New System for New House


I've been searching between here and the security forum for some answers:

We are building a new home, about 4000 sq ft and after having our rental townhome broken into while we were sleeping last week, the wife finally approved a new security and automation setup. Problem is, the house is nearly done, mid July delivery, so any new wiring will have to be fished at this point (I do have a chase from basement to attic to help a bit).

I messed with some X-10 in my last two homes and had an ocelot and homeseer for awhile. The reliability was a killer for me (For some reason it freaked the wife out for lights to come on at random) :lol:

I'm looking to do the following:

1. Secure the house. 3 exterior doors, 2 garage and either motion sensors or those "epoxy to the floor joist" sensors. (we have a 40 lb dog). Eventually another door in the basement. Also I need the stem to be able to hook up to central monitoring.

2. We are adding an inground pool with fiber lights and laminar fountains that I would like to control from inside, timer based as well as remote (web, pda or phone)

3. Have the system announce (not beep) when the doors are opened. Main concern is the back door to the pool.

4. Lighting control. Start with the exterior and entry way lights and build from there. Eventually I will add the home theater when we do the basement, but I would like to automate all the lights over time.

5. Control the system when I am away, or from remotes and pda's

6. Need to have an easy way to arm / disarm the security system (fob or keychain remote) as my 80+ year old parents are moving in and I don't need the fire truck there every day.

7. I have a Dell Poweredge 2800 Dual Xeon 3.0GHz Sever with (4) 73GB SCSI's in a RAID 5 running Sever 2003 (Overkill but I got it at a great price) to run all the software on and I will Network it with the ELK (co-located in the basement utility room)

I want to buy the ELK M1 Gold to start with (in fact I will buy it today). What I want to know is:

1. Would it be cheaper at this point to just use wirelss sensors and with this or play around trying to hardwire now (Interior walls would be easy, but exterior might be a hassle).

2. Could I use CAT5 for everythng if I wired the system?

3. I have used Homeseer and like it, but does it work with the ELK M1 and devices that are not X-10 (UPB, Insteon, Z-Wave)? Any better alternatives?

4. What seems to be the more reliable switch technology for use with the M1 (UPB, Insteon, Z-Wave)? Will M1 work with anything other than X-10? (need scene capability as well as relays for pool and ceiling fans and normal 2 way switches).

5. Can you run multiple speakers off the ELK? I would like one on the second floor and one in the basement.

6. What's the best way to control a garage door opener via this system? Haven't bought an opener yet, are there better ones to use for automation?

7. What about wirelss smoke detectors? Reliable? (We have a hardwired setup already)

8. Touch screens that will work with the M1?

9. Best Pet imune Motion detetor? Best Glass breakage detector?

10. Would like to do event based controls for interior rooms (i.e. open door and light or something turns on) using reed switches if I choose to hardwire (looking to use that so it will log the I can tell if contractor or others go snooping around the house). Anyone doing this?

Thanks for any help!!!!
hi jskibo, welcome to CocoonTech!

Those are some very good questions, I am sure you will find all the answers here.

1) Cheaper? probably not, and I still trust wired sensors much more than wireless sensors. I believe the Elk supports the GE wireless sensors if you are intersted.

2) Yes, but running cat5 might be a little overkill for a small magnetic reed switch, and might be hard to run to certain locations.

3) There is an Elk plugin for Homeseer, but I don't believe it allows you to use the Elk as the HA protocol interface. Check out this thread to see what other software packages are out there, and what protocols they support.

4) The Elk current supports X10, UPB, and the Z-wave interface is in beta now. They are also considering ZigBee and Insteon, depending if there is a demand for it I guess. Right now, I probably would go with UPB based on the many good experiences people have posted about. If you want Z-wave, you will have to wait another month or so until they come out with the interace.

5) Pretty sure you can, but I am sure someone else can confirm this.

6) I ran a wire from my SECU16 to the garage door opener button in the garage, works great. You should be able to use one of the Elk outputs to do this.

7) Haven't used those, maybe there is one which is compatible with the GE wireless stuff?

8) Elk has a touchscreen product in the pipeline, but I believe the MainLobby touch screen software supports the Elk1 as well.

9) I got my motion sensors and glass break detector from, not sure if they are the best, but haven't heard any complaints yet.

10) I use my wireless X10 door sensors to do this (DS10A). An example is my walk-in closet, whenever someone opens the door, it turns the light on to 50%, and turns it off when the door closes, or after 10 minutes if the door was never closed.
Can't add much to your questions - electron did a great job already. However, I will vouch for UPB - it is incredibly reliable - I have had no issues at all with them not working as expected. I use HVPro with UPB (not M1) and it works extremely well (and I assume the M1 UPB support is comparable).

