Home Automation Installer Licensing

Hi I am in the process of starting a home automation business in Indiana. What licenses do I need in order to preform the install? Do I need an electricians license to change a wall switch? What about security? Could I sub out the electrical to a local electrician?


Senior Member
This is going to take some research as it varies from state to state.  For instance, in my state, you'd need either electrical or LV for installation of and automation wiring, but for security you need a special DOJ alarm installers license which is even harder to get and requires a significant background in the industry - you can't really just buy your way into it without "doing your time". 
The best thing I could suggest would be to call the local licensing board for your area - whoever licenses electricians and the like, and ask what's needed, and for what.


Senior Member
It seems that it would be most beneficial to find either:
1.  a recently retired electrician who can qualify for the license and hire him to work for you, with the agreement that for the duration of his employ you will be acquiring the minimum experience necessary to get the license yourself
2.  a working electrician who will reverse hire you in exchange for sending him all your business with the agreement that for the duration of your employ you will be acquiring the minimum experience necessary to get the license yourself
Under both those cases it seems you have the ability to give bids directly to the client and thus holds the most long term benefit. 
Otherwise you want to keep a pool of electricians and have the bid against each other for the work.  But in this case it is unclear whether you would be able to give bids and accept payment on their behalf (without a general contracting license) or if it has to be an entirely separate transaction between them and your client.
Depends on the locale, but in all honesty, for insurance purposes, if you touch the wall switch/wiring as a business, that generally means some sort of electrical license is going to be needed.
In a few of the states I carry licenses in, the low voltage (controls side) has specific voltage cutoffs, others cut off fire alarm and security into 2 licenses, while others allow me to do HV connections and wiring from a HV electrician installed breaker, only for the purpose of powering our equipment, not for switching loads, etc. (think power supplies and FACP's).
If you're going to be changing switches and outlets and the boxes contain HV, then that would be an electrician's job....how you deal with it varies (subcontract, getting licensed yourself, etc).


Welcome to Cocoontech Emmett!

The whole thing of installation of automation does delve into a whole new world of sorts.
Not one trade really is all encompassing, then there is the insurance thing on and on and on.
I know of no master electrican that can program HV switches say like UPB, Z-Wave or Zigbee; but would have no issues with physical installation of said switch in a gang box following normal dictate of said electrical codes.  Historically an electrician is licensed or working for a licensed electrical company.
Legacy alarms were at best using simple serial communications to a telephone.  Alarm installers mostly were trained to learn the cryptic keypad programming for whatever hardware used to be post physical installation of the "wires"/"sensors".  Today much is gone to client based, IP, web gui such that they have to have some computer skills.  What remains here though is the art of physical placement of "wires" and sensors either before or after a home build; training and doing results in an art of sorts.  Another world related can be fire alarm stuff although its mostly integrated if at all in the home automation versus a bit more segregated in the commercial environment.  Same here about licensing; typically that alarm installer or company is licensed.
HVAC is another world; with now a variety of MFGs coming up with their own methodologies but always a physical switch type connection to the furnace or AC unit whatever it is.  A skill level of familiarities with the wiring is good to have.  Difficulties is the interplay relating to the rest of the automation in the home.  Again the licensing issue comes up.
It is moving to a realm of simplicity with the introduction of wireless sensors with batteries which do eliminate that one piece of hiding the wire but does introduce another piece of what happens when the batteries do not work.  This can be really not much of a concern or a major concern relating to life and saftey issues.
The above said; there should be a new "title" or licensing relating to Automation in general. (thinking now its been mentioned a few times here now in multiple threads?) 
It would be touching on a few different trades; master of all and master of not one only.  (wearer of multiple hats) You really need to know the interplay of all relating to automation.  Or even a pooling of a "team" which would work providing all of the individual pieces were there and all were aware of the other pieces involved.
Concurrently at play you have the whatever is left of the big box stores doing automation. Easy electric though sometimes cutting two holes in a wall and running an extension cord from top to bottom....wonder how that can be?
Now too there is competition from the ISP providers.  So you put quote together for some residence.  Put all of the hardware costs, time cost, labor costs in quote and provide it to a client.  That client now is watching to get the best and most for the money....and compares your quote to say Comcast, AT&T or Verizon ...and now you have to prove that you can provide better for less; after all its just automation you know....


Senior Member
I doubt Indiana has many requirements, but you'll need to research for sure.

Sub out the line voltage work to an electrician. Develop a good working relationship. Eventually you'll do most of the line voltage work yourself and he'll show up to put his stamp of approval on it, win-win.

Mostly the line voltage work requires adding outlets, and swapping stardard dimmers for automated ones. Not a big deal, for the most part. Not worth the effort of an electrical contractor's license, IMO, just sub it out.
Let's get into absolutes...(I know some of the information is slightly outdated and not as updated as it should be)


Installations must conform to the 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code, with minor amendments.
Local jurisdictions shall not adopt and enforce their own electrical code unless it has been approved by the Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission/Code Services.

Responsibility for inspection of all construction lies with the local government officials where there is a state approved building department. In areas without an approved local building department, the office of the State Building Commissioner inspects all buildings and structures except those intended for agricultural purposes and one- and two-family dwellings. All plan review is performed centrally, and state field inspectors assist local building officials in code and administrative matters.

No state licensing of contractors or journeyman electricians. Most municipalities have contractor licensing requirements.

