Going beyond Omni Pro II & DISH TV


Active Member
I have been an OP II user for 10 years with Dlr PC Access program lines of 1250+ and everything except camera's under control.  I have also with the addition of Homeseer and the 'Security Plug In' been making the home control much more user friendly by controlling things thru my many Amazon Echo's.
However I just experienced storm voltage surge damage, twice to the OP panel in 2 months, which is causing me to rethink the my whole house automation approach including the DISH television experience which also got zapped.
I am also concerned that the next potential owner of my house will not be able to manage an automation system like I have and this will impose major obstacles & limits on how saleable my house will be.
I feel like I am at a major Y in the road of home automation and cutting the television cord.
Have any of you proceeded me in this decision and are positively excited about your whole home automation and have made it very user friendly??
As I am living without home automation currently while repairs/replacements are underway, I feel that my priorities are as follows:
  1. - Security /
  2. - HVAC /
  3. - Lighting
  4. - TV streaming & recording
  5. - Automation easily managed
Personally here over the years have used Direct TV (from the beginning), Dish and Comcast. 
I use a wide / small Dish mounted on the roof next to the chimney with 4 dual style LNB's which talk to multiple satellites (for DISH and DTV).
It used to sit next to my lightning sensor (just a copper rod in PVC), old AAG weather station and GPS antenna.
Never have used two way interaction with DTV or Dish (telephone line or network) and like it that way. 
Have used Homeseer since Homeseer 1 and the OmniPro 2 for over 10 years (~ 2X OP2's since 2003).
Always paranoid about lightning and only have had one lightning incident to date talking out two of my Rain8Nets; easy fix there.
Outdoor CCTV and sensors connected to the OmniPro 2 here and never have had a lightning issue.
I do this for me and have no reason or want to leave automation in a home or use it as a selling point.
So recommendation is to keep using what you are accustomed to and know. 

Really you are automating for yourself and your family.
Here have been tinkering with cloud stuff but the heartbeat of the home automation is self contained with no dependencies on the internet (have two connections here).  I like it that way.
Helping an automation peer in FL a couple of years back.  He replaced his security panel some 2-3 times because of lightning.  I had lightning issues in Florida relating to irrigation.  Rather than automate it I kept using the Rainbird controller and would just replace fuses on it.  OP2 worked fine there for over 10 years.

