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New Home Automation? 336

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the color-changing-lights-and-infinity-mirrors-everywhere dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ok, fellow geeks... I have the luxury of finally building my dream home from scratch. It's going to be good sized (~4000 sq ft over 3 levels), and rather than run around at night to make sure my lights are off, doors are locked, garage is closed, etc, I really want to put in a home automation system. Since the walls aren't up, this is the time for complete flexibility as to my options. The last time I did a whole house, it was years ago, X10. Since then, lots of other protocols, both 'proprietary' and more general (like WiFi) have come on the market for devices — all better than what I've worked with in the past. What do you all have experience with and recommend as reliable, secure, and fairly easy to use? Something with a good chance for long term availability of parts and features would be a bonus."
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New Home Automation?

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  • by Ethan Bernard (2954293) on Monday January 13, 2014 @08:38PM (#45946525)

    Place thin wall plastic conduit, as big a diameter as you can fit, within the walls between rooms in anticipation of whatever future technology you might have to route through there.

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:01PM (#45946711)
      And start by running two CAT-5 and two coax cables to each WALL in every room. Yeah. Yeah wireless... Yeah, whatever. Run the cables.
      • by bob_super (3391281) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:27PM (#45946913)

        Start using them by running two CAT-6, a pair of multimode, and if you can afford it (4000ft2?) a pair of singlemode fiber. Don't need to connect them yet, just have enough space for outlets.
        At least two of these conduits per room, opposite walls/corners. At least one conduit to each outside wall of the house (put power in these ones too, not everything is PoE). Maybe one more conduit to the top of each outside wall if you want to add cameras-over-IP out of reach, while keeping regular plugs low.

        Ideally you'd have all the conduits lead to two different rooms/closets/hidden_panels, in case you have to modify the house in the future, or if you expect people to come grabbing, whether they knock with a warrant or break the window.

        • by immaterial (1520413) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:38PM (#45946991)
          If he's running conduit there's no reason whatsoever to run all those unnecessary cables through it. The whole point of conduit is it makes it possible to pull whatever you need if and when you need it. I have conduit to at least three walls of each room in my house but I've only pulled cat 6 and tv cable to the specific walls I need at the moment. Why waste the money installing useless cable?
          • Agreed, but if you roll the cost of the single-mode into the house, it doesn't need to be re-budgeted when you find that 10GE (or in a few years 100GE) router that you absolutely have to have.
            If this slashdotter has a significant other (at 4000ft2, you'd hope), that may not be a negligible thing. Not having to spend a few hours measuring and pulling it (unless you terminate your own fiber) may make it worth having a few strands that will never be used.

            Did I mention having enough power near the conduits for

            • by RulerOf (975607)

              Did I mention having enough power near the conduits for the Christmas lights?

              Heh. The best thing I ever read on a box of Christmas lights was this year, on the side of an LED strand: "connect up to 87 units end-to-end."

              He shouldn't have to worry about this one :D

          • by Charcharodon (611187) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @12:03AM (#45947869)
            You are correct, instead of running the wires, just run a length of string/cord through, that way later if you decide you want a run then just tie it off and pull it through. Don't forget to add another piece of cord along with the cable you are running!
            • by Jarik C-Bol (894741) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:37PM (#45957375)
              And this is how you put the cord in the conduit. You tie a plastic bag to the end of the cord (which should be on a good spool), stick it in the conduit, and then hook a shop vac hose to the far end. Most people cut a clear soda bottle to use as an adapter between the shop vac hose and the conduit. The result is, the vac pulls the bag (and the cord) through the conduit, and when you see the bag land in the bottle, you shut the thing off. I saw someone pull over a run over 100 feet long, buried underground that way,(not digging that up to add cord) and it worked like a charm.
          • by tobiasly (524456)

            If he's running conduit there's no reason whatsoever to run all those unnecessary cables through it. The whole point of conduit is it makes it possible to pull whatever you need if and when you need it. I have conduit to at least three walls of each room in my house but I've only pulled cat 6 and tv cable to the specific walls I need at the moment. Why waste the money installing useless cable?

            Because maybe then some broadband company later on will come buy up all your dark fiber. Profit!

        • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:52PM (#45947113) Homepage Journal
          While he's at it, he may as well install some Twinax in case someone with an AS/400 comes for a visit and needs some Token Ring love.
      • I bought a spool of siamese coax, thinking just what you are thinking, 3 houses ago. I ran the cat5, I ran the 4 conductor speaker wire, I ran plenty of new 220V romex, but I never had the reason to run coax. I generally end up with a single modem (DSL, later cable) that hits a router wherever, then cat5 / 5e / 6 / whatever to the various router / hubs / wifi access points.

      • Coax really? Sure it's cheap but not much still uses it. Even live TV switches over to IP packets once it hits the house. Maybe if your stuck with satellite as your only option.

        • Run the antenna to a TV Tuner with Myth on it. Perfect for sending it to multiple places around the house at once.

      • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @12:04AM (#45947873) Homepage Journal

        Update that to three CAT-6 + 1 coax, and you're doing well. Most signals can be piggybacked on CAT-6 these days (including HDMI and USB) so make those connections easily cross-connected and well labelled.

    • by mhotchin (791085) <slashdot@hotchin. n e t> on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:59PM (#45947585)

      Don't forget outside! At the very *least*, run conduit to the end of the driveway if it's any length - at least two, so you can run power and low voltage stuff (code usually forbids running both in the same conduit). Access for the deck etc also useful.

      It doesn't hurt to run some other access points out the house as well, to help with future dev. I put in a carport, and the *one* available conduit coming out of the house made power and a camera possible. We have concrete sidewalk al around the house, so getting wires from the outside to the inside is very difficult now.

      For music / audio about the house, you usually want access to the ceiling of each room, so you might want to think about conduit for that as well. Our house had wire installed, but not the right type - we had to live with it since I didn't want to rip out ceilings and walls everywhere.

    • Put a fish in each conduit.
    • Powerless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @12:36AM (#45948033) Journal
      Having just gone through a multi-day power failure due to an ice storm (Toronto), I suggest that you put a little thought into what you might need if you had a long term power outage. You don't say where you are, but in a lot of places, it can get awfully cold without power. If you live in a winter climate, I suggest that you have a "warm room"; a room within the house where even the interior walls are insulated. That room should have a properly vented and working fireplace or wood stove, and/or gas heating, and be large enough for the entire family to sack out in sleeping bags. Having a backup generator is also a good idea. Multiple exits on different sides of the house are a good idea, in case your front door gets a two inch thick coating of ice on it, and you can't get out.

      I'm not saying be a prepper, but a few precautions while the house is in the planning stages could save your life, or at least make a tough situation more tolerable.
    • by auzy (680819) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:22AM (#45949365)

      I work for a company who installs automation here in Australia (Mox BI VIC). Firstly, the good thing is that you have the opportunity to decide how you want to wire things now if the house isn't built.

      1) Start by Wiring back the TPS for lights, downlights, and power points to a single rack. This means that you wont need to crack open the wall to change to a new tech in the future, even if you plan to use a retrofitable system. I cry a little when I see a new house being built, and a retrofitable technology tacked on. Structuring the wiring will make all the difference in the future.

      2) Wireless technologies such as Z-Wave are great, however, keep in mind that technologies running on 2.4GHZ need to accept interference. If the idiot neighbors run a baby monitor on those frequencies, and you get dropouts, you cannot sue them, or force them to change. For that reason, only use wireless technologies for retrofits if possible (for multicolored lights, they may need to realistically be wireless though). Do not design a system that will rely on it (except for iPad/iPhone AV control).

      3), Run more CAT5/CAT6 than you think you need. And keep in mind, CAT6A theoretically can run up to 10gbit/s up to 37m. There is higher quality unofficial standards such as CAT7A available, however, only install them if you have the money (because, they aren't official, and may not add any real benefit, but are nice to have).

      4) Have a 15A socket in the garage. UPS's work better with it, and, in an automated home, it might be nice to have control of some features.. Also, try to get a high-amperage TPS run to the garage (for electric cars potentially in the future).

      5) Single story house is TONS less painful for future changes than double. If you are doing double, be doubly sure that the wiring downstairs is right. You might not get a second chance without tearing serious holes in plaster (which we have had to do in a few systems to add/change extra functionality the client later wanted).

