The final article in our series on home automation is how to choose between Do It Yourself or Do It For Me. (If you missed my first two posts, check out “What Can Be Automated?” and “Terms You Should Know.”) This decision should not be taken lightly as the bigger your system gets, the more complicated it gets. However, you can also save a lot by DIYing — if you know what you are doing. So, here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding between DIY and DIFM.
- How much money and time can you spend? Most home automation set-ups are scalable. This means you can add one light here, then a thermostat there, then a camera elsewhere. If you are not in a hurry, this is a great option and you can DIY all you like. However, if you hire someone to do it in segments, you will pay a lot more due to the extra service calls. If you are in a hurry, then DIY requires a significant investment in time. And it’s not just installation time — unless you know exactly what you are doing, you will need to do a lot of research and reading on what to buy and how to install, whereas a DIFM contractor can have it done in a much shorter time.
- How much money do you want to spend? Home automation gear has made some significant advances but it still can add up quickly. Hacked solutions like arduinos allow you to experiment but might not be as reliable if you are inexperienced. They are fairly inexpensive, which is a bonus, and buying gear on the Internet either new or used can save you a lot of money. You just will need to do the proper research to install correctly. Installers charge a premium but will pair this with expertise and long-term service.
- Are the systems proprietary? Some popular systems like Control 4 and Crestron do not allow direct sales to a consumer. You can find them on auction sites but you might be biting off more than you can chew. Documentation is limited and often very technical. So if you go these routes, you’ll need to go DIFM.