An ounce of prevention?


New Member
Hi all, so happy to have found cocoontech! We're just about to undertake a complete gut of a loft up here in Toronto, and while I don't yet know what technology I'm going to use, I want to over-engineer our space while we're down to the framing. I am a computer engineer with decades of programming experience, and am not afraid to get my hands dirty, but once the walls are closed, I want all my tinkering to be with controller hardware/software, not with running cable and or pulling out drywall.

I'm trying to make sense of all the available technologies, and don't love the idea of being at the mercy of a Crestron dealer, but also want reliability.

I was wondering if you can suggest how best I can do this? Here's what I'm thinking.

I've identified 5 distinct audio zones (it's two story, with some walls - one of the zones is outdoors). We'll have 4 video devices - Two TV's (den and guest bedroom), video screen in the gym (no TV, just digitized video assets) and (I'm thinking) 1 touch-screen PC (kitchen) if we don't just use an iPad (we already have one).

I'd like to have access to both HD Cable in both the guest room and the den (so am assuming I need two HD Set-top boxes in my cabinet), with the ability to (somehow) select between cable, my digitized assets, and/or exterior IP video cameras for each video device.

I'd like to include sensors that determine occupancy of the 4 zones - what do I need for this? Motion sensors? heat Sensors? Are they wireless, or wired?

I'd like to include HVAC control (in-floor heating, 2 fireplaces, and one zone of forced air), and camera controls at our gate(s), as well as the ability to buzz them in - we're on the ground floor, and that's how people enter.

I love the idea of integration with a telephone line, such that if we're watching video, caller id pops up, and/or the audio in the house dampens during the phone call.

In a perfect world, I'd also wire up some VoiceTracker microphones, so we can be prepared for when voice recognition gets reliable.

We'll have an outdoor hot-tub, which I'd like to be able to warm-up remotely with a phone-call or remote web log-in.

Finally, I'd like a variety of lighting scenarios, as well as simple on-off switches. I have no idea how these need to be wired.

In addition to hand-held Android/iPad controllers, it'd probably be worthwhile to have 3 or so smaller fixed (iTouch?) touch-panels to control all this stuff.

Again, I know it's far too much to ask to help me design this, but I do want to make sure I have the cabling planned out properly, independent of the hardware I choose.

Can anyone point me toward a resource I can read to help me with this? I'd love to engage in a discussion. I'm really excited, but hugely worried that my wife won't be able to use whatever I design, and I can tell from the threads I've been reading here that you guys have years of in-depth experience with exactly these type of questions.

Here's what I'm thinking so far:

I am planning on running all audio and video from a Windows 7 server running some media centre software (I currently run JRiver, but could be convinced to switch to XBMC if people have had great success with it).

I'm thinking I'll want to do a bunch of CAT-6 cable drops throughout the house - we'll also have WiFi (an upstairs and a downstairs router, likely, to ensure excellent signal quality). The Media Server will be in the Den, running through a receiver/Amp for movies, etc. The Den will have 5.1 audio via the Amp, with HDMI to the TV. My remote will allow me to select between cable and/or digitized content. Digitized content (including audio) will switch to the DVMI interface from the computer (my TV has DVMI as well as HDMI interfaces). Ideally, I'll be able to select the content to play on the remote rather than having to use the screen.

All the other audio/video zones will have in-ceiling speakers. Does this mean I need to run audio cable all the way back to the cabinet as well, or should I be using a separate streaming media server (Boxee Box?) in each zone to deliver audio to its particular zone, and therefore only need CAT-6 back to the cabinet, and audio cable just to the streaming media server? Are there products that let you deliver 4-zone audio from a central location? Again, my biggest concern is just that I have all the proper cabling - in this case, audio cable running from each zone to ....where? The server cabinet?

I'll need a way to deliver video to the Gym - I'm assuming a local streaming media server would be best for this. Same with the guest bedroom, with a remote to select between cable input and/or the hdmi input. (Are there set-top box DLNA extenders?)

It may be evident that there's a lot I don't know. Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Look forward to participating here,
And, of course, now that I browse the site I find the "wiring your new house" tutorial. That'll be a good jumping off point!