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New Home Construction Project

ph0n33z

Active Member
Alright,

We are currently building a custom home in southern california. The foundation is poured, and the framing is going up in a little over one week. I have been doing a ton of research on all of the different options I have...(control4,CQC,cortexa,homeseer,pluto,etc...) I was very intrigued by CQC and the customization it has. However, I still had some worries about using it for my project.

Here is what I want, and plan on, doing:

All-in-one Control:
I want to be able to control/access my lighting/hvac/security/whole house audio from ONE interface. I am trying to avoid using multiple systems to control the automation/audio.

I want to use a touchscreens to control the main automation system.

Things to Control:

Lighting:
I want to control all of the lighting in the house. Both indoors and outdoors. I have not decided on a protocol, but I am leaning towards either zwave or insteon. I also want the lighting to be event based/scheduled. Such as turning on the bathroom lights at 20% if someone gets up at night, etc..

HVAC:
I want to be able to have this as automated as possible. The less I have to worry about the temperature in the different rooms, the better. The system should monitor itself, and each room, to make sure they are always at the desired temperature and adjusted automatically. However, I also want to be able to change them on-the-fly depending on our preferences.

Security:
I have not picked a security system as of yet. So anything is possible I suppose. We want to have a full blown security system, such as window/door monitoring, motion sensors, video surveillance, etc. However, I have read several people speak about how they prefer their security system to not be controlled by their HA system. I can see why this would be, but I am not sure of how it would be implemented. I would like to be able to control the arming/disarming of the system using the touchscreens, but not have the security depend on the status of the HA.

Whole House Audio:
We have not figured out how many rooms we are going to want to have audio, but at least 6. I have heard really good things about the Russound CAV6.6 system. I want to be able to control the volume, songs for each room individually. Would having a tablet-pc based inwall touchscreen for each room be good? Or would something like the RAD-I/O be more efficient? I want to be able to go through all of our music which would be stored on a HDD. I would like to see the cover art of each CD/artist in each zone of the house as it is selected. Also, a big part of this is being able to use a subscription-based service such as Rhapsody, Yahoo, Napster, etc. I do not know if it is possible, but if I would be able to access there servers to pick music on the fly, and then have it sent to the zone that selected it.

Video Distribution:
Video only needs to be available to 3 rooms in the house. The Theater, Family Room, and Kitchen. However, only the Theater and family room NEED HD signals. I am going to be using DISH satellite to receieve all of my HD programming. I have not upgraded to HD yet, so I can use any means of getting to this. Also, I was thinking of using an OTA HD antenna for the local HD broadcasts instead of DISH. I want to be able to use a PVR/DVR system for all of the tvs. Whether this is through DISH recievers, or a HTPC is not yet decided.

Also, I want to be able to access my entire DVD collection from the family room and home theater. They would be stored on a server (NAS, htpc, etc.). I would then want to be able to go through the entire collection on the tv's. Being able to select each movie by coverart and additional information (dvd profile style) is wanted. Also, I would like to be able to watch two separate dvds in two different rooms from the same system at the same time.

Home Theater:
This is probably one of the most important areas of the house to me. I want to be able to have the entire room automated, and be controlled from a single tablet-pc/touchscreen. I would like to have pre-scheduled events such as: Watch DVD - Projector turns on, equipment sets the right inputs, lights dim, curtains pull apart, dvd library appears for selection. I also want to be able to access the music server/library on the remote. Basically, I want the everything in the room to be "noob" proof, so that anyone can watch a movie/tv/play a game.

Also, I want the video system to be driven by a HTPC. Preferrably using TheaterTek/Zoomplayer with ffdshow as the dvd player. Not sure about the audio side of things, although I know that some motherboards are coming out with DTS HD, and True HD sound chips.

