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#1 JST829

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 12:09 PM

Hi everyone! Like many others I've been bitten by the HA bug. I've been lurking on the site for quite a while, but now I think I'm finally ready to jump in and get started. Here's the story:

New construction -- house has been framed. The builder is a friend of mine; he is letting me do all the low voltage wiring and will give me whatever time I need. I plan on going in after the electrician is done with his rough work (in a month or so) and taking about a week to run cable.
I've gained a ton of knowledge from the site, so thanks to everyone that's contributed! I've also read through the Wiki a few times, but I still have some things I'm confused about.
My goal is to run as much cable as I can in order to future proof my home as much as possible. However, I'm not sure yet what systems I will be using to control everything. I just want to get the wiring in the wall so that we can build the house and then do more research before I commit to any one system. I guess that leads me to one question: what exactly does a system like Elk do? Is it primarily for security, but can also control lights, climate, etc? How do components connect to it? I've read a ton of posts on the subject, but I still don't completely understand how it works.
Anyway, back to wiring. I will have an equipment closet in the center of my basement -- everything will be homerun to there. Aside from the basics (running Cat5e EVERYWHERE, deep boxes with a neutral run to every switch box, etc.), what else should I be doing? A/V wise I have a good grasp of what I want to do, but I have a few other areas that I need some advice on:

Security: I want an alarm system, but I don't know what I should be wiring for. Can I have an alarm company come in and wire the house with what they deem appropriate (with input from me of course) and then later I can tie it into an Elk or something like it? Eventually, I'd like to be able to monitor my security system remotely (both for security issues and fire and CO2).
Windows blinds: I'd like to wire (power and control) for motorized blinds for every window. I don't know what blinds we're getting yet. Would running Cat5e to each window be enough to cover me for later? What part of the window should it be run to?
Temperature control: I will have three thermostats - one for each floor. What kind of thermostats do I need to get and what kind of wiring do I need to run to them in order to be able to control those as part of my system?

My main long term goal is to be able to control lighting, climate, and window blinds all with one interface. I'd like to be able to trigger those three things in different ways -- time, event, state, etc. I want to be able to control all of these both locally and remotely through a tablet or phone. I'd also like all things security to be on the same system.

I'm really sorry for the longer than intended post and the millions of questions, but any advice you all can give me would be greatly appreciated!

#2 wuench

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 12:52 PM

1.) First you should select a room to be your "core". All wiring should terminate there, even better if the electrical panel is in that room.
2.) Next you should think about how you would run wire after all the walls are closed up into as much as the house as possible from that core, also to outdoor areas like your Phone demarc, satellite dish, cable dmarc, electrical panel, HVAC. Where you can't get to in the future run conduit now to create pathways.

For example, in my house I connected between my "core" and the attic with 4 2in conduit that allows me to hit all of my upstairs with wiring. Additionally I ran conduit to all of my unfinished areas from the "core" room so I can hit maybe 75% of my finished basement. My core room has 4 in raceway circling the room at the ceiling that connects all the conduit and my panels so I can pull additional wire as needed. In my attic I attached high quality velcro straps to run my wire through and also in some areas large staples so I can pull wire without stripping off the insulation.

As far as prewire, you should run
  • 22/2 to each window or door and any other unpowered sensor
  • 22/4 to anywhere you want a motion detector, co detector, or any other powered sensor
  • CAT5 for keypads
  • 18-22ga for speakers
  • Firewire for smokes
  • CAT5 for any network, phone, serial (RS232, RS485) connections,
  • RG6 for any SAT/Cable.
  • For shades you will have to research what you want, shades can be low voltage or high voltage for power and controlled by relay closures, serial, or even wireless.
  • If you want to do security cams, you can go analog video in which case you need RG59 and something like 18/2 for power or you can go Network based which you just need CAT5 and can use POE if you want.
The Elk is primarily a security system and secondary an automation panel. It has an RS485 bus that can be run over CAT5 to connect it's components like keypads, relay modules, input modules, Serial modules (RS232/RS485) etc. This means you have the option of locating the modules away from the main control. Most of its connectivity to control Shades/HVAC/etc is done via serial (RS323/RS485) using the M1XSP module. You can look at it's manual on the Elk website to see all the things it can control. Cabling wise that means you usually need CAT5 between the main control and whatever you are trying to control. For controlling things like irrigation valves, garage doors, etc you would use an output either off the main control or using an output module like the M1XOVR. The wiring is typically 22/2 for most distances. The elk also typically requires phone and/or Ethernet connectivity so more CAT5 for those and for phone it will need to be connected to an RJ31X which places it in front of your indoor phones so it can seize the phone line in an emergency. You can also opt for Cellular connectivity which either connects as a phone or via serial.


As you can see there is a lot to talk about in terms of planning your Elk install so the best place to start is to read all the manuals.

