How Much Should You Spend On Your Home Electronic Systems?

When building a home, most people understand the importance and value of an electrical system, a heating/cooling system, and a plumbing system. But many people tend to place the importance of their homes electronic systems far behind those other systems. There is also a tendency to treat the technology of the house as an afterthought. So how much should you spend on that technology for your new home?

Ask yourself first…how many hours will your family spend cooking on your new Wolf range or swimming in your amazing new pool?

The typical amount of hours for cooking (for our busy clients) is maybe 5 hours a week, 260 hours a year.

The typical time a family of four will spend watching TV, controlling their house, talking on the phone, using their WiFi, listening to music, and all the other things technology lets you do is probably somewhere around 112 hours per week or 5,400 hours per year.


Wolf Range vs Home Electronics

Wolf range with hoodHere is the math…
If you are willing to spend $30,000 on that amazing Wolf range that you spend 5 hours a week using (equates to $115 per hour for a year) would you be willing to apply that same formula to your electronic systems? $115 per hour x 5,400 = $621,000.

Or how about your pool? It costs easily 150k for a luxury pool that typically gets 20 days of use a year. That boils down to 7.5k per day. Electronic systems get used 365 days a year. Do the math again… 365 days x 7.5k per day = 2.7M! Of course with this formula, we assume that you never go on vacation. But with 2.7M worth of home theater, house music, home automation, and other amazing gadgets, perhaps you might not ever want to go on vacation.
poolUsing these formulas make even our most over-the-top audio/video and home automation systems seem like a terrific value!

So what are the real-world costs of deploying a fully integrated home electronics system in a new home? One that includes surround sound systems, distributed audio, distributed video, WiFi everywhere, and cool touch panel control of lighting, climate, security, pool, motorized shades & drapes, etc. etc..

Well the rule of thumb we like to use is from $20-$50 per square foot for a ‘soup to nuts’ system. We base this on a 10,000 square foot home (which is a pretty typical size for our wildly successful clientele). The number skews slightly higher if you have a smaller home (5,000 sq. ft or so) and slightly less if you are building larger (25,000 sq. ft. +).

Now this typically does not include a Lutron, Savant, or Vantage lighting control system. For these, you should budget an additional $5-$7 per square foot.

It also does not include a dedicated screening room / home theater system either. These types of rooms start at about 50k and work their way up to 300k+ very easily.

But what you do get for $20 – $50 square foot is typically the following:

  • House Wiring – enough low-voltage wiring for present and future home technologies.
  • House Audio Systems – music in all public rooms, exterior, and Master Suite.
  • House Video Systems – lots of flat panel TV’s and the associated Blu-ray players and DVR’s.
  • Surround Sound Systems (Media Room) – Typically at least one in the Family Room and one in the Master Bedroom.
  • Home Control System – A touchpanel-based home automation system (ie; Elan, HAI, Crestron, Savant, Control4, AMX) that allows you to control all of your A/V, lighting, pool, security, climate, etc.
  • Telephone System – Equivalent to a small business phone system but with cordless phones and gate/front door communication (serves as an intercom, too).
  • Security Camera System (CCTV) – At least a few cameras around the property with a DVR that records it all. (No facial or weapons recognition)
  • Computer Network / IT – An enterprise-grade managed computer network that almost everything in your home is connected to, with WiFi throughout.

Where you fall within the $20-$50 range largely depends on how high-performance you want your system to be or how much technology you actually deploy. For example, an OK pair of in-wall speakers will cost around $300 per pair where a serious pair can exceed $2,000 per pair. So hopefully you get a sense of how performance can cause big swings.

Full deployment of technology will also cause big budget swings. If you decide to put a touch panel control in all 22 rooms of your new estate vs. a few key areas around the house, you will jump from the bottom of the range to the top pretty quickly.

Half the battle is knowing all of the options and deciding where to allocate your budget dollars. If you are about to embark on a big residential construction project and you need some advice, give us a call. We will give you an initial consultation at no charge, and if you like what we have to say, you can hire us to consult and design a system for you or to design/build one.

Key Takeaway – Whole house electronic systems for luxury homes typically range between $20-50 dollars per square foot. Cost range is driven by performance and convenience.

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