Advice on Home Automation/Dist.Audio in AUSTIN


New Member
Well after living in the apartment for our newlywed year, we finally got a house last week. The previous owner worked in the IT space in Austin, and wired the house with home run cat 5 to each room and home run telephone to each room (we are using TWC Roadrunner for phone and internet).

I have a ton of questions-- and have been lurking in the forum over the last year so know just enough now to get myself in trouble. I appreciate your advice on the following questions....

First the simple ones:

1) AUSTIN INSTALLER?? Does anyone know of a reasonable integrator in Austin (or a networking guy) that can help me run some more cat5 wall fishes in my house and help me install everything??

2) TONER FOR LAN: Which toner should I get so I can figure out what this guy installed to where (not everything is labeled at the patch pad). I was looking at a landscaper from test-um. It would be nice to put devices into the cat 5 outlets in like 8 rooms and then go to the patch panel and figure it all out at one time.

3) AUDIO: The owner ran speakers in 6 zones, and also did homerun of cat5 for all six zone keypads back to receiver. He was using a NILES product (he took it with him). I am tempted to get a RUSSOUND CAM b/c it seems to be the most compatible with Cinemar, CQC, HAI, etc.

AUDIO QUESTIONS: Would I go wrong with a Russound? (is there something else for six zones that I should get??). Is it possible to install the touchpads myselfs (UNO2) or do I need a professional to terminate the cat5 for me/setup the russound?? Many people sell Russound online, but Russound only 'warranties' local purchases, is that correct? Who is the lowest cost Russound dealer if I am going to install myself??

4) VIDEO: Since the former owner didn't run anything more than Coax and one cat5 to each room... I am not planning on video distribution. Is that a mistake (ie. can you distribute video over a single cat 5 and/or a single coax)? If so, should I get a CAV or can you recommend another piece of hardware??

5) TOUCHPADS: I am ALL ABOUT getting at least one touchpad in my wall.. I have been reading up on this, even spoke with ELO this week, but still at a loss. I was thinking about getting an ELO 15" and putting it in the wall. QUESTIONS: Will a 15" screen fit into a normal wall btween the studs (aren't they 16" apart in most houses? Or do I need a smaller screen size?). I was thinking about one elo screen plus an ncomputing box (about $200) and either cat5 if I can fish it, or if not bury a wireless linksys bridge in the wall with the ncomputing box and the ELO screen. Is this a crazy thought? would this work?? As an alternative, I've seen those sexy photos of the SamsungQ1 but I need a way to mount it in the wall and I would worry it would get hot. Any advice from someone who has played with the samsung and/or an elo/planar would be appreciated. DOES ANYONE KNOW when the SAMSUNG q2 will be released??

6) THERMOSTATS: I have a 2 story plus basement. I can figure out a way to get cat 5 to the basement and second floor.. not so sure if I can get it to the main level.... So I have some basic honeywell thermostat w/out cat5 behind it. If I cannot fish cat5 into the wall, I was thinking about wireless... has anyone done anything with a WIRELESS thermostat? Will that work?? For a CAT5 thermostat for the second floor, what brand is everyone going with??

7) LIGHTS: I am planning on going with Insteon for lights b/c it seems to be the least expensive. DO these work OK? anyone recommend anything else? I have about 40 light switches that I plan to insteon.

8) JANDY POOL CONTROLLER: Has anyone had any experience with these? I assume to use with my home automation setup I would need to run either serial or cat5 outside to the pool filter equipment/jandy box.. is that correct?? How do you prevent lightning damage to your PC if you have some basic cat 5 strung outside? Is there weatherproof cat 5 or serial cable?? Does this need to integrate with my software selection (CQC/CINEMAR) or with my hardware (HAI/ELK)?

9) SPRINKLER: I have a Hunter system. I assume if I wanted to control I would need to replace with a RAIN system.. How to you run/protect your cat5 or serial run outside to the system in all weather (same quest as for Jandy). Are there other home automation (like HUNTER and TORO) sprinkler controllers that you recommend?? Does this need to integrate with my software selection (CQC/CINEMAR) or with my hardware (HAI/ELK)?

