Technology "Musts" in a Home...Part 2

Last month we outlined four technology “musts” in a home.  We focused mostly on things that would make your home more aesthetically pleasing. In hopes that it was helpful, we are adding four more things that we feel are important for a home. These are going to focus more on function and safety in your home.

  1. Video surveillance. Although we do not install alarm systems, we do install video surveillance cameras. These cameras are installed to the outside of your home or business and hook up to a DVR to record activity in the immediate area. There are two main benefits to this system: 1) there are no monthly fees, and 2) you can view your cameras right from your mobile device whether you are home or not.  Many DIY systems sold at stores come with monthly service fees or poor image quality.
  2. Ring doorbells. These doorbells allow you to see who is at the door before you even open the door. When someone rings the doorbell, your mobile device notifies you in real time that someone is at your door. You can physically see a video of who is ringing your doorbell as well as have a two-way conversation with that person. For example, if you are out with your spouse and have a babysitter watching your children, you will get a notification if someone is at your door. You can then contact the babysitter whether to answer the door or not.  Another example, perhaps you are in your backyard gardening or grilling and your doorbell rings. You can see if you need to answer the door, or if it is just the postman dropping off a package. The disadvantage to this system is it only works on mobile devices. The doorbell does not ring in the house anywhere unless there is a Smartphone or tablet available. 
  3. Lighting controls. Have you ever left for the day and gotten home after dark forgetting to keep a light on? With lighting controls, you can turn a light on before you even head home. Perhaps your teenager needs to wake up for school before the sun it up, turn on their light from your phone! Maybe you left for a week of vacation but forgot to leave a light on. Turn it on from your phone from the airport! Having a party? Customize your lights to be able to adjust them from anywhere in your home. You can automate these features so they happen without you needing to do anything! There are so many reasons to have lighting controls for your home.   
  4. One app. Each of these technology “musts” we have outlined today come with their own app for your mobile device. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one app to handle it all? Believe it or not, it does exist. It’s called OnControls and we wrote about it in article here. It is titled “All Those Apps and Remotes!” If you are tired of taking up so much space on your mobile device with apps, put them all into one app to simplify your systems.

    
If you are interested in any of these systems, please contact us and we will help you determine what will fit your needs. Call us at 732-341-5014 or email us here to schedule your free estimate.

Techonology "Musts" in a Home...Part 1

These days it seems there is some new type of technology coming out every day. It is very hard to keep up, especially for those always wanting the latest and greatest. For the person that does not know where to begin, or just wants some basic systems, this article will help you, too. This month and next month I will be outlining some of the technology “musts” homes should have if you want to stay up to date on the newest trends. (This list is based on our own opinions and in no particular order.)

  1. Internet and networking system. Before installing any type of technology and equipment, it is wise to make sure your Internet and networking systems are capable of handling it all. Having a strong Internet connection will make a big difference in the ability to install these “musts”.  
  2. Whole house audio. I recently wrote an article on the differences between Heos and Sonos here. These are both excellent whole house audio systems. Having a system like this allows you to listen to music, podcasts, etc. in any room of your home. This is beneficial for whatever your lifestyle may be. You may be cooking in the kitchen, having a party, gardening or relaxing outside, working out in the basement, etc. You can have music at your fingertips without worrying about your ear buds staying in your ears. Each room can have its own volume control so you don’t interrupt others in the house. These systems can be customized to your liking.
  3. Hidden cable boxes with remote sensors. Wires, black boxes, remotes, oh my! With all the technology out now for televisions, your living room could be overrun with equipment. There are cable boxes, dvd players, Apple TV, gaming systems, and more. With the power of modern technology, you can hide all of your equipment out of sight and still access everything you need with sensors. Find a spot in a closet with a shelf and everything can be tucked away neatly. No more messy wires!
  4. Universal remote controls. These are a huge time (and sanity) saver! These remotes are recommended for systems with more than just a cable box. You can program one remote to access your cable, Netflix, gaming systems, On Demand, etc. With a universal remote control, you eliminate several remotes, and the puzzle of which input to choose for each piece of equipment. Universal remote controls make your TV experience a breeze!

If you are interested in any of these systems, please contact us and we will help you determine what will fit your needs. Call us at 732-341-5014 or email us here to schedule your free estimate.

