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Home Automation - Advice Please!

JTR7

Member
Hi Everybody.

I'm venturing into the world of home automation(ish). As this is my first venture, I would like to get the opinions of those who have journeyed before me. I have 2 houses in which I'm installing some semblance of home automation.

The first is a vacation home. It's approximately 2,000 sq ft, and it's a ranch home with one floor and a finished basement. I have attic access. We've had pipes freeze, and now I'm paranoid. Also, our neighbors had a break-in. Again, paranoia.

My plan is as follows:
I am planning on using an Omni IIe for my automation panel. The closet in the back of the office is oddly shaped. If you open the bifold doors, you look straight at a normal looking closet, but if you look to the right of the end of the rectangular area, there's a tall, square shaped area. It's not good for much. However, it has shelves and is approximately the width of most A/V equipment. I was planning on putting the automation equipment in there. I'd drill up into the attic so I could run wires from this area to the rest of the first floor. As for the basement, I'm at a loss. Since we live on a hill, and there's an exterior door from the basement into a non-locking garage (the overhead doors lock slots are busted and the exterior lock is rusted), I probably have to overcome this deficiency. Since there is only this door, one large window and 4 smaller windows, I suppose I could go wireless. However, I'm not sure I'm going to be contacting the windows anyway.

Regardless, here are my goals.

  • Audio Distribution - I'll be doing this with a Russound CA6.4 which I purchased on eBay for ~$50. I'll be running 4 zones. 1 for the deck, 1 for the office, 1 for the basement (again, at a loss), and 1 for the great room. In the great room, there are 3 areas, but they're not separated enough to warrant independent zones. I want to run 3 pairs of speakers (kitchen, dining, family). Does anyone know of a good amplifier to split one pair of speaker wire into 3 pairs? I'll be using volume control sliders in the walls to control individual volume of the areas. Also, for sources. I am considering putting an Apple iPod dock in the kitchen, and running RCA from it to the back to the closet so I can easily swap iPods near the primary listening zones (deck/great room). I also probably want a radio tuner, but I'm less concerned about that. I have a spare desktop (considering CQC if I want to implement strong local control in the future. Right now I'm worried about remote monitoring/audio) and I have a slight interest in loading that with my tunes and running it to the stereo, but I'm not sure how I'd handle remote control from the zones.
  • Security - I'd be utilizing the Omni IIe for this. I want to at least contact the doors. I'm unsure using wired vs. wireless. I'd want cost effective, unobtrusive wireless contacts. However, I can't seem to find these. Anyone have input on this? However, if I do wired, I would not wire the windows.
  • HVAC - I'm thinking of using an OmniStat. I think that's the best way to integrate without using automation software like CQC to go serial. I'd wire it through the attic. I want to monitor indoor temperature remotely (IE get an email if it drops out of a certain range) and also be able to turn on the heat if I go there in the winter or turn on the AC if I go in the summer. That way I can save energy while I'm not there but be comfortable as soon as I walk through the door.
  • Lighting - UPB. I'm not looking for amazing control, perhaps just some lighting timers. However, few of my rooms have ceiling lights (I may have to change this anyway, I like ceiling fans and open windows when weather permits).
  • Phone/Ethernet - Well, little to do with automation, but since we're talking wiring, I want to run a magicJack from the closet to the wall jack in the kitchen to have a "land line". Also, right now my network hardware is in an awkward location behind the TV in the family room. I believe my cable comes into the attic on the east wall and runs down that same wall to the cable outlet behind that wall. Nothing uses Ethernet in that area. I can split the cable in the attic if possible and run it back to the office so that when we get an LCD TV, we can wall mount it without being as worried about clutter.


The second is my primary residence. It's approximately 2,500 sq ft, and it's a 2 story home with a finished basement (basement is only under the original house, there's a crawl space under the new parts). I have attic access. Here, I want to combine security (this is a higher crime-rate neighborhood than the vacataion home) with convenience.

