Hard Wired Lighting


I'm currently having a house built and am very interested in Home Automation.
I've been considering how best to control lighting. My initial thought was X10, but I understand there are many issues with reliability.
One of the books I've been reading, 'Structured Wiring Design Manual', includes a chapter entitled 'Lighting Control Systems' which details the use of hard-wired lighting. It seems to be a better way to go, however, it is more expensive.

Since the house is being built, if I'm going to run wiring, now's the time to do it.
For a hard-wired lighting system, the book specifies running Cat5 to each light switch. Do these runs of Cat5 have the same restrictions as those used for networking in regards to running next to electrical wiring?

Also, should I continue with hard-wired lighting? Or is there something else I may have not yet considered?

You are right in that there are reliability "issues" with X10, yet the vast majority of us DIY home automators still use X10. This apperant contradiction rises from these facts: 1- X10 is still much more affordable then the wired alternatives. 2- For most of us who have an existing house, going to wired control can be a wire fishing nighmare. 3- With good planning and some fine tuning (ie: filters / phase couplers) X10 can be plenty reliable enough for what we want to do with it.

That said, there is now a new Z-wave line of devices that use RF technology which is much more affordable then previous wireless systems and that offer better reliability and speed. This also easily addresses the "existing house" problem. This is still quite new and not very many devices are available yet. There are some early adopters giving it a try but the long term success of this system is not yet established, given that it doesn't strictly adhere to an upcoming wireless standard for such applications (called Zigbee).

With un unbuilt house, you of course have more options. I'm not familiar enough with the specifics of wired systems to make any recommendations, but names like Lutron and others often pop up when these are discussed. If I were to build a house today, I would indeed include a Cat5 cable to each switch location...even if was initially going with X10 or Zwave, simply because a new build is a one time opportunity to do it. I'm not an authority on electicity codes but generally, low and high voltage wiring cannot normally be located in the same box, there has to be a physical seperation between the two.
I think one qustion would be, is money any object and second, what are you looking for long term?

Many of us like to do things ourselves, try out new and different products. Our home automation projects are almost never "finished", they continue to "evolve".

Or, are you a person that wants to hire a contractor to come in, do a turnkey job, and never have to know or care how the system works? If so the look a Cestron, Lutron, AMX or some of the other Hardwired systems that Custom Installers sell and support.

Do you want to be able to add PC control also?

If you are the "like to tinker with it" type, then a properly installed X10 based system can be very reliable. You might consider having the Compose Firewall installed, which will eliminate the reliability issues with X10.


I've been using X10 for over 20 years, and so far have seen nothing for the DIY market that can touch it in price, performance and variety of modules and accessories that are available.

As Guy mentioned, some people are starting to use Zwave, it is new, and so far limited as to modules and capabilities IMHO.

I'm sure others will also chime in also.

With all the new technology sure to be available in the future, run Cat5e and RG6 quad all over your house to allow for future expansion .

In my opinion, you have the perfect opportunity (before the walls go up) to "future proof" your home now.
Many of us like to do things ourselves, try out new and different products. Our home automation projects are almost never "finished", they continue to "evolve".
Truer words have never been spoken.

I had problems with x10 reliability when I first started installing HA into my existing house. But since I have installed a coupler/repeater
and some devices that are also repeaters, this resolved all my problems. I don't think I'm exaggerating by saying I probably have about a 97% success rate for device executing commands with no phantom lighting going on or off. By far my largest problem is my HA software not 'understanding' my voice commands sometimes and not executing the proper command I wish. But frankly that is usually my fault because it's not unusual for me to speak quickly in combination to mumbling the words (I have a bit of a hearing problem and it’s sometimes difficult to judge the volume and clarity at which I am speaking) My wife hardly has any problems. I'd say we have a 95% success rates with the voice commands though.
You have to ask yourself how much you are willing to spend for that few percent of reliability and is it worth it?
1. You spend $1000 dollars on equipment and can achieve a 97% success rate for executing commands with the x10 equipment.
2. You spend $3000 on alternative equipment and achieve a 99% success rate.