Possible Integration:

Now, I am not sure this is even possible, but here goes. I would also like for the system to be controlled through HAL. I would not want HAL to actually create the scheduled events or automate on its own. Rather, I just want to use its Voice Interface(not sure what it is called) in order to control the CQC system. Such as saying "Alfred(what I would call it hehe), Its Bed time." HAl would then send a command to CQC telling it to run the "bed time" event, which would turn off my bedroom light, turn on the fan, turn off any music playing in that zone, and turn on the air purifier.
I do not know if CQC can handle this, but I am so giddy about the idea of being able to "talk" to the house, and have its functions carried out.

What systems would you guys recommend that are capable of this? Homeseer, Cortexa, CQC???



PHEW!!! That was a lot to write. I hope I did not miss anything, but I probably did. I know it is a lot to read, but if any of you guys could give me some tips/help.

Thanks again in advance. Sorry for the long post!
 

tech-home

Active Member
The great thing about CQC is if it can't do something Dean will try to make it happen. It also has some of the greatest support. I'll let Dean answer all your questions though, as he is the expert.
 

Steve

Senior Member
Well, you have many options. From your questions in the chat last night it seems you want something DIY friendly and control over your TS interfaces. You absolutely want a non pc controller for its reliabily. Typically that was the area of the HAI Omni, Elk M1, and JDS Stargate. Now you can throw in the Cortexa 7201, Homeseer PRO and the CQC controller (coming soon). There are others but I'm assuming lower cost DIY friendly. Between the Omni, M1 and Stargate, while they are all good, the popular one at the moment and the one I chose with no regrets is the Elk M1. It is affordable (only $600 retail), reliable and feature rich. They have great support and adding new stuff all the time. It is a security system first, formed by Wade Moose (Moose Security), a well respected security company. If you don't want integrated security you should consider the HS Pro, CQC or Cortexa. Cortexa looked very promising but IMHO is a bit immature and does not give complete flexibily of interfaces which was important. The core unit is also 3 times the price of the M1 without security.

I don't think it is possible to do everything you want with one vendor or system, although the HAI Omni comes close. The Cortexa is also an option but would have to add security. Caddx would be the most likely option but if you search around you will find it can be kind of a pain to program. So, I will just tell you what I did and why and you can ask more questions and form your own opinion.

I actually started by wanting to replace an old AT&T alarm system, so security was actually the driver for me. My only choice was HAI, Elk and Stargate. I chose the Elk based on price vs function ratio and recommendations. I liked the idea of having critical HA functions on a highly reliable security platform rather than a pc. So, I run my security and all core HA functions on the M1. It will handle security, lighting, HVAC and anything relay driven out of the box (with serial expanders). It does have limitations such as no IR, Video, TTS (has its own voice and vocabulary). Some of these things may be added in the future. They also have their own touchscreens coming out very soon. I have no problem with my highly reliable security system also doing HA. I would be less comfortable with my HA system doing security.

So, I also wanted a touchscreen with my own interfaces. I also wanted something that could handle other functions not supported in the M1. That pretty much left me MainLobby and CQC. MainLobby is a beautiful system and can create really slick interfaces. It does have some HA capability but it is mainly for interfaces. CQC on the other hand also allows you to create nice interfaces but also is more of a complete system for home theaters and HA. It is also very stable and network distributable. I have been evaluating CQC and am strongly leaning in that direction.

With the M1 and CQC I will have all my core stuff in the solid state M1 and use CQC for building the interface with a strong M1 integration (driver). CQC is also there for me to do other things likes IR, TTS, theater control and now even RAD-IO support. As Brian says, Dean has been awesome at support and adding requested features.

As for VR, only HAL and HS have that now and HAL is best at it. I don't think you can use HAL to talk to CQC (kind of redundant anyway). You can use HAL to talk to the M1 but then you don't have interface control. I think (Dean can confirm) CQC will add VR somewhere down the road. I tested HAL and it was nice, but VR is difficult to make work right. I have it as a 'nice to have' but not critical at all. And then there is audio and several ways to handle that.