My plan is as follows:
I am planning on using an Omni IIe for my automation panel (unless someone tells me I'd want an OmniPro for here). I also want to use CQC at this house. I want it to be convenient in house. Therefore, I want to be able to create nice touch interfaces that operate on my ethernet network. The equipment will be housed in the basement in a storage closet. Main wiring obstacles will be anything that needs to get to the first floor area under the new house and from the basement to the attic. I'm considering going through the garage with those. We have an attached garage (unfinished) and the peak extends beyond the top plate of the first floor wall. I could drill in at the top into one of the cavities and then run wires up through a hole drilled in the top plate of the second floor wall. Then, to reach the basement, there are holes that lead from the bottom of the garage wall (the house's first floor is about 2 feet above ground level) into the crawl space under the family room and kitchen). Let me know if you think there's an easier way or if you have tips on running wires up insulated walls.

Regardless, here are my goals.

  • Security - I'd be utilizing the Omni for this. I want to contact at least the first floor. I am considering finding a security company to install the contacts for me.
  • HVAC - I am looking at RCS options to connect to the CQC server. I like this because my furnace is in the basement, so I won't have to find a way to run wires up to the thermostat because their unit connects to the existing thermostat wire. The purpose is to do the reverse of my vacation home. When I come home from there, adjust the thermostat. Also, my current analog thermostat is falling apart, so I figure if I was going to replace digital, may as well spend a few bucks and go RS-232.
  • Lighting - I'm thinking UPB again. I want to use my existing Logitech Harmony Remotes to control the lights. For this, I was thinking of using an IR to X10 transciever, then an X10 interface module on the Omni, then some programming logic, then a UPB PIM to send the command to the lights. I don't want to pay big for Radio RA. I don't have the ability to wire for a hardwired tech. I wouldn't automate all my lights. Mainly those in rooms where I want to watch TV (and have a Harmony), especially the theater in the basement.
  • Access Control - I'm looking at the Kwikset SmartCode with HomeConnect. I want to set up my locks so that they auto-engage whenever the doors are closed. This way, my kids don't have to worry about their keys when walking home from school (they forget frequently). Also, I don't have to worry about my wife not setting the alarm and leaving the doors unlocked. She likes to believe that this is the same neighborhood it was when she grew up in it. Unfortunately, it's not. Even if she doesn't set the alarm, physical security can work as a deterrent. My kids like to leave the doors unlocked when they leave so they don't need keys or because their siblings don't have keys with them. This way, the doors are locked and always locked.
  • AV Distribution - I'm not sure. I don't really have any idea how I'd handle wire speakers into the ceiling. I don't think I'd use it either. I don't entertain at this house often. We'll see if I like it in my vacation house. I've considered component video distribution, but since I've got U-Verse, I don't know what I'd want to share across all TVs (except for coolness factor, and I'd probably need a new remote to interface with RS-232 Matrix switches).


Some general questions:
Contacts. I need to know a lot about contacts.
Kwikset Locks. Does anyone know prices and where to buy online?

Also, I'd appreciate any criticism/advice on any of the plans I have.
 

pete_c

Guru
Security - I'd be utilizing the Omni IIe for this. I want to at least contact the doors. I'm unsure using wired vs. wireless. I'd want cost effective, unobtrusive wireless contacts. However, I can't seem to find these. Anyone have input on this? However, if I do wired, I would not wire the windows.

I personally like wired and will utilize wireless as a last choice. I'm using an HAI OPII for two homes/wired and have added HAI's wireless (GE and HAI) receivers to both OPII's but not really utilizing them yet. (just experimenting). I guess I don't want to be dependant on having to change batteries related to security sensors.

I'll be doing this with a Russound CA6.4 which I purchased on eBay for ~$50. I'll be running 4 zones. 1 for the deck, 1 for the office, 1 for the basement (again, at a loss), and 1 for the great room. In the great room, there are 3 areas, but they're not separated enough to warrant independent zones. I want to run 3 pairs of speakers (kitchen, dining, family). Does anyone know of a good amplifier to split one pair of speaker wire into 3 pairs? I'll be using volume control sliders in the walls to control individual volume of the areas.

I have a mix using a Russound CAS44, Audiosource and smaller RS bookshelf amp for multiple zones. Initially started with an AB8SS splitting main audio into 8 zones (mostly used it for TTS from HA box though) via an Audiosource amplifier. The second floor zones are subdivided into subzones with their own amps (via simple AB switches).

