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Technology is trendy and expensive. Some production builders are struggling to stay cutting edge, while also keeping the costs of their homes at a price point their customers can afford. Many of these high-volume builders took advantage of the International Builders’ Show to find affordable tech that would allow them to dip their toes into the smart home market.
“All the buyers out there are just looking for a little bit more for their money, so if you can show them you’re thinking outside the box then you’ve got them locked in,” says production builder Kirby Burks. Burks is the managing partner at C3 Consulting, which mainly focuses on multifamily and residential homes in Northwest Arkansas. His company has built three communities in the Bentonville area, and he’s looking for new tech ideas that he can budget for in the future. Snap Power’s booth caught his eye at this year’s IBS. The 6 month old SnapRays Guidelight for night time task lighting is built into the cover plate of an outlet, so builders don’t have to wire it, plug it in and it won’t take up an outlet.
“You have to pay money as a builder for that [other guide lights] have to be hardwired. Our product however… there’s absolutely no cost to installing it because the builders already need, by code, outlets throughout the house,” says Snap Power founder Sean Watkins. Watkins won Best in Show at IBS for the cover plates that cost $12 to $15 each. “Your average cost to put a hard-wired light in the home is about $60 to $90 after installation and labor,” he says.

The guide lights are Snap Power’s first product. The company is also running a Kickstarter campaign for a cover plate with a USB port that’s coming out in March… a product builder Kirby Burks will be waiting for. “Everybody has cell phones, so we could put them in the master bedrooms, in the nightstand,” says Burks. “I know at home we’re always looking for our cellphone charger, so a USB port beside the nightstand would be awesome.” “That’s a great product,” says production builder Steven Cuff, “Very easy to install and has tremendous customer appeal. It’s just efficient and it’s what people want.” Cuff runs a construction company named after him in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s trolling for tech at IBS for his business that touts cost effectiveness for first-time buyers. “We’re looking for technology software,” says Cuff, “Things that will make us more productive in the industry and also want to be a frontrunner in some of the new and innovative products that are out there today.”


Brio also showed inexpensive ways to innovate at this year’s IBS. It’s Smart Outlet and Safe Outlet use technology that adds a “dormant” state to the 120v electrical outlet, so that it automatically supplies electricity only when it is needed, protecting children and pets and reducing the risk of fire.
Builders can simply replace an existing standard outlet with the Brio product that’s industrial design was created by an ex-Sony design team. Brio’s site also has an instructional video.
Brio Safe is the basic product that focuses on electrical safety only. It costs roughly $35 per unit. Brio Smart also monitors carbon monoxide, water events and fire in the home and sends alerts through an app to the smart phone. It goes for $79 per unit. They’re both expected to be available later this year.
“Just basically changing out an outlet cover,” says builder Steven Cuff, “Just change the look, change the people’s thought process, that’s what they want in the marketplace.” Convenience and safety are two popular categories home buyers are looking for, another is health.
“We actually developed the H-300-NXT as a direct response to homeowners concerns for a healthier home,” says Pentair’s Marketing Communications Specialist Kathleen Fugler.
Pentair introduced its newest Everpure filter at IBS. It is NSF/ANSI 401 certified and reduces emerging contaminants in drinking water, such as pharmaceuticals, over the counter medications and manufacturing compounds like BPA. It has a 50 percent larger filter that’s also 100 percent recyclable. “Homeowners will not only feel good because their water tastes great,” says Fugler, “But they’ll know that they’re doing something good for the environment.” The H-300-NXT drinking water system uses an additional faucet and may be on the pricier end for production builders. It’s $479.99 for the system. Filters go for $179.99 and should be replaced yearly.
But… if you’re going to dip your toes in tech, you might as well get your whole foot wet. Builders can try out all of these products for just over 500 bucks.

Originally Posted by Andrea Medeiros for TecHome Builder on 02/16/2015

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