Edited by wuench, 08 June 2012 - 12:56 PM.


#3 JST829

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 11:19 AM

Thanks, Wuench. You've helped me understand. I've taken your advice and started going through the Elk manual.

#4 Work2Play

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 01:22 AM

Welcome! You covered a lot of detail so I'll do my best here:

what exactly does a system like Elk do? Is it primarily for security, but can also control lights, climate, etc? How do components connect to it? I've read a ton of posts on the subject, but I still don't completely understand how it works.

The benefit of an Elk or HAI is that they can be the center of your automation system. Why is this handy, vs. using CQC/Homeseer/Elve/etc? If you buy eKeypad or Haiku (elk/hai), you have an off-the-shelf system that works - with your ipad, android phone, etc... without spending time actually integrating the systems and building screens. Personally I use an Elk, and it's 90% of my home automation, with just some auxiliary rules and touchscreens running separately.

Anyway, back to wiring. I will have an equipment closet in the center of my basement -- everything will be homerun to there. Aside from the basics (running Cat5e EVERYWHERE, deep boxes with a neutral run to every switch box, etc.), what else should I be doing? A/V wise I have a good grasp of what I want to do, but I have a few other areas that I need some advice on:

Security: I want an alarm system, but I don't know what I should be wiring for. Can I have an alarm company come in and wire the house with what they deem appropriate (with input from me of course) and then later I can tie it into an Elk or something like it? Eventually, I'd like to be able to monitor my security system remotely (both for security issues and fire and CO2).

You can try - my personal experience was that every security person in the book will be someone who's paid off the monitoring fees and wants in/out and to collect the residual fee. It's worth a shot, but you'll likely be very disappointed, so be prepared with a Plan B: Wiring it yourself. Start reading up - it's not that hard, but there are some things to know, like how to avoid voiding manufacturer warranties (and research how much you care - lets be honest, do you think you'll ever use/need the manufacturer warranty vs. paying $180 for a broken pane, should it occur? Get a good manufacturer and the warranty won't matter, IMHO).

Windows blinds: I'd like to wire (power and control) for motorized blinds for every window. I don't know what blinds we're getting yet. Would running Cat5e to each window be enough to cover me for later? What part of the window should it be run to?

I wouldn't do Cat5 - I'd do 18/4 per window. I'm no expert, but I know Cat5 isn't going to be in use - if anything it'll be control, and 18/4 will be overkill, but it'll definitely work. You could probably be fine with 22/4 even. Run it as close to the top inside of the window as you can - side isn't critical.

Temperature control: I will have three thermostats - one for each floor. What kind of thermostats do I need to get and what kind of wiring do I need to run to them in order to be able to control those as part of my system?

This really depends on if you're using a single HVAC system in split zones, or if you're using totally separate systems. If separate, run a Cat5 to each thermostat, and ensure there's at least a 6-conductor or so thermostat wire... then you can use any communicating thermostat (I recommend HAI OmniStatII). If you're splitting a single system into multiple zones, then I recommend a RCS communicating zone controller. For that, you use special wall-display-units instead of thermostats, and a controller at the air handler. A single Cat5 is required to the controller. Either way, they'll interface through a serial interface to your main controller. Even with split systems, you can generally put several thermostats on a single serial interface.

My main long term goal is to be able to control lighting, climate, and window blinds all with one interface. I'd like to be able to trigger those three things in different ways -- time, event, state, etc. I want to be able to control all of these both locally and remotely through a tablet or phone. I'd also like all things security to be on the same system.

#5 DELInstallations

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 08:19 PM

For HVAC, I'd strongly recommend, especially if a platform isn't chosen up front, not to mention future, to plan on at least the stereotypical 18/6 or greater for a standard stat, whatever your application calls for + a pair, in addition to a C5 for communications. In the event a specific controller doesn't have a true head end, you'd still be able to communicate from your head end.

IE: You were going to stick with a straight communications, like Aprilaire, but ended up simplifying and putting in an HAI stat instead.

As was alluded to, keep security on a listed and properly installed control panel. Same goes with fire or any other life safety. If your lights or blinds don't work properly or there's a bug, so be it, but for the other items, bulletproof is the key, because anything else....to be blunt, you can or will kill someone.

#6 JST829

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 03:15 PM


As was alluded to, keep security on a listed and properly installed control panel. Same goes with fire or any other life safety. If your lights or blinds don't work properly or there's a bug, so be it, but for the other items, bulletproof is the key, because anything else....to be blunt, you can or will kill someone.


I agree completely. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Is there a current list of smoke detectors that are supported by the Elk Gold? My current thinking is to install an M1 right away as opposed to later.

Do the smokes get their power from the M1? Would the only cable run be from each smoke detector down to the closet where the elk would be installed?

#7 JST829

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 03:23 PM

Work2Play, thanks to you as well!