      6) Run at least 3 Ethernets to every TV. You might want a matrix switch later, and you may also want to control your TV's. If you run a single CAT5 to each TV, you might regret it..

      7) You might want electric blinds... Keep that in mind.. You may also want gate lock and front/back door to be openable via intercom.

      8) The last problem is wall switches. Unfortunately, many common protocols at this time use a Bus wired system (we use CANBUS, which is utilised in cars also). If you run 6-core security wire in a chain to each point, and RJ45 back to the central rack, you should be covered (albeit, in an expensive way).

      9) Pick a standard with an open protocol. To be honest, many protocols can be reverse engineered (it just takes time). If you have the protocol though, even if you pick a standard that dies, it may be possible to develop a software bridge that bridges between 2 protocols, and slowly phase parts of the system out.

      Obviously, I am biased, but I recommend MOX Canbus (as I know MOX is committed to the system for the long haul), but, ultimately, the system you choose will also depend on your country anyway (because, it needs to be electrically approved in that country anyway).

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        If the idiot neighbors run a baby monitor on those frequencies

        Calling someone an idiot for buying an off-the-shelf FCC certified product to monitor their child's health just because it interferes with your gadgets that run in the same unlicensed frequency band is a bit harsh.

        The OP might want to consider what he makes the walls of his house out of though. Faraday cage on the outside, lots of 5GHz access points on the inside.

    • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @06:44AM (#45949445)

      Place thin wall plastic conduit, as big a diameter as you can fit, within the walls between rooms in anticipation of whatever future technology you might have to route through there.

      I didn't really know what I needed until the house was completed. If I'd had it to do over again, I'd have paid more attention to what runs down the external walls.

      I have enough attic clearance to run whatever new cabling I need to interior walls, but the pitch of the roof is such that dropping anything new down an outside wall would probably require opening up the roof in that area. Not enough clearance inside the attic.

  • Z-Wave (Score:5, Informative)

    by tftp (111690) on Monday January 13, 2014 @08:41PM (#45946565) Homepage

    Z-Wave is the only one that you want to have. Insteon is not very reliable, being dependent on power lines for signaling (at low baud rate, to make things worse) and nothing else can compare to these two.

    Z-Wave is entirely RF-based and requires no wiring. However make sure you have plenty of Ethernet everywhere because you will want to have Ethernet-connected sensors such as the power meter, the solar inverter, and a bunch more - plan for those ahead of time.

    Plan also for video cameras for security and Ethernet cables to them for IP (or coaxial cables if you pick analog cameras.) You will need entry/exit keypad controllers to operate things (don't know what kind of property you got.) Basically, plan everything before they are done with framing. Make sure all wires are in steel conduits, so that they are protected from Mickey Mouse. You will need live + neutral + protective ground everywhere.

    • by Nkwe (604125)

      Z-Wave is the only one that you want to have. Insteon is not very reliable, being dependent on power lines for signaling (at low baud rate, to make things worse) and nothing else can compare to these two.

      If you think you might ever want to use Insteon (which does have some issues, but has some cool features as well), make sure you include a neutral to all of your wall switch boxes. Typical house wiring carries the hot and neutral lines between the ceiling fixtures and drops only a hot "send" and hot "return" to the wall switch. The cost before you close the walls of running 14-3 over 14-2 wire to the wall switches is minimal, the cost of changing after you close the walls is high.

      As others have said, run

      • Re:Z-Wave (Score:5, Insightful)

        by djrobxx (1095215) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:30PM (#45946949)

        If you think you might ever want to use Insteon (which does have some issues, but has some cool features as well), make sure you include a neutral to all of your wall switch boxes.

        You want this for Z-wave also. There are two-wire Z-wave switches, but they usually require an incandescent bulb. To expand on this a bit - make sure that lighting switches are wired with a constant hot and neutral, and separate load wiring. Usually this means the line and load's neutrals and grounds are tied together in the switch box, and the hot is switched. There are some other more creative ways to do lighting circuits that make things more of a pain when trying to replace switches.

        If you can, get the electrician to label the load wire (the one that runs to the light). That can sometimes be a pain to figure out if there's only line and load in a single gang box. I also second the suggestion for alarm wiring. Figure you want motion sensors and wires to every door and window run to some central location. Changing the batteries on these is a big pain if you have a lot of sensors, and the sensors can also be part of your automation logic.

