and automation to a security system can improve the effectiveness of the alarm system while providing customers with a product that enriches their lives. “Homeowners are seeing the value of the lifestyle aspect in daily life, as well as security, which is equally important,” says Rob Puric, director, product management and marketing, Honeywell Security and Communications, based in Melville, N.Y.
Adding automated lighting and shade options to security systems enhances the experience for homeowners and brings integrators opportunities to increase revenues and distinguish themselves from the competition. “We look at the house as a single system,” says Keith Harrison, owner of Total Home Technologies, Roseland, N.J. “The more things we can tie into it, the better.”
Illuminating the home and surrounding property makes entering the building unnoticed extremely difficult for potential intruders. “Light is a deterrent. By integrating with that, now you have real value in a security system,” says Blake Deal, sales director, residential systems, at Lutron, based in Coopersburg, Pa.
If lighting and shades are integrated with the security system, the system can be programmed to turn on all of the interior lights, flash the exterior lights, and open the shades when an alarm is triggered. “It really draws attention to the home, making it more inhospitable,” describes Paul Williams, vice president of security and communication products, for Salt Lake City, Utah-based Control4.
The deterrent effect of lighting and shades can be significant. Delia Hansen, Crestron solutions manager for the residential market, for the Rockleigh, N.J.-based manufacturer, cites results from a survey of inmates incarcerated for theft, “If [the homeowners] have a high-tech shades and lighting system, they figure there are other high-tech security elements in the house. Even if the home had no security system, they were probably less likely to go in that home.”
In many communities, law enforcement response times are becoming increasingly longer. An alarm system integrated with lighting can help mitigate this problem and potentially reduce losses by interrupting the crime in progress. “Lighting and sound are things that really thwart theft. Thieves can often be in and out before there’s a response to the security system,” Williams says.
Even when no alarm has been activated, lighting and shades protect property. A well-illuminated home and yard makes the property a less attractive target. Shades prevent would-be thieves from seeing what valuables are in the home and offer additional protection to rugs, furniture, and artwork from sun damage.
Lighting can be used to enhance life safety, as well. Path lighting activated when a carbon monoxide or smoke alarm is triggered can help occupants safely exit the home. A panic button installed by the bedside can be programmed to turn on all interior lights and flash exterior lights, which can scare off intruders and help emergency responders locate the home quickly.
In addition to enhancing security for homeowners, offering lighting and shade options creates new opportunities for integrators. However, before entering this space, integrators need to educate themselves and prepare for the new challenges they face as they make the transition.
Some Basics of Being a Lighting & Shade Provider
The greatest concern security integrators encounter is that lighting is a high-voltage product. While security specialists are very familiar with low-voltage applications, working with high-voltage systems involves different regulations and licensing. Most state and local codes require that all line voltage work be done by a licensed electrical contactor. Because of the number of regulations and extensive training required in most areas, it is usually cost- or time-prohibitive for integrators to acquire that training themselves. Therefore, they will need to find a good electrical contractor to partner with or hire on staff.
Beyond compliance with electrical codes, liability also can be a concern. Even if an experienced low-voltage integrator knows how to perform regulated aspects of a lighting installation, he could inadvertently nullify the homeowner’s insurance if damage were to occur to the home and the installation was performed by an unlicensed contractor. “If there’s ever an insurance or liability issue that comes up, they carry the entire burden,” explains Ken Erdmann, president of Erdmann Electric, an electrical contractor based in Springville, Utah.
Unlike lighting, automated shades are typically a low-voltage installation. All the major manufacturers of motorized shades have a Z-Wave option, says Mark Walters, chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance in Milpitas, Calif. Although product availability and the technology behind it are not difficult for integrators, he warns that offering shades is a very different business than security or lighting. “Window shades are not for the faint of heart,” he describes.
Integrators new to the area have to acquire new skills and expand their knowledge base. Measuring windows accurately is more challenging than it might seem. “Window shades are a business in and of itself. It’s pretty expensive to do wrong,” Walters cautions. On the flip side, the higher-priced product leads to increased sales revenues for those willing to enter this category.
Integrators will find that some aspects of the business are completely new to them. “Shades are stepping out of the box. Now you have to get into the design side,” says Neal Check, president of SoundCheck in Southfield, Mich., who now focuses on whole home integration solutions after 20 years experience in the alarm business.
