New to Home Automation


New Member
Hey everyone,

I've been doing some research on the internet about home automation. I can't believe how much info is out there and how much it doesn't help me. Mainly because i'm new to this and also because there are so many options and everyone has a different opinion of each system. I'm currently in the process of selling our current house and looking to buy and new one before the new year. In the new year once we have a house purchased I want to get started into making our new home start working for us. Of course i'm a little in over my head but i'm more or less looking for some opinions from people that have used a variety of systems and how they worked for them. I know what I would like to automate in our house. And I can't afford to do it all at once but I would like to start simple (lights and HVAC) then move forward with other things.

From the reasearch i've done i'm pretty well set on Insteon as my hardware. Being RF and Powerline seems to make it the better system and more reliable. I looked into Zwave and Zigbee as well as UPB. They just don't have the same appeal as the Insteon dual technology.

To control this is where is gets tricky for me. I'm hoping to be able to control everything by voice in the house via microphones placed throughout the house. Does anyone have experience with an open air mic system. Not the setting up but the actual use and reliability part of it. Also which software is the best for this aplication. I have heavily looked into Home Automated Living's HAL2000. It seems to be the package deal for the interaction i'm looking for. Don't get me wrong I don't want to make my house part of the family and have it's own personality. But I like the shopping list and personal assistant features that it offers as well as the voice response to your commands. I've tried to look into Homeseer and Vera with no luck on finding any post's of people using them via the open air mic system. Does anyone know of websites that people have using these systems or people with personal experience please chime in. I have seen so many home control software that I can't make sense of which one is the better option.

I would appreciate everyone's opinion on any product out there (as long as I can get it in Canada). I do wish to have multiple people controlling the house. I am mechanically inclined and can do a bit with computers. I'm not a programmer by any means and I am looking for something that is easy to setup and start using without having to hire a team of IT people to get the lights to turn on.

Thank you if you read my ramblings,
Your challenge with voice control will be in the quality of your mics. Open air mic that can reliably detect speech from arbitrary directions will run you in hundreds of dollars. In addition you'll need some good wiring and/or pre-amps for each mic connected to a central location. I don't know of anyone who had successfully had open air voice control, just because those I know who have tried never managed to get high reliability. On the other hand, voice control over a point source, like phone or intercom, can be done with very good results. Homeseer has a phone module that is specifically designed with voice control in mind. It will still not be 100% though, if you are sick and your voice is coarse or high pitch or quiet you may have to repeat a command a few times. As an example, think about automated phone service at some vendors. "Please say the name of the person you'd like to speak with. -Andrew- Did you say Randy?" that type of experience....

Before you decide on lighting I would recommend getting a few devices of each technology you may consider using to see how well they will work in YOUR house, as anything wireless is highly dependent on the local conditions. I had Insteon devices, and despite advertised dual technology, in some locations could never get a signal. That said, it could very well work in your application, but until you try you won't know for sure.
Thank you for your reply. I have met up with a guy in my town that uses Insteon and X10. He let me try out a couple of devices and they both seem to work fine in my home. He uses Homeseer but he was not looking to go crazy with whole home audio and voice control. He didn't have much of an opinion of which software is better. He got a deal on his Homeseer stuff so that is what he bought.

I understand the issues with the mics and false triggers and misunderstanding what was said. I just find that a lot of websites and forums I look at are post's from a couple years ago. And some just seem like they are in active altogether. So I just wanted to see if anyone had found some solutions to help with the issues of the voice control via open air mic system. I would like to find something that even if it's later down the road when I can afford expensive mics or technology improves, I can add it into my system. It gets frustrating looking through all the websites and not finding any recent posts. Home automated living is one that I looked into greatly. But with very little activity on their forum and website, and seeing that other websites don't even acknowledge them in recent posts or say that it's outdated, I will have to look into other software solutions as I don't want to be swapping it out within a year because they don't update with technology as well as other home control companies are doing. So looks like I will be spending more time looking through forums and digging for info to see which is better to suit my needs. Cocoontech does seem to be a great source of info on the different types of systems. So I will continue to check in regularly to see all the updates and different things that people do and come out with.

Again thank you for your reply and input.