The Russound primarily handles the main floor. The four main zones are the living room, dining room, hallway and kitchen. I further subdivided the kitchen to add two more zones (garage and deck) by just using an ABC switch. You can add Russound keypads to the "added" zones such that you would have keypad/source control on the added ABC switched zones. The keypads would only be utilized when these zones are on. My setup though will not let me run the three zones together. You can do this though with an ABC type speaker switch which lets you combine the zones (I am doing this today in the master BR/Bathroom subzones). Historically I have had issues with in wall volume controls feed directly by amplifiers (burning up) and a few years ago (some still in place today) went to the Leviton digital audio volume control which worked better for me and is easy to set up.

You can also utilize just a plan old MM zoned receiver in the family room and have it be the source for sound for the three areas you mention and use the same source as your Russound (splitting the sources there). My family room today audio is separate from the rest of the house audio but I do have an audio out (TTS) and another audio in (from Russound area) going to the MM receiver should I want to utilize it.

For HVAC I am using an Omnistat2 wired to the OPII. For FL I have to rewire in that I currently have a Humidstat and a thermostat and want to substitute these two for an Omnistat2 combo.

Lighting - In the midwest switching over X10/Insteon over to UPB. In FL installed Leviton X10 to start (working OK for now). Both connected to OPII's.

Main wiring obstacles will be anything that needs to get to the first floor area under the new house and from the basement to the attic.

It will be difficult if you have a finished basement to get to the first floor unless you have an acoutical tile ceiling in the basement. Small areas of drywall though are easy to cut, repair and paint. For access to the the attic from the basement you may be able to find something adjacent to a water heater / furnace heat stack. In the old house I had a boxed in area / adjacent stack area which I ran cables from the basement to the attic with no issues.
 

JTR7

Member
Security - I'd be utilizing the Omni IIe for this. I want to at least contact the doors. I'm unsure using wired vs. wireless. I'd want cost effective, unobtrusive wireless contacts. However, I can't seem to find these. Anyone have input on this? However, if I do wired, I would not wire the windows.

I personally like wired and will utilize wireless as a last choice. I'm using an HAI OPII for two homes/wired and have added HAI's wireless (GE and HAI) receivers to both OPII's but not really utilizing them yet. (just experimenting). I guess I don't want to be dependant on having to change batteries related to security sensors.

I agree with you on that. I'd prefer to avoid wireless, but my ranch has a shallow roof and the peak is parallel to the two long walls. Along those two walls there are 15 windows and 2 doors. I'd like to avoid impaling myself on roofing nails. I don't like the idea of using wireless, but it may be what I have to do (if I can find a sensor I don't hate. I like the iON Micra, but it's expensive and I don't want to void the warranty on all my windows).

I'll be doing this with a Russound CA6.4 which I purchased on eBay for ~$50. I'll be running 4 zones. 1 for the deck, 1 for the office, 1 for the basement (again, at a loss), and 1 for the great room. In the great room, there are 3 areas, but they're not separated enough to warrant independent zones. I want to run 3 pairs of speakers (kitchen, dining, family). Does anyone know of a good amplifier to split one pair of speaker wire into 3 pairs? I'll be using volume control sliders in the walls to control individual volume of the areas.

I have a mix using a Russound CAS44, Audiosource and smaller RS bookshelf amp for multiple zones. Initially started with an AB8SS splitting main audio into 8 zones (mostly used it for TTS from HA box though) via an Audiosource amplifier. The second floor zones are subdivided into subzones with their own amps (via simple AB switches).

The Russound primarily handles the main floor. The four main zones are the family room, dining room, hallway and kitchen. I further subdivided the kitchen to add two more zones (garage and deck) by just using an ABC switch. You can add Russound keypads to the "added" zones such that you would have keypad/source control on the added ABC switched zones. The keypads would only be utilized when these zones are on. My setup though will not let me run the three zones together. You can do this though with an ABC type speaker switch which lets you combine the zones (I am doing this today in the master BR/Bathroom subzones). Historically I have had issues with in wall volume controls feed directly by amplifiers (burning up) and a few years ago (some still in place today) went to the Leviton digital audio volume control which worked better for me and is easy to set up.