      • The central room probably wants a wiring rack - is it too late to put a closet in for it?

      • by Foresto (127767)

        make sure you include a neutral to all of your wall switch boxes.

        This is a good idea even if you don't plan on automating anything. With a neutral at each of your switch boxes you can install all sorts of electronic gadgets, including trailing edge dimmers, which are much more friendly to LED and other modern lighting systems than the dimmers that work without a neutral.

  • by DanSSJ4 (1693476) on Monday January 13, 2014 @08:42PM (#45946567)

    Make sure you run everything, Coax, Cat5/6, Lighting Electrical, Alarms, etc. to a single Telco Closet, or one on each floor.
    The biggest problem is usually having to run or rerun wires after construction do to poor planning.

    Also put at least one Ethernet jack in every room. Wireless is subject to interference from neighbors, other 2.4 & 5 ghz devices, etc. plus you get use them for video, audio, etc. in the future if necessary.

    That is where I would start, that way if you find later that you overlooked something, or decide to change some automation devices you will have the flexibility to do so.

    I like the Bayweb Thermostats, it is easy to manage multiple HVAC units, which you will certainly have with a house that size.

  • by pcwhalen (230935) <pcwhalen@gmail.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Monday January 13, 2014 @08:45PM (#45946597) Journal

    I've fallen, and I can't get up! [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQlpDiXPZHQ [youtube.com] ]

    Boy, I'm old.

  • Don't. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ddt (14627) <ddt@davetaylor.name> on Monday January 13, 2014 @08:46PM (#45946601) Homepage

    Ever lived in a house with a built-in intercom? Find yourself using it? Don't feel bad. No one else does, either.

    For long-term value, try to resist the urge to automate it today. Lasting value will come from routing high quality, shielded cables both for data and power to multiple outlets in every room as well as creating strong rooms and creating lots of easily accessible, strong mount points where you can install things you'd like to automate with whatever the latest and greatest tech is. They might be mounts for motors for pulleys for shades or mount points for light fixtures or for a robotic arm that changes your baby's diapers or a landing pad for flying bot that fetches you snacks from the kitchen. The thing is, tech is changing *so* ridiculously fast now, that no matter what you choose today, it's going to be not only obsolete in no time, but in all probability some kind of maintenance and even security liability later.

    If you design those mount points in to look attractive instead of like nubs of unfinished 2x4, that's going to be the real art of making a house that a hacker can thrive in but that can improve continuously over time and that can be of value to someone in the market for a house 10-20 years later. Goes without saying, but removable wall panels are also a great way to make a house far more maintainable into the future.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Ever lived in a house with a built-in intercom? Find yourself using it? Don't feel bad. No one else does, either.

      For long-term value, try to resist the urge to automate it today. Lasting value will come from routing high quality, shielded cables both for data and power to multiple outlets in every room as well as creating strong rooms and creating lots of easily accessible, strong mount points where you can install things you'd like to automate with whatever the latest and greatest tech is.

      But you still have to decide today what you might want to automate tomorrow unless you like making holes in walls.

      If you don't realize that you could have window shades that automatically shield the midday sun or skylights that close when it rains, then you're not going to know that you need to run power and data to those locations and you'll end up tearing up walls and ceilings later on.

    • Re: Don't. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pcwhalen (230935) <pcwhalen@gmail.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:15PM (#45946815) Journal

      Guy I know is a builder. Has a closet on the top floor of his house that opens into a crawlway [lighted with LED lamps] leading to each room on the top floor. There are 2 large pieces of PVC pipe with wiring running in and out. One is to the 1st floor room below and the other is to the 2d story room beneath. There is a set of 2 larger PVC pipes that lead to the basement and electrical switching and panels. He has a strand of fish tape [http://www.harborfreight.com/50-ft-fish-tape-38156.html] in each to facilitate pulling wires.

      He said it doubled the cost of wiring the house, but it has future proofed any wiring or room access needs.

      He is a guy with a lot of money and WAY too much time on his hands, but I thought it was cool. He shows it off at cocktail parties. 7,000 sq. ft. house, sold it for 4 times the cost to build it 6 years earlier.