There are also other nice tools such as Girder/Netremote and they will be releasing an Elk driver soon. Electron can give you more detail on that.

So you have many options and choices. I think its going to be the M1 and CQC for me for a long time. You can see a sample of my initial CQC interface here. Hope this helps a little and didn't confuse you more. Remember, everyone has their own opinion, so just soak up as much info as you can and make your own decision.

Edit: I guess I never said that with CQC you should be able to create interfaces that pretty much run on anything (Windows or CE for PDAs or pads) and control anything that the M1 or CQC supports. Now you can even use RAD-IO and access Russound as well as anything else on those pads.
 

DavidL

Senior Member
You can do everything you are asking with MainLobby suite and an ELK Security panel. See details within your requests:

"All-in-one Control:
I want to be able to control/access my lighting/hvac/security/whole house audio from ONE interface. I am trying to avoid using multiple systems to control the automation/audio."

With MainLobby you can easily create a user interface navigation that addresses all your listed needs.

"I want to use a touchscreens to control the main automation system."

This is where MainLobby is the best product available on the market, bar none.

"Things to Control:

Lighting:
I want to control all of the lighting in the house. Both indoors and outdoors. I have not decided on a protocol, but I am leaning towards either zwave or insteon. I also want the lighting to be event based/scheduled. Such as turning on the bathroom lights at 20% if someone gets up at night, etc.."

There are both Zwave and Insteon plugins well on their way to being developed. Insteon is in Beta and Zwave is 1/2 way done. By the time you are close to needing either, they both will be done, tested and available.

"HVAC:
I want to be able to have this as automated as possible. The less I have to worry about the temperature in the different rooms, the better. The system should monitor itself, and each room, to make sure they are always at the desired temperature and adjusted automatically. However, I also want to be able to change them on-the-fly depending on our preferences."

I suggest RCS RS485 thermostats connected to the ELK security panel controllable via the MainLobby MLServer ELK plugin. This is the most full featured ELK plugin available.

"Security:
I have not picked a security system as of yet. So anything is possible I suppose. We want to have a full blown security system, such as window/door monitoring, motion sensors, video surveillance, etc. However, I have read several people speak about how they prefer their security system to not be controlled by their HA system. I can see why this would be, but I am not sure of how it would be implemented. I would like to be able to control the arming/disarming of the system using the touchscreens, but not have the security depend on the status of the HA."

This is why the combo of MainLobby / ELK Plugin / ELK security panel is key.

"Whole House Audio:
We have not figured out how many rooms we are going to want to have audio, but at least 6. I have heard really good things about the Russound CAV6.6 system. I want to be able to control the volume, songs for each room individually. Would having a tablet-pc based inwall touchscreen for each room be good? Or would something like the RAD-I/O be more efficient? I want to be able to go through all of our music which would be stored on a HDD. I would like to see the cover art of each CD/artist in each zone of the house as it is selected. Also, a big part of this is being able to use a subscription-based service such as Rhapsody, Yahoo, Napster, etc. I do not know if it is possible, but if I would be able to access there servers to pick music on the fly, and then have it sent to the zone that selected it."

MainLobby offers the best CAV6.6 plugin available. Also MusicLobby is the best looking music interface on the market. And, MusicLobby2 will be in beta this week that offers tremendous zone capability (details soon). Cinemar is also working closely with Rad I/O and is a preferred software vendor (see their website).
MusicLobby offers coverart, and streaming internet radio. The CDRipper addon allows easy adding music to your library including coverart lookup.

"Video Distribution:
Video only needs to be available to 3 rooms in the house. The Theater, Family Room, and Kitchen. However, only the Theater and family room NEED HD signals. I am going to be using DISH satellite to receieve all of my HD programming. I have not upgraded to HD yet, so I can use any means of getting to this. Also, I was thinking of using an OTA HD antenna for the local HD broadcasts instead of DISH. I want to be able to use a PVR/DVR system for all of the tvs. Whether this is through DISH recievers, or a HTPC is not yet decided."

