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Brand new whole house automation project

Target

Member
Hello!
 
It's been years since I've posted here. In 2008 I did my first home automation project using CQC in a gut rehab.
 
I'm back and was hoping for some help with my next project! I'm about to start on a new gut rehab of our second home, and have gone 5 years stale on the industry. We're going to be opening all the walls in a very old house, and anything is possible. Hoping to get advice on the following high level topics as I also begin to scour the Cocoontech forums:
 
0. First and foremost the 'brain.' I'm completely out of date on what the gold standard is for the backbone of the system. I don't have the time I once did to monkey with something as complicated as CQC was in 2008. Wally looks cool with the ifttt integration that was just announced, and I bought the Canary and Revolv brains there their respective kickstarters. Is there anything out there that is becoming dominant in the DIY space? I'm looking to tie the entire house together. Lighting, HVAC (Nest likely), doorbell, smart locks, energy and lots of other things I'm forgetting. 
 
1. Whole house lighting. This is a must. We did the last house using Centralite. I'd like very fine grained control over everything. Can people point me to the solutions that are considered popular for lighting control?
 
2. Energy monitoring - This is a huge item for me. I would like monitoring as granular as humanly possible. I would invest in lighting up every single outlet in the entire house. 
 
3. A/V - This one I don't care that much about. We have sonos for audio, and although I enjoyed having the music pause when the phone rang with CQC, I'm completely ok with 0 A/V integration. TV we watch VERY little, and AppleTV gets it done there. 
 
4. Everything else - Other than the big ones above, I'd like to be as forward compatible as possible. Long term, I'm the kind of person to tinker with integration everything from the coffee machine to the door bell to something like Luna mattress. 
 
Any feedback is super appreciated. I know I could get most of this through a more detailed set of searches on Cocoon, but I figure this thread will be a jumping point to get me back into home automation and hours of searching on the forums. We break ground in June, and have about 6 months to complete the project, so timing is right to start thinking about everything from smart outlets to light bulbs etc. 
 
Thanks!
 
Target
 

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
CQC is simpler to set up for the core stuff these days, so you might find it an acceptable alternative. Here are some videos on our auto-generation system. All you have to do is get the drivers installed and tell CQC what stuff is in what room (as long as there's a V2 compatible driver for it), and it can spit out a lot stuff for you.
 
http://www.charmedquark.com/Web2/Downloads/Video%20Tutorials/Version4_6/Tutorials/AutoGen_1.wmv
 
http://www.charmedquark.com/Web2/Downloads/Video%20Tutorials/Version4_6/Tutorials/AutoGen_2.wmv
 

picta

Active Member
It may surprise you, but not much has upended the DIY solutions since 2008, aside from recent explosion in consumer grade "automation" that is cloud based and limited in many ways. Lighting tech has not improved much, if you had centralite, it may be your best bet for having fine grained control over everything, especially if hard-wired. UPB and RadioRA2 are also used by many folks here, but may be less flexible/reliable than Elegance. For energy monitoring take a look at http://www.greeneyemonitor.com/, I believe CQC has a driver for it now.
 

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
We have a driver for the Brultech GEM, which is a good choice. It provides 32 channels of monitoring in one box.
 

jkmonroe

Active Member
SEE!  This is exactly what I was talking about in the other thread.  :)
 
As far as lighting, it doesn't get any more granular than smart bulbs, but you'll have to figure something out to pass the WAF.  Hue is phenomenal, and I use it nearly everywhere, but the Hue Tap switches aren't necessarily intuitive.  You would have to wire the overheads as always on, or come up with another solution.  My current thought is to use the z-wave micro switches and just put up blank wall plates for the Tap.  It provides 2 levels of control, and gets past the limitation of what happens after a power outage.
 
Energy monitoring on what level?  The Hue system aside, I also have the Z-Wave micro switches by Aeon Labs which do energy reporting.  So you could technically kill two birds with one stone here - put a micro switch at every light switch and outlet and get both lighting control and energy monitoring.  There is no dedicated app for this, so you would need to integrate with something like CQC.  You could use the Brultech GEM, which is what I am considering.
 
I love my Nest and Protects.
 
I ended up putting in a Z-Wave lock.  I desperately wanted to use an August, but the Connect API isn't currently public and I have seen no integration (of yet).  Supposedly, the 2.0 version of the popular hubs will support the connect.  With that said, I really like the keypad on the exterior of my lock - it's one button to lock, a code to unlock (4-8 chars), and can integrate with pretty well anything that speaks Z-Wave for remote control (Wink, SmartThings, etc).  So far, this is the only component of my setup that does not have a dedicated control interface, and requires a third party.
 
I have not yet found a suitable video door bell.  Skybell and Ring are the two that I have explored, but Skybell does not have an API (yet) and Ring is the reincarnation of DoorBot which was a total failure.  If you find one worth using, please let me know.
 
I know you said no A/V, but I can't live without audio, so I use the Sonos system.  The Play:1's do the job just fine for me, and the Play:Bar is in my main floor living room.  I haven't figure out a way to make Sonos integrate with my HT system easily, but I might just grab a larger unit for dedicated music listening in the rec room.  For video I currently have Tivo, Tivo Mini, and Roku strewn about.  The Tivo is nice because you pay for a single Roamio Pro, and then can connect the Mini's which share the tuners for distribution of live and recorded TV.  In the upcoming Tivo Update, the rumor is that they will be integrating Plex, so this could be the single box solution I have been seeking these past 10 years.  If you don't have cable, the Apple TV 3 has recently been integrated into other products like Roomie Remote, so that possibility exists, but I would recommend a Roku.  I currently have both, but after this last move ended up putting in the Roku and not the aTVs (because EVERYONE is familiar with Roku's interface).
 
