Complete Newbie needs help


I am a complete newbie to the HA world, but I know enough to be dangerous. Looking for a little guidance from those who have been there. All advice would be most welcome.

Here is what I am looking for:

I have 2 homes – both with high speed Internet. I would like to control the environment of the second home from the primary home via the Internet. Things I am thinking of initially would be: lighting throughout the home - including outside, thermostat control and possible a camera or two. I know I need good software, an interface module and units to control each device. Beyond that, I need help.

Software: HomeSeer, Home Domination, Power Home , etc……etc.
Device control: x10, Insteon……..
Interface: ……….

Thanks in advance for the tips………..

If you have a high speed connection, you could just use CQC, which is fully network distributed. Just install the main server at the primary home, and second one at the other home. It will be one large automation system basically, not just basic remote control. You'll be able to fully access either home from the other. Each side can control devices in that house, but all device ontrol and status will be fully avaliable to the other, with full two way access.
Best advice is to read the Forums. There is simply to much information to post here.

Try all the software out. CQC, Homeseer, Hal, and etc..
Find one the fits "you" the best

After reading then post specific questions you may still have...
Thanks to all that gave me tips in the chat session last night. I learned a lot. Since I am starting from ground zero, I will start out slowly. For my initial needs, I will try the x10 route. I will try HomeSeer v1.7 (I only have the 30 day version right now so I have to get going), PowerLinc 1132U Interface, a couple of lamp modules and a wall switch. I will let you know how it goes…………thanks. Don
I would at least buy good switches. For instance if you want X10 I would go with SwitchLinc's. At bit more but worth it.

But if it were me I would go with something else Zwave, Insteon, or UPB.

I, like most, started my automation bug with a active home kit. After not being happy I started searching around.

If your trying HS be sure to try 1.7, 2.0 still has bugs that need to be worked out. Edit** I just saw that your using 1.7, good idea.**

ALso try CQC.

Myself I have 3 software controllers CQC, HS, beta software (secret) and the Elk for a total of 4 not including the ocelot that would bring the total to 5.
Glad we could assist last night. Don't forget to try the PowerHome demo (and the others that were mentioned)!

I think one or two of the choices would allow you to install your single, licensed copy at both locations.
Hi donl1150, welcome to CocoonTech!

If you want to know what software and hardware interfaces are out there, check out the following 2 lists:

The Ultimate Home Automation Hardware List
The Ultimate Home Automation Software List

As you can tell by the suggestions, there are many good solutions out there, most of them have trials, so don't be in a hurry to settle down. If you need more time to evaluate your HA software, I am sure most of these companies are willing to extend the trial for another 30days.
Don, I would still consider myself a newb, especially against these guys but I have learned and experienced a lot in a short time (but never done learning). What you really want to do depends a lot on budget, reliabilty desired and how much you want to 'play' with it. I too started from ground zero that spawned from a $9 HAL Deluxe starter kit from Lowes.

If budget is the biggest obstacle than you do probably need to stick with x10. As with most things though, you get what you pay for. I've read a lot of posts and while there are many people using it successfully, the majority seems to be a bit unreliable without a bunch of tweaking (phase couplers, amplifiers, filters, checking signal strength, etc.).

For that reason and since I had the luxury of starting from the beginning, I chose to go the UPB route. I do have a few of the x10 switchlincs to control flourescent loads, and even with only 3 x10 devices I am having issues with them not working - probably due to phasing or low signal. And, depending on the size of the system, the price barrier really narrows down. By the time you throw all the couplers, repeaters, filters, etc in the mix you could pay for a few more quality UPB devices. These things are usually avoided with newer technologies. As BrianD pointed out, and I agree for many reasons, I am not a fan of wireless.

On the software side I have only used HAL and Homeseer trials and I can not give you much feedback there. But on that note, have you considered a Hardware solution? If you really want reliabilty and not messing with a pc, this is really the route to go. Especially if you also need a security system, or have an aging one in need of replacement.

That's the route I went - I chose an Elk M1G after 'studying' here for a while. There are other good controllers out there, like the Omni, Stargate, HVPro? and I'm sure others, and there are users and experts of those systems here as well. The M1G is the newest of the lot and seems to be a current fan favorite. Another factor for me was their (Elk Products), support. Heck, even their chief engineer (Spanky/David) hangs out here and expertly answers questions. You just can't beat that. In that respect, back to software, even though Homeseer is still a crowd favorite, I would take a really good look at CQC (Charmed Quark) since the chief developer/CTO, Dean Roddey (above post), is very active and supportive here.

So far, I'm trying to keep on the hardware only side, although I am struggling a bit in creating some rules that I know I can code quickly in some of the SW packages. I probably can still do it, just need to get a bit more creative.

Anyway, hope this helps and if I've mispoken I'm sure one of the vets here will correct me. Good luck with whatever you choose.
Steve, sounds like good advice.

Don, nice talking with you last night as well. You said you are trying the 1.7 trial software. Not sure if that trial software is still on the HS website. If you need it, please contact me.

There's a wealth of information on this board. We're glad you made it here!
I have a HVPro (Homevision Pro) and UPB setup with Caddx security. Very solid and robust and I would recommend this route for anyone with patience to learn each of these items. If you want something installed quicker - it sounds like M1 might be the way to go (if you want a hardware (no PC) solution).

However, given the situation you describe, I would take a hard look at CQC as Dean mentions. It sounds like it might be the perfect solution for you.
Good luck starting down the home automation road. You will soon find your totally addicted and are spending time and money you never thought you would on this new hobby.


I have begun the journey.....purchased a couple of lamp modules and a 3 way light switch. Light modules working great, switch still in the box. Am starting off trying HSv1.7. Will give others a try too.

Trying now to gain acces from the web (i.e. outside the router.) Have enabled the web access in HS and included my IP address as ok in my ZA firewall. Can't seem to gain access. I have assigned a static port to the PC. Any thoughts on the issue?

Don, what about your router? Did you open the HS IP and Port on that box too? I would turn off ZoneAlarm completely until you get things working. Then turn things on one by one until it breaks. then, fix what broke.

Do you have a static IP assigned by your Internet carrier? If not use type service to make your non static IP appear to be static to the web.

I am quite sure the ISP uses dynamic IP since the router says it assigns a licence weekly. How can I find out for sure they are dynamic?

I'll try turning off ZA to see what happens.