Feedback on tentative system design?


Active Member
(edited to correct my poor addition and freudian slipstypos)

Hi Folks-
Thanks to the content I've been able to find here and elsewhere on the net, I've been putting together a basic design for my home automation system. I'm really interested in getting feedback from folks, esp. about vendor selection and interoperability--it's really hard to know how this will all come together without being able to see a similar system that has already been completed. Please bear with me if I tread on well-established ground: some of my questions below touch on topics that appear to be debated here "regularly" but I couldn't find much/any detail on the particular aspects I mention here.

First the particulars: This is a retrofit--the walls are closed. I have a ~4 yr old single-story 2195 sq ft home that is on a raised foundation (crawlspace). I also have access to the attic although overhead clearance is limited in some areas. My gf and I are currently living in the house.

I'd like to implement the home automation system in stages in order to spread out the cost. In the end I'd like to have a home automation system that covers the following functions:
  • Lighting (already committed to UPB, expect to have abt 30-40 switches/modules)
  • Irrigation (12 circuits)
  • Security Panel (monitored, ideally with both PSTN and cell connections)
  • Security Sensors (22 window/door sensors, 3 GBD, 3 PIRD, smoke detectors and CO detectors)
  • Touchscreens (2-3 primary, possibly additional secondary screens)
  • Whole House Audio, 4-6 sources, 6 zones up-front (future upgrade to ~12 zones, keypads only in those rooms where I do not place a touchscreen)
  • Home Theater Install (7.1)
  • CCTV (4-6 cameras)
  • HVAC (1-zone thermostat, whole house fan)
  • Hot Tub: temperature, timer controls for pump; current temperature reading;
  • Water cutoff valves: Laundry room (Washer), Garage (Water Heater), Kitchen (Sink, Dishwasher), 4xBathrooms (Sink, Toilet)
  • Possibly future control of window coverings in Living Room and Dining Room?
  • Future CQC integration possible
I intend for /some/ of this to be DIY (I've been doing some low-voltage rewiring and have been putting in UPB switches, and I'm a programmer by trade) but I am happy to outsource the more-involved work that requires real skills and significant effort (I like to do non-house things during the weekends, too). Cost is an issue, of course, so I'm definitely looking for the best bang-for-buck but: I also don't want to spend all my free time chasing down incompatibilities and getting annoyed over the idiosyncracies of communication protocols. I am hoping to be able to make various tweaks to the system over time on my own so I didn't even consider other (prob. pricier) options (AMX, Crestron, Control4, etc).

So, now, onto the preliminary selections and various questions:

Automation Controller: I prefer to have a hardware-based controller for simplicity's sake and in the belief they are more reliable than a PC-based solution. I also would prefer to have a system that is "built in" and can easily be handed off to the next owner if/when I sell the house. Like many people, I have been debating between an ELK M1G and an HAI OmniPro II. I'm planning to have someone else install this and wire the alarm system including sensors, so while I can appreciate the great support that ELK demonstrates for DIY'ers, this isn't a significant concern for me.
  • I've seen statements to the effect that both systems, when comparably equipped, are roughly equivalent in terms of cost. But I haven't seen a breakdown of costs, and I'm not sure whether that applies given a system configured to support what I've listed above. A quick attempt to configure a basic system is shown below, but I'm sure I've left off other components (e.g. HAI seems to require a "touchscreen hub" in order to support touchscreens, etc). Can anyone tell me if I've missed anything big that I would need to purchase along with my HAI or ELK panel to support the sort of system described above?
    elk m1g kit: controller, transformer, keypad, battery, speaker, rj31x jack ~$600
    upb interface: ~80
    ethernet port interface: ~$215
    m1xin input expander x 2 : ~80 ea
    m1xsp lighting/termostat interface x 2 : ~80 ea
    elk sd15w-ulf 15 watt dual tone surface mount siren: ~13
    600+215+160+160+80+13: $1228

