Need help deciding on HA solution


Active Member
Hello, this is my first post. ;) I have enjoyed a lot of articles on this site and have learned a lot but still feel I am in over my head. I know there is not just one solution but am hoping some people could be kind enough to help point me in the right direction.

I am building a new home and have decided on a few things and feel I need some help with the rest of the components.

Components I know I'll have:

Insteon Light switches and outlets
Caddx Security (Home builder only offers GE security)
Elk M1 Gold
Whole house speakers (via home theater system, not really a whole house audio solution)
Greyfox cat5 intercom system
Coax In/Out at all tv's
Logitech Harmony 880 remote control

Whole house speaker jacks will be located at home theater equipment.

Wiring Summary:
4x22awg to each thermostat
1 cat5 to each each volume control
2 cat5e and 2 coax to each bedroom
3 coax and 3 cat5e to home theater
4 coax to satellite dish
All windows and doors for security
motion sensor(s)
cat5 to each security keypad
Whole house speaker wire from home theater
12 gauge to 7.1 home theater speakers
Intercom to each bedroom, front door, patio, and master bath.
4x22awg and 1 coax to each security camera.

Wiring Detail:
Great Room
3 Klipsch 5650 in ceiling speakers for rear surround sound (12 gauge wire)
2 subwoofer ports are both rear corners at electrical port height
2 front speaker ports at both front corners (12 gauge wire) at electrical port height
1 cat6, 2 cat5, 1 100v, 1 coax to projector
1 v110 to projector screen

Volume Control
2 Klipsch 2650 in ceiling speakers
2 Coax
2 Cat5e
1 Cat5 to volume control (no plugs)

Front Door

Wall phone port
1 Cat5 to each garage door
1 Cat5 to irrigation controller

Laundry Room
Security keypad
1 Cat5 from security keypad to security panel (no plugs)
1 Cat5 to smoke detector (no plugs)

Volume Control
2 Klipsch 2650 in ceiling speakers
1 Coax at 8'
1 Cat5 to volume control (no plugs)

Intercom (main)
4 22 gauge wires from thermostat to security panel (no plugs)

Master Bedroom
Volume Control
2 Klipsch 2650 in ceiling speakers
2 Coax
2 Cat5e (one at bed)
1 Cat5 to volume control (no plugs)

Master Bath

Upstairs Hall
Volume Control
2 Klipsch 2650 in ceiling speakers
1 Cat5 from security keypad to security panel (no plugs)
4 22 gauge wires from security keypad to security panel (no plugs)
1 Cat5 to volume control (no plugs)

Bedrooms (1, 2 & 3)
2 Coax
2 Cat5e

4 coax from satellite dish to structured wiring box

Here is a basic list of things I would like to do with the system:

Voice Notifications
I would like text to speech and wav file support. This will be either integrated either through whole house speakers or a Greyfox intercom system(if possible).
Caller ID and morning weather announcements would be nice too.

Email Notifications
I want to know if the alarm is triggered and possibly other things.

Caller ID
I would like to have a voice announcement of who is calling.

Timers and Events
I want to set some lights according to timers and and events.

Adjust HVAC

Web Access
I want to be able to access my system from any pc in the house and from work.

Security System Integration
I want to cut off power to the toaster, etc when the alarm system is armed.
Email me when the alarm is triggered.
Turn lights at night when walking into a room, etc.

Elegant control screens via a pc monitor or tv.
I may have a dedicated pc monitor at some point, and may redistribute the video through all tvs.

Not real sure how much of this I will do but I will want it available at some point.

Voice Activated Commands
This is probably the lowest priority item, but at some point I may add open air microphones.

Where I need a helping hand:
I am very confused about the capabilities and supported integration between many of the most popular home automation software and hardware packages. I know many of these things can be accomplished with Homeseer and CQC, although I'm not really sure what the difference is. Will CQC do most everything that Homeseer does plus customizable control screens? From what I have read it seems like CQC is kind of like a combination of MainLobby and Homeseer?

I know the Elk M1 system is popular here, but since my home builder will only prewire security if I use one of their alarm system's (GE products) (Caddx) I probably am not willing to pay for the Elk M1 when I wouldn't be using the security portion of it, unless someone has a good argument to do so.

