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Pre-Wire for Centralized Lighting

neonemo

New Member
Running through contemplations of what to do... and seeming to high analysis paralysis here... so I'm finally committing to making a post, and keeping up with hopefully a good discussion.
 
TL;DR - what's a recommended method to prewire the electrical of the house for future options.
 
What I would like: fully automated everything :) it's a hobby to keep finding more integrations.
Where I'm at - an old 1962 home which is going to be gutted on the inside.
 
Electrical needs to be re-wired, so it will give me an opportunity to put the structure cabling in, as well as consider what I want to do with the electrical system.
 
As for my level of experience today, mostly z-wave, some ZLL/zigbee, ElkM1 and mostly writing my own code for the integrations (i.e. night time turns of the kids lights and starts their sonos playlist...)   so far I've had a high WAF, mostly because the coffee machine turns itself on when she's a mile away from the house, and other conveniences.  I'm really hating parts of Z-Wave, and most of it comes to reliability - it's good, but sometimes it barfs a little... and a single switch is not my ideal for of starting a "scene", if it doesn't have a few more choices.
 
Now for my questions...
For the electrical, I'm debating going down the path of either a RadioRA 2 setup, or potentially focusing on something structured such as Lutron Homeworks, Vantage or the likes.  I have easy access to both the basement and the attic, and when re-wiring, all the studs will be open.
 
1 - do I re-wire the home conventionally, and then add dimmers, etc over time, or do I wire in centralized home runs for all lights, and grow into a panelized system over time?
2 - any thoughts on how to wire for a panelized system, but not have it panelized initially?  
3 - really wish there was a DIY friendly panelized system, but I don't seem to be finding any - any thoughts?
4 - if I start down the path of RadioRA 2, could I grow into homeworks?
 
Some thoughts on what I might do... 
A - run ENT conduits to lights and switches with THHN wire.  Probably more of a PITA during initial install, but gives me future flexibility - replacing the wire without opening the walls.
B - home run the electrical wires for each light, and have junctions boxes near the break box to join them together prior to the breakers, and allow for panelized wiring down the road (i.e. disconnect the light switch from the light fixture, and run new low voltage through the attic to the basement for replacement switches).  Heck - it might allow me to leverage my PLC skills and just build my own panelized system with DIN mounted relays...
C - back to Radio RA2 thoughts, and just install what I need and change over time
 
Ultimately, I'd like for all rooms to have multiple light options - bright, comfortable, dim - from different light sources.  I do not just want to dim the main light, but rather change to mode to different light sources.  I don't want to block myself from future options.
 
I do not mind spending the structured cabling money up front - but just do not have the money commitment to drop on the panelized or controlled setup up front.
 

picta

Active Member
The centralized wired lighting system is the best for automation, but it is not easy, primarily because it is unfamiliar to most people, including professionals. It needs a lot more copper than the conventional wiring, and it only makes better sense if automation is the goal. You can wire for both conventional and centralized applications by home-running wires to loads and switches. For conventional use, the switch and the load will be connected, for the central use the load wire will go to the hi-voltage panel and the switch wire to the LV.
 
RadioRA is a good system, but over 48 loads it will be more expensive than the centralized. So it all depends on your wants and if you can find a capable electrician who can do the job. Here is a good guide to give you an idea on what's involved in centralized install: http://www.centralite.com/downloads/elegance_electrician_guide.pdf
 

pete_c

Guru
Here updated my electric a bit mostly adding 15 AMP circuit breakers and separating out loads even though they were not needed.
 
With the family room used separate breakers for the lighting, outlets and anything related to the media.  A bit overkill I guess to have three breakers for the media room.  The master bathroom had two circuits originally for the whirlpool tub and lighting and outlets.  I separated it to 3 circuits. 
 
For the HVAC stuff added a separate circuit (s) for humidifier/ air cleaner and dehumidifier. 
 

cyberk

Member
All you need is to make sure you have neutral, ground, and line in each outlet and switch location. Forget everything else, go insteon or z-wave....
 

ccmichaelson

Active Member
+1 for Insteon or Z-Wave...  Just have your electrician (or you) wire the house like any other house - be sure there's a neutral wire like previous post suggested.  I've been using the ISY to automate every aspect of my home and it's been nearly flawless for 2 years. 
 
