High Function Is High Fashion
In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, disrupting centuries of established home design. Today, in the anatomy of our homes and cottages, electricity is the lifeblood, with current flowing unseen and largely forgotten inside our walls, ceilings, and floors. Every time we flip a switch, push a Start button, or open the fridge, we are realizing Edison’s vision of a human world animated by electricity.
Thirty years ago, incorporating electrical work into your design plans mostly involved figuring out the best placement for light switches, outlets, and fuse boxes. Like everything else in the digital world, much has changed. Today, a good electrician is an essential member of any home design team, and the time to recruit them is at the planning stage.
For a recent new build, electricians at Chuck McNair Electric Ltd. accompanied clients on a job-site walkthrough once the cottage was framed. This essential step is the perfect time for discussing aspects of the electrical design that might not have occurred to homeowners, such as plans for outdoor and seasonal lighting, security, wi-fi, and audio video systems. On this particular project, expansive windows overlooking the lake meant that the indoor lighting would have a major impact on the cottage’s exterior effect, particularly after dark. But even for more traditional homes, having a consultation with your electrical team before and during the wiring process can save you later from legions of unsightly extension cords and fumbling in the dark for a light switch.
THE SMART APPROACH
Ironically, with the aim of making our lives simpler (i.e. double checking that all windows and doors are closed) the introduction of home automation has made electrical systems in the home significantly more complex. At the same time, our growing addiction to technology requires a standard of effortlessness at the user level. That is, we want “smart” homes, but we don’t want to need a degree in software engineering to be able to enjoy them. Chuck McNair and his sons, Stephen and Mitchell, keep their fingers on the pulse of new technology so that their customers don’t have to.
“A home control system can turn multiple complex controls, such as your lighting, heating, ventilation, shading, and security systems, into one easy system controlled from your smartphone,” explains Mitchell. That level of control can pay off in cost reductions and energy conservation, as well as convenience. For example, instead of having your air conditioner programmed to turn on an hour before you typically arrive home, you can switch it on from the restaurant after an unplanned dinner with your colleagues. According to Michell, “most new builds incorporate live-feed camera operation and control of multiple operations of the cottage.”
Due to the nature of the construction process, as well as building codes and insulation requirements, it’s important to maintain communication with your electrician, and for your electrician to consult continuously with your architect and construction and design teams. In the case of the cottage project, McNair Electric faced challenges in mapping out wiring due to an open concept floor plan and the loss of traditional walls to floor-to-ceiling windows.
Working with reclaimed, intricate, and specialty claddings requires the precision of an experienced electrician who has been working closely with your architect and designer throughout the construction process. Marble, raw wood, and wallpaper aren’t easily patched or painted and if an error has been made and wiring has to be reworked aft er the fact, it can be costly. Precise placement of boxes and cables is especially important when large slabs of granite, marble, or quartzite is being installed. While applications like these are growing in popularity, consumers aren’t always aware of the increased importance of correct utility placement when they are used. “With new builds,” explains Chuck, “there can be many contractors involved. We frequently work side-by-side with multiple contractors, coordinating schedules for the most efficient job completion.”
AESTHETICS & STYLE
Even though most of the important work of your home or cottage’s electrical system happens out of sight, there is still an important aesthetic element. Straight lines on walls and trimwork make it much more obvious when an element is out of level or installed improperly. A conscientious electrician takes as much care with the public-facing, visible features as they do with the miles of wire hidden behind the scenes.
With technology’s seemingly limitless expansion into our homes, what once was perhaps an underrated trade is now more vital than ever, especially in the early planning stages of a new automated home. Far from just keeping the lights on, today’s electricians are members of a team of professionals with a shared goal: to customize a dwelling that serves you, your family, and your lifestyle for years to come.