At this point I am not sure if there is a hardware solution that will do everything I want. And if there isn't than perhaps I should get a software solution(s) that do it all to keep the cost down? I am also a software developer, so scripting is not a problem for me, but I don't want to be spending all my time on this.

I'll also need to decide how I want to connect the structured wiring and security in-wall box (laundry room) with the home theater and whole house speakers (living room). If I use a software solution, I'll place the computer with the home theater since that is where the whole house audio speaker jacks are located, and might even play with something like Meedio or other tivo like interfaces for fun.

I am budget minded so I don't want to pay for the very top end hardware products, especially if I can buy software that will do most everything I want.

Any help or comments are apprciated, thanks.


Edit: updated some wiring
At first glance I would suggest not having you structured wiring in your laundry room. This location is subject to high humidity, dust and heat. If this is where your wires are terminated then I assume you would be locating some electronic equipment there as well.
TCassio said:
At first glance I would suggest not having you structured wiring in your laundry room. This location is subject to high humidity, dust and heat. If this is where your wires are terminated then I assume you would be locating some electronic equipment there as well.
That is a good point, thank you. This is the default location where the home builder's contracted wiring company locates their boxes and is a good practical location for ease of access, but not so much environmentally.
Just a couple of thoughts:

I would skew your budget towards more/better wiring rather than high end hardware. You can always add/upgrade hardware later but wiring is forever.

I don't see any mention of a telephone system or wiring. A good telephone system might be a better choice than the Greyfox intercom as it gives you more features per dollar spent. (Intercom, paging, telephone, Caller ID, touch tone access to HA equipment, Voice access to HA equipment, etc.)

If possible, take the time to download some trial software to see how it looks. I would check out ECS, CQC, and Homeseer. If nothing else, this will bring up additional ideas and questions that may help point you to a solution that is best for you.

Welcome to CocoonTech. I understand your situation having to comply with the builders specifications as I had similar problems with my home three years ago.

The builder ONLY wanted to do certain things with wiring and locations. I did wind up paying a lot of money for additional outlet locations and cat5 and video boxes around the house as well.

One item they were willing to negotiate on was the location of the structured wiring panel. I told them, what difference does it make where it is located in the house? They agreed and I had it installed in a large den closet. I then asked them to homerun all wiring back to it, including security wiring. They wound up homerunning the security to a "mudring" just above the panel, which was fine for me.

Sort of funny when they then asked, "Which security system would you like us to install for you?" and I said "NONE!". They were shocked but I told them that I didn't have any more money in options as they were charging so much for the additional wiring (they advertise the homes come "prewired" for security, so basically this was free).

I did get what I paid for as far as security wiring as there were four runs where the wires were either shorted or opened (wound up digging through drywall to repair, but that is another story).

Maybe negotiate these items with your builder. Tell them things like, why would it matter if we relocated the wiring to ... You can always ask.

As far as security, is it possible to "just" get the prewiring without having to install a security system? Maybe say you would rather get this down the road due to finances.

Reason I say this is Caddx is on its way out. Especially for the integration you seem to want to do with your security system. I mean, don't get me wrong, I put in a Caddx NX8e security system myself, but that was a while ago (back when the HomeSeer plugins for it ACTUALLY had support!).

Also, if a professional company installs the security system, they may not give you the administrative code (which in the Caddx NX8e's case, is needed to set up the on-board serial port so it can talk with your automation computer).

Just some thoughts, but as mentioned earlier, if you get your core wiring and home run location in order, future automation additions will be a lot easier.


upstatemike said:
I don't see any mention of a telephone system or wiring. A good telephone system might be a better choice than the Greyfox intercom ...

If possible, take the time to download some trial software to see how it looks. I would check out ECS, CQC, and Homeseer.
Thanks, I have updated the wiring configuration in the original post.

As for the intercom, that's my wife's request over a phone system. Although future access to HA via the phone system is a possibility. I'm not sure what other types of wiring I may want to run between the structured wiring box and the home theater.

I'll probably need to run audio cable from the HT to the structured wiring box in case I go with a hardware home automation solution and want to do anything over the home speakers. And if I have a software solution I'll hopefully be able to use one of the cat5e lines to patch into the security system.

I have downloaded a Homeseer and CQC and will check them out.

Thanks for the tips.
For CQC, go to the Learn tab of the web site, then the Quick Tutorial section. That will give you a good, hands on trip through the product. You can also look through the Using CQC section.
Welcome to Cocoontech.