      • Re: Don't. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:29PM (#45946935)

        A space for running pipes vertically is called a chase. Be careful, a chase is also a way for a fire to very easily get from the basement to the attic.

        • Re: Don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:32AM (#45948679) Homepage

          I was about to say the same thing - chases are dangerous, that's why they have specific regulations in the fire code.

          And that brings up another thing... if you want to 'futureproof' your house, tech is about the third or fourth thing on the list at least. Build the house to code or beyond (preferably beyond). Make sure there is maintenance access and load paths to major equipment (water heater, heater, washing machine, dryer). Look to building in accessibility features (hallways wide enough to take wheelchairs and power scooters, a place for a ramp in the future, a handicapped shower/tub, all the stuff you or a future buyer will want when they get old).

          Goddam geeks are always worried about the latest shiny, and never concerned about tomorrow.

    • Re:Don't. (Score:5, Funny)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:32PM (#45947377)

      >Ever lived in a house with a built-in intercom? Find yourself using it?

      I did, I never would have installed it myself, but since it was there, yeah, we used it, and would have used it more if it had decent sound quality.

      That was a uniquely laid out house, 2800sf in a sort of U shape - intercom went from one tip of the U to the other - beat the hell out of waving your arms frantically in the window to get attention followed up by charades / sign language, which we also did sometimes when the intercom was on the fritz.

    • Ever lived in a house with a built-in intercom? Find yourself using it? Don't feel bad. No one else does, either.

      You earned the +5 Informative with this bit alone. I've bought several houses, constructed in the late 80's into the 90's, and part of the tear out always included getting rid of the stupid intercoms. Intercom in each of the kids' rooms on the second floor, 30 feet from the door, really?

      Part of living with a spouse for over 30 years involves formal courtesy (Heinlein was right about that), and buzzing someone from the master bedroom instead of walking down the damn stairs and talking to them is discourte

  • Z wave (Score:5, Informative)

    by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Monday January 13, 2014 @08:47PM (#45946617) Journal

    It's what I'm starting to use and it's pretty good so far. Door locks, window/door sensors, thermostats, motion sensors, lights, outlets, dimmers, etc. Pretty handy so far. Scripting with LUUP (a LUA like language) is pretty simple, and you can get it to play pretty easily with other whole-house solutions (like SONOS).

    For example, when I get home, I can use my cell phone to open the garage door, turn on the garage light, the hallway light, the family room light, turn on the tea maker, and fire up SONOS to the Pandora station of my choice. At night, I can issue a single "time to sleep" command and the house locks itself up, sets lights/temperatures appropriately, and I'm set.

    • I can use my cell phone to open the garage door, turn on the garage light, the hallway light, the family room light, turn on the tea maker, and fire up SONOS to the Pandora station of my choice.

      I assume your cell-phone talks to the Internet which talks to your house which causes all of these things to occur? Or is it that you're close enough to home that you can hop on your WiFi network (mine works okayish in the driveway) and nothing is Internet accessible?

      I'm curious because I've debated getting this capability for our garage door because I am sometimes unsure whether or not I closed the garage door--it's an OCD thing. So having the ability to check my cellphone to see if I closed the door wou

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        You know what else you can do?

        Pay attention when you're closing the garage door. Build up a modicum of awareness as you're doing it, take a mental snapshot of the door as it's closed, take a mental snapshot of you testing that it's locked. Awareness is all you need, it's just sad how little awareness people have or are capable of focusing.

        Or you know, buy yourself an expensive crutch that will only work for that particular application and will have no side benefits on any other part of your life and whic

        • Do you have kids? I have trouble reaching monk-like mindfulness with chattering kids, both arms full, and below-zero temps. Sometimes I wonder if the garage door closed. Or want to watch it go all the way down (snow can pile up and make the door bounce off the bottom).
          • by Jmc23 (2353706)
            Have you not realized that kids are just little scout robots you can send out to do jobs like check if the garage door is closed? They also fetch drinks quite well.
        • Pay attention when you're closing the garage door. Build up a modicum of awareness as you're doing it, take a mental snapshot of the door as it's closed, take a mental snapshot of you testing that it's locked...

