Best Method for Intercom


I’m a complete newbie to home automation, security, etc. Been reading this and other forums trying to get educated in order to DIY wiring for my 2400SF 2 story house currently under construction.

I’m stuck on what to do for intercom. I’m surprised, because I would think my needs/desires are pretty standard, yet I can’t seem to find what I’m looking for. I’m going to try and lay out my plans, and ask appropriate questions. In some cases, I may not know the right questions to ask, so feel free to point out any other issue or suggestions.

Here’s what I’d like to be able to do:
--Answer front door from multiple locations
--(possibly) remotely open front door lock
--(possibly) have camera at front door
--in house intercom between 6 rooms and 2 deck areas plus front door
--“baby monitor†function in 2 bedrooms

Other systems/wiring I am intending to install (all homerun to central location):
--Whole House Audio (wired for multi-zone, cat5 for IR/keypad, speaker wire to
volume control & speakers, probably start w/single zone amp)
--Security System (thinking about Vista20P)
--Data & phone wiring (CAT5 for each)
--No plans for automation controller, but might want to add later

I’ve seen the stand-alone systems (greyfox, M&S, Nutone,etc) and have seen references to PBX phone systems (although I still don’t understand exactly what this is).

I like the Greyfox system, except for:
1) The fact that it’s “another system†(extra $$, installation, complexity)
2) It’s going to require a large number of intercom units to cover all the area I
3) It doesn’t integrate with phone system (I think). I have to have phone &
intercom in most locations.

I like the phone type approach, because I can use cordless sets to reduce the number of locations required (i.e. take handset out on deck when desired), and it will have the flexibility of plugging in anywhere I have phone wiring (which will be everywhere). The downsides are:
1) The wife doesn’t like the idea of having phones everywhere (especially in kids
rooms), particularly since these phones all seem to look very commercial. Are
there “intercom-like†panels that connect to phone line/system?
2) I don’t understand the capabilities/equipment/cost requirements of such a
system. Is PBX the only or best way to do this? Can you be continuously
monitoring a room while also using the phone? Any other downsides to this
approach compared to stand-alone intercom? Can anyone recommend a link to
good tutorial on PBX? How about a rough idea on cost for front door + 3
corded phones & 2 cordless?
3) If you wanted to add video camera at front door, how would you monitor?

Other Questions:
--Can intercom be handled over the whole house audio system?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

Hi Dan,

The Greyfox (On-Q) intercom should meet all your requirements. I've installed a couple for customers and they seem to work well, but don't have any real-world experience as they were both installed in new construction and neither is occupied yet.

The Greyfox can integrate with a telephone (or any other audio device with line-level output) using the Audio Interrupt Module. This would allow you to hook up the page output from a telephone system.

As you've already seen the Greyfox can also interface with door strikes/locks and a video camera as well.

One thing I don't like about the Greyfox is that each station has it's own speaker which takes up an extra gang space and is redundant if you already have whole-house audio. Russound has a new intercom product that should be available next month called ComPoint. Compoint has similar features to the Greyfox system (plus some), and allows you to use the same speakers for both intercom and whole-house audio.

Because of how it connects, the ComPoint intercom will work with any whole-house audio system (not just Russound), but it doesn't have video capability built in like the GreyFox. If video monitoring of the door is important and you step up to the Russound CAV6.6 for your whole house audio, it has a video paging input that works great for a door cam.

For security, I'd suggest taking a look at the Elk M1 (lots of info here on CocoonTech). Myself and many others would recommend it for a security system... it doesn't cost much more and actually has "Automation Controller" capability built right in!

A comment about the security system. if you want to stay with a honeywell/ademco security system, don't bother with the vista 20p, go with the vista 128 bp. i recently upgraded from the 20p to the 128bp, for about the same price i paid for the 20p. You should be able to get a new 128BP on ebay for about $150-175.

i won't go into full details here, but the 128bp has a multitude of additional features over and above the 20p, one of those items being a serial interface to communcate with an automation controller. It can also control door access systems and CCTV cameras.

i agree the elk is probably better for home automation, but if you are on any budget, you can't beat the price or availability of the vista accessories available on ebay. I use my security system with HAL2000.

For an intercom system, I went with the Ademco/Honeywell UVS, which I agree may not be the best but for $10 for the control panel and 1 station, it meets most of my needs. The UVS is tied to both my phone system and to my Home Automation computer (auxilary audio input). I can answer the phone at any intercom or call in remotely to monitor and/or establish 2-way communiction to the house. Any station can be set to "monitor". Also, all my home automation announcements broadcast through the intercom system (to indoor stations only). I can also answer the door intercom from any intercom (but not open it). it handles a maximum of 8 stations, right now I have 5 (4 indoor and 1 outdoor).
OT: Jeffx, any chance you are going to do a Showcase? It sounds like you may have some great ideas that we don't see mentioned much on here.....
For an intercom system, I went with the Ademco/Honeywell UVS, which I agree may not be the best but for $10 for the control panel and 1 station, it meets most of my needs
I wouldn't mind more details on this as well Jeff.


I have to add another vote for what Paul said. If you have any aspirations at all for doing automation later you may wish to consider an Elk, even just an EZ8. You can use it strictly for security and add your automation later. The problem with an Ademco unit is there are no drivers for the major software packages like Homeseer, Mainlobby, CQC, etc, (maybe HAL) that I know of. An even if there were, you would have software based automation and not a super reliable hardware based controller. You can get a complete EZ8 kit from Automated Outlet for only $350 including keypad. Just be warned, with that automation capability under the hood as well, I bet your plans will change quickly :).
Ok, ok, I'll do a write-up on my showcase by this weekend :)

I need to velcro tie-wrap some of my new closet wiring before I can post pictures, or you might not see much behind the mess.

