HESE DAYS IT SEEMS AS THOUGHeveryone's building a great big house with an apartment over the garage, a bedroom closet as big as a dining room and a finished basement equipped with a media room.
If you ever wonder how families in these great big houses manage to communicate when members are scattered from attic to basement, wonder no more.
They get intercoms.
"It's pretty difficult to yell for the kids to come to dinner if you're living in an 8,000-square-foot home," said Tod Crowe, sales director for Vector Security in Boardman. "Having a home intercom system with speakers in several rooms solves the problem."
Other uses
Of course, home intercom systems aren't just for people with huge houses.
Intercom systems can benefit moms and dads who need to keep tabs on small children, people with special health concerns and the elderly.
Intercoms also make great whole-house sound systems.
"Lots of people want intercom systems that come with an AM/FM radio, cassette and CD player. This allows them to play background music throughout the house, and on busy mornings when parents and kids are getting ready for work and school, the whole family can listen to the news and the weather reports no matter what room they're in," Crowe said.
Features available
When an intercom system is installed, Crowe said a master unit is usually placed in the kitchen, which is typically the family's main gathering area.
Once the master unit is installed, remote speakers are typically installed in each bedroom, in the basement, in the garage and even outdoors on the back porch or deck.
Phil Smida, owner of S.O.S. Security Systems in Canfield, said many people ask to have a speaker installed on their deck or porch.
"Having a speaker outside on the deck is very popular because it allows people to have music playing during the summer while they are entertaining," Smida explained.
Smida said it's also popular to use an intercom in conjunction with a doorbell.
"What's great about this type of system is when someone comes to the door, you can speak to them through the intercom from any room in the house. You can also have a camera installed so that you can see who is at the door," Smida said.
The costs
Whether you're building a new home or staying in your current one, you can get an intercom system to match your needs.
Crowe said installing a system in new construction is less costly than installing a system in an already-built home.
"It costs about $1,000 to have a basic system [with musical capabilities] installed in new construction. A basic system includes an AM/FM radio, four or five remote speaker units and a master unit," he said. "This price will go up about $300 if the system is to be installed in an existing home."
Smida said a basic system without musical capabilities costs about $500 to $700.
More elaborate intercom systems with CD players and top-of-the-line speakers cost about $2,000 to $2,500, Crowe said, and if you want a camera, add $500, Smida said.
"Installing in an existing structure is much more labor-intensive, and it also takes longer. It typically takes about eight hours to install a system in new construction, but it might take a few days to install the same system into an existing home. It just depends on the home and the existing wiring," he said.
Picking an installer
Crowe said people with electrical-wiring knowledge can sometimes install their own systems, but he cautioned do-it-yourselfers.
"They should be careful when they run wiring through a wall with existing wiring in it. If there is 110-volt wiring already in the wall, it could cause interference with the intercom system, and you'll hear static or humming," he said.
Because there is no specific licensing that intercom installers need to have, Crowe suggests checking with the Better Business Bureau before choosing a company.
"And if you're having a home built, you can also ask your builder to recommend someone," Crowe said.

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