53 Choosing an IHS

You have made a decision. You have chosen to install an Integrated Home System (IHS) in your new home or during the renovation of your existing home. You are convinced of the many benefits that such a modern electrical installation can offer for your comfort, safety, energy consumption, communication and flexibility. But just how do you go about getting things started? Will you put your faith in the hands of your installer, without knowing which IHS brand and possibilities they will install, or do you want to have a say in it? We’ll sum up a few items that you should take into consideration.

What do you want to do with your IHS?

Some people simply chose their IHS based on the colour and design of the push buttons. That is not a bad start, but it is far better to be perfectly clear on what you want your IHS to be able to do. Which functionalities do you want to implement in your installation? Let the Checklist—Design Guide for Integrated Home Systems be your guide. Important point: do not simply take into account the functionalities you want at present, but also consider those that you may want to implement at some point in the future.

Consult various installers

Once you have a concrete list of functionalities, you can request that more than one installer have a look at it. Since not every IHS can execute the same functions, your installer first needs to propose various systems that are guaranteed to execute all the functions you desire. During these discussions, try and find out whether your installer has sufficient experience with installing IHS. Can they provide some references? You could also ask them about the training they have followed regarding IHS installation. Someone who only attended a certain manufacturer’s one day course will quite likely have far less expertise than someone who followed a year's course in evening school.

Ask the installer to arrange for you to visit one of their installed IHS. If possible, visit the installation without the installer being present. In this way, you will get more information from the residents about their level of satisfaction regarding the IHS as well as the installer.

Standard or nonstandard?

The so-called KNX standard is the most widely-accepted industry standard for IHS. It includes, among other things, a protocol for BUS communication. In concrete terms, this means IHS brands that comply with the KNX standard can be integrated with each other. They speak the same language. One manufacturer’s product can then be replaced by a product of another manufacturer.

In reality, there are numerous IHS that do not comply with the KNX standard. They use their own proprietary communication protocol. In most cases, these are systems that focus on the residential market. The advantage of these systems is that they have a good understanding of the needs of this market and have designed specific functionalities for it.

Which company is behind a certain IHS?

This is much more difficult to determine, but you should still ask some searching questions. How long has the IHS been on the market? Is there a proven degree of continuity in the system? This question aims to determine whether the system’s existing components are still compatible with the component of the IHS’s very first installation. A manufacturer that puts a new system on the market every five years offers less certainty that you can still replace something twenty years from now.

Finally, you can ask about the system’s distribution. A system that is only sold locally and regionally has a less certain future than an IHS that is distributed internationally. In the latter case, the company will have a headquarters as well as international offices.

Careful thinking. (Courtesy of Fotolia.)
Choosing an IHS requires clear thinking and discussions with your installer. (Courtesy of Fotolia.)
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