• You've been granted Beta access to this site, allowing you to explore some of the new features while they're still under construction. More information can be found in the Beta forum.

New to Home Automation and looking for advice on EVERYTHING :)

jviola86

New Member
Hello fellow Cocooners!

I am in contract to buy a home and I will be closing sometime in August and will be renovating some rooms as soon as I move in. It is a one floor ranch with attic access (for running wires without breaking walls) and a full finished basement. It is approximately 1,300 sq ft. WIthin the first 2-3 years of being there I plan on adding a second floor which will make the home 2,600 sq ft. So priority #1 to this Home Automation System will be ease of expandability. Also, to keep in mind I will have some walls opened up during the renovations so running wires won't be a problem - if necessary.

A little about myself: I worked in construction for 7+ years so I definitely know my way around carpentry, electrical, etc. I am quite computer-savvy and additionally my brother-in-law is a Computer Software Developer/Programmer for a huge bank in NYC. So I have plenty of technical skills accessible to me - if necessary.

What I am dreaming for my Home Automation system:

1- Everything to be controlled from ONE device (touchscreen, iPad, internet, etc.) I don't want to have one automation for lighting, another for security, another for thermostats, etc. I want everything to be integrated in to one system.

2- I want to be able to control everything from my iPhone, iPad, and I definitely want at least one TouchScreen to be mounted in the home somewhere. A big thing for me is "looking good" I have seen some great systems with HORRIBLE or OUTDATED interfaces and it turned me off from them 100%.

3- Security/Alarm. The home currently does not have an alarm system. I am not sure if wired or wireless is best to install. Keeping in mind I will probably want a hybrid panel at minimum considering when I add the 2nd floor down the road I won't be able to easily bring wires back down to the panel - so maybe wireless is better for this application. Additionally in doing research there are a few security panels that have automation built in (Omin & Elk) - should I go with something like that or am I better off just connecting the alarm to the automation system via serial cable or something like that? Which integrates seamlessly/best?

4- Whole Home Audio. I want to be able to play music in multiple rooms from multiple sources. I'm thinking of 4-6 zones of audio (bedroom, kitchen, backyard, etc.) I would want to play AM/FM/XM, Internet Radio (Pandora), iTunes media library and/or I would want an iPod Dock in the home somewhere to drop my iPhone/iPod in to and start playing music from that device. I would also want some in wall controllers to be able to select source, adjust volume and pause/rewind, etc. from whatever room I'm in at the time. [I've done some research and am looking in to a Russound Package... any thoughts?]

5- Lighting Control. I want to be able to control dimmers and switches throughout the home. I initially want to start with just the kitchen/living/bedroom and eventually continue to add switches that will take over the basement/laundry/backyard/etc. [I've been looking in to Z Wave switches that simply replace your existing dimmer in the box and connect via Z wave to the Home Automation System. Is this the best alternative or is there a better system? Keeping in mind that I'll be doing all of this work over the course of time. In other words one switch/room at a time over the course of a year...)]

6- Thermostat Control. I currently have Central Air Conditioner on the first floor (1 zone) and I also have baseboard heating on both the first floor and in basement (2 zones) I was looking in to a z wave thermostat that just replaces the existing ones on the wall. Is that a good option? Which is the best?

7- Home Theater System. I want to be able to sit down on my couch push a button and have the TV, Surround Sound, Cable Box all turn on and be able to change the channels, volume, etc. all from that one remote. If I could actually program it to push a button and do all of those things and lower the lights, arm the alarm and adjust the thermostat all in one button that would be ideal. I was looking in to an IR system that would turn on the components individually. Is this a good system? I want things to be instant and I know with IRs and multiple pieces of AV equipment there will be some lag to it. Any suggestions for making this instant? Also, in my home theater I'll probably have a DVD player, Apple TV, possibly a gaming system (Wii or other) and then obviously the cable box, TV, surround sound system - oh and the TiVo as well! Again - all would need to be controlled via IR? My TV viewing revolves solely around TiVo so if I can get something that integrates nicely with that - that would be perfect.

8- Garage Door Access. I want to be able to monitor the door - in case someone leaves it open I want to set a program that says if it's open for more then 10 minutes shut the door. Or just be able to open/close it as part of a scene. For example - Wake Up. Every morning at 7:00am lights will go on - tv will tune to the news/traffic - local music will play in the kitchen and then at 7:30 the garage will open up. Something like that?