10) CCTV: I was interested in having a front door and backyard camera. I see costco sells all kinds of cameras and dvr systems... Do you guys recommend wired or wireless or wireless IP cameras? Does one system integrate easier than the others?? Does this need to integrate with my software selection (CQC/CINEMAR) or with my hardware (HAI/ELK)?

11) HOME SECURITY: HAI DSC OR ELK?? I have a DSC system already installed. I hate to replace unless I need to, or if there is some advantage to replacing it... I do not see plugins for DSC except for HOMESEER, then HOMESEER to CQC or CINEMAR. Questions: Do you think if it is already installed, I can easily use a bridge from HOMESEER to another software package and get by without replacing? IF NOT, I think homeseer is a few hundred dollars, and I could buy an ELK for $600 I think.. should I just go ahead and replace everything??? Would you go ELK OR HAI if I did replace it?? I already have the windows/doors etc. finished for DSC, is it just plug and play if I purchase and elk/hai? or is it a major rewiring project??

13) GARAGE DOORS: I dont need ability to open/close... just want to be able to see if they are still open at night.... If I cannot run a cat5 to the doors.. is there a simple wireless way to monitor these that would be compatible with some hardware or software package??

14) CQC or CINEMAR?? The million dollar question... Guys.. I dont want to start a debate here on the forum.. I just have a few questions.... I DO NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO A HUGE DIY PROGRAM....... I would like something as simple as possible and I'll do it myself......, or find someone in Austin to install EITHER CQC or CINEMAR for me. I am not a programmer.. Which system is EASIEST to setup and use to control the things noted above: AUDIO, possible video, INSTEON (or other lighting), ALARM, possibly CCTV, possibly JANDY/SPRINKLER. I have music on an external HD/NAS that I will want to run through my audio system.. I see that Cinemar has some MusicLobby program to let u play your music-- but I didn't see that functionality on CQC.. is that correct??

DOES ANYONE ON THIS FORUM LIVE IN AUSTIN and would be willing to let me see their setup?? OR does CQC and CINEMAR Offer online webex DEMO of their system to show programming and use?? ARE THERE INSTALLERS IN AUSTIN FOR EITHER OF THESE SYSTEMS??

I KNOW THAT THIS IS A HELL OF A LOT OF QUESTIONS>>> I really do appreciate the expert feedback from you guys. As a token of my appreciation, I will send the most helpful response some BBQ sauce from an austin landmark.
I also posted this for advice over at AVS... I appreciate your advice....

Thanks again,

Welcome to CocoonTech.

2) unless you plan on doing this professionally, I would get the cheapest toner or just using an ohm-meter.

3) Russound or Nuvo Grand Concerto would be good choices. Automated Outlet can supply both. The should both be DIY projects.

4) Video distribution is up to you. If you don't see a need, then don't. Yes, video can be done over coax or cat5. But video ranges from simple composite to high def, so your desires & budget have a big influence.

5) I would assume a 15" touchscreen would fit between 16" studs since the 15" is a diagonal measure.

7) Insteon is worth considering, it has its pros & cons and has been hotly debated for a couple years here, no verdict yet for many. UPB and Z-wave are good choices also.

8) If you already have the Jandy, then its interface will determine how you connect to it, but cat5 should cover most bases.

9) I haven't heard much of hybrid irrigation controllers, meaning both stand-alone and remote controllable. I would suggest either a cheap stand-alone controller or just use a bunch of relays driven by your main system.

11) Unless the system/software you want to use already supports the DSC, I would suggest replacing the DSC with something directly supported.

12) that one is easy.

13) Most security system support RF sensors.

14) Unless you don't WANT to learn either package, you sound like you will want to tinker with things and might not be happy with a pro installed package (unless you keep them on retainer and get lots of call backs for tweaking).
Jandy has a serial adapter which I think has surge suppression between the PC and the Jandy bus wiring. They actually have 2 adapters, one being a PC interface and one a generic serial adapter. I've always wondered what the difference was since the generic serial is more than 2x the price.

If you do go with Insteon you could check out EZRain from simplehomenet for your irrigation.