Shades and other automated window treatments push integrators beyond the technical aspects and into design and fashion, areas where they may not be as comfortable. “I’m not afraid of the tape measure, but I am afraid of the interior designer,” says Harrison, noting that the interior designer on the project needs to approve the shade selections and the designer frequently wants to use their own shade expert. It’s up to the integrator to educate the customer that tying some products into the system can be very costly or difficult and that the right technology, manufacturer, and programming is essential, he adds.
Because the leap from security to shades is greater than to lighting, finding a partner who is experienced in shades is usually the best strategy to learn the business. If it proves to be a promising addition to the business, then the integrator may then decide to train staff to specialize in shades or hire a designer on staff.
To effectively incorporate lighting and shades into a security business, integrators have to understand these new products and services and how they differ from security, and adapt their business logistics to address them. “As you’re taking on more complexity, you have to have processes set up correctly in time management, planning, scope, scale and timeframe,” Williams advises. “The good news is it’s a fairly short learning curve.”
Another challenge integrators can face when installing lighting systems is “scope creep.” Steven Rissi, technical product manager for the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA), Indianapolis, warns that customers can become too involved in a project. Either because they don’t know what they want initially or they decide later to add more features, homeowners can request so many changes that the project is no longer profitable. He advises integrators to start with a baseline configuration with recommended scenes or settings that clients usually want, and then make adjustments from there.
Integrators should include a statement within the contract that specifies the number of changes that can be made after the initial configuration. Harrison suggests another strategy that can both define the scope of the project and maintain an ongoing relationship with the homeowner: sell a service contract that provides a specified amount of service (one hour per month, for example) or number of changes. “It’s really important to get that on the original contract,” he notes. Harrison says the defined service contract forces homeowners to think carefully about what changes they want before making a call because they know that, after a certain point, they will have to pay extra for it.
For security integrators who have decided to add lighting and shades to their offerings, the next step is figuring how to make that happen. They have a choice of paths to achieve that end, including partnering with a licensed electrical contractor, bringing that skill set in-house by hiring an electrician, or even adding an electrical division to the company. The choice largely depends on the security dealer’s business model. Hiring specialists on staff can increase the company’s scope of expertise, and allow the integrator to maintain control over the entire project and keep profits in-house.
Rissi thinks it might be wise, especially for smaller companies, to get their feet wet and learn about lighting and shades by partnering with experienced professionals. If they want to expand later, then they have the knowledge and can bring an electrician on staff. He notes that dealers can increase business with either approach. Even if the integrator decides not to add a staff electrician, it is essential to have a networking expert. “Even just on the programming side, you can make money. You can be successful if you have someone who can program efficiently, program scenes and understand lighting,” Rissi adds.
A good relationship with an electrical contractor can be profitable to both parties, leading to increased referrals and sales. “If you get the right partner, they’ll bring you work,” Harrison says. “They learn about techniques and products, and they purchase products from us.”
Finding a good electrician to partner with is not difficult. The easiest way is for integrators to approach electrical contractors they work with on different construction projects.
With a little creativity, dealers can find ways to reach out to other professionals to cultivate both partnerships and new leads. Check says his company does lunch-and-learns and offers open houses targeted to specific audiences — interior designers, architects, builders, and electrical contractors. “We look at every trade in our space as an opportunity. Anybody that’s a trade involved in a project is a possible referral.”
Increasingly, manufacturers are working to make their panels compatible with a range of products and other manufacturers, and odds are that security integrators will be able to work with the panels and manufacturers they are familiar with while learning the lighting and shades business.
Puric says that two technologies, Wi-Fi and the Z-Wave mesh protocol, have significantly increased the ease of integrating features such as lighting and shades. Estimating broadband penetration to be at 60 to 70 percent in the United States, Puric says the increased prevalence of home networks allows greater opportunity to bring in more automation and lifestyle features.
“Wireless has been around for a long time, but it has really gotten better. The open architecture allows us to bring together products from different manufacturers better,” Harrison describes.
The mesh protocol of Z-Wave and Zigbee devices has reduced the need for hard-wiring and brought greater flexibility, especially in retrofit installations, making installation easier for integrators.
