Newbie with some questions


Hello all. I just started readin through the forum and I can see that I have come to the right place. I would like to start home automation in my house but dont know what types of products to buy. My plans are to have a speaker system around the house that is fully controllable through my computer or a handheld device. Also, I would eventually like to incorporate a security system, climate control and get into macros. Can you help me out in deciding which product line I should go with (x10, Z-ware, insteon, etc)? Also, what's a good software package? Finally, how can I find out what types of products are compatible with others? Thanks for the help.
Hi Newbie,

The potential options and combinations are countless. Also, what is best for some people is not the same for other. I would suggest that you elaborate on your budged, and what do you want to do with your speaker system (music from regular sound system, MP3 music from PC, intercom, Text-to-Speech). The sky is the limit - if you have unlimited budged.
elcano said:
The sky is the limit - if you have unlimited budged.
Well stated.

I would add before ordering any switches make sure you have neutrals. But most importantly Read, Read, and Read before making your choice. Cocoontech has many threads about the Pro's and Con's of them.

But start with a Elk M1 for security/automation control! :D
Definitly check out the AB8SS from HACS.

It supports X10, IR and Serial. 2 inputs (only 1 active at a time) and 8 stereo outputs. I use it for automation & Security. If I ran any entertainment throught it, it would hurt the availability of my automation announcements, etc.

Compared to a lot of solutions, it is cheap enough to get two of them I guess. They have some higher end modular stuff too, but I can't speak for them.

I'm not sure of my budget, probably a couple thousand to do lighting, speakers, climate control, & security. Is this a fair budget to do this and to add macros to everything?

I was reading in a post that there is a way to have the news read to you over the speaker system? Is this costly? Also, how costly would it be to set up a control system for my home's speaker system (6 speakers). I only want 1 station playing at once (dont need different music for different rooms), but I do want to be able to control the volume in each room. Thanks again.

All of the above are very true statements. My personal opinion is that Z-wave will be the next big thing for lighting control as soon as these big name companies like Monster, Logitech, and Intermatic get their products on the market. They should be available very soon so you would not have to wait long. However, many people here will disagree with me and say the UPB is your best choice. I have never used UPB but it is probably a fine choice. Z-wave has a bad reputation caused by one company not caring about quality. However, I think that company is straigting out its problems by discontinuing the sales of their crapy products. Check out both UPB and Z-wave. Those are the two the most would recommend. Insteon would be my last choice but I don't really know why. It's one of those gut feeling things.

About software, You have a ton of options and I have only used two. HomeSeer was the software I started with and it was a good product. Recently they seem to more about marketing and making money and less of providing a good quality product. CQC is the product that I switched to and I think it is great and I think it will fit your needs perfectly. CQC does support Z-wave but I don't think it supports UPB yet. The thing that I like about CQC is that it is 100% distributable meaning that you can install the software on multiple computers and it seemlessly works as if they are all the same installation. In other words you can setup a server pc for all you digital media and then have another PC on the same network running a touch screen and loading media. It's hard to explain but it is great to have. Another reason is that CQC natively support a lot of Audio Video Receivers which are controllable by you RS232 port. CQC was actually designed with Home Theater and Home Audio in mind and later became a home auotmation application. Check out and search cocoontech for CQC and CharmedQuark and you will find lots of screenshots of the TouchScreen designs that users have implemented.

But when it comes down to it the technologies you pick are up to your needs and wants. The beauty of software is that you can use the software as a gateway to mix technologies.

For alarm systems I would go with the Elk m1 gold since it seems to be the best on the market right now and they are constantly adding new features to it. CQC also supports the ELK M1 system.
Hey there, welcome. I think your budget is either very tight or a little tight, based on what you already own and where you prioritize stability & usability versus $$. I'll share what I'm doing, and if you're interested in any details I can elaborate. I've also put an overview on my personal website shown in my sig.

- I'm doing 3zone speakers, [within a few weeks] climate control & irrigation control, and full H/T (DVD,TV,CD,XM) with my HA/HTPC system.
- I use a cheap PC to do the HA/HT control. Check out my website, barring my 2.5TB in HDs, it's probably <$1000.
- I use CQC [] as the software engine and front-end designer to do the climate, audio [CDs & XM], irrigation control. I can create a single interface to runs on my PC, tablet PC handheld viewer, and PDA as described below. I've opted to create a smaller version of the same interface for the PDA for size purposes.
- I use a cheap handheld tablet P3-400 [Fujitsu Stylistic 3400 running WinXP, $250 on eBay] with a wifi card to do roaming control.
- I use a cellphone PDA (Siemens Cingular) for audio control when I'm on the patio [and don't want to put a tablet PC next to the barbeque grill ]

You also want to do security & lighting. I'm probably going to get the Elk M1 automation panel to integrate security, and the next gen of zWave out in a few months to handle lighting. Both of these are integratable with CQC, so I'm going to stick with a common UI [or at least integrated with the other components], so there's a high degree of usability by the non-technical folks.

Let me stop there and see if you want more info on anything I've done, or have specific questions about where you want to take your system.
If you go with something like the M1, then support for a particular lighting system in the software automation system is less important since the M1 can handle the lights and the software automation system can handle the M1, so you can pick something that works with the M1, like UPB. That gets your lighting integrated in at the lowest level, so that both the M1 and the automation software has access to it.