MainLobby support NeoThings AV switching systems (and many other) that allow extremely versatile video and audio setups. Unlimited potential.

"Also, I want to be able to access my entire DVD collection from the family room and home theater. They would be stored on a server (NAS, htpc, etc.). I would then want to be able to go through the entire collection on the tv's. Being able to select each movie by coverart and additional information (dvd profile style) is wanted. Also, I would like to be able to watch two separate dvds in two different rooms from the same system at the same time."

This would be the MainLobby / DVDLobby interface. This is exactly what it does.

"Home Theater:
This is probably one of the most important areas of the house to me. I want to be able to have the entire room automated, and be controlled from a single tablet-pc/touchscreen. I would like to have pre-scheduled events such as: Watch DVD - Projector turns on, equipment sets the right inputs, lights dim, curtains pull apart, dvd library appears for selection. I also want to be able to access the music server/library on the remote. Basically, I want the everything in the room to be "noob" proof, so that anyone can watch a movie/tv/play a game."

There is no better media control system for both functionality and user presentation and configurability for your individual setup than MainLobby suite.

"Also, I want the video system to be driven by a HTPC. Preferrably using TheaterTek/Zoomplayer with ffdshow as the dvd player. Not sure about the audio side of things, although I know that some motherboards are coming out with DTS HD, and True HD sound chips."

MainLobby directly supports both TT and Zoom. Very tight integration with both.

"Possible Integration:

Now, I am not sure this is even possible, but here goes. I would also like for the system to be controlled through HAL. I would not want HAL to actually create the scheduled events or automate on its own. Rather, I just want to use its Voice Interface(not sure what it is called) in order to control the CQC system. Such as saying "Alfred(what I would call it hehe), Its Bed time." HAl would then send a command to CQC telling it to run the "bed time" event, which would turn off my bedroom light, turn on the fan, turn off any music playing in that zone, and turn on the air purifier.
I do not know if CQC can handle this, but I am so giddy about the idea of being able to "talk" to the house, and have its functions carried out."

There is a HAL plugin for MainLobby. I don't believe there is a plugin for any of the other systems you are talking of here. It is available via the HAL forum and has a great HAL user community following. Look for posts by "Halman" who is very active with it.

There is also a very robust plugin for Homeseer called MLHSPlugin which is Homeseer's most popular plugin (using MainLobby as the user interface for Homeseer). Homeseer also supports Voice to Text and Text to Voice.

There is also a MainLobby plugin in beta called MLSpeak which also is a text to voice capability.


Sounds like a no brainer now - doesn't it? :D
www.cinemaronline.com

Good luck with your project!!
 

Spanky

Senior Member
The new Elk Touchscreen can operate in the Remote Display Mode which acts like a remote terminal to a PC or server running any of the PC based home automation software.
 

Steve

Senior Member
IVB said:
Working now. Are you doing anything with the sprinkler system & CQC or Elk?
The sprinklers are controlled by the Elk. Cat5 goes from the Elk (Relay Board - M1RB) to the sprinkler valves. They are activated by Outputs on the M1 turning On/Off. Currently CQC toggles the individual outputs on/off as well as toggles global outputs that are use for temporary override and All Off, etc.
 

BraveSirRobbin

Moderator
ph0n33z;

We get many posts such as this where advice is needed for a "total" system. The one critical element that you need to specify is how much you would like to spend (a rough estimate) for each of those sub-systems.

For instance, I can tell you that a "total system" such as Digital Media Reasearch and Control 4 will cover most of what you want and is a "canned" system that integrates well with all of its individual components. But its cost may be prohibitive. (See the REVIEWS forum for the latest CES update on these systems).

Other options such as the Elk/Homeseer/Main Lobby may also work for you with minimal programming; or use CQC or NetRemote/Girder which may require more "integration" time, but may have a reduced overall cost (just giving a rough example here). How much "tinkering" are you willing to do? Are you willing to go through a learning process at the risk of not having your system work the first time you throw a switch (read WAF)?