    hai promo15s+ promo kit:
    OmniPro II kit: flush console, rc-80 thermostat, outdoor temerature sensor, 10A06 expander, UPB interface, rj-31x cord, 8 Ah battery and 24 VAC power supply: ~1300​
  • Given the functionality I would eventually like my home automation system to support, is there any reason to favor the HAI over the ELK (or vice versa)? E.g. does one have better "look and feel" than the other? better integration (or a larger supported devices list) with third-party devices? does one "lock me in" to only using their own (security sensors, touchscreens, etc)?
Security Sensors:
  • wired vs wireless: OK, I know wireless sensors seem to have a bad rap here in terms of reliability but given that I'm planning to pay to have someone else do the installation, i'm still keeping my options open: I still don't have quotes back for how much the wired sensor install will cost me so I may end up resorting to wireless if it proves significantly cheaper and "acceptably" reliable. Has anyone done any cost comparisons on the tradeoff btwn "easier-install-of-wireless-sensors-and-more-expensive-per-unit" and "more-work-to-retrofit-and-cheaper-per-unit" here? Can anyone give me a feel for the expected reliability of modern wireless sensors in my setup?
  • Do the ELK TS-07 and the HAI OmniTouch provide functionally-equivalent UIs out of the box?
  • While looking at the user documentation for the HAI touchscreens, I came across the following note: "The HAI video encoder can only stream video from a single source; hence, if video is being viewed from a camera on one touchscreen and someone selects a different camera from a second touchscreen, the image will automatically sync to and display the latter video selection on all touchscreens that are currently viewing video." While this isn't a deal-breaker, I wonder if these limitations still exist if I use the HAI touchscreen with the new HAI NDVR? or, with a third-party DVR or IP cameras instead of the HAI Video Encoder? Does the ELK M1 with the TS-07 have a similar limitation on multiple touchscreens operating independently?
  • While I am looking for some good out-of-the-box functionality for my touchscreens, this is one of those things I'd like to be able to tweak down the road. Are the screens shown on the ELK and HAI touchscreens customizable? Would I be able to reuse the touchscreens if I wanted to tie them to CQC down the road, or are they only usable for their intended purpose?

Whole House Audio:
  • So far I've done my distributed audio research by reading information on the Internet rather than demoing units in-store, so I will admit to not being very confident here. At this point, I'm leaning towards either the NuVo Essentia E6G or the BreatheAudio Elevate 6.6 (yes I know BA is a sister company to NuVo) but this is largely based upon "looks". Other people have suggested the Russound CAV 6.6 and Niles iCS. The Niles system seems, um, spendy. I haven't found any direct comparisons of the Russound and NuVo systems, but pointers or feedback from people that had deployed or used both systems would be helpful. Given that (AFAIK) the ELK doesn't support the NuVo systems, the selection of the automation controller and the distributed audio system are not entirely independent and I'd hate to make the wrong choice on either.
  • The BreatheAudio web site lists some stores (B&M and online) which are said to carry their products but the only place I've ever seen their whole-house audio systems sold is Ebay. Does anyone carry these? Is the manufacturer's warranty honored on BA systems purchased on Ebay?
  • I really like the NuVo keypads: does anyone know if the GrandConcerto and E6G keypads are interchangeable on an Essentia E6G (I know the GrandConcerto system can support both the dual-gang GC keypads and the single-gang E6G keypads but I don't know if it works that way on the Essentia system)? What about using the NuVo E6G keypads on the BreatheAudio Elevate 6.6 (I know, wishful thinking, but..)?
  • If I choose the NuVo system, do I loose anything by not using the NuVo tuner/music server components, e.g. keypad text display? (I'm assuming if I'm doing IR-only control, I will not get keypad text. But it seems if I add CQC into the mix, I can control what appears there. Depending on the effort involved and the quality of the result, this may not be worth the effort but those NuVo components aren't cheap!
  • Rain8Net vs Rain8UPB: Most system compatibility docs talk about drivers for the Rain8Net (serial interface) not the Rain8UPB. AFAICT, the Rain8UPB just gives unique UPB device ids to each sprinkler zone. Does this lead to any weirdness when integrating with other systems e.g. sprinkler zones showing up as lights? :)
  • Does anyone have any experience with reliability issues using Rain8UPB vs serial control of a Rain8Net?
  • Rain8 vs tying directly into HAI or ELK panels: I'm wondering if I gain anything by using a Rain8 controller vs directly tying my sprinkler valves into an output?
  • I see references to having a home automation system decide to turn on sprinklers based upon how wet/dry the ground is in a given location but I haven't seen anyone describe concretely how to do that: what sort of sensors do you put in the ground?
  • Is there any solution which will decide how much water a given area should have, or do I need to hard-code that in my irrigation programming? e.g. is it possible for me to provide information that a given sprinkler zone has particular types of plants and gets a particular amount of sun, and for some software to decide based upon (weather conditions, soil moisture) when and for how long to water? (probably also wishful thinking..)
thanks for any help you can provide,
Well, I guess I'll throw a brief $03.5 in...

