New User, looking for opinions on whole home system

Nifield

Member
Hi everyone my name is Reilly. Im currently building my own house, and have been researching the net constantly for the last few months trying to figure out which way to go for different aspects of my home automation. After reading some of the other threads in this forum i felt it may be very beneficial for me to make a post so here we go!

My house is a 4500 sq ft 3 floor house, im looking to have the automation cover audio/video, lighting, and then hvac, security, etc

The questions i have are more based on a particular setup, so let me go into exactly what i want to do, and then hoepfully someone can shed some light on the best way of doing it :)

Audio/Video - Id like to have a single central server with all my mp3s, vdeos, tvshows etc, id like to serve that to all TVs in the house, and id like to be able to serve all the tvs at once with same OR different content from that server as well as simultaneously being able to play mp3s from that central server in all zones throughout the house, or different mp3s in different zones at the same time. Now the kicker is id like to have a nice graphical interface similiar to xbmc or mediaportal (with eye candylike nice menus, box cover art and descriptions etc), but from what i have seen, those dont offer serving multiples at the same time, i would just be able to have that as 1 input unless i setup multiple servers (which i dont want to do) Im looking at using a matrix hdmi switch to have multiple inputs such as cable box, htpc, dvd player etc, but my main issue is i want to have the htpc serve more than one piece of media at a time.. any thoughts?

Lighting - Ive just started looking at lighting so i guess i just want to incorporate it with whatever home automation i install, and have scenes and all off and all on ability etc, i had read another thread on this forum and people were talking about running cat5 to each switch in your house, and have that cat5 run back to a central server room.. the problem was the last post on that was in 2009 so i wanted to check if that was still the best way to go or not?


Speech recognition - Im also thinking about working in some speech recognition macros such as "computer, watch tv in media room" stuff like that, ive been looking at girder pro 5 using a usb uirt IR transmitter receiver, but i havent been getting much response on the girder forums these days, so not sure if thats really going to be an option or not.

Oh also i was hoping to stay away from proprietary systems like crestron and control 4 because of cost and just would rather have somehting i can tweak and change myself, and not need a pro to come in.

Thanks to anyone that can give me any pointers as to whats good and whats not and the best/most efficient ways of achieving what i want.


Reilly
 

Rupp

Senior Member
Long time HomeSeer user here and that is what I would recommend. HomeSeer is one of the few packages that had voice recognition built in and it works OK if you train your VR extensively and setup the correct hardware. I use HomeSeer Phone for most of my VR and it works well. I pick up any handset and issue a command. This eliminates the need for expensive mic setup and doesn't require a lot of VR training. HomeSeer handles most modern and popular lighting protocols including, Z-Wave, Insteon, UPB, X10 and others. Try downloading a free 30 day trial and let us know if you have any questions.
 

apostolakisl

Senior Member
I would not wire a cat5 to every switch in your house. First off, I don't understand how this passes code since code everywhere (as far as I know) doesn't allow LV and HV in the same, unpartitioned box. You would probably have a fight on your hand to get that to pass and you will probably have a heck of time finding an electrician willing to do it. I suppose you could run a CAT5 and leave it next to each box and pull it in after inspection, but that would be a PITA. Plus it will be expensive and require a massive bundle of CAT5 showing up in some HA closet in your house. Furthermore, I have never seen a post on this site from someone who has it, which means it has to be very rarely sold (think bankrupt co. and no further support)

UPB, Zwave, and Insteon all use either RF or Powerline transmission (or both for Insteon dual band). They require only normal wiring (do need a neutral in every box which is usually code anyway). It can be removed from the house and travel with you to a new house. They work and have lots of third party support for all three technologies. If whatever company you went with goes belly up, you will be able to implement stuff from a different co. since you just have normal house wiring. You won't have to try to explain why 300 CAT5 wires are going to a closet in your house when you try to sell it (which could easily scare off a buyer). And if you ever add a switch or decide to have a switch automated that you didn't initially, you won't have to try to pull a new CAT5 through your finished construction house.