9- Cameras. As part of my security system (and I probably should've mentioned this earlier - sorry!) I want to have a couple of cameras to be able to monitor the perimeter of my house. That way from work I can go on my iPhone or online and see whats happening at my house. Additionally if we hear something at night I can go to the touchscreen in the home, pull up the cameras and see whats going on outside while still safely in my armed home. Finally, if these cameras could be hooked up to a DVR that records 24/7 so if my car is stolen or my home is broken in to while I'm away I would have a video feed to give to police... something like that?

10- Irrigation Control. I would like to be able to control the sprinklers based on a standard schedule - but additionally put a condition in there that if it has rained heavily the past week, skip two days of watering and resume normal scheduling on the third day. Something like that?

11- Door Locks. I have two doors (front/rear) and I want to have keypad door locks (scalage, yale, kwikset, something like that?) that way I can monitor to make sure the doors are locked from work and additionally if a repair man or contractor needs access while i'm at work I can go on my phone/computer from work and unlock and disarm the alarm for them.

12- which brings up a good point - Remote Access Alarm - I will want to be able to monitor and access my alarm system from outside the home so I can disarm and let people in to my home while at work without having to give them my password. Additionally, if the alarm is tripped I can access it from my phone and see where the zone default is? Essentially being my own monitoring station? Also, what are your thoughts on that? Is it worth paying a monthly fee to have a monitoring service, or just be your own monitoring service?

13 - Pool Pump. I will be installing a pool and will want to control the filter/pump so I can set it up on a schedule and be able to dial in and override it on a specific day to keep it on longer if it is extra hot out, or something like that? Additionally I may put a heater in and would want to adjust the thermostat based on the weather, etc.

14 - Voice Integration. I see there are a couple of systems that allow voice recognition to be in the home. "Computer, please turn on kitchen lights to 50%" or something like that? This is not a "must-have" for me but it would certainly be pretty cool! Or something that runs a wake up scene and then announces through the speakers "Good Morning Joe, the weather is rainy today - take your umbrella and don't forget your 2:00pm lunch date at the Diner." ?

15 - Christmas Lights. Obviously this would only be seasonal, but I have several outlets outside that I would end up replacing with z waves or something like that so I can control the Christmas lights from inside and set up an event so they run on a schedule during the season. Again, not a must-have but I don't see this being a problem. The only potential issue I could see is them being water-proof? but as long as they're inside a weatherproof box that should be fine. What about range? All of the outlets are affixed to the building so they still should get good zwave/wifi range? right?

16- Finally, I see that HomeSeer has a telephone integration so caller ID and other phone information can be displayed on the touch screens in the house and/or announced over the in-home audio system speakers. Not a "must-have" for me - but something like that would be pretty cool to potentially integrate.


As you can tell my biggest thing is "showing off my cool home." LOL I want to have a high-tech home and so the more gadgets and stuff I can get in to this system the happier I'll be :) I understand that things take time and money so I'm not saying that I am going to do 100% of this list as soon as I move in - but I want the capabilities there. The alarm system with remote access is absolutely a must-have for me. Everything else that integrates in to this will just be an added bonus.

So, I've been researching for a couple of months now and this is what I've come up with. Initially I figured I would have to have this done by a professional and I was looking in to Control4, Elan G!, Crestron, HAI, etc. The problem with all of them is that they charge you lots of money and you are restricted in what you can do with the system once they install it. My biggest problem with most of these big names is that once they finish their install - you (the user) cannot adjust anything. In other words if HAI installs a system and I tell them to make an event for a "wake up" scene every morning at 7:00am that turns on the lights and radio .... what happens if I'm not going to work on a Tuesday morning, or if I need to get up earlier on a Thursday for a meeting that day... am I supposed to call them in for a service call to change my alarm clock for me?? That seems crazy! LOL I do see that some of these big names have "Home User Software" that has limited functionality to it, but allows you to do some tweaking to the system - and that is all well and good but I can't get a straight answer from anyone if I'd be able to do something as I just described. So after playing that scenario in my head I moved on to the DIY side of doing things...

So, I started researching DIY Home Automation and came across HomeSeer, Elve, CQC, InControl, mControl, etc. I actually bought some HomeSeer stuff this week to try it out and it should arrive tomorrow (I downloaded the free software online for 30 days, and I bought a z wave dimmer, IR system, z wave motion sensor and a HomeTroller S4 ($1200!?!?!) I have 30 days to return anything as long as its in good condition, so I really just want to install everything and mess around with it for a week or so to see if I like it. As of Monday when I ordered it I felt pretty set on sticking with HomeSeer as my future system, but after reading more in to it and actually messing around with the software I fear that my number one priority (cool looking interface) is going to be difficult to achieve. I know they sell the HSTouch which you can make your own - but that seems like that could take DAYS to customize the whole user interface! Additionally the look and feel of the internet explorer based programming is out dated and makes me wonder if I'm making the right choice with them?