          Or you know, buy yourself an expensive crutch that will only work for that particular application and will have no side benefits on any other part of your life and which keeps you from growth and mastery.

          Grasshopper, you will have finished your training when you can slide into bed and tell me whether you have locked the garage door...

    • Re:Z wave (Score:4, Informative)

      by djrobxx (1095215) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:38PM (#45946993)

      It's what I'm starting to use and it's pretty good so far. Door locks, window/door sensors, thermostats, motion sensors, lights, outlets, dimmers, etc. Pretty handy so far. Scripting with LUUP (a LUA like language) is pretty simple, and you can get it to play pretty easily with other whole-house solutions (like SONOS).

      You're describing the Vera, which is primarily a Z-wave controller but supports lots of other protocols and ethernet/serial devices. I use this as well. The best part is that there aren't monthly fees to use it, and the community is writing new drivers for things in LUA all the time. Most other HA solutions I've seen are very nickel-and-dime.
       

  • I recommend using Red Cloud for Entry Control, it is absolutely reliable, feature rich and has excellent support.

    Keys are a big inconvenience, plus it's nice to give keys to neighbors, house guests, relatives, etc and be able to specify dates, times, etc. for access as well as being able to deactivate a key whenever you want.

    You can control all the doors with a Smart phone, in fact you can use your phone as the key, by holding it up to the reader.

  • I have 2 strands of Cat-5e into every room [I use one for 2 telephone lines], a strand of coax and 4 "2-gang" electrical sockets in each room, one on each wall. Try to put the RJ-45, RJ-15 and coax away from the wall with the window or heater. Most likely not where you will put the TV or computer.

    Tell the electrician you want each strand to be an "end run" with no splices. Have them all terminate in a room ["the nerve center"] that is not the boiler room nor contains electrical panels, but preferably wher

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Someone wrote with the idea for conduit between rooms in the walls for future wiring. I like it. Aircraft carriers are built that way.

      Having zero knowledge about home automation, but having occasionally wished it was easier to string cabling between rooms ... conduits to be able to make future wiring easier sounds like an awfully good idea.

      I'm about to move into a house in which some networking cables are going to have to be strung some annoying distances, and the house has new laminate flooring I'd rather

  • Where to begin ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by xplosiv (129880) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:10PM (#45946785)

    I highly recommend you check out CocoonTech.com [cocoontech.com], especially the forums, as there are thousands of folks who have done this, and can bring you up to speed pretty quick. There is also a guide on the site (Wiring your home 101) which will tell you what wires you should run assuming budget isn't an issue (this lets you pick and chose what wire really matters to you).

    You have so many options, it really depends on the time you are willing to put in, budget, and features you want.

    I recommend you use an Elk M1 or HAI Omni Pro II security/automation panel as the 'core' of your system if security is really important to you, or if automation is your main vice, then look at the SmartThings, Vera, ISY-99, and HomeTroller (Zee) hardware controllers.

    Most of us top this installation off with a software component, so we can bridge/interface many protocols and technologies (this way you aren't stuck with just one solution). Most popular commercial software solutions are Homeseer and CQC, but there are many alternatives, free, open source, etc.

    Currently, Z-Wave, INSTEON, UPB, ZigBee, and WeMo are the popular protocols.

    If you have the budget, consider hardwiring your home automation light switches, as the wireless/powerline based solutions aren't perfect, plus you have to worry about latency/security. CentraLite, Crestron and Lutron RadioRA are popular commercial solutions. They usually require dealer/installer access, but if you really look around, you could get access to the hardware (I'd probably combine RadioRA with a HAI/ELK panel).

    There is so much more to tell, so if you have any other questions, ask away, and don't forget to check out the CocoonTech home automation forums [cocoontech.com]!

  • by sg_oneill (159032) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:10PM (#45946789)

    If your building from scratch, then design your homes wiring in a structured manner. Consider having twisted pair runs around the house for touchpanels or switchpanels (RS485 is still the greatest automation protocol since sliced cheese IMHO) with that and power connections coming back to small hideable racks around the joint. Have Cat5 and Fibre ports around the house, and perhaps instead of messing around with home handyman junk like X10, consider using high end gear like the AMX's and Crestrons of the world. Not actually expensive if you snarf all that stuff off ebay!