Regardless of the type of product and technology the integrator selects, it is important to fully understand its capabilities and how to integrate it with the other components in the home. “It is absolutely critical that security dealers looking to offer a full suite of services to their customers seek out the proper training,” advises Jim Carroll, executive vice president, corporate strategy and business development for Savant Systems, Hyannis, Mass. “Training leads to greater operational efficiency and improved customer satisfaction. If your team can’t properly sell and install control and automation along with lighting and window treatments, you are missing out on many residential and commercial opportunities; these are the tools that give your business the keys to the kingdom in today’s marketplace,” he says.
The Effect on Your Business
“There’s definitely huge potential for new market share out there,” Rissi says. Expanding their business to include lighting and shades offers many advantages to security dealers. “One of the motivating factors is that you widen the scope of the type of clients by adding these skills and offerings,” Erdmann believes.
“If you can successfully integrate it into your business and offer it, it makes sense,” Check says. He points out that by stepping into these new categories, security integrators can diversify their offerings and gain an advantage over their competition: “I found that my customers were more interested in me than other competitors. We had longer and more in-depth conversations.”
Increased revenue from sales of lighting and shades can be a nice complement to recurrent monthly revenues from monitoring. “The amount of additional revenue you can make by adding these two components is so huge that it’s often well worth the investment,” Hansen acknowledges.
Total Home Technologies has been installing lighting for a while, but recently added shades to their offering. “I can’t believe the amount of motorized shading that is being sold,” says Harrison. He says that in the first year of offering shades, his company increased gross revenues by 10 percent, and profits by even more than that.
Security dealers who add lighting and shades will be pleasantly surprised to learn that selling these components is relatively easy. “Lighting is an experience for most clients, something they live with everyday. They understand it makes life easier,” Rissi describes. “That’s the kind of experience the customer can connect with on an emotional and personal level.”
Unlike alarm systems, customers purchase these products not because they need to, but because they want to. “Nobody smiles when they get an alarm system installed. When you get lighting and shades done, customers smile from ear to ear. It’s just such a positive experience,” Harrison says.
Even homeowners who are initially hesitant about adding an automated lighting system can be won over. Security installers can gradually draw homeowners in by starting small, installing a couple of switches or dimmers in key areas of the home. Harrison says that his research shows that once you get homeowners into a system, eventually they want more: “You don’t own the customer, you own the house.”
Jim Annes, vice president and general manager for AVAD, headquartered in Sherman Oaks, Calif., suggests planting the seed for future sales by including an addendum with initial project quote. Even if the customer is currently only interested in a security system, spec out a plan for lighting and shades and leave it with the customer to consider.
By integrating lights and shades with security, security dealers can demonstrate to the homeowner that they are a valuable asset. “It’s a way to become known as a whole solution provider, not just a parts person. You want to be the person coordinating the experience,” says Annes.
Security professionals may find that diversifying into these areas is not only desirable, but inevitable, and the sooner they enter the space, the more they can benefit. “It’s not if you need to get in these categories. If you don’t, there’s not a lot of future. You need to broaden your offerings,” Deal thinks.
Adding lighting and shades not only enhances security, but also opens opportunities for dealers to eventually add other products and services, such as thermostat control, energy management, and audio/video solutions. “From the security professional’s perspective, the next logical progression is lighting,” Williams says. “It’s not as big of a leap as people might think.”
LED Lighting: Meeting Expectations & Maximizing Performance
Like many new technologies, LEDs offer significant benefits such as energy savings and improved lifetime. However, they also present a few challenges.
The quality of LED light sources varies widely. This refers not only to the quality of the finished product itself (such as lifetime and efficiency), but also the quality of the light produced. Many customers are comfortable with the “warm” colors and excellent color rendering produced by familiar sources like incandescent and halogen lamps. These colors are difficult to reproduce with LEDs.
Beyond color quality, LED control can be a bit complex. Traditional incandescent and halogen sources are dimmed and controlled easily, regardless of the lamp type or brand. LEDs, on the other hand, have electrical characteristics that make them very different from these familiar light sources. Couple this with the fact that most existing dimmers were created for incandescent lamps, not LEDs, and the challenges become apparent.