I highly suggest you pick from either Inseton, UPB, or zwave.
 

programmergeek

Active Member
I tried to PM you but I can't I also can't email you. I can guide you a bit but truthefully I need a bit more info or else my responce would be pages long. I am also a big homeseer fan but it really depends on several other things like buget simplicy etc.
 

Nifield

Member
Long time HomeSeer user here and that is what I would recommend. HomeSeer is one of the few packages that had voice recognition built in and it works OK if you train your VR extensively and setup the correct hardware. I use HomeSeer Phone for most of my VR and it works well. I pick up any handset and issue a command. This eliminates the need for expensive mic setup and doesn't require a lot of VR training. HomeSeer handles most modern and popular lighting protocols including, Z-Wave, Insteon, UPB, X10 and others. Try downloading a free 30 day trial and let us know if you have any questions.


thanks for the heads up, ill take a look at it. does it have functionality to address my audio/video serving concerns?

Reilly
 

Nifield

Member
I would not wire a cat5 to every switch in your house. First off, I don't understand how this passes code since code everywhere (as far as I know) doesn't allow LV and HV in the same, unpartitioned box. You would probably have a fight on your hand to get that to pass and you will probably have a heck of time finding an electrician willing to do it. I suppose you could run a CAT5 and leave it next to each box and pull it in after inspection, but that would be a PITA. Plus it will be expensive and require a massive bundle of CAT5 showing up in some HA closet in your house. Furthermore, I have never seen a post on this site from someone who has it, which means it has to be very rarely sold (think bankrupt co. and no further support)

UPB, Zwave, and Insteon all use either RF or Powerline transmission (or both for Insteon dual band). They require only normal wiring (do need a neutral in every box which is usually code anyway). It can be removed from the house and travel with you to a new house. They work and have lots of third party support for all three technologies. If whatever company you went with goes belly up, you will be able to implement stuff from a different co. since you just have normal house wiring. You won't have to try to explain why 300 CAT5 wires are going to a closet in your house when you try to sell it (which could easily scare off a buyer). And if you ever add a switch or decide to have a switch automated that you didn't initially, you won't have to try to pull a new CAT5 through your finished construction house.

I highly suggest you pick from either Inseton, UPB, or zwave.

Yeah after posted this thread i was reading the pinned thread about "if you could do it all over again" and saw the majority of people would use UPB, so i understand this goes through the powerlines, what else do i need to setup scenes and home automation with UPB, or i guess what exactly is UPB? is it software? or is it a hardware switch somewhere? or i think maybe i read somewhere it was a protocol.. if it is then what other things do i need to have in the house to actually get it up and running besides the power wiring? and if it goes through the power wiring, doesnt that mean i could essentially control every light and plug in my house? Is there any diagrams anywhere to show a layout for setting up such a system?

Thanks for your reply.

Reilly
 

Nifield

Member
I tried to PM you but I can't I also can't email you. I can guide you a bit but truthefully I need a bit more info or else my responce would be pages long. I am also a big homeseer fan but it really depends on several other things like buget simplicy etc.


hey sorry, i think i changed my settings, and also sent you a PM. let me know what info you need and ill be more than happy to go into detail here. thanks.

Reilly
 

DavidL

Senior Member
Running Cat5 to every switch...
That usually means you are using Home run high voltage wire to a switch module that is controlled by a lighting controller. The "switch"s themselves are low voltage networked devices that "tell" the controller which button was pushed. Product names include AMX and Crestron and Litetouch. High end systems, but more reliable than any RF or powerline approach. You need to make this decision during the home's base wiring as each switched light / receptacle is wired directly to the wiring panel, usually in the basement.

With this high end approach, low voltage is not run to the same box as high voltage and therefore no code issues. But, open your wallet real wide.
 

Nifield

Member
Running Cat5 to every switch...
That usually means you are using Home run high voltage wire to a switch module that is controlled by a lighting controller. The "switch"s themselves are low voltage networked devices that "tell" the controller which button was pushed. Product names include AMX and Crestron and Litetouch. High end systems, but more reliable than any RF or powerline approach. You need to make this decision during the home's base wiring as each switched light / receptacle is wired directly to the wiring panel, usually in the basement.