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      A protocol is only as good as its use case. RS485 is great, but outside of industry do you see it used much? Sure commercial chillers and telemetry systems but what RS485 systems have you ever seen in someone's house?

      Serial is effectively dead for consumers, Ethernet is cheap to the point where the circuits and stack to make something Ethernet enabled cost no more than the circuits to enable RS485. That and everything these days is pushing wireless meshing systems like 802.15.4 or even proprietary serial co

  • Wait a year until Google's purchase, announced today, of a company that makes household products like thermostats starts to bring new products to market.

    Then, you can have your house turned into one of the tendrils of the Panopticon. Won't that be fun?

  • by crow (16139) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:36PM (#45946987) Homepage Journal

    One thing I wish our house had more of is outdoor electrical outlets. You never know when you will need them for gardening tools or holiday decorations. Having them switched is even better, especially if you do a lot of holiday decorating.

    • by oneiros27 (46144)

      I completely agree -- I've got one on the front porch, but nothing on the back deck. If I want to run a line without leaving the back door open, I end up stretching an extension cord from the detached garage behind the house.

      Putting them on the sides of the house would be useful for hedge trimmers, the electric chainsaw for when I don't want to drag out the big one, paint sprayer, pressure washer, etc.

      I've been places where there was conduit run so they popped up boxes about a foot high near the large tree

  • by An Ominous Coward (13324) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:47PM (#45947069)

    Zigbee's the best option for home automation ecosystem. Zero-conf mesh networking for great range even through walls/floors, and lower power so all these devices don't bust your electricity bill. And if your utility installs a smart meter with home-area networking, it'll probably be Zigbee, so smart appliances can get usage and price data from there.

  • by MrEricSir (398214)

    The last time I did a whole house, it was years ago, X10.

    So you clicked on one of those popup ads? HEATHEN! BURN HIM AT THE STAKE

  • To deliver beer, sugar or caffeine to you.

    I know it's old tech, but you could probably do something absolutely geekish with the implementation.

  • Since you have the grand opportunity to design your house before it's built, you want to use the best home automation protocol available. Hard wiring to every room with the RS-485, RS-422, TIA-485-A family is the best long-term bet. This will always work now and in the future. It won't be affected by obsolescence, RF interference, or electromagnetic interference.

    You can extend your house later with the toy protocols later like Zwave, INSTEON, Zigbee, Bluetooth 4.0/Smart/WiBree, or whatever. For the core home automation where reliability is required, like lights, doors, alarms, sensors, you should use ANSI/TIA/EIA-485. The wires will be the same as your ethernet in case you ever change your mind, but if you design it right, you won't need to.

    You rarely see any theaters, hotels, or shopping malls using anything else but ANSI/TIA/EIA-485.

  • by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:52PM (#45947115)

    I did a huge amount of research on what system to go for when I was looking at doing the same.

    The final result was that KNX represents the best system to go for. It is the only open standard meaning you have many many manufactures (as opposed to CBUS) it integrates with pc systems allowing you to do 100% customisable setups and its wiring is simple.

    You have to run a seperate cable to every device you control but given you are building this is easy. The cable can support (off the top of my head) 128 devices on one cable. Each device is individually addressed and the on/off status is reported back meaning you can still use manual style switches with no problems.

    As others have mentioned make sure you data wire your house as well while you are there but this is a different question.

    Expect however to spend $20k+ if you are going lights, access, hvac, sensors, etc. If you want to keep your costs low during the build period run the cable where ever it is needed and add the devices later.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KNX_(standard) [wikipedia.org]

  • Consider Lutron stuff as well. They've got killer products for lighting and shades.
  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:05PM (#45947191)
    Conduit. You never know what might be invented or standardized tomorrow and render your cabling obsolete.
  • My job is actually programming home and business A/V and environment control systems for a living. While it won't be the cheapest option, if you want the best, go with one of the 2 biggest and most reputable manufacturers out there: Crestron Electronics -or- AMX. These are the systems that the big luxury homes/mansions get. Crestron -> http://www.crestron.com/ [crestron.com] AMX -> http://www.amx.com/ [amx.com] Both manufacturers make wide assortment of proprietary touch panels, keypads, and central control processors fo
  • I think the biggest thing you can do is ensure that the home is easy to run wires inside the walls and across floor/ceiling spaces without making a big mess. I recently moved into a new-to-me house and have had to do a fair bit of home automation/network refit. In this case, this is a single story home with a full basement. The basement is finished but has a drop ceiling instead of sheetrock. This makes it really easy to run wires throughout the house since you can run the wires in the space between
    • by fwc (168330)
      Remembered one more item...