At this point, I agree with you. I've been reading up and as of right now, I'm planning on wiring everything myself. I'm a little concerned about my window contacts, due to the fact that all my windows are casements, but hopefully I can make something work.

As for the blinds, so you're saying that if I just run 18/4 to each window, I should have enough for both power and control?

Here's what I have for HVAC: I have a separate system for the 2nd floor of the house. One thermostat will be up there and that will control the climate for that entire floor. I have another system that supplies both the first floor and the basement, but that system will have dampers so that I can have a thermostat on each floor. I'm guessing this is what you mean when you're referring to zones? I wasn't planning to do a lot of automation immediately, but at the same time, I might as well buy the correct thermostat right off the bat to avoid buying twice.

Thanks again, everyone.

#8 DELInstallations

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 05:15 PM

As far as smokes go, Elk has been very slow on getting any new 2 wire listings. 4 wire units are universally compatible, however the same holds true with either 2 or 4 wire units, they need to be from the same manufacturer and series.

While others here herald the wonders of multiple 4 wire fire zones, I think for 90% of the installs out there, it's unnecessary, and in the case of the M1 and a lot of other panels, it will complicate some additional items, such as how to program a fire reset that won't drop the other zones into trouble, tandem ring, additional hardware, etc.

I went (and have also installed elsewhere) the System Sensor 2WTAB's with RRS and 2WMOD2's, which convert a 2 wire fire loop to 4 wire output/input as well as provide a couple of other advantages. I have heard a couple of posters complain of some complications, however I have not experienced or been able to replicate the issues they have reported, so I am led to believe there are subtle programming variances that are the culprit.

As far as T-stats, with HVAC, especially forced air, there's no in between or real adjustability unless you install zone dampers and thoroughly balance the system. Electronic ones can also be installed. I have done systems with both, however the price point between them....well that's another story.

For blinds, you would need to figure out how the proposed units or manufacturers whose equipment you like more or are auditioning, their hardware works. Some are HV motors with LV control inputs, while others are strictly LV. Conductor counts are determined if you have something that takes an separate up/down command, and even if a stop command is needed.

#9 picta

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 09:19 PM

I'm a little concerned about my window contacts, due to the fact that all my windows are casements, but hopefully I can make something work.

As for the blinds, so you're saying that if I just run 18/4 to each window, I should have enough for both power and control?


Why are you concerned with casement window contacts? They are the easiest of all types of windows to install, there is a "groove" on the outside where you can run the wire and if you use micro sensors, they can be installed there as well.

I would recommend no less than 16/2 for power to your window coverings unless your windows are really small, like less than 10 sqft.

#10 JST829

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 02:21 PM


Why are you concerned with casement window contacts? They are the easiest of all types of windows to install, there is a "groove" on the outside where you can run the wire and if you use micro sensors, they can be installed there as well.

I would recommend no less than 16/2 for power to your window coverings unless your windows are really small, like less than 10 sqft.


Oh good. I thought I had read that casements were harder install contacts on than double hungs. This is nice to know. Any recommendations on any particular contacts?

So 16/2 for power for the coverings, but then what would I need for control of a typical motorized covering? I understand that different manufacturers have different specs, but I'm so overwhelmed with other aspects of building the home right now (especially with the prewiring and everything that goes along with it) that selecting the right window coverings will have to be put on the back burner. It's so easy/cheap to run extra wire at this point - I just want to do my best to cover all my bases, regardless of what I end up selecting. Overkill is fine. I'd rather have the extra wiring and not need it as opposed to the other way around.

#11 Westcojack

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 02:48 PM

IMHO neither 16/2 or 18/4 will work for the shades or drapes.
There are too many different options for control, 120v (4 wire), RS232 (Cat5), RS485 (Cat5), low voltage relays (Cat5), RF (no control wires), IR (no control wires), and Lutron (propriety wiring). For all above (except 120v control and Lutron) you also need a 120v receptacle to power the shads/drape motors. Unless you are set on Lutron I would rin a 120v receptacle and a Cat5 to each locations. The Cat5 is a home run, the 120v receptacle can be 10 or more on a circuit, or to the nearest receptacle. The Cat5 can take care of RS232, RS485, and low voltage relays, and most vendors shades/drapes.

#12 picta

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 11:25 PM


Oh good. I thought I had read that casements were harder install contacts on than double hungs. This is nice to know. Any recommendations on any particular contacts?

So 16/2 for power for the coverings, but then what would I need for control of a typical motorized covering? I understand that different manufacturers have different specs, but I'm so overwhelmed with other aspects of building the home right now (especially with the prewiring and everything that goes along with it) that selecting the right window coverings will have to be put on the back burner. It's so easy/cheap to run extra wire at this point - I just want to do my best to cover all my bases, regardless of what I end up selecting. Overkill is fine. I'd rather have the extra wiring and not need it as opposed to the other way around.


