Another dream home guy...


Member I'm like me2. Both of our first posts are seeking guidance on building our dream homes. Except for DOES matter. :( My wife and I are both in our mid 30s and we're building a 4k sq ft two-story house on the family farm. (Moved back home after living many other places...ISO the simpler life.) We will be living in the home for approximately...forever.

Of course...I want it ALL and can't afford to have a pro do it. (Unbelievable what they get for these kinds of features.) Fortunately I'm a techie with a computing and data networking I can do much of it myself. My approach is to set a $10k construction budget to accomplish 2 things:

1. Make sure the home is wired as well (flexible, extendable, etc) as possible.
2. Implement as much of the desired features as I can initially and enhance over time.

Electrical, phone / data / video, wiring has it's own reasonable budget so the $10k is for materials and labor outside the scope of "normal" wiring (ok...i know that's completely undefined) that is dedicated to HA.

My priorities:
1. Home security
a. Door / window contacts monitored
b. Motion Detection
c. Smoke alarm monitoring
d. Cameras
e. Remote monitoring

2. Lighting status and control.

3. T-Stat status and control.

4. Whole House A/V integration with Home Theater

5. Lawn sprinkler status and control

6. MANY miscellaneous pet projects for the future. For example:
a. main water valve status and control
b. exterior wind speed status (control would be COOL!)
c. drape status and control
d. wife status and control B)

The priorities get mixed up a little bit because of the phasing approach. For's more important for me to WIRE for audio than it is to IMPLEMENT lighting control.

Design principles:
1. All status and control must be able to be presented via a web interface.
2. Anything that is controllable must be programmable (IE able to be scripted).
3. Wireless is for mobility only (unless you CAN'T wire it)
4. More integrated is (almost) always better.

I have downloaded the planning spreadsheets from the "wiring your new house 10x" series here. It will definitely help in my planning and communication with the electrician / cabling guy.

I think I'm mostly sold on Elk:
1. Price
2. Solid feature set
3. Flexibility
4. Support / DIY acceptance

For HVAC i will have 2 Trane multi-stage heat pumps.

So now a few questions:
Q1. Can I have a hardwired lighting system controlled by the Elk? All the info I see is done with PLC stuff.

Q2. Any direction on which T-Stats to use?

Q3. What to A/V integratioin? I haven't looked into A/V integration much even though I've always done my own Home Theaters and all cabling it's always been a separate system with no real integration to other components. Unless you count caller ID. :)

Q4. Anybody have experience using PLC in a Rural area? The one Pro shop I talked to steered me away from PLC because he said the power out in the country wasn't clean enough. Not sure if this is just a sales job...

That's it for now. Any help is appreciated - I think I've found an awesome forum here (been lurking awhile). I'll share my experiences with you all. Home is almost fully framed so I'll need to set my direction soon...
It sounds like you have it well thought out. You are 100% right that THE most important thing is to get the prewire and structured cabling system right. With that in place you can move at your own pace based on desire and budget.

Q1. Absolutely! This was my first recommendation to me2. It is more expensive up front but it will save you a TON of headaches IMHO. Here is a list of lighting (and other goodies) that Elk supports. You can search around as there are several threads on hardwire. I just had to replace 10 UPB switches from a 'phantom' surge and it was not fun. If I was able to do it all over again I would go hardwire without even thinking twice.

Q2. There are several. See the link above as well. The Elk supports RCS, Aprilaire and HAI. Your HVAC design and zoning, etc may lead to to a specific one.

Q3. I have not done much in this area but you will most likely use something like CQC or MainLobby (I prefer CQC) to handle your A/V needs and integrate with and enhance the Elk.

Q4. It really all depends on YOUR area, its too hard to generalize. But I would go hardwire anyway. Most everything else can be wired as well. If you absolutely need other types of control there is UPB and Insteon for PLC and ZWave which is wireless is also an option but IMHO not preferred.

Most everything you mentioned here with the possible exception of wife control (been tried by many of us) is very doable with Elk, CQC (or other SW) and some scripting.

Be thorough with the prewire - you can't have enough! Run lots of wire, conduit and pullstrings to cover what you think and what you may not realize yet. Just c'mon back with any specific questions - and welcome to CocoonTech!

I'm no expert but I would say, run Cat 5 or better cable everywhere. If it were me, I would probably run 2 Cat 5s to every place I could. If nothing else, you could adapt it for wired intercoms, telephones, or low wattage audio. The cable is relatively affordable.

Ten years down the road you will be thanking yourself.

My 2 cents.



For a home control system you will need to set aside a space for some type of controller and have that as a central point for most of the Cat 5s.
Your requirements aligned very closely with mine (except I moved into an existing home). Take a look at the post in my signature for some ideas (it's a pretty long read, but hopefully it gives you some ideas)...