What the individual municipality considers electrical or contractor based work would need to be discussed in the area(s) you are intending to do business or what your insurer may or may not cover.
I can't say I agree with a license or division within the trade(s) that would simply encompass "automator" only....at some point that person is going to have to perform skilled work, use test equipment, then determine why something may not work. It's not a clear cut "I'm a programmer only" trade IMHO. Even if the electrical portion is subbed out, how is that person going to relate "X isn't working, why isn't it working" to the EC or LVEC? Quick way to get very expensive when that specialist has to pay for troubleshooting and rewiring, what have you. While I'm going to have to put on my asbestos suit here....we're trying to oversimplify the trade into skilled labor vs. an IT type professional (which IMHO, still should not be doing anything but plugging an cable in between fixed patch points or software/hardware as it pertains to PC's or servers).


Senior Member
One can get started in HA in a number of ways.

These days, most one-man companies start out as 'bang and hangs' with a control solution. Expand to multi room when you can, learning as you go. Quit your day job when you can afford to.

Getting your feet wet as an employee of another company, for a few years, is usually better, IMO.

I think CEDIA is based in Indiana. Might want to tap into that resource, for training and networking. Local distributors would be an excellent resource for training, and requirements as well, but I would also suggest picking up that phone and making sure.

You'll need a state tax ID, at a minimum.
I'll relate a fun couple of examples that happened in (and near) my locale. While another argument and discussion, it boggles my mind that barring some basic items (tax ID, which can be a SSN) anyone can do trade work in some of these states.....qualified or experienced or not.
Local inspectors follow lettered/wrapped vehicles or those with signage on them. While not directly related, my state also requires license information a certain size on any vehicles used for trade purposes. They love to pull up to a house with known construction going on and see what contractors are there, licenses, etc. They banged the big box stores for the bang/hang practice (no license) and a few moonlighters (no insurance/bonding/improper license).
A good friend of mine owns a bucket truck van and has their own business in my state. They were driving a state over to visit a friend and help with Xmas lights...exponentially easier with a bucket truck traded for beer and pizza, maybe an hour drive. Their truck is lettered and legal. They were followed all through one of these towns by a building official, up to when they stopped at a diner and the official harrassed them to know where they were working and for which company, blah blah blah. All because the vehicle was lettered, no other reason.


big box stores for the bang/hang practice
Personally this practice in itself can be somewhat a detriment and counterproductive to the creation of some form of "automation standards" and stifles what attempts are put forth in the creation of a company which wants to do a standard automation installation relative to some existing in place and mandated basic rules of thumb.
I have already seen / heard the expression; "well if "big box" store does it this way; it must be the right way to do things.
Agree...The big box guys are no better than a DIY or hobbyist that simply doesn't know better....actually, somewhat worse, since they typically put a flat price on putting whatever technology they're being paid to install in for a flat price. It hurts everyone, especially the CE install business.....not an apples to apples install 90% of the time, especially when they're dropping their an insignia cable down the wall from the TV to the what have you.
Run any cord, patch or component cable they want through a scoop outlet and up to the TV/STB...whatever. Almost as good as the guys I saw running the orange extension cords and putting cord caps on them (hell, that extension cord stuff is cheaper than Romex for them to purchase). It's not like it really makes a difference, right?
As I've said before...DIY or otherwise, running cables behind the sheetrock or through whatever is bought at the home stores because it fits the bill.....only a matter of time before someone gets hurt or worse, but then again, it's not like it's going to be published when it happens....a lot of incidents get watered down and covered under "fire electrical in nature".


Im in the very early stages of a build and im thinking about a base level home automation system to control audio/visual to certain rooms, air conditioning & lighting. I dont want to go full on and get it to control the blinds, door locks etc.

Ive been doing some research on it and its hard to get even a starting price for such a system. Has anyone had it done or getting it done that can give me a ball park figure?


Welcome to the Cocoontech forum Witmarknaw.
Have a read at the post number #11 above.
Personally on one home build got totally involved with the build.  Asked for a quote on LV wiring and it was pretty new stuff for GC (circa 2000 AD).  GC did subcontract an alarm company to prewire home for alarm. 
They did well and I moved the location of the alarm panel and added a bit to their initial implementation.  GC let me have home pre wall up for about 4 days where I ran LV automation wiring which took about 2 days X 12 hours per day.  It was just running cat5e, rg6, 16/2 and 16/4. 
Post build got a quote from the alarm company for the features I wanted and it did go to around $8k at the time such that I went and purchased an HAI OmniPro 2 panel and installed it bit by bit one zone at a time. (note that the panel had connectivity to lighting, thermostat, audio preparation).
It really depends on how much you want to get involved and how much of a knowledge base you have relating to this stuff.
That said if you just want to subcontract a company to do it all; then call one of the major vendors that do this IE: like Control 4 et al and they will provide you with a quote for installation of whatever you are looking for along with a monthly service contract.  This and the GC would have to be willing for you to subcontract or allow him to subcontract with another vendor unless that said contractor is proficient in this kind of stuff.
A ball park number is difficult without knowing the square footage of the home to figure out number of lighting switches, zone or not zoned HVAC system, Zoned or not zoned audio system, et al.   IE: here relating to just the UPB wall lighting switches I have spent probably over 10K and less than 15K over the years for a 4 bedroom home at around 3K sf with an unfinished basement two story.  I did not automate the closet lighting but did automate the garage lighting.  Also had Rainbird do my irrigation system ($6k at the time) ; shortly afterwards removed most of it and replaced it with my computer controlled irrigation and system sensors (water meter, rain sensors, weather station, wireless zoned control, et al).