Taking The Plunge


I am so excited to finally get into this group! Spammers have apparently made it really difficult for new members.

I have read a great deal on this site and others (and I apologize if I missed a similar thread) but I'm in need of this groups expertise.

Just a little background - lots of X-10 experience since way back in the early 80s (great fun to see some of you still use X-10 as I do in certain spots). Some Ademco and Vista programming experience. Discovered UPB a little over a year ago - wow - haven't had a single failure in over 6 months with 20 or so switches (and bought a bunch of extra switches from an E-Bay auction that I hope to use in the future). I'm now designing a retirement home to be built in a year or so and I want to really take the plunge and automate it as well as my budget will allow. I'm pretty facile around the computer and programming world, but there are some posts here that are way above my current understanding (that doesn't mean that I won't eventually figure them out ;-).

I want to invest in a rock solid system that allows for expansion and adoption of new technologies without spending a large fortune.

My question to the experts here: If you were to start over, knowing what you know today, what system(s) would you first invest in? Most of you have evolved as this field has grown and have extremely complicated systems that you have grown up with because you enjoy the challenges and the joys that come with overcoming obstacles. I'm looking for a solid base to build from starting in 2017/2018 that I can grow with without starting first with a PhD in HA.

Some observations: HAI Onipro 2 seems to be recommended as a good base - especially with regards to the security parts of HA. PC Access seems to be a real challenge for new users and I can't find many posts in the last 5 years. Is it still supported? (HAI Programming 101 by cornutt looks to be invaluable but is from 2011.)
Homeseer products and software seem to be a good addition to Omnipro and support recent advances but there are a scary number of posts about difficulties with the bridge between HAI and Homeseer, and issues with UPB functionality when shared between the two.

Your thoughtful replies will be much appreciated by myself and (I'm guessing) others that follow this site but aren't blessed with an in-depth programming back-ground.


Ps. As a newbie to this site I'm only allowed one or two posts a day at the beginning, so if I don't immediately respond please don't think I'm ignoring you.
Welcome to the Cocoontech forum Russ55
Yes there have been issues here with spammers.
Here like you started with X10 in the late 1970's.
The automation relating to light switches.
Computer / Software wise went to using Homeseer in the late 1990's.  (software was Wintel and hardware was just about anything that would run Windows).  In the last few years went from using Homeseer in Windows to Homeseer in Linux (Arm RPi concurrent to Intel iSeries Computers).
Security / automation I went to using the HAI Omni Pro 2 panel (X2) in the early 2000's.
The Omni Pro 2 is supported today in 2017. 
Two combination security and automation panels are mentioned here on the forum.  The OmniPro and Elk M1 panels.  They are both similar in price.  The Elk M1 is modular where you can start baby steps building your stuff while the OmniPro panel includes much in the base build.
If you were to start over, knowing what you know today, what system(s) would you first invest in?
That is a difficult question to ask. 
Both the OmniPro panel and Homeseer application have been around now for over 10 years. 
Here utilize X10, UPB, ZWave and Zigbee these days for lighting switches on both Homeseer and the Omni. 
With software like Homeseer you can tinker quickly with all kinds of automation and the simple automation rules engine allows for much in a web gui.  Running in Linux you can use VB, python, perl, et al.
With the Omni Combo panel you can do much which is embedded in firmware.
The integration of UPB between software and firmware is a bit different.  Specifically with UPB it is about links.  The Homeseer UPB plugin sees all new UPB switches while the Omni Pro panel sees the switches differently.  Here have gone to a few dual load / multi toggle swithes with no dependences on either Homeseer or the Omni which is nice for WAF here.  I utilize X10 here for my Christmas lighting today.  The HAI control and view and Homeseer control and view of Z-Wave and Zigbee is different.  HAI ZWave/Zigbee talks to light switches, thermostats and locks and not to environmental sensors (like temperature and PIR sensors). 
The rage today relating to automation is the automation console and the automation console today is the smart phone, almost AI Amazon - Google Home AI text to speech and VR and many cloud dependant thingamajigs.
So it is up to you and what it is you want to do with automation.  There are many more options today than just 10 years ago.
Personally here try to keep my automation dependencies at home if I can.  I like to tinker with the new stuff while concurrently do not touch the day to day stuff that just works. Automation is a hobby here.
Think of software as mainlining automation; stuff you can do right away.  Think of firmware (including automation hubs) as a bit slower mostly because firmware is not updated every day or on demand.  Mixing both will provide you with hours of fun.
Over the years have expanded automation beyond lighting to audio control (Russound), thermostats (HAI), irrigation, text to speech (originally it was MS SAPI), VR (originally it was MS SAPI / Kinect)....
Thanks for your thoughtful reply Pete! I've also enjoyed your other posts, especially your comments on wiring a new structure since, like you, I'm a firm believer in maximizing hard wiring whenever possible. I know that I will have more specific questions in the future and am hoping to further utilize your and your peers expertise within the community.
I would get into a hub like Homeseer, OpenHAB, or HASS. I like a central brain that has a lot of flexibility extensions, etc.
Stay away from the cloud as much as you can. 
Knowing what I know now? I wish I started with python sooner. I wish I went with RA2 or Casetta (not sure but those would likely be high on the list). I wish I got sonos earlier. I wish I didn't get into CQC.
Other than that I'm pretty happy with everything I did.
Relating to automation today there is a bunch of stuff.  Following is just a random list of stuff that I found in 5 minutes.
1 - Automation software mentioned here (not hubs)
A - Homeseer - paid - runs on Windows and Linux (with Mono)
B - CQC - paid - runs on Windows
C - Elve - free today
D - Openhab - free - tested old stuff to work fine.
E - HomeGenie - free - tested and works fine
F - Domnoticz - testing and works fine on an RPi - light because much is written in Lua / C and not using Mono.
G - Linux MCE
I -  Home Assistant
J - OpenMotics
K - CalaOS
2 - Automation software that runs on firmware
A - Cloud connected - there is more
- Samsung Hub
- Almond + (you can shut off the cloud connected stuff).
- Wink
- Xively
There is more today - now with the Amazon Echo and Google Home integration - Smartphone integration
Touchscreen integration has always been around.  TTS / VR too has been around since first generation Windows.
B - not Cloud connected
- Leviton Omni Pro combo security / automation panels
- Elk M1 panels
- Vera
There is more today.
Personally here fastest automation involves the "wire" or least amount of pieces in the transport.
Automation box = = > automation controller ==> automated device
Consider the evolution of the automated light switch
1 - direct low voltage control
2 - powerline - X10 and UPB
3 - powerline and wireless hybrid - Insteon
4 - wireless - ZWave and Zigbee and propietary wireless
Brendon and Pete_c - thanks again for your posts and information! I am doing a huge amount of reading / learning (which I enjoy) in preparation for this build. I am leaning strongly towards a Omnipro 2 / Homeseer system with hard wiring for everything I can think of except lighting - I'm happy with UPB in that regard. (Quick mini /newbie question - is Upstart totally replaced by Omnipro or Homeseer or is it still used to set up switches?) I haven't yet decided on audio systems - am looking at Russound (is it easy to become an installer for them to unlock hardware?) as well as Sonos and some other similar options.