Navigating the World of HDMI

     Have you ever needed an HDMI cable, and when you get to the store you have NO idea which one you need?? One says 1.3, another 1.4, and another 2.0! Maybe you thought all HDMI cables were the same. Well, they are not.
     HDMI is a wire, a connector, and a circuit board all with different classifications. It takes all three parts for the device to work. This can be confusing, so I’m going to give you the basics.
     Every wire and device has its own classification, which is capable of different levels of quality and features. The devices themselves have circuit boards in them that have a classification. For example, a TV made in 2007 most likely has HDMI 1.3 classification. This is also the same for most cable boxes, although some newer boxes are 1.4. If you plug a 1.3 cable wire into a 1.4 cable box and connect to a brand new 2.0 TV, you are only going to get the quality of the 1.3 cable. Your devices will only be as strong as the weakest link. There may be lag in changing channels, or the sound and picture will not be the best quality.
     How many of you read that paragraph and all you comprehended was, “Blah, blah, blah?” What does this information mean? Well, I have some great news! HDMI.org has realized that this is a very confusing system with their classifications and they have come up with a solution. They are requiring manufacturers to change their marketing to list the features on their boxes rather than a classification number. From now on, when you go to the store to look for that HDMI cable, it will list exactly what it should be used for right on the packaging. No more guessing which numbers will work with your devices.  *Sigh* What a relief!
     If you are currently wondering which cable plugs into where, and which one to use for any of your devices, please call us at 732-341-5014 and we can straighten everything out for you.

Tired of High Cable Bills??

     One of the most common questions I get from customers recently is, “How can I get rid of my high cable bill, but still watch all the shows I like?” There are many options available, but are there too many? In this article, I am going to break down some of the options available so you can assess whether they are worth it for your needs.
      Most people have cable, satellite, or Verizon Fios where they pay a flat monthly fee for the service and a monthly fee to rent the cable boxes. These companies offer introductory rates, but after six months or a year that rate skyrockets. These are convenient choices, but many people are frustrated with the service and cost of them.
      Another option is Tivo. In this case, you buy the cable box, which eliminates the monthly rental fee that cable companies charge. You would then only pay for your cable service each month. Tivo also takes other online services like Netflix and Hulu and makes it easy to watch recent shows. I have found this to be the best option.
     You may think, “Wait, I can get rid of my cable box? I don’t have to pay a monthly rental fee anymore?” The answer is yes…almost. Currently there is a law being developed through the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) that could deregulate cable boxes. This means that cable companies will have to eliminate their monopoly over cable boxes in their customers’ homes. The gist of the law states that any company can make a cable box and sell it. Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire could become cable boxes.  Just as in the case of Tivo, you would still pay the cable company for the service, but not for the box.
     I believe that by the end of this decade, everything will change and television and movies will be exclusively available over the Internet. Therefore, cable boxes will slowly phase out completely.
     Your next question may be, “What if I want to ditch my cable NOW?” The answer is, you can. There are many services that allow you to watch any show you want, but they will be on a delay. A few examples are Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Sling TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime. These all have different costs per month or year, but they have most of the shows you enjoy.
     The main thing to consider with all of these companies is who owns them. Who are you investing your money into? For example, if you have invested $500 into Amazon for their TV and movies, all of that will be lost if they go bankrupt (we know that won’t happen anytime soon, though). Amazon was an example, but this can happen with smaller companies like Vudu. All of these different services will require you to check many different places for the same thing. It can be frustrating to find what you are looking for if you go this route. Be aware of all of your options before you make a switch.
     If you are considering replacing your cable box, or cable altogether, please call us at 732-341-5014 to discuss the options that may best fit your needs.
 

All Those Apps and Remotes!!!

          Smart home wiring is one of the latest trends in home improvement these days. Almost anything can be controlled by remote control or smart phone including lights, motorized shades, TVs, music systems, pool lights, pool heaters, thermostats, camera systems, garage door openers, motion sensors, alarm systems, and the list goes on. What happens, though, when each of these is controlled by a different remote control or app? How do you keep them organized? Remember those days of having a different remote for the TV, the VCR, the DVD player, and the cable box? Now apps are being added to control these things, too! How overwhelming!
            We have a solution! On Controls is a system that takes all of your remote controls and apps and puts them into one place. On Controls allows you to add almost any device to their system so you can control everything from one location on your smart phone or tablet. The best part is no extra wiring needs to be run throughout your home. This device is placed right near your existing equipment. The company is adding new devices to their system every day so we can let you know how it will work best for you. Armbruster Communications is now an official dealer for On Controls systems. We are able to install On Controls in your home to make your life a little more organized than it already is. Click here for more details about On Controls and contact us at 732-341-5014 to set up a free estimate.

Sonos or Heos?

     How many times have you wanted to play music while cooking, cleaning the house, reading, or any activity you are completing at the moment? One of the most sought after trends right now is a whole home music system that can be activated from a smartphone. There are many products on the market, but how do you choose the best one? There are two systems most widely used: Sonos and Heos. In this article I will lay out the pros and cons of each system to help you choose which best fits in your home.   
      Sonos is a system that was brought to market in 2003. They are the innovators of this type of service. Sonos is easy to set up and is very user friendly. There are many music services that can be added to the system.
       Some of the disadvantages of Sonos are that it is not current on updates and new features. The sound quality is good, but not great on the system. Sonos also uses your internet signal even when not in use.
        Heos is a system similar to Sonos, but with different pros and cons. Heos has better audio quality and is always adding new features. Heos is more reliable and does not use your internet signal all the time. It is also manufactured by a company that has been in business since 1910.
         Unfortunately, Heos does not have the consumer awareness that Sonos has. Heos also does not have as many music services to choose from, though it does have plenty of choices. Prices on Heos models are slightly higher than Sonos.
         If you are interested in a whole home music system, I highly recommend one of these two systems. If you are still unsure which to choose, call us at 732-341-5014 to discuss your needs and we will help you with your decision.