So tonight I researched some more and ended up downloading Elve and after messing around with that for just a few minutes I see that is much more intuitive and easier to use (I think) then the HomeSeer software was. So, now I am ultimately confused! Which way do I go? Big name people like Control4 and get a Home Software Editor where I can change some things after they finish their installation or do I go full DIY and use HomeSeer or something similar?

I know this was a LONG drawn out post, but I would sincerely appreciate any help that any of you can give me. I've been researching for a few months and I am just LOST in all the possibilities.

Thank you so much!
Sincerely,
Joe V :)
 

znelbok

Active Member
Hello fellow Cocooners!

I am in contract to buy a home and I will be closing sometime in August and will be renovating some rooms as soon as I move in. It is a one floor ranch with attic access (for running wires without breaking walls) and a full finished basement. It is approximately 1,300 sq ft. WIthin the first 2-3 years of being there I plan on adding a second floor which will make the home 2,600 sq ft. So priority #1 to this Home Automation System will be ease of expandability. Also, to keep in mind I will have some walls opened up during the renovations so running wires won't be a problem - if necessary.

A little about myself: I worked in construction for 7+ years so I definitely know my way around carpentry, electrical, etc. I am quite computer-savvy and additionally my brother-in-law is a Computer Software Developer/Programmer for a huge bank in NYC. So I have plenty of technical skills accessible to me - if necessary.

What I am dreaming for my Home Automation system:

1- Everything to be controlled from ONE device (touchscreen, iPad, internet, etc.) I don't want to have one automation for lighting, another for security, another for thermostats, etc. I want everything to be integrated in to one system.

2- I want to be able to control everything from my iPhone, iPad, and I definitely want at least one TouchScreen to be mounted in the home somewhere. A big thing for me is "looking good" I have seen some great systems with HORRIBLE or OUTDATED interfaces and it turned me off from them 100%.

Very possible - I do it with my house and is one of the top criteria. I have a single interface that is displayed on a touchscreen. Ihave access to lights, A/C, Alarm, cameras, door, ..... - everything.

THe iPad is also a portable interface and the iPhone is used as a remote interface when away from home.

3- Security/Alarm. The home currently does not have an alarm system. I am not sure if wired or wireless is best to install. Keeping in mind I will probably want a hybrid panel at minimum considering when I add the 2nd floor down the road I won't be able to easily bring wires back down to the panel - so maybe wireless is better for this application. Additionally in doing research there are a few security panels that have automation built in (Omin & Elk) - should I go with something like that or am I better off just connecting the alarm to the automation system via serial cable or something like that? Which integrates seamlessly/best?

Dont get too stuck on the automation part of the elk as there are better options out there but having it does make it a desirable panel. THe HAI is also another great contenter.

4- Whole Home Audio. I want to be able to play music in multiple rooms from multiple sources. I'm thinking of 4-6 zones of audio (bedroom, kitchen, backyard, etc.) I would want to play AM/FM/XM, Internet Radio (Pandora), iTunes media library and/or I would want an iPod Dock in the home somewhere to drop my iPhone/iPod in to and start playing music from that device. I would also want some in wall controllers to be able to select source, adjust volume and pause/rewind, etc. from whatever room I'm in at the time. [I've done some research and am looking in to a Russound Package... any thoughts?]

As long as there is a RS232 port. Lots of options here from Sonos, Squeezebox, ADA. What really matters is that the HA software you go for inthe end needs to be able to suppor the system you choose.

5- Lighting Control. I want to be able to control dimmers and switches throughout the home. I initially want to start with just the kitchen/living/bedroom and eventually continue to add switches that will take over the basement/laundry/backyard/etc. [I've been looking in to Z Wave switches that simply replace your existing dimmer in the box and connect via Z wave to the Home Automation System. Is this the best alternative or is there a better system? Keeping in mind that I'll be doing all of this work over the course of time. In other words one switch/room at a time over the course of a year...)]

I built my house with C-Bus which you guys can get from Square-D. I have 4 light switches installed with all the wiring in place for 20 more switches. All cabling for C-Bus is a special Cat5 cable (sheath rated for higher voltages soas tocomply with regulations). What I am trying to get at here is that you need to design the ssystem for the end result and then install the backbone required and scale it back accordingly. Start with the grand design and not the small scaled down version. Again, lighting system is the same as the audio, make sure it is supported by the system you are going to use.