I got the $10 deal on eBay, where I get most of my alarm system (Ademco) accessories. I also bought additional used stations from ebay and from a fellow cocooner.

Here is a sneak preview of my HA:

Whole house audio to 4 rooms using JRiver & Netremote with an M-Audo Delt 410 sound card and separate Sonic Impact T-Amp amplifiers for each room.

Video Surveillance using Kodicomm Diginet Site 4.11 and an 8 channell 240FPS Kodicom clone capture card, 5 cameras.

Honeywell Security System with a serial connectin to my HA PC.

HAL2000 with the HAL Voiceportal (on the same PC as Diginet, wall mounted in my smart closet).

32 Insteon devices, and a few 2-way x10.

Ademco UVS Intercom System, which is also tied to the alarm panel, phone lines and has an auxilary input that I use for all my HAL2000 announcements.

3 tuner PVR running Snapstream Beyond TV and Beyond Media.

...still installing additional cameras, door/window sensors and motion sensors. Wired sensors are a pain to install, but you can't beat the price.

I have not yet attempted any IR control.
Steve said:
The problem with an Ademco unit is there are no drivers for the major software packages like Homeseer, Mainlobby, CQC, etc, (maybe HAL) that I know of. An even if there were, you would have software based automation and not a super reliable hardware based controller.
HAL2000 has built in support for the Ademco Vista 128BP and Vista 250BP. Someone has also written an interface for Homeseer. The serial protocol is fairly simple, so it would not be difficult to interface with other software also. The panels themselves can directly control door access, cctv, up to 96 x10 devices and relays (without a computer). You can also program macros, schedules and event-based actions directly in the panel. :)
Thanks to all for the responses. I think I've won the intercom battle, and we'll use our phone system for intercom functionality (still not sure which system, but I'll have phones wired everywhere so I can figure that out later).

So you've got me intrigued on the Elk concept. But given jeffx's comments regarding connectivity of the Vista 128bp to an automation controller, am I better off with just getting the security system now and adding an automation system later if/when I want it?

I guess what I'm asking (and I have the feeling this has been discussed before, although I couldn't find it by searching), is am I better off with an Elk or a Vista + separate controller?

Thanks again,
If I had the $$...well, if my wife let me spend more of the money we have, I may have gone with the ELK like most here (but ELK needs some better affordable keypads--see the Ademco 6270 for example). A Vista 128BP with talking and touch-screen LCD keypads and a bunch of add ons was the much more affordable choice for me. If you have never programmed an alarm panel before, keep in mind the 128BP can be very difficult to program becuase there are A LOT of options.
I have programed Ademco panels (not the 128BP but the Vista-50, the Vista-250FBP and a few of the lower end Ademco panels, some Napco panels as well) and the ELK-M1G. The ELK is a lot easier to program with the RP software (free btw) then the Ademco even when using the Compass Programmer. I was able to program a M1 without even reading the instructions since the RP is very well written. If I didnt have any experience in the field I would not want to program an Ademco panel as the first panel I ever programmed.

The ELK has a lot more capabilities for automation and can also talk to other automation software (but I am no expert on that since I dont use automation software). There is a lot more support for the ELK products on here and elsewhere on the net then the Ademco equipment.

The Ademco accessories and keypads can be found cheap all over the place no question about it. There are very few ELK products on Ebay etc. but you can use the GE Caddix wireless devices that are cheap enough. There is another ELK keypad coming out in a few months and I think they may have an Arming/Disarming station this year also. They might be a little less expensive then the current keypad. There will be a touchscreen coming out for the ELK that should blow away anything that Ademco has at this time.

The ELK keypads are also a lot more feature packed. You can control the brightness of the backlighting, you can control the tone and volume of the KP keypad (maybe not the the new keypad coming out). They have built in thermometers and can even display messages etc. etc. And this is on a keypad by keypad level not across the board (so you can have the volume real low or off on a bedroom keypad but normal at the door. the same with the backlight etc.).

The ethernet module for the ELK is about $200 and I dont think you can get an Ademco 7845i for that amount but I might be mistaken.

I dont want to rely on a PC for my automation so I use the M1. No problems with the M1 for that or anything else.

Ademco does not let you reflash the firmware if they add a feature in the future but Elk does. Elk is constantly looking to improve the product and seem to really enjoy making it a top of the line product. They seem to have fun with their products and have a lot of knowledgeable staff.

I would give the M1 some serious thought and see if it will be more economical in the long run and more suitable for the application.

just my 2.5 cents (I just got a raise so I added the .5 cents :D )
Well I think you all have peaked my interest in the Elk M1G, and I'm attempting to educate myself on it. Mainly my concern is what to wire for this (and other) systems, as I will need to do all my wiring within the next 2 weeks or so. So I'm off to study the manual and other info on wiriing, and I'll probably be back soon with more specific questions. Thanks for the suggestions regarding the Elk (I think).

Elk M1G, Automated Outlet & CocoonTech, nuff said.

Ok, seriously, there have been several discussions on a separate security panel vs an all in one panel. The main argument for separate components is that you can much with automation without affecting security at all. My personal belief is you will have to work hard to mess up your security by messing with the HA in an M1 and its always a lot cleaner and easier to work with 1 device and the M1 and Elk products have been berry berry good to me.

On the keypads, the Elk TS will blow away the 6270, it actually is a completely different animal and really can't compare. I believe Elk will come out with a Touchscreen Keypad (KP3?) similar to the 6270 after they release their announced new keypad and TS.