I am planning on setting up a media closet and running home runs from all affected areas back to this closet. I've read a fair amount on types of wires to run but still have a lot to learn. I'm planning on doing the labor myself. I was hoping to find someone local to my construction site (coastal SC) to use as a consultant but the local HA stores are all only into Control4 and aren't interested in helping a DIYer (and told me they never heard of Omnipro or Homeseer or UPB!!!). Any suggestions, good reviews and especially real specifics regarding the wiring part of the process would be greatly appreciated at this time.

Thanks again!!
I'm happy with UPB in that regard. (Quick mini /newbie question - is Upstart totally replaced by Omnipro or Homeseer or is it still used to set up switches?)
Upstart is used to configure the switches.  
Homeseer talks to the UPB switches based on the UPE configuration file generated by Upstart.
The OmniPro panel UPB switches is just a manual input of UPB device number and UPB Links.
All OmniPro Units look the same.  (X10, UPB, ZWave or Zigbee).
Personally here have never "automated" my media with Homeseer.  I have done IR blasting but never related to HS.
Irrigation is automated.  The Omnistat thermostat is connected via serial link to the Omni Pro panel.  I watch it and do not touch it.  It is a little computer.  I have aux wired temperature sensors connected to it and aux wired temperature (and humidity sensors) connected to the OP2 panel and multiple wired 1-wire networks connected to Homeseer.
I utilize two older Russound CAA66's, Russound KPL keypads, Omnitouch screens and Homeseer to control the hardware.  A small micro serial server is used for two RS-232 inputs to the Russound amps.
Music and video resides on NAS boxes.  I use a Squeezebox server and custom Squeeze box players and Homeseer Touch for this stuff.  You can remote control your squeezeboxes with HS.  You can also go wireless with a Sonos system.
There is a KODI box (STB) by every television and use this device to stream live TV (and HDHomerun) or recorded TV or streaming video from NAS boxes or internet (same as music).  I do not remote control the KODI boxes with Homeseer (you can though via plugins).  Live TV here is via Satellite, OTA or internet streaming via KODI. 
Ideally a low voltage security wiring person under your direction / plans would be all you would need.  Over wire everything and then add chases.
IE: for audio installed a pair of inwall speakers in just about every room.  Also installed dedicated catxx for the controller for said speakers in every room.  In one new home wired audio before anything else as that was all I cared about.
Audio was 16/2 and 16/4 and cat5e cabling to a central location. 
I prefer the floating laptop / office desktop to the tablet today or smartphone for internet surfing.  That is me.
Mostly GC's do not have a clue about wiring for automation so ideally you would do it yourself or subcontract a cabling person or company to do the wiring (if your GC lets you).  You can pencil in your LV stuff and ask your GC how much extra it would cost to wire. 
Helped an old friend building a new home (~5k or so) wire up the low voltage stuff.  2-3 days and we made his son do most of the work (climbing rafters etc) before the walls went up.
I really wish the link worked for "Wiring Your New House" - if anyone has this downloaded or a working link I would really appreciate being able to view it. Thanks!!
DIY wiring is easy and only involves time and wire.
Relating to security wiring personally did one home after it was built and had a security company wire a home during construction.
Divide your LV in to sections like:
1 - security
2 - audio
3 - televison
4 - etc
Personally have wired for everything and added chases in case I missed anything.
Thanks again Pete!

I'm planning on setting up a home theater - use will be primarily for movies - almost never for tv. I'm not sure how connected it should be with the rest of the house for wiring purposes. (It will be close to my media closet so it will be easy to run a good sized conduit.)

How does everyone use their Kodi (or equivalent)? Any suggestions for set-up purposes and future-proofing or comments??
Have a look at CEPro magazine and AV Forums for examples of look see in to a Home Theater.
Automation of a Home Theator would be a sort of sub set of your home automation.
The house here utilizes Russound zoned amps. 
I did a sub sound thing with rooms with LCD TVs purchasing multimedia receivers and speakers for 5.1 and 7.1 sound.
The newest televisions all play 4K sourced movies.  The content can be anything these days. 
I store mine on a NAS box and use KODI to play it back.