6- Thermostat Control. I currently have Central Air Conditioner on the first floor (1 zone) and I also have baseboard heating on both the first floor and in basement (2 zones) I was looking in to a z wave thermostat that just replaces the existing ones on the wall. Is that a good option? Which is the best?

No comment as I am not in the US and don't know the locla offerings. Aus is very different wrt HVAC. Split systems are difficult, House house systems can be a little easier but they are still hard to accomodate. Research again is needed.

7- Home Theater System. I want to be able to sit down on my couch push a button and have the TV, Surround Sound, Cable Box all turn on and be able to change the channels, volume, etc. all from that one remote. If I could actually program it to push a button and do all of those things and lower the lights, arm the alarm and adjust the thermostat all in one button that would be ideal. I was looking in to an IR system that would turn on the components individually. Is this a good system? I want things to be instant and I know with IRs and multiple pieces of AV equipment there will be some lag to it. Any suggestions for making this instant? Also, in my home theater I'll probably have a DVD player, Apple TV, possibly a gaming system (Wii or other) and then obviously the cable box, TV, surround sound system - oh and the TiVo as well! Again - all would need to be controlled via IR? My TV viewing revolves solely around TiVo so if I can get something that integrates nicely with that - that would be perfect.

Again possible. HA receivers are inclduing ethernet and RS232 ports a lot now. Media centers (my preference is xbmc) also include an API for control. You may have to go a mix of IR and wired. The iPad sould give you the one clicks start up (I have that in my theatre). movies can be selected from the iPad by the cover art and then everything starts. Nothing is instant these days, but it will be very quick.
 

znelbok

Active Member
8- Garage Door Access. I want to be able to monitor the door - in case someone leaves it open I want to set a program that says if it's open for more then 10 minutes shut the door. Or just be able to open/close it as part of a scene. For example - Wake Up. Every morning at 7:00am lights will go on - tv will tune to the news/traffic - local music will play in the kitchen and then at 7:30 the garage will open up. Something like that?

The alarm panel can handle this along with the HA system (again I do this in my place.)
Go to bed and press a button on the bedside remote. If the garage doors are open then they are closed. The lights are turned off slowly, the TV is turned down, changed to the morning show and then turned off. If the door is still open at 9:30 at night then it announces a audible warning that it will close in one minute and then proceeds to close it unless told not to.

9- Cameras. As part of my security system (and I probably should've mentioned this earlier - sorry!) I want to have a couple of cameras to be able to monitor the perimeter of my house. That way from work I can go on my iPhone or online and see whats happening at my house. Additionally if we hear something at night I can go to the touchscreen in the home, pull up the cameras and see whats going on outside while still safely in my armed home. Finally, if these cameras could be hooked up to a DVR that records 24/7 so if my car is stolen or my home is broken in to while I'm away I would have a video feed to give to police... something like that?

you can go further than this as well. My camera is integrated into the HA system and I can trigger events based on it detecting motion. e.g. If the TV is on, the system will open the picture in picture and show the camera image in the bottom left. after a minute the PIP is turned off.

10- Irrigation Control. I would like to be able to control the sprinklers based on a standard schedule - but additionally put a condition in there that if it has rained heavily the past week, skip two days of watering and resume normal scheduling on the third day. Something like that?

Yep, can be done and is already being done. Just need a system that will integrate. A lot of people use a rain8, bt I prefere the ClickPLC as it is more flexible and better hardware.

11- Door Locks. I have two doors (front/rear) and I want to have keypad door locks (scalage, yale, kwikset, something like that?) that way I can monitor to make sure the doors are locked from work and additionally if a repair man or contractor needs access while i'm at work I can go on my phone/computer from work and unlock and disarm the alarm for them.

The Alarm system can also be used with this. Just need to research what options there are as I have not doent this yet.

12- which brings up a good point - Remote Access Alarm - I will want to be able to monitor and access my alarm system from outside the home so I can disarm and let people in to my home while at work without having to give them my password. Additionally, if the alarm is tripped I can access it from my phone and see where the zone default is? Essentially being my own monitoring station? Also, what are your thoughts on that? Is it worth paying a monthly fee to have a monitoring service, or just be your own monitoring service?

Having the alarm integrated into the HA system will give you the remote access to arm and disarm.

