In new home construction circles, there is a lingering sense that specialty contractors are necessary, and that a lot of "experts" must come together as a team to assure that a new home includes the best components, the latest technology and is built to the highest possible standard. Today, however, there is a growing recognition that what is needed more than ever before is oversight, coordination and partnership to assure that diverse systems can be sufficiently integrated to allow the home to function as it should.
Changing Electrical Needs
An electrical plan has served as the road map of residential wiring needs for decades, with a standardized format designating placement of plugs and switches, as well as necessary wiring for lights, appliances, communication, security and operating systems. A single electrician or electrical firm usually handled all necessary wiring.
But that has all changed with the growth of low-voltage and wireless technology. While today every home still requires those "normal" electrical wires, there is a concurrent need for a variety of wiring, including everything from 220 to 12-volt, and DC as well as familiar 120-volt AC. Garage door openers, landscape lighting, under-cabinet lighting, specialty illumination; security, smoke and fire alarms; built-in speakers and other high-tech modern systems all require low-voltage wiring, and have spawned the growth of "low voltage integrators." That, in turn, as brought about the birth of a new breed of electrical contractor.
In addition, wireless technology has changed home needs dramatically. Dead spots and slow connectivity are unacceptable. Newer electrical needs include vehicle and device-charging ports as well as always-functional home hubs. They are not simply nice bonuses, they are primed to become absolute necessities. The specification of Wireless Access Points (WAP) is fast becoming a science. Smartphone apps and advanced entertainment options may mean that the home of the future has fewer wires but at the same time it is apt to become more complicated to assure complete connectivity.
The Shape of Things to Come
At least one major U.S. homebuilder has announced plans to eliminate most low-voltage wiring in favor of wireless technology. While there are still some wrinkles in the plan, it is a step into the future, but its success hinges on the ability to eliminate those pesky dead zones that plague home technology users. “Wi-Fi Certified Home Design” is touted as a new standard that will allow homeowners to expect that "things will just work," according to proponents.
Is a completely low-voltage home a possibility for the future? At present, it seems less than practical, although as early as the 1980s, that also was suggested by the National Research Center of the National Association of Home Builders. It was explored as an early "Smart House" vision. Only time will tell if it ultimately becomes a viable plan. At Aterra, we are fully attuned to the pulse of the market, however, and even better equipped to assist today's builders and buyers plan for the exciting future to come, no matter what changes appear.
It's not enough in this day and age to have specialty installers for each system. Oversight and advance planning assures that all systems will work together. Integrating customer choices and planning the installation of this overwhelming array of available options is a monumental task.
When it comes to assuring that a new home is ready for the future, in terms of interior and exterior lighting plans, wireless and low voltage integration, security, internet, home automation and smart home capacity, there is every reason to enlist the services of a lighting designer who will coordinate wiring for a home's overall needs and future possibilities.
In terms of low-voltage integration, wiring and electrical planning that meets current needs and responds to those future possibilities, we believe we provide a valuable service not only to consumers, but to electrical contractors and homebuilders as well.