Choosing a HA platform


This is my first post on this board. I'm getting ready to start a HA project on my new house. They are just finishing framing the place and I'll be doing all the wiring next week.

Once that part is done, I need to make a decision about which HA system to get. I am looking for a system that is easy to set up initially but is open enough to add new capabilities myself through hardware and software.

I currently work in the IT field, with lots of experience in large networks (programming, sysadmin etc) but the HA stuff is new to me. The only system I've done much looking at is the HAI stuff. It looks to be the most expensive (not a problem) and -seems- to be open to expansion, but it's hard to tell from what I've read so far. I don't want to get a system paid for, installed etc and later find out I'm locked into a system that won't do what I want and not be able to extend it myself.

I also don't want to have to develop stuff like Web UI's and low level logic from scratch ( I do enough of that stuff at work :) but would like to take an existing system and add to it over time as needed.

I haven't figured out the state of the art in HA (i.e. what's possible - out of the box or customized) , but the level of sophistication I would like to have is something on the order of

On <alarm disarmed>

If <after dark> then
<activate UPB link 1>
<activate UPB link 2>

or something like

if time = night + 1 hour and alarm = unarmed then
<dim outside lights to 70%>
if time = night +2 hour and temp > 90 then
<set thermostart to 78>

Am I aiming too high or can I get this type of stuff today? So far I've just received a UPB eval kit and have been playing with it's capabilities - very nice.

So, any advice on what platform to start with?

Fort Worth, Tx
Welcome to CocoonTech, Frank. I would second the nomination of the Elk M1G and HomeSeer as a very good place to start.
Welcome to CocoonTech!

For a different perspective, I would also consider HomeVision Pro or Stargate (I personally have the HVPro). These are dedicated HA controllers and are incredibly powerful. I don't have an Elk M1 to compare it with - but I know my HVPro can do everything I have ever wanted it to - IR, controls UPB, X10, integrates tightly to my Caddx security sytem, phone, web interface, TV interface, the list goes on and on.

Logic is as you describe, straight-forward if/then/else, etc. It's a combination of a loop controller and an event controller (loop means it does events based on cycles and time; event means it does it based on exceptions (light 1 turns on and door 3 was closed so do X..., etc)

Also, there is an active help forum (which HV actively participates in), and the unit is very stable and reliable.

Homeseer is used by many here (I don't). I do all my complex logic in HVPro itself and don't have a need for HS.

The negative - if you want security, you need to install a seperate security system (I recommend Caddx). I preferred that approach - to me I could install the best of both worlds and simply integrate together (very easy). (caveat - I do not have M1 to be able to say it's not the best at both things :) )

HomeVision Pro website
I'll stand behind HCA. Especially since I just got METAR based internet weather info up and running last night. HCA now pulls my local airport's METAR data from the NOAA ftp site and builds a weather database from it. I can use this data as triggers or program elements.

As soon as I'm sure what HCA's interpretation of the "+FC" Conditions and Obscurations is my system will activate an alarm if there's a Tornado sighting in my county and we're in bed.

I'm not sure what exactly that alarm will be yet though.

kwilcox ,
For a new user you may want to explain what HCA stands for as well as a link.
Oops.... sorry.

HCA or Home Control Assistant is made by Advanced Quonset Technologies inc. This is the same company that produces UPStart, the UPB setup program used by all UPB OEMs. HCA has a very easy to use and powerful Visual programmer whereby you simply drag different program elements onto a grid and interconnect them. For instance there's a conditional element whose properties define the condition itself as well as various on/off/dim elements for the actions that can be performed. Your program actually becomes a flow diagram that makes the overall logic easy to see. I'm an IT developer myself and this is the only self documenting programming language I've ever used. Its quite comprehensive too since programs can be triggered by a myriad of events from weather condition changes to timed schedules. There's three flavors of HCA depending on what level of automation you are using. For a long time I've had the standard package which handled my extensive X10 installation. It was only when I started using UPB that I needed to upgtrade to the Plus version which added UPB, scene programming and Weather capabilities. The deluxe version adds Lightoiler functionality as well.

HCA's hardware support is quite comprehensive too. In addition to UPB it handles the WGA W800RF32 module (a must if you want to use wireless X10 devices such as hawkeye motion sensors) as well as several popular weather stations. From a device standpoint, it has support for all the Smarthome Design products including the templinc devices. Speaking of temperature control, it also supports the RCS family of X10 thermostats.

Interestingly, there's no direct Insteon support yet though. I'm not sure if this is in the works or not.

You can go to their website by clicking here
kwilcox said:
Especially since I just got METAR based internet weather info up and running last night. HCA now pulls my local airport's METAR data from the NOAA ftp site and builds a weather database from it. I can use this data as triggers or program elements.
sorry for going off-topic for a minute - KWilcox - can you start a thread on the what you are doing with the METAR weather info? I was just starting this project as well to incorporate into my HVPro, but hadn't started yet... any insights/learnings would be cool!
Will do. I"ve got a bunch of helpful links stored on my system at home so it'll be tonight before I get to it though... I was up googling past midnight last night coming up to speed myself...
Welcome to the board, Frank.

I think you need to break it up into two parts:

What technology do you want to use to control things (Insteon, UPB, X10, ZigBee, ZWave)?

What platform do you want to use for control? The platform could be hardware (Elk, HAI, HomeVision, Ocelot, Stargate) or software on a PC (CharmedQuark, HAL, HCA, HomeSeer, mControl, mHome).

And, of course, your entertainment system needs play a big part in it as well.
As an example there are probably 6-8 different scripts that are available on the HS web site that do the metar/weather Chanel/MSNBC/ etc weather page parsing and puts them in virtual devices available for any kind of trigger imaginable. They are all free but 1 that I can think of.
Thanks for the pointers. I guess the best way to go is to get everything prewired now and look over some of the products everyone mentioned.
I'm getting the 42" leviton cabinet which should give me plenty of room for expansion. I'm leaning toward having the core functions in dedicated hardware with the advanced stuff on a PC.
I work with technology all day, but this is new stuff for me. It's going to be a lot of late nights researching it, but I love to play with new toys.

The link for Stargate is and is well worth your time to look over. The Elk M1 is nice but Stargate (and Homevision Pro) have a much larger command set and more automation hardware options such as Infrared.