13 - Pool Pump. I will be installing a pool and will want to control the filter/pump so I can set it up on a schedule and be able to dial in and override it on a specific day to keep it on longer if it is extra hot out, or something like that? Additionally I may put a heater in and would want to adjust the thermostat based on the weather, etc.

Jandy seems to be leading the wayand used a lot by HA nthusiasts. There will be others and it has been done many times before so some research will be required as to what you specifically want and whats available.

14 - Voice Integration. I see there are a couple of systems that allow voice recognition to be in the home. "Computer, please turn on kitchen lights to 50%" or something like that? This is not a "must-have" for me but it would certainly be pretty cool! Or something that runs a wake up scene and then announces through the speakers "Good Morning Joe, the weather is rainy today - take your umbrella and don't forget your 2:00pm lunch date at the Diner." ?

Text to speech is not so hard, but voice control is not common yet. Wire up for michrophones and you will be good to go inthe future.

15 - Christmas Lights. Obviously this would only be seasonal, but I have several outlets outside that I would end up replacing with z waves or something like that so I can control the Christmas lights from inside and set up an event so they run on a schedule during the season. Again, not a must-have but I don't see this being a problem. The only potential issue I could see is them being water-proof? but as long as they're inside a weatherproof box that should be fine. What about range? All of the outlets are affixed to the building so they still should get good zwave/wifi range? right?

correct.

16- Finally, I see that HomeSeer has a telephone integration so caller ID and other phone information can be displayed on the touch screens in the house and/or announced over the in-home audio system speakers. Not a "must-have" for me - but something like that would be pretty cool to potentially integrate.

CID is possible on CQC as well. Wuite a good feature. One person has a thier house play a recorded wave file of the person calling. So when Grandma calls, teh whole house audio system start playing a wav file of her saying "It Grandma Calling".


As you can tell my biggest thing is "showing off my cool home." LOL I want to have a high-tech home and so the more gadgets and stuff I can get in to this system the happier I'll be :) I understand that things take time and money so I'm not saying that I am going to do 100% of this list as soon as I move in - but I want the capabilities there. The alarm system with remote access is absolutely a must-have for me. Everything else that integrates in to this will just be an added bonus.

So, I've been researching for a couple of months now and this is what I've come up with. Initially I figured I would have to have this done by a professional and I was looking in to Control4, Elan G!, Crestron, HAI, etc. The problem with all of them is that they charge you lots of money and you are restricted in what you can do with the system once they install it. My biggest problem with most of these big names is that once they finish their install - you (the user) cannot adjust anything. In other words if HAI installs a system and I tell them to make an event for a "wake up" scene every morning at 7:00am that turns on the lights and radio .... what happens if I'm not going to work on a Tuesday morning, or if I need to get up earlier on a Thursday for a meeting that day... am I supposed to call them in for a service call to change my alarm clock for me?? That seems crazy! LOL I do see that some of these big names have "Home User Software" that has limited functionality to it, but allows you to do some tweaking to the system - and that is all well and good but I can't get a straight answer from anyone if I'd be able to do something as I just described. So after playing that scenario in my head I moved on to the DIY side of doing things...


So, I started researching DIY Home Automation and came across HomeSeer, Elve, CQC, InControl, mControl, etc. I actually bought some HomeSeer stuff this week to try it out and it should arrive tomorrow (I downloaded the free software online for 30 days, and I bought a z wave dimmer, IR system, z wave motion sensor and a HomeTroller S4 ($1200!?!?!) I have 30 days to return anything as long as its in good condition, so I really just want to install everything and mess around with it for a week or so to see if I like it. As of Monday when I ordered it I felt pretty set on sticking with HomeSeer as my future system, but after reading more in to it and actually messing around with the software I fear that my number one priority (cool looking interface) is going to be difficult to achieve. I know they sell the HSTouch which you can make your own - but that seems like that could take DAYS to customize the whole user interface! Additionally the look and feel of the internet explorer based programming is out dated and makes me wonder if I'm making the right choice with them?

So tonight I researched some more and ended up downloading Elve and after messing around with that for just a few minutes I see that is much more intuitive and easier to use (I think) then the HomeSeer software was. So, now I am ultimately confused! Which way do I go? Big name people like Control4 and get a Home Software Editor where I can change some things after they finish their installation or do I go full DIY and use HomeSeer or something similar?

I would suggest CQC as it can do everything above except maybe the voice control, but thats only because no one that I know of has done it yet and there are no systems available [that I know of] either.

Get on over to the CQC forums and start searching on the different components to see whats being done and can be done. The system has great support and is extremely flexible.

Mick
 
Top