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Basic dimmers, cans, & audio (was Hello from SoCal)


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#1 Jim Hefner

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Posted 14 December 2010 - 10:46 AM

I love the fact the internet has a forum for every single type of enthusiast on the planet. Frankly, I'm hoping my stay here is brief as I've a demanding career, family, and too many hobbies/interests already...

Anyway, I'm purchasing a new home (already constructed) and my "HA" needs are tiny compared to most folk's around here. All I will be doing is about 25 can lights, dimmers, Tstat, and very simple in wall speakers for my TV and computer audio (speakers in 4 different rooms). I've spent a couple hours here already and I simply don't have the time to get fluent enough to make decisions about types of lights, wiring, hardware, etc. on my own. I'd like to hire someone for 1/2 day or so to help educate me so I can make some decisions. I'm about 45 minutes east of Los Angeles (91750) and we could meet at my new place or anyone willing to help remotely is fine too.

Thanks in advance to all.

Peace

Edited by Jim Hefner, 16 December 2010 - 11:32 AM.


#2 DubG

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 10:38 AM

I love the fact the internet has a forum for every single type of enthusiast on the planet. Frankly, I'm hoping my stay here is brief as I've a demanding career, family, and too many hobbies/interests already...

Anyway, I'm purchasing a new home (already constructed) and my "HA" needs are tiny compared to most folk's around here. All I will be doing is about 25 can lights, dimmers, Tstat, and very simple in wall speakers for my TV and computer audio (speakers in 4 different rooms). I've spent a couple hours here already and I simply don't have the time to get fluent enough to make decisions about types of lights, wiring, hardware, etc. on my own. I'd like to hire someone for 1/2 day or so to help educate me so I can make some decisions. I'm about 45 minutes east of Los Angeles (91750) and we could meet at my new place or anyone willing to help remotely is fine too.

Thanks in advance to all.

Peace


Welcome Jim!

#3 Neurorad

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:06 AM

No offers yet...

You may get some offers if you also post at the remotecentral.com Custom Installers Lounge subforum.

However, the 'pros' may not be familiar with all of the DIY controller options, e.g. HomeSeer, CQC, Elve, MainLobby, etc.

Similarly, the typical pro will have a few 'go-to' speaker lines, and may not be very familiar with over-the-counter brands.

Your project is not 'tiny'. Most pros will discuss with you for free, if you're hiring someone to do the work.

Pro installers charge a lot for installation, and spec'ing hardware, because of the knowledge required. Takes a lot of time to learn how to make informed decisions, and even more to DIY.

Maybe if you did the install in phases, over a few years, you could afford a pro.

#4 Work2Play

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 01:21 PM

You could also post your goals and objectives here if you'd like and people with experience will point you in the right direction... taking into consideration your desire to not spend much time on it. If you're willing to pay a little more for less of your time involved, that's an important goal to understand up-front.

For instance - you mention dimmers and tstat - do you want to control those via - web, touchscreen, iphone, droid phone, etc? Or just be able to dim lights from a switch via a simple Leviton dimmer? Do you want security? We can make it pretty easy on you if you want to spend a little time talking about it - just as you would with a consultant. If I were local, I'd offer more support - but this place works well - and you're not at risk of getting one person's narrow-minded opinion as with a consultant... there are some checks/balances to your advice being public.

#5 Jim Hefner

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 01:55 PM

Right on! Thanks for the responses. They are much appreciated.

Lighting: I'm leaning toward the Insteon stuff. It appears they have a spotty track record but it also appears they have gotten much better. I want to be able to dim 8 different zones both from local wall switches as well as one central location. I'm presuming the central controller will be from my iMac, iPhone, or iPad.

I've been sniffing the forums for thoughts on types of can lighting and will likely go with some low voltage stuff. I've got good attic access and even tho it's a remodel will prob try and use the new construction type. They seem more likely to stay put and are better insulated. usalight seems to be source used by lots of folks. Not exactly sure what wattage or how far apart to put them. 10' ceilings.