Switches are very nice - and have a good feel to them. They have a little red/green LED above the switch that shows the state of the switch (plus makes it easy to find in the dark if needed). Switches support different functions for single tap, double tap, and holding (all three in both directions - up and down). However, the switches are intuitive to use (I didn't have to tell my mother-in-law anything about how to use them - they just worked as expected when needed).

The ONLY negative I have found with UPB is price. It's not cheap - current prices for switches are around $70-75 (a piece). Slave switches (for 3-ways) are cheaper, around $30.
Great, Thanks for the answers guys!

of note, sorry, I meant CAT5 for everything but those little in jam reed switches. 22-2 for there? right?

Any thoughts on this PLANAR 15" touchscreen? Planar

Looking for something to wall mount in the kitchen.
That's a nice touch screen, doesn't look like a bad price either (assuming it stays that way). Just make sure you keep in mind that you need to run this VGA signal to somewhere (assuming there isn't a computer located very nearby, since this can get expensive as well.

Well you got most of my order last night. Still on the fence as to which switches to use, Z-wave or UPB. Leaning to UPB right now. Just had enough of chasing the X-10 problems for the past 5 years.

Anyone have tips for chasing wire? Maybe some good sites to check out? I can get from basement to attic easy (put in a 2.5 inch PVC chase) but its getting the wire by the windows and doors as well as those motions on the outer walls that is going to be fun. The builder wouldn't pre-wire and wouldn't let me do it either. It was either buy his system or nothing.
jskibo ,
One comment on the 15" monitor. I tried one of these and found it wayyy too large. I would suggest something in the 8" - 10" range.

On the UPB vs Z-Wave question. If your choosing this to use with HS there isn't a UPB plugin for HS as of this writing. I believe they have scheduled the Insteon plugin first and then the UPB.
The builder wouldn't pre-wire and wouldn't let me do it either. It was either buy his system or nothing.
You really want to at least install the security wiring before the drywall goes in. I would negotiate this with the builder, maybe offer to have him install the pre-wiring and pay him just for that service. It would be a nightmare doing this after drywall goes in.

Also, don't forget to check out the wiring, hopefully again before drywall goes up. My builder included security wiring for free (and they were surprised when I said I didn't want any of their security systems installed), but I got what I paid for. A lot of wiring didn't go thru the door frames, some wiring had "opens" (pulled on it to much) while others were "shorted" (mashed it or to aggressive with the stapeler).

I had to cut through drywall to fix all of these problems and what a pain! Nothing like creating holes in drywall on a six month old home! Luckily I'm very good at drywall patching which resulted in a saved WAF! :lol:

Don't know your level of ringing out wiring, but feel free to look at my "How To Install A Security System" thread HERE.


Thanks Rupp. Well we bought the 15" for the WAF factor. She wants one near the kitchen to surf, etc. For me it doubles as a remote access to the Dell Poweredge 2800 in the basement.

For the UPB, isn't there a workaround using the ELK M1 since it supports it?
Sir Robin,

Well I'm beyond the negotiating stage now. We deliver in 3 weeks so it looks like holes and fishtape for me :lol:

Luckily the wife's onboard and she'll be busy painting
I'll vouch for UPB as well, but be sure to put in a phase coupler. At my house, the signal loss is a full 50% at the opposite phase with no coupler. This can become a problem if you have a device like a computer UPS which actively smoothes incoming noise. My SmartUPS 1400 agressively attenuates the 40V UPB signal to the point where it's too low to be reliable across phases without a coupler.

Also, if you're going to order a lot of switches, you should be able to pull pricing into the $50-55 area for the SAI stuff if you use a distributor instead of a retail outlet like Smarthome. I use HCA to control my hybrid environment and like it a lot. They also wrote UPStart, the configuration program for UPB installations which is distrubuted free from PCS and SAI. You'll especially like the built in diagnostics: right click on a UPB device and it will pull up a bar graph showing s/n at the PIM as well as at the device itself.
Also, don't know if you've done this already or not, but it is nice to pull a seperate 15A circuit directly from the box to the plug where your PIM is located. I know this sounds like overkill but I've found it solves a lot of reliability issues if you can do it. When I did the basement, I installed a sub panel and allocated a circuit for this purpose. My X10 reliability really improved as a result.
Regarding UPB without a phase coupler... I don't have a UPS in my setup (yet), and my signal strength on the other phase has been fine (in the 70s). I didn't realize a UPS would hurt UPB that much - good to know...
If I had to choose between UPB and ZWave, I would go for UPB for two reasons:

1) Configuration and control is more flexible with UPB. Where X10 has "scenes", ZWave has "groups" and UPB has "links". Links are much more capable than groups.

2) Diagnostic tools are quite good for UPB, and non-existent for ZWave. With ZWave, there isn't even a way to see the routing table.

Long term, I think wireless will win out over the powerline. But I don't think ZWave has what it takes to win. At least not yet. I wouldn't rule out version 3 of ZWave adding more capability, but it would be at the expense of compatibility with the current products.