With this high end approach, low voltage is not run to the same box as high voltage and therefore no code issues. But, open your wallet real wide.


from what ive seen crestron is retardedly expensive, and proprietary. im trying to stay away from the proprietary brands that dont allow you to mix and match. And yeah, im still int he framing stage of my house so thats why im trying to get an idea of what the best way to go about handling this is before i get the electrician in :). you said these are more reliable than RF and powerline approaches, but ive heard UPB is really reliable and is a powerline approach... i definately dont want to use RF

thanks for your input

reilly
 

Steve

Senior Member
Look at Centralite LiteJet for hardwire. There are actually many threads discussing this if you search and read but here is a quick summary.

1. Homerun low voltage - like DavidL described - look at LiteJet. Advantage is 100% reliabilty, main disadvantage is its proprietary and your house needs special wiring which could affect resale value.
2. Hybrid low voltage. Do a traditional wiring PLUS control is done via a Cat5. The wiring in not inside the box unless you use dividers, but rather the switches low voltage leads are pulled out of box and attached to Cat5 externally. Same advantage as reliability, a little more involved wiring but uses traditional high voltage wiring. Look at ALC. Join chat room and look for MavRic who is implementing ALC.
3. A retrofit solution that can go in anytime. Powerline: UPB or Insteon. Wireless: ZWave, Zigbee, RadioRa2

All of the solutions in 3, like UPB are protocols and specifications. Some there are many manufacturers making hardware some like RadioRa2 are proprietary to one manufacturer. For any of the powerline protocols (or a good rule of thumb anyway, is to make sure all switch locations have a neutral wire). Insist that the electrician install neutral even on switch legs. As long as the house is wired well you can then install any of the technologies in 3 after the fact.
 

Steve

Senior Member
you said these are more reliable than RF and powerline approaches, but ive heard UPB is really reliable and is a powerline approach... i definately dont want to use RF
Any of the retrofit protocols CAN be 100% reliable but since they use a shared medium - your powerline, or the airwaves, there is potential for interference. There are ways to mitigate that but many times its trial and error and not the easiest. Hardwired will always be 100% reliable (theoretically) because the control wire is dedicated to the lighting. In some respects RF can be more reliable than powerline. I have better luck with Zigbee than UPB. RadioRa2 is a nice and very reliable system.
 

tmbrown97

Senior Member
Steve referenced MavRic - who hopefully will see this and chime in... he's now experimenting with UPB too... I believe it had to do with the lack of support of ALC with all the 3rd party systems.

The 100% reliability thing would be nice, you have to figure that the market tends to follow the most popular options... and not many people take the time to implement these systems during build, so they have to retrofit... That's why the market is showing continual rapid advancement in the retrofit options since they have a much larger target audience - which also helps to keep costs down.

Definitely get a neutral in every box, and specify the extra-deep boxes. It'll give you more room to work.

Also just as important - make sure you prewire any and all security and audio you think you'll need - those are much harder to do later. Think ahead for automation - you may want more motion sensors than you would for just security. There are lots of good tips around here for that.

For A/V, the best direction seems to be something that involves a central server then distributing through some form of media server. SageTV was a favorite around here but is losing ground with new content protection measures. It's looking like finding something that'll run Windows MCE with multiple extenders will be a better option IMHO. I'm pretty sure multiple devices can stream at once, but I'd definitely verify that! From what I hear, the extenders aren't the best still, but there's just nothing better out there.
 

Nifield

Member
Look at Centralite LiteJet for hardwire. There are actually many threads discussing this if you search and read but here is a quick summary.