Audio. I will have two sources. TV and iMac. Probably on 3 different zones. Volume control in each room ideally. Album, track, and playlist selection from the iMac only is fine. 3 to 4 wall/ceiling speakers in each zone. I'm not an audiophile but can appreciate sound significantly better than my computer speakers. On the subject of computer speakers, I'd like to keep the ability to listen to simple audio streams at my desk without getting up to turn on the amp in the TV room (I said TV on purpose as an entire HT setup is not important). I'd rather not have any more hardware than the amp.

Right now I have a 50" Panasonic that has speaker line outs on the back for simple bookshelf speakers. I presume to drive more speakers in that room I will need an amp. Or perhaps I just need an amp to drive music throughout the house? Whatever the solution for the TV audio I would like it to be simple and be controllable through my Tivo remote.

Last, I'd like an elegant way to know if my garages are up or down. I don't need to be able to control remotely. A tiny light on side of one of the dimmer wall plates would be great.

Thanks again

#6 Lou Apo

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 02:17 PM

Jim,

Lighting, you might consider LED instead of low voltage. CREE makes great quality LED lights that are perfect except they don't dim to amber then off. They dim and stay the same color. I think LED will be the gold standard in lighting within the next 2 or 3 years and if you put low voltage in, you might have trouble converting to LED in the future.

As far as controlling the lighting. I do have Insteon and the last 2 years have proven good on quality. It is a simple deal to get it working all over your house using the switchlincs and kpl's, that is, if you only have a small setup. Large setups are nearly impossible to program without an ISY or software package. If you want offsite control or iphone/etc control you will need an ISY or a software package for that. The ISY is tremendous, but may be overkill for you (this is what I have). If you go with a software package, you will need a computer running 24/7. The thing about ISY and software packages is, you will need to dedicate some time to figure them out. If you don't have the time, you might just forget about it.

As far as audio, this can get very complex. Apple has some wireless setups that are very simple and work well. If you start doing built in speakers, amps, etc. there just really isn't a plug and play way to do it. You really have to spend time on this stuff.

As far as your tv, if you just want to listen to the tv in the tv room and enjoy good sound quality, use the digital output into a dolby digital amp and setup your local speakers there. If you want the sound throughout your house, it gets trickier, especially if you want to have multiple points of control. The left/right line out on the tv will have you enjoying 1980's quality sound. A 5.1 dolby digital amp will be wayyyy better sounding. 3 front speakers, 2 rear speakers, and a subwoofer are great. The 7.1 systems add the "presence" speakers which, in my opinion, only marginally improve the experience.

Edited by Lou Apo, 15 December 2010 - 02:20 PM.


#7 Jim Hefner

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 06:32 PM

Thanks, Lou.

I will check into the LED's. Do you have a good source?

I don't have to be able to control the lighting remotely but it would be nice. My iMac runs 24/7 so that's not an issue. I don't know what kpl or ISY is. A couple hours of programming from my computer is no problem.

The audio doesn't have to be wireless. I'm pulling wires all over the attic for the lights so speaker wire is no problem. Audio from the TV throughout the house is something I definitely don't need. Only music from the iMac. I'll consider the 5.1. Uh oh, I might have to call it my HT now...

Thanks again

#8 Jim Hefner

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 10:04 PM

Should I move my questions to a different section? Mod?

Thanks

#9 Lou Apo

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:15 PM

ISY is a device made by Universal Devices. It is a stand alone Insteon controller/programmer that is only a few inches big and uses next to no electricity. It has all kinds of functionality built into it including network interfacing, IR, simple web server, and other stuff. It has a very robust programming language that lets you have all kinds of stuff happen on a if/then/else basis. It is also a very stable platform that doesn't crash or get corrupted like computers like to do. If power goes out it reboots in about 5 seconds. The ISY makes it wayyyyy simpler to configure your insteon system and it saves 100% of the configurations for you so if something happens you can easily restore your system. It also allows for replacing switches with minimal effort. It is a must for larger systems (although there are software based systems that work well too). ISY currently only works with Insteon, but they have a UPB firmware that is in beta right now. The actual ISY hardware is the same, only the firmware is different. Sadly, it won't simultaneously run Insteon and UPB.

KPL are the insteon keypad lincs. They are the 6 or 8 button controllers smarthome sells.

I only suggest the apple wireless setup becuase it is all plug and play with the ipod/iphone. You were sounding like you wanted to keep things simple. There are some great wired up systems with controllers in each room of your house and all but they are not simple to setup and do cost several thousand dollars.

Edited by Lou Apo, 15 December 2010 - 11:17 PM.


#10 Work2Play

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 02:28 AM

I don't have the time or mental acuity for a full response at the moment... but some quick observations... if you're an apple fan, I'd invest in AppleTV - for $99 for the new one, and the ability to stream TO it from any other Apple device - it seems awesome - and it's on my christmas list.

Insteon/ZWave/UPB - they can all accomplish the same stuff eventually... personal opinions come into play depending on what you like or don't like after research. I landed on SA UPB... That's me.

For Cans - you're talking about something that provides 120V to a light-socket and consumes a 6" can... this isn't rocket science - go to home depot and buy a few - either IC or Non IC - depending on if they'll touch insulation... If you want to save $$$ from there on electricity, decide if you want LED or CFL... LED is $$$$ but low energy and dimmable... but it's an emerging technology and you'll pay to be on this end of it - either in money or sacrifices.

Wife just called - I'll come back when I have more time

#11 Lou Apo

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 08:12 AM

Like work2play says on the LED. I have standard 120v cans with standard light bulbs.. . for now. Periodically I buy one of the new LED bulbs to try out. They just aren't quite there yet. I am confident that in the next few years the price will be down and the light quality will be up and they will be what you have to have. I am afraid that if you go with low voltage you will not be able to make the switch to LED without sacrificing something. The LED makers are going to put their resources into designing lights that fit what 99.99% of people have and that is not low voltage fixtures.

#12 Jim Hefner

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 09:33 AM

I really really appreciate your guys time in answering my questions. As I hoped, it is a tremendous help!

I kind of was thinking about doing 120v cans and waiting till I can afford the LEDs. Any tips on what types of 120v bulbs provide the most natural light and are dimmable? Halogen? I like the idea of conservation with fluros but aren't they hard to dim and have the odd color?

I took a look at SA's website and they definitely seem to have more options but are a bit more expensive than the Insteon. I know Smarthome has great returns policy, warranty, and support so combined with the lower price I'm leaning that way.

I'm gonna take another look at Apple TV but I don't think it's really what I need. All I need is volume control in each room for music streamed from my iMac. The audio in the HT will have to be able to toggle from music to TV. It also needs a separate volume control for the music on the wall.

Last, I'm going to look into the ISY to see if that will fit my needs. If it will allow me to look at my iphone to see if I left my garage up, lights or A/C on I'll probably want it. Or if I can make adjustments to my 'network' while I'm out.

Thanks again

#13 Lou Apo

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 10:02 AM

The ISY would definitely let you know the status of all of your Insteon devices from an iphone or any internet location. The status of your garage door would require a security system and Elk is your best bet if you are looking at ISY since they have a full integration module due out shortly (currently they are partially integrated).

As far as lights, I am using regular old incandescent in 90% of my fixtures at present. I suggest you try the Cree LR6 and CR6 LED's to see if they are to your liking. I think they are great at full brightness but don't like the dimming. The CR6 is available at home dopot for $49 under the brand ecosmart. I plan to hold off a bit longer as I expect the next generation of led to make the grade.

Smarthome is sort of great and sort of a pain in the you now what. I have about 60 Insteon devices many of which were bought when they were crap. I have returned all of them at least once and they have done this at no charge. Most of those were originally purchased about 5 years ago and they have honored past the warranty. Earlier, while they were in denial about the problems, they were harder to deal with. Sadly, you just missed their 20% off sale which gets the prices down to $37/ switch. They never go on sale for more than %20 off but usually do this a couple times a year.

#14 Jim Hefner

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 11:04 AM

It appears that Insteon is soon coming out with a garage door monitor and operator. Here. Not that I'm excited about being a beta-tester for them...

Are the newer generation Insteon devices really more reliable? I can handle maybe 1 out of 25 devices going bad e/o year but not much more than that.

Thank again

Edited by Jim Hefner, 16 December 2010 - 11:05 AM.


#15 Dan (electron)

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 12:17 PM

That's just an I/O Linc really, which has been around for a while. From what I have read/seen in the last year or so, things have improved a lot, and there are plenty of people out there who are happy with their insteon hardware., especially when used in combination with the ISY-99 controller.




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