Building a new home


New Member
Hey guys,
I've been reading up a lot and my head is swimming with all of the options and information, but I think I've narrowed down my decisions and have just a few questions.  I'm hoping you guys can help narrow down the areas that I need to dig into a lot deeper.
First and foremost, home automation things that I think I want to achieve at some point in the future in priority order:
  1. Lighting control (including some motion sensing)
  2. Whole home, multi-zone audio
  3. Video Monitoring
  4. Intercom system (telling the kids to be quiet or supper is ready)
  5. Power outlet control
  6. Preventative sensors (water sensors with shutoff valves, electricity monitoring, etc...)
  7. ???
Security system and home theater would be kept separate (with the possible exception of running the home theater audio through the whole home audio).
I have gotten permission to run cables and conduit before drywall goes up and I've read the Wiring Your house 101-103 documents and I want to do the necessary wiring up front because of ease and cost.  The more I've researched, however, the more and more I think I want to go with a wireless solution for a lot of the above items.  I really like the Z-Wave technology for lighting and power outlet control, so I don't feel like I need to pull tons of wires all over the place.  I do plan to run speaker wire and CAT5e to all audio zone locations, but other than that I'm struggling to find a big reason to run a lot of cables.
Am I missing something?
I feel like the vast majority of what I listed above can be done with wireless solutions today except for the whole-home audio.  I know sonos has some wireless solutions, but I really like the new Monoprice unit and would look to use monoprice in-ceiling speakers throughout.  I also want to have conduit going from behind my entertainment center to the A/V closet and from the A/V closet to the attic so I can run wires in the future if the need arises.
The other big question I have beyond wiring is what controller to use.  I like the idea of Cloud-based control with something like SmartThings and IFTTT, but also see some pros with using a controller like Vera3.  I will probably use a collection of IPADs (mounted or mobile) to be the nerve center for all automation.  I am a software developer, but don't have a lot of hardware integration experience (although I think I could pick it up rather easily).  Can you guys give me any guidance with which direction to head?  Stick with SmartThings interface and use cloud-based control or get a Vera3 and something like CQC and write my own control layer?
(tl;dr)That's my big two questions right now:
Am I missing something with less wiring in today's wireless world?
What controller should I be focusing on?
Thanks for any input!
Not to dis Z-Wave. But if I had open walls, I would take advantage of that and use some sort of wired system if at all possible. You won't regret it. Well, you might for a while with sore muscles and higher initial costs. But, over time, I think you'll find it worth it. That's going to be maximum reliability and minimum tweakiness ultimately.
Others may disagree, but I'd go that way if I had the option. If you do go wireless, maybe try to go upscale a bit to RadioRA2 or something like perhaps.
If you are a software guy, CQC would be right down your alley, so that would be an obviously good (IMO) choice for you.
Thanks for the input!  I'm just not sure I want to run Cat5/6 cable to every outlet in every room.  I feel like if I want to eventually have every light controlled a wireless mesh network like Z-Wave would fit well.  I'd look at ZigBee too, but it seems like Z-Wave has better market acceptance.  Is there a lot of "tweakiness" to the wireless options? I have pretty much only read positive views of them so far.
Z-Wave, UPB, and Insteon are all what I guess you would call 'pro-sumer' level. If all is well, then you can have good luck with any of them. If they aren't, then you may not. Some people have few problems and some folks never seem to get them completely happy.
You also have to consider that many people who use them are using them in the simplest way, i.e. just sending simple on/off or dimmer level commands from a remote control, driven by a user. In that sort of scheme you might not notice any lackings. In a full bore automation scenario, you want very reliable and fast feedback to the automation system as well. That tends to bring out any issues in these pro-sumer type systems, because that means more activity on the wireless network. Newer modules can report their status asynchronously, but it's not a guaranteed delivery at all. The automation system really needs to poll at least on a slow basis to make sure that things are still there if they have not said anything in a while. But Z-Wave at least is fairly challenged to handle any significant amount of polling, and the modules can be slow to respond. During that wait for the response, outgoing commands from the user cannot be sent. So it tends to also increase the feeling of latency in the system from an automation system standpoint.
Those types of issues don't really exist once you get up to something like RadioRA2. RA2 is sort of the entry point for fully pro level wireless, and doesn't have any of the issues I outlined above. A Zigbee solution would likely be fine as well, but there are few (any?) Zigbee solutions that aren't proprietary to the hardware controllers of the companies that sell the stuff. So as a practical matter, unless you want to commit to one of those (often non-DIY friendly) solutions, you might not find much to work with. Others may know more on that front than moi.
Of course, with an automation system in the picture, there's nothing keeping you from mixing two systems, using a less expensive option for the less important stuff. But, with mesh networks, they want to have a certain density of modules to create the mesh. They may not work as well if they are only used on the periphery of the home and whatnot, with little in between. So using one that doesn't depend on that might be better if you went that way.
Another reason folks may mix more than one system these days is that they want to use something like Hue lighting in some places, which is it's own completely separate thing. We recently added support for Hue as well. It's also wireless, with is own controller, but so far doesn't seem to have the sorts of issues I mention above.
I use Z-Wave for over 100+ devices using the Vera automation platform.  I use Z-Wave for the lighting control, water leak sensors, motion/temp, energy monitoring, locks, etc.
In addtion to lighting/motion/temp, i
* Russound Audio
* Philips Hue
* Garage Door (using Zwave Dry Contact Switch)
* Open Sprinkler
* Nest Thermostat
* Central iTach IR blaster for TV's wire uses extra CAT 5 and these little adapters:
* Somfy Blinds
* Weather Underground
You still need lots of wires though to make this all work.  Here is a wiring punch list for all but your intercom requirements: 
PS - Good post on Z-Wave whole home automation:,24067.0.html 
As I said, some people have few problems, some folks just never seem to get it happy. You may be one who doesn't have any problems, but of course you won't know that until you get there (after having spent the bucks.) I'm not trying to argue that Z-Wave is useless, since I used it in my previous apartment. Just that success with the pro-sumer level systems in a full bore automation scenario isn't necessarily a given. You do actually get something for the higher price of more pro level systems, and some of it is very little worry of issues.
No way, I had a ton of problems :)  Mostly do to one or two bad devices flooding the network of 100+. Z-Wave has a really short range of 15ft, so just one or two devices is harder to get good mesh coverage. Working well now though.
I feel the new Z-Wave Plus is going to make the devices all behave a little better by ensuring they support the standards like beaming and
You might want to check out this podcast for some good primer on Z-Wave: