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What controller do you recommend?

HighTest

Active Member
Hello fellow enthusiasts and professionals,

I recently have upgraded my home with a structured media center (Home was built in late fall of 2000, my Wife and I purchased it two years ago). I did a full retrofit on the wiring after I through a fit. When intending to add another line to another room, I found that the entire house had been daisychained rather than home run.

I yanked it all out, ran conduit into the attic space and rerun two Cat 5e to each room in the house and ensure extra space for additional wiring in the future. Each room had RG6 already, so I didn't have to worry about that.

It all comes back to a custom job Leviton enclosure (I didn't like their 6 port Cat 5e cards, so I purchased several 12 port Cat 5e patch panels and mounted them inside the case for more capacity then their normal mounts would provide.)

Anyways, with my desire to take video and audio to other rooms, I've been bitten by the home automation bug. I'll start out small, but will eventually move up to touchpanel lcd's and the works.

I was originally looking at an HAI Omni II controller, but after reading this forum it seems that they are not as enthusiast friendly. I understand that the Elk is also interesting.

My question is if I go with a PC based solution that could also be serving as the homes central media server, what would you recommend in conjunction? I was hearing about the ADI Ocelot, but wanted to find out more information and how well that worked for some.

My thinking was a PC with a connection to an Ocelot, some USB connections to UPB and Medio Home Bot or another good software application (HomeSeer looked interesting but then I saw the poll about version 2.0 and more than 50% not able to use it bug free).

So forgive the fact that I'm a greenhorn and if you have suggestions, I'll gladly learn from your experience.

Thanks!
 

IVB

Senior Member
CQC [www.charmedquark.com], combined with an Elk unit make for a pretty powerful combination for HA.

The ELK can run a variety of lighting protocols.
 

toymaster458

Active Member
I agree on the M1 and as far as software goes I also agree on running the trial version of each one. Some do things better then others and some have features that others do not. I perfer CQC but you might find HAL or Homeseer more to your liking.
 

Guy Lavoie

Active Member
Right now, the first question you must ask yourself is which control protocol are you going with? You seem to indicate UPB. This is important because the different controllers and software packages available don't necessarily support all protocols and the ones they do support can sometimes vary as to what degree. Just a few years ago it was really easy: there was only X10 so all you needed to do was compare the various features of each controller and/or software package.

The second question you need to ask yourself is: are you looking for a standalone hardware controller or a PC based system? This subject alone has been the subject of many long discussions (and arguments) that I will not get into, although one compromise that I and others will often suggest is getting a standalone controller for the more important "critical" functions and use a PC based program for the fluff, like nice status displays, web based control, multimedia, etc.

Back in the X10-only days, the best bang for the buck controller was the Ocelot, especially for its low cost, great reliability and expandibility. It still is what I consider the best value, but it doesn't yet do UPB, Z-Wave or Insteon, although ADI is looking to add at least some of those. Also, its programming language has a high learning curve that might scare off some people but once you master it, there is nothing it can't do in terms of timing and complex IF/THEN logic. There is also built-in Infrared control to control TV's, etc.

Now enter the Elk M1. It supports X10 and all the new protocols too. It has a programming model that is a simplified version of one used on the Ocelot (by the way this is called ladder logic and is used on many industrial controllers) and cannot do logic as complex, although it is still in development and might grow over time. The beauty and unique feature of the Elk M1 is that it is a real, UL approved alarm panel. So if you are going to be getting an alarm panel anyways, then getting an Elk represents an incredible value because its like getting all those other features almost for free. Of course, you might need to get serial expanders, etc to use them but all the programming capability is built-in.

Right now, one of the best hardware combos you can have is an Elk M1 plus an Ocelot. This gives you a full function alarm panel, multiple protocol support, IR control and complex IF/THEN language support. The Ocelot is inexpensive enough to make having both quite affordable.

Then there is PC based control. The packages mentioned earlier by other posters are well liked, although each one has its strengths. This forum is a very good place to ask questions about each one and why people like them. The packages also vary in their support for hardware devices like the Ocelot and the M1 so also check this out carefully.
 

wz2p7j

Member
My two cents is that it also depends on how you want to interface with your controller. If you really like the ADI Leopards for example, you might want to base your system on the ADI stuff. If you really like RCS's new touchscreens, you may want to go with the RCS CS30 to start with.

Looking for voice mail capability? Stargate has it built in.

Security is also a consideration. As Guy mentioned, the Elk system is designed for security as is HAI. Other controllers, like the Stargate and RCS CS30 offer built in integration with CadX

Some other folks have mentioned lighting integration. Some, like RCS, already support UPB. Others, like ADI, do not.

If your looking for IR solutions and whole house audio Xantech and Russound are worth looking at. Leviton also has a neat thing called LE&AP that installs right in its SMC that looks pretty cool (but is pricey)

Looking to control a lot of devices using relays? The ADI relay modules are reasonably priced as are the RCS units.

Chris
 

Steve

Senior Member
The second question you need to ask yourself is: are you looking for a standalone hardware controller or a PC based system? This subject alone has been the subject of many long discussions (and arguments) that I will not get into, although one compromise that I and others will often suggest is getting a standalone controller for the more important "critical" functions and use a PC based program for the fluff, like nice status displays, web based control, multimedia, etc.
Actually I don't call this a compromise at all, I think it is an intelligent and elegant design, especially with the tight integration of the sofware drivers. I look at the software, like CQC, as an extension of the Elk.

Right now, one of the best hardware combos you can have is an Elk M1 plus an Ocelot. This gives you a full function alarm panel, multiple protocol support, IR control and complex IF/THEN language support. The Ocelot is inexpensive enough to make having both quite affordable.
In keeping with the above strategy, I would love to have 'non pc based' IR control. My understanding of the Ocelot and IR is that the Ocelot can not receive IR quickly, meaning if you were say holding the channel or volume buttons down, the end device would be slow because the Ocelot could not keep up. This is the only thing holding me back from using an Ocelot instead of putting a USB-UIRT on CQC.
 

HighTest

Active Member
Thanks to you all, you've given me a lot to think about.

Fortunately, I'm at the point that I've added the structured wiring system with expansion capabilities but have not yet purchased lighting and electrical "control" products yet.

I had mentioned UPB as it seems the control capabilities are more reliable in regards to X10 and seems to have better support than Insteon (more likely due to it being arround just a little longer). Of course now this Z-Wave stuff is coming out too.

I've a fairly modest living space of 2500 square feet between two levels. Since it's a retro fit, the ability to simply replace switches and plugs would be desirable, although running new line is now more easily accomplished due to the work I did for the structured wiring work I mentioned previously. Since there are several posts about the different standards, I'll review those more but I welcome suggestions in terms of longevity and scalability.

As to the stand alone versus PC, I'd the following thought:

1. Start with a hardware solution that is expanable and maybe not the most exciting in terms of touchpanels, etc, but can be connected to a PC later.

2. Add a PC later, or two. One for touchpanel and other HA enhancements (like the RedRadio RAD-I/O setups, looks like this would be nice, panels that are not too obtrusive) and the second for the Media features. Having the media seperated allows it to adapt to the changing A/V scape, can't decide on SageTV or MCE.

In terms of programming, my profession is a Network Engineer and I'm also comfortable with electronics due to my EE degree. Based on that assumption, if Ocelot provides support for some of the newer standards, would this be a good start? I understand that I can then add in an Elk M1 later and get even more complex by leveraging their abilities, or should I do it the other way arround? M1 first and then Ocelot for improved IR. Currently WAF and FAF (family acceptance factor, if that exists) requires I don't change the Security at this time, the family is very vocal about having to relearn. Of course, I'm trying to pitch how that would be simplified, but in any event, I'd probably not touch that until later. In any case it's a super simple system that the prior home owner installed, probably after receiving drive around marketing pressure. It's not HA material in any event.

So to get the WAF and FAF factors on the upward curve, I pitched that I'd start with a modest light/temp control system and go from there. Thought I'd upgrade to multi-zone in the heating by adding some durazone dampers and a custom control system to direct the ducted heat.

Again, I appreciate all of your feedback, very helpful.
 

Steve

Senior Member
I think you are on the right track by putting in a HW controller then adding software to the mix as time/budget permits. The only thing is I would definitely recommend an M1 over an Ocelot as the first piece. I also don't really understand how WAF/FAF would suffer with you changing out the security. The only thing different they would see is a new keypad, and in true KISS fashion all they really need to know is their code. And maybe the mode, like Away vs what existing alarm calls it. But usability of alarm is the same, maybe even easier with an M1. All you do is enter either 4 or 6 digit code to disarm and you can set it to simply press 1 button to arm it without even needing the code. If they can't very easily learn that you will most certainly have more serious WAF/FAF issues with the other stuff :)
 

HighTest

Active Member
Steve said:
All you do is enter either 4 or 6 digit code to disarm and you can set it to simply press 1 button to arm it without even needing the code. If they can't very easily learn that you will most certainly have more serious WAF/FAF issues with the other stuff ;)
:) No doubt. Actually the WAF factor won't be too much of an issue as she is very technically capable with how the home theater is setup, etc (She want's even more features, I know how did I find her, I'm very lucky). It's just that we've had the in-laws over (love them dearly, very ejoyable to be around) to watch the home, etc and they've cost us a couple hundred in false alarm fees.

So the WAF factor is that even though the interface would be the same to use the system, any change may through the FAF compliance factor out the window.

Ahh well. Maybe I can find a compatible panel for the M1 that looks identically to the older one.

Again, thanks for all your help!
 

Guy Lavoie

Active Member
HighTest said:
Actually the WAF factor won't be too much of an issue as she is very technically capable with how the home theater is setup, etc (She want's even more features, I know how did I find her, I'm very lucky)
If you ever decide to split up with her...can I make you an offer? :)
 

tech-home

Active Member
Guy Lavoie said:
HighTest said:
Actually the WAF factor won't be too much of an issue as she is very technically capable with how the home theater is setup, etc (She want's even more features, I know how did I find her, I'm very lucky)
If you ever decide to split up with her...can I make you an offer? :)
;) :D :D
 

jlehnert

Active Member
Ahh well. Maybe I can find a compatible panel for the M1 that looks identically to the older one.

Elk touchpad with a picture of the old keypad. No learning curve (at least for them).
 

FrankMc

Active Member
HighTest said:
Hello fellow enthusiasts and professionals,

I recently have upgraded my home with a structured media center (Home was built in late fall of 2000, my Wife and I purchased it two years ago). I did a full retrofit on the wiring after I through a fit. When intending to add another line to another room, I found that the entire house had been daisychained rather than home run.

I yanked it all out, ran conduit into the attic space and rerun two Cat 5e to each room in the house and ensure extra space for additional wiring in the future. Each room had RG6 already, so I didn't have to worry about that.

It all comes back to a custom job Leviton enclosure (I didn't like their 6 port Cat 5e cards, so I purchased several 12 port Cat 5e patch panels and mounted them inside the case for more capacity then their normal mounts would provide.)

Anyways, with my desire to take video and audio to other rooms, I've been bitten by the home automation bug. I'll start out small, but will eventually move up to touchpanel lcd's and the works.

I was originally looking at an HAI Omni II controller, but after reading this forum it seems that they are not as enthusiast friendly. I understand that the Elk is also interesting.

My question is if I go with a PC based solution that could also be serving as the homes central media server, what would you recommend in conjunction? I was hearing about the ADI Ocelot, but wanted to find out more information and how well that worked for some.

My thinking was a PC with a connection to an Ocelot, some USB connections to UPB and Medio Home Bot or another good software application (HomeSeer looked interesting but then I saw the poll about version 2.0 and more than 50% not able to use it bug free).

So forgive the fact that I'm a greenhorn and if you have suggestions, I'll gladly learn from your experience.

Thanks!
Hi

For a hardwired solution i use Homevision....

http://www.csi3.com/homevis2.htm

For pc interfacing i use xPL which is free and currently has a UPB Plugin and soon to have a Zwave plugin....

http://wiki.xplproject.org.uk/index.php/Main_Page

Also i use some of my own hardware ,for IR interfacing to Homevision as well as monitoring appliance status and temp monitoring......

http://www.armaghelectrical.com.au/

hth
Frank
 
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