I use SEN1145-N micro contacts
https://dealer.depotconnect.com/vendors/full/v/50355/id/SEN1145N

but there are many other similar ones. Also you may consider installing contacts in your interior doors. While not necessary for security it will give you a lot of options for home automation "macros", like opening shades when you enter a dark room etc.

16/2+cat5 to each window will get you covered for most types of shades except hi voltage motors. You only need those for VERY large shades. If you want automatic drapes, then you would need to have AC outlet near each plus cat5 for control. You may want to check this site, it has a lot of useful info on automated shades:

http://www.av-outlet.com/

#13 Work2Play

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 02:22 AM

As noted above, it's a really good idea to pick out a shade manufacturer that you like, and see the best way to interact with them. They come in all varieties.

For the HVAC system, I hope what you're describing is a system that was designed to be a dual-zone system from the start... If so, it'll be balanced professionally and be set up correctly; If you're talking about taking what was a single zone system and throwing some dampers on yourself, then you'll need to rethink that strategy. There's nothing really wrong with dual-zone systems - I'm able to heat and cool my 4,000sq ft house with a single 5-ton unit; we're home all day and we have temperatures up to 115 degrees, and it does the job just fine. Not saying I wouldn't have preferred two separate systems, but this is what the house came with.

That said - I'd probably be tempted to use HAI OmniStat2's for all three just because I'm a stickler for symmetry/uniformity. Use whatever zone controller the HVAC people install, but use the OmniStat's for the thermostats; this requires the normal HVAC wiring (ensure there's power and common on top of whatever normal functions are needed; some times they'll skimp on the extra 24VAC and leach off one of the others for power)... and a Cat5 to each thermostat home-run back to the XSP on the Elk; you can control all 3 with a single XSP.

And as mentioned just above - Contacts on the interior doors can be very handy, and they cost very little at this phase; I use them to track if the kids leave their rooms at night and for some automation... I even have closet lights that turn on/off automatically; Another useful one is motion/occupancy sensors (again, based on having young kids) - it's very convenient when they're not tall enough to reach the light switches, and also eliminates lights being left on in bathrooms and closets.

#14 JST829

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 12:47 PM


I use SEN1145-N micro contacts
https://dealer.depot...355/id/SEN1145N

but there are many other similar ones. Also you may consider installing contacts in your interior doors. While not necessary for security it will give you a lot of options for home automation "macros", like opening shades when you enter a dark room etc.

16/2+cat5 to each window will get you covered for most types of shades except hi voltage motors. You only need those for VERY large shades. If you want automatic drapes, then you would need to have AC outlet near each plus cat5 for control. You may want to check this site, it has a lot of useful info on automated shades:

http://www.av-outlet.com/



Thanks. As of right now, that's what I'm going to run to the side of each window: 16/2 and cat5. Great tip about the interior door contacts too. The uses that Work2Play mentioned along with a few others I can think of off the top of my head are very intriguing.

#15 JST829

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 12:51 PM

As noted above, it's a really good idea to pick out a shade manufacturer that you like, and see the best way to interact with them. They come in all varieties.

For the HVAC system, I hope what you're describing is a system that was designed to be a dual-zone system from the start... If so, it'll be balanced professionally and be set up correctly; If you're talking about taking what was a single zone system and throwing some dampers on yourself, then you'll need to rethink that strategy. There's nothing really wrong with dual-zone systems - I'm able to heat and cool my 4,000sq ft house with a single 5-ton unit; we're home all day and we have temperatures up to 115 degrees, and it does the job just fine. Not saying I wouldn't have preferred two separate systems, but this is what the house came with.

That said - I'd probably be tempted to use HAI OmniStat2's for all three just because I'm a stickler for symmetry/uniformity. Use whatever zone controller the HVAC people install, but use the OmniStat's for the thermostats; this requires the normal HVAC wiring (ensure there's power and common on top of whatever normal functions are needed; some times they'll skimp on the extra 24VAC and leach off one of the others for power)... and a Cat5 to each thermostat home-run back to the XSP on the Elk; you can control all 3 with a single XSP.

And as mentioned just above - Contacts on the interior doors can be very handy, and they cost very little at this phase; I use them to track if the kids leave their rooms at night and for some automation... I even have closet lights that turn on/off automatically; Another useful one is motion/occupancy sensors (again, based on having young kids) - it's very convenient when they're not tall enough to reach the light switches, and also eliminates lights being left on in bathrooms and closets.


Three Omnistat 2s sound good to me. So I'm good if I tell my HVAC guy to run 18/6 to the thermostat locations and follow him with Cat5 to each one? Or do I need him to run 18/8? Yes, the system he is installing is designed to be dual-zone. One complete system to supply the upstairs, and then a professionally installed 2-zone system with one zone being the first floor and one being the basement.




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