ALL of these suggestions have pros and cons as you are starting to see. But, you could narrow down some of these options quickly by looking at your system budget.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
ph0n33z said:
Also, I want to be able to access my entire DVD collection from the family room and home theater. They would be stored on a server (NAS, htpc, etc.). I would then want to be able to go through the entire collection on the tv's. Being able to select each movie by coverart and additional information (dvd profile style) is wanted. Also, I would like to be able to watch two separate dvds in two different rooms from the same system at the same time.
I have also been thinking about doing something like this but I have to wonder if it is really practical in the long run. Just working throught the numbers, I have about 700 DVDs so the first question is, assuming growth of 20% per year, how much storage space would be required?

Next question is how much time does it take to rip everything to a hard drive?

Finally, how do you back up the video library? (I know you would still have the original DVDs but you wouldn't want to manually rip them all again if your HD failed so you still need a tape backup or something).

I'd be interested in hearing the steps you follow for planning this part of your project.
 

mcascio

Active Member
upstatemike,

There's a 6 page thread on this topic over on the Cinemar forum you might want to read through - what a battle. :D
http://www.htpcservers.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=5718

My personal take is that from a business standpoint, it's illegal currently to rip movies. So that takes it out of the equation from a sales perspective as a viable solution for our dealers and customers from a commercial product standpoint. We could make the ripping process extremely painless from the end user perspective and have done so but can't release the software because of illegal issues. (Kaleidescape easy is what I'm talking about).

Given this, my take is you can accomplish with minimal effort a distributed whole house video system using a Sony CX777ES changer and a matrix switcher. Use cat5/component baluns for highquality video in each room. While you wouldn't be able to watch multiple movies from the exact same changer, you could watch two movies at a time from two changers. While it would be great to have any movie, any room, anytime, the chances of two people watching two different movies at the same time are pretty slim in our household and most likely in most.

If children are involved, I'd recommend a Changer devoted to them. Since Barney is probably played over and over and there could be some overlap. Then again, these children dvds are most likely watched during the day and I'd gather that most will watch movies closer to the evening.

Take this info for what it's worth. Just providing alternatives. The thread I mentioned goes back and forth and in the end the choice is yours.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
That is an interesting thread on Cinemar and it generates a couple of additional questions:

1- How many Sony CX777ES changers can you link together? Is it only limited by the video matrix/distribution system you are using?

2- What about Bluray? Should I wait for the next generation of CX777ES or whatever will support Bluray?

3- What about 2-sided discs? The CX777ES does not play 2-sided and the DVP-CX875P does not have a serial port. So how are 2-sided discs handled in changer based systems?

I am anxious to see what ph0n33z decides to do in his project.
 

IVB

Senior Member
If you want, I documented my path in my personal website linked below.

I've ripped everything to HD [100 DVDs so far]. That said, if I had 700 and were planning on adding 50-100/year, I'd definitely go down the DVD Changer route. It's just too much HD space, and the heat issues are too much of a PITA.

Just rip the 2-sided disks to the HD and leave the 1-sided ones in the changer. There's no law that says you have to do only changer or only HD.
 

ph0n33z

Active Member
Thanks so much for the replies! It is so helpful to have expert opinions on these topics.

Firstly, the budget. We were hoping to spend around $8000 for all of the stuff. This doesnot include the home theater equipment, any tvs, etc. It does include the m1, htpc, servers, etc.... This budget is flexible, but it is all going to be determined by the cost of the pre-wire install..... :D :(

Secondly, I am torn between Mainlobby and CQC. I love the flexibilty and AMAZING community base for CQC, but I also love the look and "retail" aspect of Mainlobby.
Does anyone have a comparison between the two? What one does better than the other, etc.??

Right now I am trying to nail down the pre-wire. Steve2 is being my go-to man for all of this. He is such a blessing!

THanks again guys!
 
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