Breaking into the Residential Market

The security industry may have turned a corner on the road to recovery, and that is good news for electrical contractors (ECs) looking to broaden their offerings into residential security.

“The residential security market is partially driven by consumer access to connectivity technology in the home and the system’s abilities to provide control and information beyond event-driven notification and alarm functions,” said Kirk MacDowell, residential business leader for Interlogix, Bradenton, Fla., a business of UTC Fire and Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

However, the economy remains a challenge, particularly because of the decline in new home construction, said Bob Tucker, director of public relations, ADT Security Services, Boca Raton, Fla.

The good and the not so good
ECs could take hold of opportunities in the residential security market, but knowing the low-voltage industry and the security market’s service orientation is necessary for success.

“Providing residential low-voltage projects would allow contractors to expand their offerings beyond traditional electrical installations to security and whole-home systems,” MacDowell said.

One way to succeed quickly is to partner with low-voltage security alarm companies to present builders and homeowners with a single-source solution for electrical and security installations.

“Working with a partner who understands construction challenges and offers wireless technologies where appropriate simplifies the challenges while still satisfying customer demands,” said Doug Paul, vice president, field operations, for Protection 1, Wichita, Kan.

But that’s not the only way to benefit in the market. As contractors are called on to perform more work in residences, they can use their expertise to help educate consumers about what is available.
“Security offerings today include many customer-friendly features previously available only through complex home automation systems, such as remote alarm, appliance, and HVAC control; email or text event notification; and remote video surveillance via handheld device,” Paul said.

However, depending on the jurisdiction, security projects often require yet another license and permit. Combined with the need for monitoring contracts and the responsibility of taking on life safety projects, electrical contractors may find that entering the security space is certainly a commitment, but it could pay off.

Market and consumer trends
Manufacturers and providers recommend professionally installed security systems to ensure reliable and consistent performance. According to MacDowell, most homeowners also prefer engaging a professional who can help design the system and make recommendations.

“While there has always been a niche for do-it-yourself systems, they have not become widespread because, in general, people do not want to become system integrators and have to figure out where sensors and devices need to be placed,” Tucker said.

Another thing to consider: as consumers become more tech-savvy, they will expect the same convenience from their security systems, said Lisa Ciappetta, senior director of marketing for Protection 1.

“Today, [home security] systems include the integration of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide sensors; video cameras; lights; thermostats; and whole-house controls,” Tucker said.

Other consumer trends include the desire for smaller, more aesthetic security system devices and keypads, Ciappetta said.

In addition, remote control is now being delivered through wireless technology, which has also helped lower the cost of new residential security systems by eliminating or reducing the need to pull wires through walls and ceilings.

“With wireless technology, not only do devices that respond to fire, panic or intrusion experience a wider variety of control capabilities, but so do HVAC, lighting and other home systems,” MacDowell said.
Integration is another trend taking hold and driving the market of residential security systems.

“In higher end homes, certainly, security systems are becoming increasingly integrated with smoke, heat and carbon monoxide systems, as well as with increasingly prevalent fire sprinkler systems,” MacDowell said, adding that all of those systems need monitoring.

Some monitoring service providers are examining the opportunities of expanding beyond the home and partnering with other service providers to offer products such as identify theft protection and GPS monitoring, Ciappetta said.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and

About the Author

Darlene Bremer

Freelance Writer
Darlene Bremer, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributed frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR until the end of 2015.

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