1. Homerun low voltage - like DavidL described - look at LiteJet. Advantage is 100% reliabilty, main disadvantage is its proprietary and your house needs special wiring which could affect resale value.
2. Hybrid low voltage. Do a traditional wiring PLUS control is done via a Cat5. The wiring in not inside the box unless you use dividers, but rather the switches low voltage leads are pulled out of box and attached to Cat5 externally. Same advantage as reliability, a little more involved wiring but uses traditional high voltage wiring. Look at ALC. Join chat room and look for MavRic who is implementing ALC.
3. A retrofit solution that can go in anytime. Powerline: UPB or Insteon. Wireless: ZWave, Zigbee, RadioRa2

All of the solutions in 3, like UPB are protocols and specifications. Some there are many manufacturers making hardware some like RadioRa2 are proprietary to one manufacturer. For any of the powerline protocols (or a good rule of thumb anyway, is to make sure all switch locations have a neutral wire). Insist that the electrician install neutral even on switch legs. As long as the house is wired well you can then install any of the technologies in 3 after the fact.


yeah i had originally been thinking about going with on-q alc with the cat5 to each switch, but then thought UPB sounded like a better option.. im still really not sure and thats i guess why im posting, to try and figure out what the best way to go is.. i dont mind running extra cable, i guess its just the proprietary stuff i want to stay away from.. so still not really sure heh. But as you say in 3, i will do so, but id like to have an exact idea of which way i want to go before i start the wiring :)

Reilly
 

Nifield

Member
Any of the retrofit protocols CAN be 100% reliable but since they use a shared medium - your powerline, or the airwaves, there is potential for interference. There are ways to mitigate that but many times its trial and error and not the easiest. Hardwired will always be 100% reliable (theoretically) because the control wire is dedicated to the lighting. In some respects RF can be more reliable than powerline. I have better luck with Zigbee than UPB. RadioRa2 is a nice and very reliable system.

RadioRa2 is lutron isnt it? dont you need to have a licensed dealer do the install and everything for that? I had looked at them originally and talked to a licensed dealer in my area and the guy was talking $20-50K just for the freaking lights.
 

Nifield

Member
Steve referenced MavRic - who hopefully will see this and chime in... he's now experimenting with UPB too... I believe it had to do with the lack of support of ALC with all the 3rd party systems.

The 100% reliability thing would be nice, you have to figure that the market tends to follow the most popular options... and not many people take the time to implement these systems during build, so they have to retrofit... That's why the market is showing continual rapid advancement in the retrofit options since they have a much larger target audience - which also helps to keep costs down.

Definitely get a neutral in every box, and specify the extra-deep boxes. It'll give you more room to work.

Also just as important - make sure you prewire any and all security and audio you think you'll need - those are much harder to do later. Think ahead for automation - you may want more motion sensors than you would for just security. There are lots of good tips around here for that.

For A/V, the best direction seems to be something that involves a central server then distributing through some form of media server. SageTV was a favorite around here but is losing ground with new content protection measures. It's looking like finding something that'll run Windows MCE with multiple extenders will be a better option IMHO. I'm pretty sure multiple devices can stream at once, but I'd definitely verify that! From what I hear, the extenders aren't the best still, but there's just nothing better out there.

ok thanks for the heads up on the neutrals and the extra deep boxes. I hadnt thought about extra motion sensors, but i can see why that would be handy. I plan to wire pretty much every room in the house for audio, thats for sure.

As for A/V, yeah i had looked at windows Media Center (which i assume is what you were talking about, not sure what the e stood for tho) and actually found MediaPortal while doing research on media center, and it seemed much more customizable and a step beyond with themes and custom setups ready to plug and play. But as i said originally, this option only allows one item to play at a time, so in order to have mutliple video outputs being served with different content off mediaportal/mediacenter i would have to run multiple servers running mediacenter/mediaportal. I have yet to find any software that i can install that has the amazing look of mediaportal or xbmc but that allows me to run mutliple feeds of content.. i guess this is kind of because a computer usually only has one output for sound, but i would think there would be something where you could just add multiple sound cards and maybe multiple video cards to produce the results i want, but sadly i havent been able to find anything.



What id really like to find is a thread where people layed out a basic home automation setup, say 4 tvs, 8 zones for audio, 50 zones for lights, some security, and hvac, and then have people post their IDEAL ways of setting it up, with in depth diagrams, hardware lists, software lists, and total and individual item costs.

anyone seen anything like that before? maybe i should start a thread?
 
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