What can be done to ensure a successful LED lighting installation? First, manage customer expectations. While there are now many good LED products available, there are probably an equal number of products that will not satisfy customers who are expecting the aesthetic performance of incandescent or halogen lamps. Second, LED loads and controls have to be chosen based on compatibility testing or problems can occur. Many LED lamp and control manufacturers publish information on approved combinations of lamps and controls. Make sure you research compatibility information from an experienced, trusted source to ensure that the installation will perform as expected.
Looking ahead, as LED sources continue to gain acceptance and new players enter the LED market, things should get easier. Existing standards that describe general photometric measurement and reporting methods, such as LM-79, will be joined by specifications that should help ensure positive customer experiences. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency is completing a new Energy Star standard for LED and CFL lamps, which will help ensure that customer performance expectations are met. Additionally, NEMA (the National Electrical Manufacturers Association) is developing SSL-7A, which will help improve compatibility between LED lamps and dimmers. As these new standards are released in 2013, look for manufacturers and products that advertise compliance, and make product selection easier for the customer. — Contributed by Ethan Biery, Design and Development Leader, Lutron Electronics
Stepping out of the comfort zone of security installations into a world of new and very different products and technology can be intimidating, but it does not have to be.
1. Start small. Entering a new category does not have to be overwhelming for the integrator. To ease the transition, integrators should start with a few products — adding dimmers, for example — and expand to other products and more complex systems as they increase their knowledge and experience level. “You can enter this technology at any point you feel comfortable,” says Jim Annes at AVAD.
2. Start with a product line you know well. Because most panels support integration with lighting and shades, as well as other options, security dealers most likely will be able to stick with the products with which they are already familiar. From there, they can work with the manufacturers to learn which lighting and shade solutions work best with their panels. “The dealers who are most successful pick one, or at most two, manufacturers and are very proficient with [those products],” says Paul Williams at Control4.
3. Do your homework. Regardless of the approach, security integrators need to educate themselves and understand the area they are getting into. “Before selling lighting controls, you must have a full understanding of electricity and how electrical systems work. You must be able to talk the talk with other contractors,” says Dave Raines, president of Osbee Industries, based in Harrison, N.Y.
Manufacturers can be a great resource for training on everything from the technical aspects of the installation to how to sell lighting and shades. Integrators can learn the nuances of the field by partnering with experienced professionals, such as electrical contractors or interior designers.
Tips for Adding Lighting & Shades to Your Offerings
Blake Deal, sales director, residential systems, at Lutron, based in Coopersburg, Pa., shares his insight and advice with security integrators who are contemplating the move of adding automated lighting to their offerings. In SDM’s exclusive interview with Deal, he describes how integrators can tackle the challenges involved and how their businesses can benefit from these offerings.
SDM: What challenges do security dealers face when they consider adding lighting to their offerings?
Deal: Lighting control is line voltage. It is a completely new licensing and skill set. The challenge is to evaluate how [security dealers] are going to integrate a new category into their business. There are a lot of different models and they all work. You can own it all in-house…or subcontract out. Figure out for your business what makes sense… I’ve seen a lot of good marriages between different companies…it’s not if you should make that decision. Make the commitment and then analyze how you should do it.
SDM: What advice do you have to offer dealers and integrators interested in adding shades to their business?
Deal: I really do encourage all trades — electrical, security, A/V — to partner with someone who does shades for a living for the first couple jobs. It’s more difficult than it appears. I’ve seen too many guys lose money on the first job. Then, you can decide whether to continue the partnership or acquire the skill set and do it yourself.
SDM: What advice or tips do you have for dealers and integrators moving into lighting?
Deal: Lighting is life safety. Reliability is important. If your A/V, or even your security system is down, you can function, but people can’t go without lighting.
SDM: What are you promoting with your dealers?
Deal: We’re trying to focus on “pleasance,” that fundamental feeling that is hard to define but people desire to experience. It’s all about enhancing lifestyle. Also, lighting and shades save energy.
SDM: How are you supporting dealers who want to add lighting and shades to their business?
Deal: Lutron offers both local and online training… Local representatives help walk new dealers through the process from training through their first couple of jobs to make it easier because you don’t know what you don’t know.
SDM: What benefits are there for dealers and integrators who add these components to their offerings?
Deal: It’s increased revenue. It’s better diversification and more referrals. Nobody says, “You’ve got to call this guy for this really great security system.” That’s our systems’ greatest cachet. This is where pleasance comes in.