Forgetting the fact that your numbers are off (especially the addition) :) , they are both great systems. Same old story - pros lean toward HAI, DIY to Elk. If you are having it installed by a pro and they will offer support, then HAI is a good bet. It just may be a little harder for you to get personal support from HAI. I don't know as much about HAI, so I'll leave the specifics to those that do. I would give Nrandon at Automated Outlet a call to discuss it though.

Not sure if HAI supports GE in addition to their own. I personally think GE is a better wireless solution, so assuming HAI only supports their own, then the edge here for wireless goes to Elk and their RF controller. But either way, hardwire is king if at all possible.

I rolled my own with ELO/laptop/CQC so I'll defer to others on TS07 and HAI specific stuff

I think you mean Grand Concerto, not Central. I have that GC and love it, plus Nuvo support is excellent. Although the new Russound stuff is nice too. Not sure if the Essentia and GC keypads are interchangeable, but I thought I read somewhere they were. Would have to confirm that with Nuvo. The advantage to all Nuvo components is using Nuvonet and having it all integrated in the keypad. I have CQC as well and use it to control a few zones. There is a driver for the amp and tuner but not the M3. The GC also has integrated paging which works great and its the backbone of my HA TTS.

I just have 4 zones and I control it with Elk and relays. Others love the Rain8 devices but they are not required if you have a panel and relays
Just a bit of info on the irrigation part. I have Rain8UPB only because in my valve control wiring was in the garage and I could not run new direct wiring for the Elk to control directly, for serial interface, or for network interface. Having said that, The R8UPB works great controlled by ELK as any other UPB divice. The assigned UPB device addresses do show up in UPStart but you just ignore them. I addressed them as very high device numbers so I was sure they would not conflict with my regular UPB devices. Have had ZERO problems.

You do have to create a few ELK rules but you would need to do that anyway even if direct connect and you have to specify tohe duration of time each zone satys on. It would be WAY to much work to have to input data in a software program that will integrate types of existing vegetation, soil type, weather data, time of year, rainfall, windspeed, cloud cover, and lat/long information and compute the correct amount of water on a day to day basis. Just simpler to start with 5 minutes and if the lawn looks like it is getting brown increase the time.

does anyone know if the GrandConcerto and E6G keypads are interchangeable on an Essentia E6G (I know the GrandConcerto system can support both the dual-gang GC keypads and the single-gang E6G keypads but I don't know if it works that way on the Essentia system)?

I contacted Nuvo regarding compatibility of the GrandConcerto and E6G keypads. They indicated that the single gang E6G keypads will work with a GrandConcerto system (as you mentioned.) However they specifically stated that it does not work the other way around; the 2 gang GrandConcerto keypads DO NOT work with an Essentia E6G system.

(Haven't tried it myself; just passing on what I was told.) I actually prefer the GC controller from a functionality standpoint but the single gang E6G keypads from an aesthetics perspective.
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