I have over 100 Insteon Switchlinc's (on/off and dimmers), 85 motion sensors (dual purpose for security and triggering lights on/off) via the Elk M1, Insteon Thermostats, Z-Wave doorlocks, etc.
 
Happy to elaborate more via PM if desired.
 

picta

Active Member
ccmichaelson said:
 it's been nearly flawless for 2 years.
 
The "nearly" and "2 years" are the key words that would describe a wireless lighting system. You have not yet reached a moment when your "nearly" perfect system goes berserk (usually in a middle of the night, when you are on vacation, when your child is sick or at any other equally convenient time). I've had a few of such moments during my nearly 20 years experience with home automation.
 
I had tried many lighting systems during that time, starting with x-10 (still have some devices), z-wave (as of last year only locks), insteon (I had a ton of these, none any longer, thousands of $$ went to garbage can), UPB (Pulsworx, on its 5th year a relative's house and HLC), Jetstream (at a parent's condo for 6 years) and Radio RA2 (at another friend's house). Most main stream devices tended to fail in 2-3 years, right outside the warranty period.
 
When we had a major remodel 10 years ago I have decided to give a try to the hard-wired Centralite system. We did all design and LV wiring ourselves, and found a good electrician with commercial clients to install HV. If I had to do it over again, I would choose the hard-wired system. The reliability is the major factor, but the ease of integration and functionality is important as well, plus there are so many things that I can do with the hard-wired system that I could not do with any of the wireless. If I could not re-wire, my second choice would be Jetstream for a small house and RadioRA2 or Pulsworx for a large one.
 

ccmichaelson

Active Member
picta said:
The "nearly" and "2 years" are the key words that would describe a wireless lighting system. You have not yet reached a moment when your "nearly" perfect system goes berserk (usually in a middle of the night, when you are on vacation, when your child is sick or at any other equally convenient time). I've had a few of such moments during my nearly 20 years experience with home automation.
 
I had tried many lighting systems during that time, starting with x-10 (still have some devices), z-wave (as of last year only locks), insteon (I had a ton of these, none any longer, thousands of $$ went to garbage can), UPB (Pulsworx, on its 5th year a relative's house and HLC), Jetstream (at a parent's condo for 6 years) and Radio RA2 (at another friend's house). Most main stream devices tended to fail in 2-3 years, right outside the warranty period.
 
When we had a major remodel 10 years ago I have decided to give a try to the hard-wired Centralite system. We did all design and LV wiring ourselves, and found a good electrician with commercial clients to install HV. If I had to do it over again, I would choose the hard-wired system. The reliability is the major factor, but the ease of integration and functionality is important as well, plus there are so many things that I can do with the hard-wired system that I could not do with any of the wireless. If I could not re-wire, my second choice would be Jetstream for a small house and RadioRA2 or Pulsworx for a large one.
 
Sure - if I had a lot of extra money I might have considered going with a hardwire lighting system...  However, the latest Insteon Switchlinc's use powerline and RF (dual-band) and don't need any special wiring at all - just have the electrician wire the house like any other house.  If you sale the house someday... the new owner doesn't have to worry about some custom hardwire lighting system in the future and they could just swap out the Switchlinc's with regular stuff.
 

BaduFamily

Active Member
I did a 'blended' lighting system - by using Vantage ScenePoint dimmers in deep boxes we were able to have the benefits of a panelized system with the swap-out-ability of the other systems. We do also have a couple of their wireless switches mostly due to poor planning / field changes.
 
There are some loads which are on the panel next to the Vantage controller, but most are either in closets or at the switch themselves. The additional wiring is a serial bus ( rs 422? ) which runs back to the Vantage station. Due to a sympathic dealer it was mostly a DIY job.
 
In addition to the swapability this blend also has good fail-over. If the Controller is down the distributed load switches still work.
 
The lighting itself is a mix of LED, white-balanced LEDs, and halogen, for different temperatures of white.
 
 
no problems for the last 5 years or so.
 

EyeofSauron

Member
This is relevant to my interests.

I’m in the process of designing/building a home in the woods. It will have solar power, since there is literally nothing else out there. Because of this, the site needs to be watt-efficient, ultra-reliable, and remotely-manageable.

This means lights that shut themselves off when a room is empty, AC/heat that adjusts itself for human presence vs none, a security system, etc.

Can anybody provide me a link to some of the centrally-managed lighting systems? The home is only about 2000sqft.
 
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