We've written before about the need for "broadband plumbers" to provide and support broadband networks in the home. So we were delighted to meet Gary Lawrence of e house, a Florida company that's now providing these services for new homes in seven cities in Florida and South Carolina.
Like many companies moving into home networking, e house has its roots in security systems and audio/video installation. It is now providing structured wiring and is starting to offer home networking setup and support.
e house arranges with home builders to act as the preferred or exclusive "low voltage" integrator. The builder typically provides a LV allowance for a home - what's included in the allowance depends on the price point of the home. As a minimum, it might include home security and telephone and TV distribution to five rooms. After signing a contract for a new home, the home buyer visits the local e house showroom for a consultation, and e house has the opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of additional wiring for audio, video and data plus additional equipment for a home theater, whole-house audio, etc.
The first meeting with e house simply introduces the home buyer to the possibilities. In a second session they interactively design what the homebuyer wants and then work up a quote. The additional wiring and equipment become part of the home purchase and are typically included in the mortgage. e house pulls all of the cabling while the house is being built, and then terminates the cables and installs the equipment just before the buyer moves in.
The builder gets a percentage of the sale, and so is incented to maintain the relationship with e house. For homes in the $400,000 to $1.5 million range, an average e house sale might be around $4000. For lower cost, production homes, they have a lower average sale but generally offer fewer options and can do higher volume.
Gary arranged for us to visit the e house Orlando office in Lake Mary, Florida. The office includes a customer showroom where e house "design consultants" can demonstrate the latest in home theatre, whole-home audio, integrated home controls and home networking.
David "DJ" Jones, Operations Leader at e house Orlando, was kind enough to meet with us on a sunny Saturday afternoon to walk us through the whole process, from ordering, to wiring, equipment installation and customer training, and post-sale support.
We really liked the idea of an "e-ready" house. This diagram in the showroom shows very nicely how all of the elements - telephone, lighting, loudspeakers, home theater, PC networking - fit together in the house.
After our visit, we talked with Maria Alfonso, the Director of e-services. She said that e house has established an "e-serviceCLUB" to provide post-installation support. This arrangement includes unlimited support though a toll-free number, and on-site visits as required to fix problems. Maria told us "we launched it because of customer demand - customers drove us to sit down and develop some kind of membership service to take away the headaches and have a place to call." For $385, the e-serviceCLUB warrantees all the wiring in the home for a 3 year period. ( www.e-house.cc )