Many home builders are now offering a basic security system as part of their home package. Generally the home builder will contract with a local security installation company who will install the basic security wiring for a set amount to the builder. The security company is counting on you to sign up for a monitoring contract for 2 to 3 years. This is a good deal for the NON DIYer who wants basic security. For the home automation DIYer it can be a bit limiting.

You would like to use the security systems motion detectors and door switches to control many aspects of the home automation system.

Make sure the security system wiring includes all outside doors, windows, motion detectors, glass break detectors, and keypads for a convenient and secure system. On a new home, do not use wireless on the security system except for panic buttons. A wired system is always better than wireless. On a pre-existing home wireless may be the only way to get a system installed.

Run CAT5 to as many places as possible.

Future Proof!!!!

Good luck on your new home.

Edited: After looking at your wish list again, you better look closely at the specifications on what you are getting and what you will need.
Yes, unfortunately in order to get the home pre-wired for security I must sign a contract and have a GE or HAI security system installed. They will not install the Elk systems.

How does the HAI Omni line compare with the Elk M1 feature wise and how does it compare cost wise?

If they do the same things for the same price I would consider it the HAI, especially if I will have compatability problems in the future.
Will you get the admin code with either system you go with? If not you may want to consider just getting the cheaper (Caddx), sign up for the minimum contract, then rip that system out and replace with an Elk after that time frame (all the sensors and wiring should be compatible).
This is probably a dumb question and may have asked it before, but I still don't understand how a homebuilder gets to dictate a security system (or anything else) in a home you are building. As the person spending the money don't you have the power to say "build it my way or I'll find another builder"?

I have never built a house and I admit I don't know anything about the building process but I always pictured it as drawing up some blueprints of exactly what I want and then having builders bid on the job. Why do they get a say in anything?

When a builder builds a tract home (i.e. a bunch of homes of say three model types in a community) they usually estimate how much it costs to build in advance by specifying a "cookie cutter" design for the various models. They are very afraid to "stray" from this design since they usually have all the subs lined up.

With that said, one could say that he doesn't want to put up with this and take his business elsewhere, but in many cases you would just go to another housing tract and have to deal with the same issues.

Some builders are more flexible than others of course, but basically this is what you run into. Another thing you run into is you can't "add" anything yourself. One of their sub-contractors must perform the work due mainly to liability issues.

Of course, if you are building your own home and hire your own general contractor (as in the case of my friend who I am helping right now) the sky is the limit because you are the boss. But, there are other complications if you want to go this route and it just isn't an option for many people.

That being said, negotiation (with a polite smile) is usually the key. Oh yea, there are the "midnight" wiring runs that hopefully will be overlooked on final inspection (did I just say that?), and the possible bribes with an on-site contractor, but again, YMMV :D !
Thanks BSR, I live out in the boonies where we don't have tract homes. I just assumed that tract homes were always pre-built (so no input from potential buyers) and that any house built by an individual was done through a GC. What a sheltered life I lead!
One suggestion on the wiring is to negotiate with the wiring contractor directly.

When I built my house, I saved a fortune by having them run speedwrap to everywhere I specified...but not do any terminations.

Result: I have homerun 18 drops in my house (2 cat5e/2coax; yep 36x36). Every bedroom got 2 drops (typically opposite corners); also 1 each in the Masterbath, the living room and the laundry room. There are 4 drops in the Family room/kitchen.

In addition, I even ran speedwrap to my exterior premise location.

I have done each termination along the way--it is actually pretty easy once you know what you are doing. The home location is all Panduit parts--very flexible and it allows me to easily setup up each drop location as a group on the rack.

Since I could not decide about whole house audio, I skipped drops to the various switch locations...though I still have not decided whether that was a good the end, I think I will be glad I did.

With devices like the Nokia 770 coming available, I am pretty sure I will end up with all inroom control through that kind of pad, or IR.
I ran into a similar situation with my builder. He wouldn't let me, or anyone else, run any wiring (supposedly because it would not pass inspection then, and of course, the builder and inspector are best buddies). Next time I build, I will make sure that things get done my way (I regret it already that I didn't push this issue more). If the builder doesn't want to hear about it, then fine, I'll walk away and find someone else, there is always someone out there who is willing to build what _you_ want.