Is it worth $2000 dollars for that extra 2% or reliability?
Don't let what you read scare you. Most of the problems with X10 are reported by new users that got in because the technology is affordable. They start with a couple of light switches and a remote or 2 and then start to have problems. Many of the reported problems with X10 can be solved very easily (normally). These problems can be taken care of with a "proper" X10 install which first and foremost includes a coupler-repeater. I wish somewhere it could be advertised that all users absolutely need a coupler-repeater. This solves the #1 problem as I have seen it over the years and that is the X10 signal not being able to "jump" the phase in the breaker box. A coupler-repeater solves this problem and in addition boosts the X10 single in the process. The second problem is noise on the power line and this can be solved by using filters on noisy devices. Personally I have never purchased a single filter. I have 7 computers always on and several large appliances (these are the biggest culprits but there are others).

In addition as Guy said is the Z-Wave products. I love these and if Z-Wave was a women I would marry her ( Oh wait, that's a commercial).

A combination of these 2 technologies and you can have a rock solid automation install.

Case example: I live in a 2800sq ft house and have no outlets that I can not control. I even have an X10 appliance module at the end of a 40 ft buried cable that I can control with no problems. The only problems I encounter are self inflicted problems with logic (or not) that I attempt to insert in to HomeSeer.

Jump in and never look back.

My point exactly, properly installed X10, if Warez is wanting to "be one of us", DIY'rs.

But if he is just an end user, wants a system installed, doesn't care how it works, will never "touch it", then the hardwired Cestron, Lutron, AMX, etc sold and serviced by a Custom Installer for $3,000 - $5.000 is the way for him to go.
Actually, yes, I would consider myself a bit of a tinkerer. :)
I'm a DIY'er and want something I can make upgrades to and improve on.

Since many of you seem to be having success with X10, I will reconsider this option. I've also been reading up on Z-Wave and like what I've heard about it.

I was concerned about having too many X10 devices, but based on what some of you said, I guess that isn't a problem.

Guy Lavoie said:
If I were to build a house today, I would indeed include a Cat5 cable to each switch location...even if was initially going with X10 or Zwave, simply because a new build is a one time opportunity to do it.
Exactly. That was exactly what I was thinking.

When it comes to running a Cat5 cable to every single light switch, avoiding electrical wiring is going to be difficult. However, since the data carried to each switch really isn't like the data running through a home computer network(not as much traffic, etc.), this is why I was wondering if there were issues running this cabling next to electrical wiring.

If you do consider X10, then take a look at the Compose Firewall I mentioned.

It will give you the filtering, coupling, etc that has been mentioned in all of the posts to ensure your X10 is reliable, all in one box!


I do NOT have this myself, would not be very cost efficent to install in my existing home, but if I was doing new construction, I would have it put in.

I believe Martin at AutomatedOutlet has it in his own home (he not only sells it, he uses it himself!)

Martin also gives exellent customer service and advice
Warez, while you're running wires, run a couple extra lines of CAT5 to each room, you never know when you might iuse it in the future.. You can use it for Data, alarm system or other contact sensing, etc.
Also, in reference to running Cat5: If you keep a couple of feet of distance between Cat5 and your power wires, and cross them a right angles when they do have to cross, you won't have any problems with interference.
3 - 5,000 for AMX / Crestron? I thought these systems were a few more digits than that, even for a base install? I haven't priced them myself, but I haven't heard a story less than 5 digits. Programming alone is 4 digits.

I think my brother's Lutron was about $50,000 just in parts (5,000 sq ft house - most of it controlled - but my memory is terrible...)

Any real pricing experience out there?
David, my memory or perhaps my typing (or both) is bad. Could very well be another zero floating around out there ;) Since these are all "turnkey" installs, the component prices are hard to come by, and next to impossible to buy!

But the good thing is, Warez is going to be "one of us", and do his own tinkering!!!

Welcome to CocoonTech! (OK, the Welcome is a dozen posts late)

As you are doing your planning, don't hesitate to ask for opinions, all of have some we will willing share.
Thank you.

Currently, the slab has been poured on our 2,500 sq ft. house. I imagine within a month, framing should start. I have so many ideas for what I want to do as far as structured wiring and home automation are concerned... it's almost too hard to keep it all sorted out. ;)

Thanks again.

Kinda overwhelming with all the decisions to be made just during normal construction I suppose, and then you are joining this community where most of us arrive at the same end, but all of us approach if differently.

Ask for advice here, and we will tell you a dozen different ways to accomplish the same thing. Are you ready for information overload?

Just kidding! Welcome aboard!