I chose to go with a dedicated HA controller (HVPro) and dedicated security (Caddx) and UPB. My HVPro is the brains of the system and is very flexible and can do everything I want (control AV, integrate with my phones, control HVAC, lighting, JRiver harddisk music, interface through web and TV, etc).

I have nothing against the Elk (I've never used it so I can't directly compare it for you) - but I have been very impressed with the power and capability of my HVPro. I haven't found anything yet I've wanted to do that I cant...

As for which TStats - I think it's a matter of cost and preference. Most HA controllers communicate with them the same - through RS485 or X10/UPB/ZWave. The HVAC system won't know the difference either.

Regarding AV integration - my HVPro does a lot of that for me through IR. It's extremely reliable, and a big part of my WAF. However, if you wanted to do it through serial ports, you can. However, I think CQC is probably more suited for doing that (a PC based controller that is quite popular).

As for PLC in rural areas, not sure... I'd say maybe true if using X10, but UPB and/or ZWave are quite reliable now - I doubt it would be an issue.

Good luck and have fun with it!
Elk - good choice.
Hardwired lighting controlled by ELK - all hardwired systems I can think of have there own "brain" in the lighting controller. Don't need it controlled by the ELK.
This is where I would suggest use a software based product to link the ELK to the Lighting controller. Good choices for lighting would be Vantage and Litetouch.

Irrigation: WGL Rain8Net (s). So make sure you run Cat5 from wherever the control PC is to the area where the relays will be. Usually the relays are near the solonoids unless the irrigation contractor puts the solenoids all over the place to make the plumbing cheaper.

TStat - TR40 or TR16

Watch out for the Trane - it is my understanding that it is a bear to integrate with. There is a MainLobby plugin that has been under development a LONG time due to the complexity of the Trane. I am not that keyed in to this, but have been warned by a few.

Wind speed - the deluxe approach is a WeatherHawk.

Whole house theater - that's a subject all on it's own. Cruise for a hint.
I would say integration of media has a larger ROI than any other home automation feature. Close second is lighting, then possibly security.
The easy answer is a question - what makes it so that every one in the house can use the very expensive equipment in the theater room and whole house audio and video that gets used every day, all day? Quick answer is in wall and hand held touchscreens supplementing a good handheld remote control for high use functions like channel / volume.

Rural PLC - sounds like a sales job. I wouldn't believe it. What would your PC in your house think? Does electricity get dirty over distance? Buy UPB if that's a concern.

Have fun!
Q3. What to A/V integratioin? I haven't looked into A/V integration much even though I've always done my own Home Theaters and all cabling it's always been a separate system with no real integration to other components. Unless you count caller ID.

Good question. In my world, there is no line between HTPC's and HAPC's. I want to have a unified interface to any device in my house that performs a function, regardless of what it does. I don't see why I should feel any differently about my TV tuner/CD/DVD player than my furnace. I know they're somewhere in my house, but I don't really care as long as when I push this button, whatever I want to happen happens.

Check this thread for all the screens I currently have, here's one simple example based on what you said you wanted. Note the a/v control on the left nav, front-door temperature on the top. That's common across all my screens.

If you are building new, I'd always recommend a hard wired lighting system, at least in the parts of the home where lighting is most important, perhaps leaving the peripheral parts to something non-wired, but all of it if you can. There's nothing wrong with non-wired systems per se, but they'll never be as reliable as a wired system, so if you can afford it, do it.
Dean Roddey said:
If you are building new, I'd always recommend a hard wired lighting system, at least in the parts of the home where lighting is most important, perhaps leaving the peripheral parts to something non-wired, but all of it if you can. There's nothing wrong with non-wired systems per se, but they'll never be as reliable as a wired system, so if you can afford it, do it.
He was looking at a $10K budget, while I agree with the thought, wouldn't hard wired lighting eat up most of that budget in itself?

I haven't looked specifically myself, but it always seemed reliability had its price, expressed in dollars.

If not this is good news (and something I would keep in mind), but I thought I heard people here referencing $10-20K in installation for lighting control when going hard wired. When comparing that to the cost of a PLC based lighting (regardless of who makes it) I suspect many will prioritize this lower in order to get more functionality out of the budget.

I suppose there is also running cat5 to each switch and home running the light switches which would prepare you at presumably low cost. Do the electricians get fussy and charge a lot more when you do this?

Again, the idea makes perfect sense, just curious on cost implications.
My complete and total SWAG on what I spent against his priorities:
Security: $3K
Cameras: $2K
T-stat: $500
A/V: $2K ($800 on 8zone/8source pre-amp + 5 amps, $900 on 3805, $200 on Polk XM tuner, $100 on M-Audio Delta 410)
Irrigation: $75

Infrastructure (ie not against any given priority)
Random cable: $1K [total guess, but it's directionally accurate. I'm running CAT6 for network, CAT5e for touchscreens + HA devices, 18-2+coax for cameras, 18-4 & 22-4 for security, ]
8-way COM port (MOXA off eBay): $60
CQC: $315
HT/HA Server: $700

That's ballpark of just under $9K, not counting lighting.