You can also utilize just a plan old MM zoned receiver in the family room and have it be the source for sound for the three areas you mention and use the same source as your Russound (splitting the sources there). My family room today audio is separate from the rest of the house audio but I do have an audio out (TTS) and another audio in (from Russound area) going to the MM receiver should I want to utilize it.

Since we don't have a stereo at that location, I'd hope to avoid buying another. I just want a pair of ceiling speakers per area. (Also, does anyone have placement tips for ceiling speakers). I was looking at a Pyle PSS4 to split the speaker level outs into 3 and just the volume controls. Monoprice has some that'd be fairly cheap to replace. I hope they don't burn out, but I have friends who've had good luck. I don't think the CA6.4 supports multiple keypads per zone.

For HVAC I am using an Omnistat2 wired to the OPII. For FL I have to rewire in that I currently have a Humidstat and a thermostat and want to substitute these two for an Omnistat2 combo.

I'd do that at the vacation home cause it'll be easy to get wire to the thermostat from the Omni controller. In the primary house, I won't be able to, which is why the idea of inserting the thermo control board mid-run of the thermostat wire is more attractive.

Lighting - In the midwest switching over X10/Insteon over to UPB. In FL installed Leviton X10 to start (working OK for now). Both connected to OPII's.

I was planning to use X10 to convert IR from my Harmony remotes to a serial interface on the controller. If there's a better way to do this, I'd be all ears. The only 2 locations with the Harmony remotes are easily wired to (basement theater room, TV room with crawl space underneath. Already run CAT6 from this location to the Gig-E switch in the basement.

Main wiring obstacles will be anything that needs to get to the first floor area under the new house and from the basement to the attic.

It will be difficult if you have a finished basement to get to the first floor unless you have an acoutical tile ceiling in the basement. Small areas of drywall though are easy to cut, repair and paint. For access to the the attic from the basement you may be able to find something adjacent to a water heater / furnace heat stack. In the old house I had a boxed in area / adjacent stack area which I ran cables from the basement to the attic with no issues.

I have a finished basement with drywall ceilings. On the bright side, only the hallway and theater area have ceilings. The laundry and crawl space make much of this easy. Regardless, they are under the living room (which in our house is basically a laundry sorting facility) and I won't need automation for that. The only issue is getting wire to the front door for the console. I don't believe I have the space near the stack. When I had to pass a new CAT5 wire to my office for phone/fax (stack goes through that wall), the top of the cavity was covered completely with some sort of metal ducting. Besides, my water heater's stack is wrapped in asbestos. We want to stay FAR away from that. I think the garage is my best bet. Currently, there's a small hole running from the garage to the attic for coax cable, but we found out when wiring for another TV outlet that 2 coax won't fit through this hole at the same time. And since then I've stuffed the hole with 1 CAT6 and 1 CAT5 wire in addition to the original coax. Does anyone have comments on my proposed plan to drill through the sheetrock in the garage to access a cavity in the second floor wall to run wires to the attic?
 

pete_c

Guru
I would just make sure you seal the holes from the garage to the house. I think the main building/fire codes are the same relating to sheetrock, doors, etc between the garage and living space in a house.
 

JTR7

Member
Will do (though I'm fairly certain there are already unsealed passages for CO from the garage to the house.

So here are my current questions:

Has anyone used the PSS4 or similar?
Does anyone know of inconspicuous wireless contacts compatible with HAI Omni controllers?
Where can I get Kwikset HomeConnect locks and what do they cost?
Is there a better way than IR-X10-HAI Controller to turn IR to serial on the Omni?
 

Steve

Senior Member
Security - I'd be utilizing the Omni IIe for this. I want to at least contact the doors. I'm unsure using wired vs. wireless. I'd want cost effective, unobtrusive wireless contacts. However, I can't seem to find these. Anyone have input on this? However, if I do wired, I would not wire the windows.

I personally like wired and will utilize wireless as a last choice. I'm using an HAI OPII for two homes/wired and have added HAI's wireless (GE and HAI) receivers to both OPII's but not really utilizing them yet. (just experimenting). I guess I don't want to be dependant on having to change batteries related to security sensors.

