In years past, the words “home improvement” conjured up visions of bathroom or kitchen remodeling projects that were often more a matter of necessity than choice. . .when did that harvest gold wallpaper go out of style anyway?! Contrast that with today’s homeowners, who are more interested than ever before in projects to enhance their quality of life and personal enjoyment at home. While kitchen and bath remodels are still popular, there are now a great variety of technological improvements designed to make homes more comfortable, functional, and, yes, fun.

Where do you want to go today?

The technology choices available to the homeowner today can be daunting. As a simple example, consider a family shopping trip to the local “big box” discount store to purchase a flat screen television. Sounds simple enough, but. . .suddenly you find yourself hit with a barrage of questions. . .are you interested in a panel or projection system? Plasma, DLP, or LCD? What size / aspect ratio would you like? HDTV, HDTV-ready, or EDTV? What resolution? Do you need component, DVI/HDCP, HDMI video connections? Would you like fries with that? You get the picture. Unfortunately, we’ve only scratched the surface here with the choices available for just one piece of equipment. . .and we’re also assuming you’ve found a sales person who even knows what question to ask (don’t even get me started)!

The good news is that the homeowner need not become a technological expert in order to enhance their home’s capabilities and enjoy the “connected lifestyle.” Enter the home technology integrator. In much the same way an interior designer works with the homeowner to enhance the beauty and functionality of interior spaces, the home technology integrator designs, implements, and ties together the home’s various electronic systems. As you can imagine, professional integrators must be a jack-of-all-trades with the experience and knowledge required to design and install a variety of systems, including home theater, networking, security, lighting control/automation, and whole house audio systems, just to name a few.

So. . .what does this have to do with me?

If interconnected electronic systems for your home interest you, consider establishing the same type of ongoing relationship with a technology integrator you currently have with, say, your landscaping firm or building contractor. Once you do, your integrator can become your “one stop shop” for any and all technological home improvement projects and services to include:

Agent / “Smart Shopper” Services

Back to that trip to the “big box” store. . .unless you consider yourself a home technology hobbyist, you might prefer to avoid the trip altogether! Your home technology integrator can work with you to assess your requirements. Once you have a plan, you can be as involved as you like while avoiding the portions of the project where you have neither the time nor the inclination to participate! Many integrators carry a selection of products themselves, but most also understand that today’s market allows consumers to get a great deal of value for their dollar through discount outlets and online merchants. Remember, the goal is for you to get maximum value for your technology investment.

Home Cinema

Imagine a dedicated theater room with a 100?+ screen, digital projector, custom theater curtains, tiered stadium? seating, lighting control, and properly designed acoustics. Few other home technology projects can compete with a well designed home cinema for “wow factor.” Your home integrator can work with you to design and build a room with the power to draw viewers into an immersive theater experience rivaled only by commercial theaters. Like any other large scale home entertainment purchase, a home theater provides a venue for entertaining family and friends. . .and provides a fun and convenient place for the kids to hang out while remaining safely at home.

Whole House Audio

Once reserved for only the most expensive homes, several new technologies are now available to allow you to enjoy CD’s, MP3s, radio, Internet radio, or satellite radio while cooking, working, relaxing on the deck, or soaking in the tub!

Home Networking

Computer networking is becoming more and more central to how we work, play, and communicate every day. Within a few years, many more systems in the home from PCs to gaming systems, DVRs (like TiVo) to speakers, televisions to media servers will require network connectivity in order to maximize their capabilities. Your integrator can install a wired or wireless network (or both) that will allow you to share your broadband Internet connection, stream music around your home, or play XBox Live or online PC games with players around the block or around the world. By the way, you haven’t really played these games until you’ve experienced them on a 100″ screen with high definition video and Dolby 7.1 surround sound!

Automation / Lighting Control

In a home theater, automation and lighting controls can be used to create dramatic effects including lighting “scenes” for before, during, and after the movie. Having the lights slowly dim as the movie starts provides tremendous impact and provides the feel of a commercial cinema. There are a tremendous number of possibilities in this category, including the capability to automate and control lights or appliances throughout your home. . .from your bedroom, or from your laptop while on vacation!

Structured Wiring

While wireless systems are gaining in popularity and capacity, wired networking still provides more flexibility and bandwidth (by far) for your computers, peripherals, and network-enabled home entertainment equipment. Your home integration firm can design whole house network infrastructure for new construction as well as retrofits for existing homes.

Media Servers / Home Theater PCs

Another fast growing portion of the home entertainment market, these systems provide the ultimate in terms of centralizing and controlling all of your home theater audio, video, and lighting systems with one component.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Over the next 10 years or so, your relationship with your home technology integrator may become just as important to your lifestyle and how you utilize your home as many of the other professional services firms you rely on today. Establishing that relationship will provide a lifelong asset for your family and provide the resources you need to complete those technological home improvement projects. Now. . .where did I put that avocado kitchen cabinet paint. . .

Tori Harris is the owner of Palmetto Home Cinema in West Paducah, KY. PHC is dedicated to providing the professional focus required to equip today?s modern homes with reliable, state of the art home entertainment and communications systems. You can contact Tori at 270-217-2245 or via e-mail at