For my house, which has probably 30-ish lights on 20-ish switches, i've heard guesstimates of $4K. I'm leaning towards RadioRA cuz it's wireless but still pretty stable, that'll still be ~$2500.

Hence, for me, the cheapest all-in to do his stuff would be $11K. I also opted for a dedicated HTPC to clean up video, and will use the office PC as a 2nd concurrent DVD renderer, plus there's all the random HT bits like hard disks, DVD changers, etc. But, I'd consider that "out of scope" for his list as he mentioned "integration with the HT", not "pay for the HT".
He was looking at a $10K budget, while I agree with the thought, wouldn't hard wired lighting eat up most of that budget in itself?

Probably would. But I guess I just wanted to put it forward as an option. It'll never again be as easy to run those wires.
Understood Dean. Just wanted to make sure I did not misunderstood the parameters of a hard wired system. Never know when I might need to consider one...

IVB > Your setup is very nicely done, and very much inline with where I expect to wind up. In fact I was looking at 3400's again last night as well as reading CQC documentation and researching how things are controlled for items that are not under serial control (unfortunately I do have some equipment that lacks that).

A great benchmark for how to set things up, and great eye candy to boot.
Have fun with your automation. I have been doing some type of HA for over 30 years and 4 different homes. Now on my last (hopefully) that I had the opportunity to design the home and plan ahead on wiring. Even have power and CAT5 outlets in a large walkin closet. Just in case...... Still missed a couple of places after installing over 5 miles of wire.

I tried to stay away from wireless due to past experience. The entire home is still running X10-PLC but everything is Leviton. I have a whole house surge protector right at the main power entrance and after 6 years, have never had a failure of any device. Construction was completed and I moved in May 2000.

I decided on the HAI Omni Pro, Ocelot, HAI thermostats. I currently run Homeseer 1.7.44 since I am one of those guys that if it works, don't fix it. I tried Homeseer V2 and for my installation, there were and still are way too many problems. I prefer a system that I can depend on and not spend hours and hours fighting to get features to work. My normal uptime if you don't count utility power failures or scheduled system resets for OP SYS updates, runs over 6 months.

I have added a little fun things to my system that makes it interesting. Even my car reports it's location, direction and speed of travel every 45 seconds when it is running. Automated motor driven tower that retracts from 72' to 23' when the wind gets above 20 MPH and back up again after it has dropped below 15 MPH for longer than 1 hour.

My system ended up in the $12K range for a 2300 sqft home.

Come visit JEANNIE and check it out at
kyham, did you build or buy the motor driven tower? sound like a good sized project. U got some pics or drawings? Not needed for me, but I can always appreciate an over and above effort!
OK. Exactly where I hoped the this thread would go!! Thanks to all so far!

Establishing the lighting approach seems to be the first step on my critical path. Steve and/or DavidL - can you please help me resolve an area of conflict in my understanding? If the ELK (or some other DIY friendly controller) can control a hardwired lighting implementation then what do I need with the "brain" of a lighting controller? If I am willing to pay for the wiring (CAT5 to every outlet for example) can I simply use those wires to control switches made for this type of control? There's some problem here with the way I am viewing things and it's driving me nuts! :unsure:
I unfortunately do not have hardwire and as such am not expert but I will try to help the best I can. Others will jump in I'm sure.

There are mainly 2 different types of hardwire systems. There is the one like Centralite Litejet where you go from your electrical panel to the LiteJet control panel. Then you have your high voltage going to the loads/lights only and low voltage Cat5 to the switches/programmer. You have no 120V cables in the walls going to switches. The switches are simple low volatge control points sending signals back to the central controller. The Elk can be hooked up to the central controller as well and control the loads just as the switches would.

Other types such as the EDT iline stuff uses traditional wiring and their switches have the regular highvolatge AC leads in addition to Cat5 connectors that daisy chain together. The Cat5 then goes to a controller. The Elk fits in pretty much the same way.

There are pros and cons to both types. Some argue you are better off with an EDT like setup in case the main controller goes out or is discontinued, etc, you can just put manual switches in and be usuable whereas if you just have cat5 in your switchboxes, you are stuck with this automated scenario. Either way, the Elk just connects to these guys serially to control them, but still requires their controllers to make the lights work. Some systems may have their own automation built in but if it is not hooked up to the Elk you will not be able to control your lighting based on events available to the Elk, like turn a light on when a certain door is opened, turn on all lights in alarm condition, etc.

You would have to do more research on the different types to see what you are more comfortable with. Hope this helped a little anyway.