I agree with you on that. I'd prefer to avoid wireless, but my ranch has a shallow roof and the peak is parallel to the two long walls. Along those two walls there are 15 windows and 2 doors. I'd like to avoid impaling myself on roofing nails. I don't like the idea of using wireless, but it may be what I have to do (if I can find a sensor I don't hate. I like the iON Micra, but it's expensive and I don't want to void the warranty on all my windows).

Go wired, it's worth it. That sounds like a typical attic, it's almost impossible to get your body to the outside wall. Get a long drill bit and drill up into the attic from the header of the window. Either shove a bunch of wire or pull string up through the hole and then in the attic use a long rod with a hook on the end and hook the wire from however close you can comfortable get. I once used my pool pole to reach around 15 feet to a small spot I could never hope to get near. At the window you have a few options but i usually remove the caulk between the drywall and window frame and tuck the wire in there and re caulk.
 

JTR7

Member
I'm considering just using wired contacts for the doors. The largest part of break-ins in the area are townies breaking in to throw parties in the vacationers houses. They aren't burglars and don't try too hard. They look for unlocked or easily broken windows to get in. If they break a window, my contacts don't matter much.

At home, I'm thinking having a professional run my contact wires cause for instance my living room is on the first floor, finished basement below, second floor above, but it has 5 windows. Front door is above finished basement. Id just as soon have a pro do it and be done. Here, break-ins are legitimate burglary attempts or even violent crimes. A downside to Chicago, your neighborhood can be great, but it's next door to the slums.
 

pete_c

Guru
A seasoned professional will know the means to be non invasive yet aesthetically pleasing.

I have one analogue cam (weather cam) mounted on one corner eave. It was difficult to get to from the inside attic; I drilled a small hole in the eave and used one of those fiberglass wire fishing rods to pull the wire from the attic to the outside. I believe it was less than 5-6 feet and I could get to it easily from the attic. I can walk in my attic but have two sub attics that I can see but have never walked in. For these wire runs (computer & Video) I went to a parallel space on the side of the bedroom that I could get to and put a wire hook towards the ceiling and attic. In the attic I used the fiber wire rod (this time about 25 feet or so) and caught the hook. Once I did this I could pull the wire down to ground bedroom level. It was a bit time consuming.

For a door you can totally hide the NC switch (with paint on frame) if you put the switch in the door frame sides or top. If you put the switch on the bottom you can take the bottom piece of the door frame off and put it underneath (sight unseen) and put the matching magnet on the door (sight unseen). Window frames are similiar if you pull off the framing (lots of work though). You can get very small sensors though painting them and they'll just look like little nubs on the window frames. Same with small little IR sensors which are 1/2 the size of your finger nail.

Personally I like having each IR / NC switch home run to the panel. A couple of times I have looped them (only at the panel). I had an issue helping a neighbor where the installer buried the loops in the attic which made it a bit difficult. My first TTS panel in the 80's I assigned a TTS response to each of the zones (one window-one zone, one door-one zone). It was a hobby and I wanted to be able to "hear" which door, which room or which window was being opened. I think that panel had something like 48 zones and a large TTS vocabulary (not really TTS but recorded words to make up whole sentences). I had a new garage built (detached from house) and remember wiring it to the house for a variety of things including 4-6 unique zones).
 

JTR7

Member
That's how I'm planning on handling the speaker wire to the deck. Drill into the soffit, put half a hanger through the hole with a string attached to the hanger and a loop bent into the hanger, go in the attic with another hanger and catch the loop, pull and tie to speaker wire, and pull the speaker wire back with the string. (I don't have any fish sticks, though I have a brother-in-law (two actually) who are electricians. I know for a fact one of them has fish sticks (he ran the speaker wire for the family room at the primary residence) and I could borrow them if need be.

How thick is the header above the door I'd have to drill through to get the security wire up to the attic? I thought it was thick, so I was thinking of going through the side, but then I don't know how I'd get the wire to the attic. I don't want to go professional at the vacation home. Again, I'm not terribly worried about the break in. I just want to be on the safe side (plus an Omni is overkill if I don't have security at some level).

IDEA!! Since I need to put in a console, I could put the console in the cavity next to the door, and fish wire up to the attic through that cavity, and drill to the left to put in the security contacts. The deck door on the other hand...
 
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