I am also using Dropcam - it is just too damned easy to use to consider dumping it for Foscam and Blue Iris, although I go back and forth in my head.  Wally Home Works with Nest to be remote temperature sensors for averaging the temperature throughout your home.  There is also the Ecobee 3 that has dedicated remote sensors to do this, but I won't move away from the Nest.
 
About the 'brain'.  I think that you need to select 'systems' that will do what you primarily want them to do independently of each other.  Sonos has an alarm feature that I use for morning wake-up.  So does Hue.  Tivo can stream to my iPhone and works great standalone.  So does the Roku.  I want all of these systems to work without requiring integration, but provide me the ability to integrate them into any number of products (I use CQC) for more advanced stuff.  For instance, I could use SmartThings or Wink if I choose, since either are compatible with my primary technologies.
 
Keep the thread updated with your progress!  I'll be following it since it closely resembles where I am as well.
 

Target

Member
Thanks for the awesome replies thus far. 
 
Wally looks awesome, and I'm going to dig back into CQC. It's been a LONG time since I've looked closely.
 
I'm also going to look at Control4, as I have a buddy that's a dealer, but I'm guessing even saying that is a good way to get excommunicated from this group. :)
 
Totally ok with seperate systems, but I do need some kind of log engine behind them (like CQC) tying it all together. I'm also pretty intrigued by ifttt for some things. 
 
Any other options people have for lighting? I remember in my old system it was incrediblky liberating having the Elegence system backed up by CQC. I could program any button to do anything from start music to turn all the lights off to set the thermostat. I really want that level of control at the switch level. Any chance these would fit that bill if outfitted everywhere? 
 

jdk972003

Active Member
I do not believe people here think C4 is bad...its similar to CQC, HS, etc...the fact that its closed to DIY is the issue.  
 
I like their simplistic but elegant interface, but just do not like their elevated pricing for common technologies.  And lets not forget the dealer required programming...makes it very hard for you to "play" with HA.
 

NeverDie

Senior Member
Target said:
1. Whole house lighting. This is a must. We did the last house using Centralite. I'd like very fine grained control over everything. Can people point me to the solutions that are considered popular for lighting control?
Is there any reason not to use Centralite (or equivalent) again?  I can't recall ever reading anything negative about it, which by itself elevates it above the competition.  It would also seem to offer the highest reliability and the lowest latency, as well as a lot of choice as to the kinds of control switches.  I have a large sunk investment in z-wave,  but it's a frustrating technology: I wouldn't recommend z-wave because of the workaround effort required to make larger installations work with high reliability and low latency.  If I were doing an extensive "gut rehab," I'd ignore all the RF and powerline solutions and instead search very carefully into any and all hardwired options that homerun to a central location (or, if not that, then at least to a small number of hubs connected by  conduit (or at least  cat6) to a central utility closet).  Simpler = Better.  10 or 20 years from now you'll be glad you didn't incorporate a buggy/complicated technology that no home buyer will understand or want. 
 

picta

Active Member
+1 to the post above
 
It'll be difficult to beat Elegance as the most flexible and reliable lighting system, why would you look for a replacement if you are going for a gutted remodel? The GE switches you have a link to is no match for that system, they don't even report status, you have to poll them constantly. With Elegance and GEM(s) you can monitor energy of every load you wish, all from a central location. And if you have more than 70 loads you want automated, this will also be the least expensive system.
 

NeverDie

Senior Member
I get the strong impression that Elegance isn't aimed at DIYer's.  Are there any similar, UL-listed systems that are?  It would seem within the reach of someone possessing the skills to do their own wiring or who perhaps has a licensed electrician do that.
 

picta

Active Member
NeverDie said:
I get the strong impression that Elegance isn't aimed at DIYer's.  Are there any similar, UL-listed systems that are?  It would seem within the reach of someone possessing the skills to do their own wiring or who perhaps has a licensed electrician do that.
 
None of the hard-wired systems are aimed at DIYers. But you do not wire your house yourself, you hire an elecrician to do that. We had a licenced electrician to install the high voltage part, but we did all the low voltage and programming ourselves.
 

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
If you are going to come back and play around with CQC, get the latest beta. It's basically 4.7 (the next version) minus any minor fixes that might come in testing before we put it out.  It's on the forum, in the Beta Discussions section, in a sticky thread at that top.
 

NeverDie

Senior Member
picta said:
We had a licenced electrician to install the high voltage part, but we did all the low voltage and programming ourselves.
I'm genuinely curious: what's  the pricing in such a scenario?
 

picta

Active Member
For more than 72 loads, it'll be about $100 per load with 2 control buttons. The pricey component is the MCP (the system's controller), so the more loads you have the less cost per load it'll be. It is only advisable for a large house, but it is a rock solid lighting system with many options. And as the OP mentioned, the keypad buttons can be used to control virtually anything, so there is a consistant keypad design everywhere not just for lights, but for fans, shades, A/V, skylights, fireplaces, garage door etc. The buttons are also extremely easy to re-program; when we replaced a few bulbs with philips hue, the same button could be used to turn them on/off, with all the logic happening in the controller.
 

NeverDie

Senior Member
picta said:
For more than 72 loads, it'll be about $100 per load with 2 control buttons. The pricey component is the MCP (the system's controller), so the more loads you have the less cost per load it'll be. It is only advisable for a large house, but it is a rock solid lighting system with many options. And as the OP mentioned, the keypad buttons can be used to control virtually anything, so there is a consistant keypad design everywhere not just for lights, but for fans, shades, A/V, skylights, fireplaces, garage door etc. The buttons are also extremely easy to re-program; when we replaced a few bulbs with philips hue, the same button could be used to turn them on/off, with all the logic happening in the controller.
In the given scenario, does the $100 per load include the electrician and wire (romex) cost?
 
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