Few commercial installers are making the jump to residential

Attendees and exhibitors at Electronic House Expo Spring 2004 say they are rarely seeing instances where commercial cabling installers are crossing over to install cable in the residential market.

Attendees and exhibitors at Electronic House Expo Spring 2004 say they are rarely seeing instances where commercial cabling installers are crossing over to install cable in the residential market.

"I don't see commercial installers doing it," says Paul Walling, CEO for residential installer Paperless Access (Lutz, FL).

The Electronic House Expo, held March 10-13 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, covered the connected home industry—a fast growing segment of the home technology market.

James Calloway, development engineer for NETCONNECT Solutions (www.tycoelectronics.com), says the residential market has a lot of potential. He says 2003 was a record year for home construction in the United States. Calloway says more than 40% of the homes are requiring structured cabling.

Often, potential homeowners will not request or seek a structured cabling network for their home because of the misconception that a structured cabling network is expensive. Many of the exhibitors at the expo tried to address this issue as they spoke with builders and potential home buyers.

Manufacturing representatives tried to convey the message that the typical potential homeowner may not realize how a system needs to be designed and configured to meet these requirements. If their home does not have the proper cable system installed when it is built, it becomes much more complicated and costly to install such a network later. "Once you get a cathedral ceiling in the house, you don't have access to it anymore and it limits your choices," says Bruce Nardone, a master instructor for BICSI (www.bicsi.org). "The only way this will change is when the buyer starts demanding that the building offer some type of pre-cabling."

But who will do the installation? Many industry representatives have argued that residential installation work represents a whole new field of opportunity for commercial installers who have been disappointed by the slowing pace of commercial installations.

"This is a great opportunity for installers," says Bob Becker, vice president for Leviton Integrated Networks, which makes multi-dwelling enclosures that are used in residential installations.

"Now we've developed a channel to the residential market," agrees Calloway. "The commercial installers we talk to are looking for an entrance to the residential market, or they plan to."

But many attendees say they still see a clear division between commercial and residential installers. "There seems to be some people handling residential, and some are just commercial," says R.D. Foster, president of JSC Wire & Cable (www.jscwire.com) which manufactures Category 5, 5e and 6 cables.

Nardone says students are coming to BICSI for training in sound, alarm and home theater installation techniques. And he says he has seen some commercial installers who were curious about residential cabling opportunities. "There has been reaction from the building base as to, 'What's in it for me?'" says Nardone.

But still, he says most of these students are contractors who have long worked in the residential market. He says not many commercial installers are investigating the residential side.

"There's not a lot of commercial installers doing the transition," says Nardone. "Commercial installers don't see the market as being worth putting out their energy."

John Pryma, vice president and general manager for Genesis Cable Systems (www.genesiscable.com), believes contractors, for the most part, are not attracted to smaller cabling jobs. "I see a little crossover, but it's more pronounced in the multi-family market," says Pryma. "That's more analogous to commercial. But in the single-family market, I don't see that happening."

More in Cabling Installation