Guessing your knowledge base of automation is levels above any millennials (gen Y) today. Mostly these folks are in to cell phone remote and a lot of eye candy for automation and not much in to the grey areas of automation. (meat that makes it tick).
After you finish fixing your stuff maybe you want to start playing around with new automation technology.  There is a lot out there to tinker with.
Imagine your automated light switch of the future being a tiny computer which can work by itself or in conjunction with a bunch of little computer light switches.  This little computer will measure electric load , flow or use with the switch, be multiple function, have a tiny web interface, et al.  The beginnings of this sort of light switch are already here. Thinking too now ZWave and Zigbee light switches already do some of this.
Today tinkering a bit turned a $5.00 SonOff basic WiFi module with modded Tasmota firmware in to a multiple function GDO appliance of sorts using Mosquitto.
The GDO stuff today is wired to the OP2.  Did an autonomous wiring thing for the SonOff basic WiFi module which includes:
1 - temperature sensor
2 - garage door open sensor
3 - garage door closed sensor
4 - garage door open/close button
5 - mini microwave or PIR or RF reciever talking to automobile RFID tags.
In the late 70's I read an article in either Popular Science, or Popular Electronics.   It talked about a guy who built an automation system he could control with his voice.   This became my dream for over 30 years of tinkering in automation.    However, today when it is very easy to do just that, my dream has changed.
Today I am not looking for a system that will respond to voice commands, or to a touch of my smartphone app.   I am looking for a system that predicts what I want and gives it to me when I need it.   My model is the automation that is found in today's cars.   They know when to turn the headlights on and off.   They can control the climate and speed of the fan.   Some are even smart enough to turn the wipers on or steer when I am driving out of my lane.   They do all of this without the internet, an app, or generally without voice control.   They are pre programmed and bulletproof.
I do have an Echo dot and use it mostly as a cooking timer.    When my hands are full, it is nice to have a hands free timer.   The grandkids play Trolls music on just because it is fun to do.   However, I don't see it as a priority for my automation efforts.  (maybe someday when I get a round tuit)
I also have an OP2 and have had a couple bouts of lightning.   I tracked down the problem to wires between my garage and house, and replaced them with fiber.  That won't eliminate lightning damage, but it will significantly reduce it.   
My OP2 is rock solid.   It does not depend on the internet.   I never update the firmware.   It is not subject to the latest update of iOS.   It just works.   
I have programmed it to predict what I am going to do and then respond.   I have tweaked the program over the past 2 years, but it is getting good enough that the wife almost never complains.   (that is my litmus test)
UPB is the least reliable part of my system.   I really like the flexibility, and programmability of the switches.   However, I have an inverter HVAC system that puts too much noise on my power lines.   UPB works about 90-95% of the time, which is less than I would like.   I have looked into putting filters on my HVAC compressor and fan, but I don't like the idea of attaching those high energy components to my expensive HVAC system.
I did not connect my OP2 to my Russound audio or Lennox HVAC system.    I considered this but the complexity and hit to reliability just aren't worth the risk to me.   Both have reasonable stand alone apps.   I ran the numbers and, with my energy efficient house, it does not look like it pays to set back the thermostat every time I leave.   I only set it back when I go on vacation.   I have 5 zones and program them for different temperatures during the day with the Lennox thermostat.   It keeps the house comfortable and pretty darn efficient.
rockinarmadillo said:
However, I have an inverter HVAC system that puts too much noise on my power lines.
I used to have a Panasonic "inverter" microwave oven that put so much noise on my powerline that my UPB devices in half the house stopped working when it was on, and almost every radio in the house received static noise when it was running. How these things get approved, I will never know.  Luckily for me the microwave only lasted a year and burned up and I'll never get one again.
I would call the HVAC company and see if they have a solution.
Home automation and home control are not the same thing, and it sounds like you actually have some automation already (via OP2) and want to add "user friendly control". IMO, the security and Echo do not mix well. At the least you may consider separating your security system from the rest of your home control, if you plan to use the cloud. I have voice control interface to my home automation via Siri proxy that runs on a local server, but rarely use it. My goal is to have as much automation as to eliminate any need for additional "control" (getting there, but every time I get a new gadget it throws me back a few steps :)
I have a Leviton whole house surge protector, and my OP2 is grounded. I had Dish in the old house, now it is Apple TV. Just like the others said, your best bet may be to keep what you already have and add new things over time.
A full featured system will include things that happen automonously (scheduled or in response to other things happening), voice control, and touch screens. There are good reasons to use all of those things. Any system that doesn't include user interaction is limited in various ways. People get this thing in their head that having to actually interact with the automation system is some sort of failing when it's just not. 
Here is a little article I wrote about this subject. It includes links to some others that you might find useful:
Anyhoo, it is an issue if you move. The thing to do is to make the core stuff, that would be a huge effort to rip out, be able to operate completely on its own if there's no automation system involved. Then, when you go, you take the automation system and the peripheral bits that aren't part of that core system, with you and leave the rest of it. A lighting system and thermostats are all normal things and if they work just fine via the wall switches and the physical thermostat, then you should be able to leave that stuff in place. Just remove any automations you might have defined at that hardware level.
Do your automation via a software based system like ours, which is completely separate from the hardware. 
The Omni may not necessarily be the best option for a 'just works all by itself' system, since it is not itself a lighting system. Something like Radio RA2 might be a better choice, along with some dedicated, automation friendly security system (DSC IT-100 or Elk M1 are common choices.) Those will operate perfectly well as standalone systems if there's no automation system involved. Otherwise, the Omni is a perfectly fine choice for a serious, robust automation panel.
Stay away from all cloud based systems, and from Wifi based devices. 
Thank you all for offering your advice and experiences. 
I am in the process of making some changes like disconnecting all 'off premises' devices like boat security and lake water Temp.  These aren't critical for security.
  1. I wonder how to isolate wires which go to the two built in garages ie. door openers, door contacts, and the outdoor temperature/humidity sensor.? 
  2. I also need help on grounding the OP II other than at the Elk power transformer which is plugged into a GFI?
Your thoughts on these please>
I have had my system destroyed by lightning twice.   There are a lot of opinions on lightning protection, and I have done a lot of reading on the subject, but am far from an expert.   
I have whole house surge protectors on both the main electrical panel and the garage electrical sub panel.   
I also have professionally installed lightning rods on my house and garage.
Neither protected my system from damage.
From what I have read you have two options to protect your system.   1) install a surge protector on all wires coming into a building, or 2) convert to fiber.   If you go the surge protector route, you will need to tie it into a quality earth ground.   Optimally, this is a low impedance ground near where the wire enters into the building.   If you have a wire between the garage and the house, you need a protector on both ends.    A low impedance ground requires straight short wires between the protector and the earth.   High frequency lightning does not like to travel down a twisted path.
I chose to go with option 2) because I have a conduit between my house and garage, and was able to install the fiber fairly easily.   I installed an expansion enclosure in the garage and connected it to the main panel via fiber.    Your outdoor humidity/temp sensor will not work with the expansion enclosure, but you can still use a temp sensor.    Everything else should work fine.  
Once you decide which way you want to go, I can provide more detail on how to hook it up.