Well we had our meeting with Guardian, Ryan's partner company to do the low-voltage wiring, and naturally this was a very important meeting for me. Being an I.T. engineer, I have very specific ideas on how I want my low-voltage wiring done. Data and AV outlets are of particular interest to me because I've already analyzed our floor plan and applied a concept of where everything will need to be placed from a network infrastructure point-of-view.
First thing of note is that I am working with a budget of about $3000 for our low-voltage wiring. This doesn't leave a lot of play room beyond the things that I MUST have. Naturally, my list of things to do are prioritized by "must haves" and "nice to haves" depending on where we are with the budget.
Now, a word about Guardian themselves...
The sales rep I met with, Nate, was extremely helpful and understanding. He didn't try to push things onto me like I half-expected him to do. Basically, he let me control the "flow" of the meeting by itemizing things I wanted to get by order of priority. Guardian's pricing (which I will include below) is mostly fair but overpriced on specific things. Their outlets come at a price of $100 a pop. With each outlet, you can specify it to be either data/phone (CAT5e, or CAT6 for an upgraded fee) or CATV (coaxial). They have a bundle deal where you can buy 6 outlets at a discounted price of $495. Each outlet is ran to a powered "smart box" in a location of your choosing for centralized access. All in all, pretty fair prices with the outlets.
The flat-panel TV pre-wiring pricing also seemed appropriate. Basically, the pre-wiring comes with two panels (one for behind your TV and the other behind your source equipment) that are connected with wiring behind the drywall so it hides all of your AV cords between your TV and your source equipment. The panel comes standard with 2 HDMI ports and 1 data (CAT5e) end-to-end and starts at about $180 if both panels are on the same wall and within the same stud space. On the same wall, but separate stud spaces will cost you a bit extra at about $250. Having the plates on totally separate walls will cost around $370. And if you exceed their maximum length between the two plates by 25 feet (I think) then you're shelling out some additional $$$ for that.
Now, the audio selections. The nice thing about Guardian on these is that they offer a wide variety of choices for what you might want to do while also giving plenty of options for those of us with limited budgets. The not-so-nice thing is that the equipment they install is overpriced (even though I think the pre-wire only prices are fair). That being said, Guardian does use some quality equipment, most notably their speakers which are made by Klipsch. Not top of the line but certainly good quality speakers. I read that they're the speakers used by many cinemas.
Here is some pricing on Guardian's audio packages...
- 5.1 Dolby Surround full package pre-wire and built-in speakers... $1800
- 5.1 Dolby Surround pre-wire only (no speakers)... $650
- Rear surround sound speaker pre-wire and built-in speakers... $700
- Rear surround sound pre-wire only (no speakers)... $200
- Whole-home audio system (4 rooms with 2 speakers each) (can have 1 room be an outdoor deck/patio area) with individual room volume control and one source receiver... $4200
- Whole-home audio system (same as above but with only 2 rooms, 2 speakers each)... $2700
- Whole-home audio system (2 rooms, 2 speakers) with individual volume control, but no source equipment (pre-wired to a outlet plate only)... $1350
Couple notes on the whole-home audio systems (I was interested in these so I asked a lot of questions).... the whole-home audio systems (if you get the source equipment) works either via Bluetooth or you can plug a device directly into the source receiver. You CANNOT play different things in different rooms with the standard setup. Basically, one source for all rooms. You CAN upgrade to individual sources but the cost increases exponentially for each additional source you add (close to $1200). If you do not get any source equipment from them, then you must provide your own. However they will pre-wire everything to one wall plate for easy plug-and-play capability.
Finally, the security system. Pretty much on par with the rest of the standard systems out there as far as cost for equipment and monitoring, though Guardian's equipment does seem a bit dated. They'll give you the basic equipment for free (1 keypad, 1 motion sensor, 3 door/window sensors, 1 garage door sensor, and siren) but they'll charge you $250 for installation. Even though the equipment is a bit out-of-date, I'll give them props for the $250 install since everything is hard-wired (not wireless), which is better IMHO because wireless signals can be BLOCKED. So, you get the basic equipment for free (you can also add extra components for an additional charge), but Guardian will require you to sign a 36 month contract with their monitoring service (for which they give you 6 months free). Might seem a bit extreme, but I did some research on the Internet and this is how about 90% of home security companies out there do their deals as well. After the 6 months, you'll pay $45 a month for basic monitoring. There are, of course, different tiers of monitoring services. Not sure what they are though. At any rate, our sales rep also attempted to sell us monitored heat/smoke/CO2 detectors (which were quite expensive, but don't remember the exact prices). Also a couple of home automation features that I promptly nixed as well.
OH... I almost forgot about their central vacuum system. It looks cool, but it alone costs $5000. NIXED.
So, what did we get????
Well I was a little indecisive about what we chose initially so we haven't officially gotten anything yet. We'll be meeting again next week to finalize selections (which is why this post is "part 1"). But here's what I'm thinking....
- 12 data/phone/CATV outlets (6 are included w/ our house, all depends on what you add... e.g. getting a finished basement yields 2 outlets). So, I opted for the 6-pack outlet deal on top of what we already have - $495
- Multi-wall TV pre-wire in family room (our TV will be above the fireplace) - $370
- Whole-home audio system for 2 rooms (incl. speakers but NO source - I'll add a good one later for much, much cheaper than what Guardian charges) - $1350
That's it. So in total we're looking at $2215 in low-voltage expenditures. Not bad seeing how that puts us under budget by about $800. Still considering all our options though, nothing will be finalized until we have our second meeting with Guardian next week. Will update again after that!