HDTV over the air

HDTV over the air is possible for you without a big monstrous antenna on your home. Recently we installed a new Winegard Flat Wave Air Antenna for a client and this is what they wrote about the experience. We can install one for you starting at $300 that includes the cost of the antenna Offer ends 10-31-2013. Call us 732-341-5014   “Toms River N.J. has always been in a unique position between two Metropolitan areas to be able to pick and choose the best television available for an individual’s taste. Years ago when Toms River had Adelphia Cable they offered both NY and Phila. Channels as part of their lineup. When they did a swap of areas with Comcast the services started to decrease and the rates increased. Comcast would force you to pay for their higher priced digital service in order to maintain both area local channels when they moved the Phila. Channels into the digital range. With the advent of Verizon Fios their rates dropped a little but the service was not customer oriented. Fios promised dual local channels but never delivered on that promise. Fios introduced only ABC out of Philly. With the introduction of digital TV it was practically impossible to get TV from Philly with an antenna. RJ Armbruster Owner of Armbruster Communications never gave up the fight. Every time a new and better antenna came out they would try it including 12’ monsters with amplifiers. Then one week after the introduction of Winegard Flat Wave Air Antenna the results are spectacular and I have 35 channels from Philly with no monthly cost.”

Which soundbar should I buy?

Thinking about purchasing a sound bar but don’t know where to start? Prices range from $100-$2000+ That’s a big difference! Here are a few helpful hints. Don’t buy a soundbar from a manufacturer of a TV. They know video, but not all of them are good for audio. These tend to be less quality. Also, check the connection types because some more economical models only allow 1 or 2 devices to be connected. Check if it will allow you to stream music from your mobile device or computer. If you're buying a soundbar you want to get the most out of it. See if it is capable of 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. This will make sure it has the feel of a surround sound system without the speakers. Still not sure? Call a local professional. We serve Monmouth and Ocean counties. If you need to find a professional near you check out Cedia.

All sound systems are not created equal...

Recently, we were contacted by a client that owns a pizza restaurant. They had a sound system installed by another contractor and wound up with two problems. First, the sound was traveling upstairs to the office above them, and second, it wasn’t loud enough to hear sufficiently throughout the restaurant. We took a look and saw that whomever installed the system put the speakers on the ceiling joists or the floor of the upstairs space. This is why they were hearing the sound upstairs. It was an easy fix to move the location of the speakers. The second problem had to do with a simple philosophy we follow which is “less is more”. They had 12 speakers installed and connected to a system that is designed for home use and should not have more than 5 speakers connected to it! The problem with more speakers, in this case, is they lower the volume to each speaker making it harder to hear clearly. We ended up removing all unnecessary speakers. The final result was that no sound was traveling to the upstairs space and the music sounded much better and even throughout the restaurant. The lesson here is that just because you use it in your home doesn’t mean it will work in your business.

Get a Human!

We’ve all been there. We need to speak to a customer service representative to resolve an issue with our bill, update our account, or simply request lowering our interest rate on our credit card. We dial the 800 number anticipating to speak to a representative within a couple of seconds, only to find out we have been prompted incessantly to multiple departments, never reaching an actual “live” person to talk to.

We become frustrated, and possibly even throw the phone against the wall, and then attempt to call once again; only now, the waiting time is twenty minutes, all spent listening to the recording of a representative over and over that we state out loud in frustration the most enunciated nine diminutive words we can say (excluding the colorful words we like to add in): ” I JUST WANT TO SPEAK TO A LIVE PERSON!”. We all know everyone wants to talk to a live person. Who doesn’t? We found a service that not only offers a live person willing to assist in one’s request, but also provides indispensable steps to bypass the phone systems of top, well-known businesses within the airline, telecommunication, financial and retail industries. Their website is www.gethuman.com. They also have a free app for smartphones! When you enter the website, you will get to select from a vast data listing to choose from. You will see companies such as American Airlines, AT&T Wireless, EZ-Pass, Experian, Hot Wire, Jersey Central Power & Light Company, Merrill Lynch, Sears, Verizion, USPS, and the US Department of Homeland Security to name a few. Simply, select the company of interest (example-Sears) and follow the steps guiding you to reach a live rep. That’s it! The website makes this service available for anyone wishing to eliminate time spent on being transferred from one department to another.