      I personally use insteon for most everything, other than those things which seem better for m-wave - in my case, I use m-wave for door locks, thermostats, etc., which are somewhat slim picking on the insteon side. I like how the insteon works for power control, and m-wave seems way expensive and weird for that stuff.

      I haven't yet purchased it so I can't say how it works, but I'm about ready to spring for a Elk M-1 panel in combination with a ISY-994i with their new (beta) m-

  • by ATestR (1060586) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:43PM (#45947449) Homepage

    Ok, I may take some flack from everyone on this, but I'm not going to suggest more wiring in the walls, etc. etc. Instead, I would suggest, if you have the option, to consider earth sheltered concrete. Properly designed, you can minimize heating and/or cooling load on the structure, potentially eliminating the need for gas/oil/electric furnace all together.

    That said, once you've got your basic structure, feel free to load it up with all the wires, wireless, automation, and other toys you like.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:51PM (#45947521)

    People really put in a lot of money to save people. Automation in it's current state aint gonna save you a dime (especially lights and crap) and cause a lot of headaches when it comes time to fix. Especially light switches where the ~$1 switches are damn reliable tech.

    I have all sort of low tech solutions, but for lighting, I recommend fixtures that take a normal A19 edison bulb. People always want to put in fancy flurorescent lights (not CFLs, just the odd shaped pieces) but the bulbs are always more expensive and never advance. With the standard A19, you can be assured of being able to buy the latest and highest variety tech. If you like track lights, you can buy A19 track light fixtures as well pretty cheap if you look around that look fine (as low as $5 ebay sales new, $7-9 normal)

    Then buy 60w Cree light bulbs at Home Depot, they are the best and with subsidies, they cost $8 a piece in my area (down from $13 unsubsidized).

    Unlike CFLs, they are instant on, use a few watts less electricity, and look normal. And the 2700k watt variety should attract less bugs (no ultraviolet emmittage) but that shouldn't be conflated with no bugs.

    I installed lights, noticed the reflectors were less than optimal in ceiling lights and outdoor lights, that the 60w just wasn't strong enough, used a hightech item from the supermarket known as aluminum foil, placed it strategically and hidden from normal view and was able to get more light than 100w equivalent (23w) CFLs or 100w incandescent. My kitchen went from 256 watts fluorescent tubes to 76w ceiling lights (mostly because the tubes were typically places in center of the room trying to light be sheer power whereas the ceiling lights were placed accordingly). My living room went from 69 watt CFLs to 28.5w cree leds with the same lighting just because of aluminum foil.

    My greater point is that aluminum foil and other simple stuff is much more reliable than fancy gadgets that turn things off every once in a while

    You can also consider light switch motion detectors, but they too are expensive but at least it's a single point of failure and can be replaced with a standard switch should things go wrong.

    The only tech I would really use is a good thermostat.

    Talking about that, if you have any interest in solar and the like, look into David W. Allan's home in Colorado, situated 6000 ft high, that uses only solar passive heating.

    http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/david-w-allans-solar-home/ [naturalbuildingblog.com]

    I find the Trombe wall:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trombe_wall [wikipedia.org]

    Solarium with ducts, and eutetic salts concept fascinating.

    They pretty much adhere to the KISS concept, which is what I recommend overall.

  • by MadMaverick9 (1470565) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:14PM (#45947653)
    Copper wire mesh - to keep the radio signals out.
  • by aXis100 (690904) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:14PM (#45947661)

    I've nearly gone as far as I can automating systems and devices my current home - temperature & humidity sensing in most rooms, motion sensing in every room, zoned ducted evaporative aircon, a couple of split reverse cycle aircons, z-wave lighting and exhaust fans, and mains power monitoring.

    -- Lighting ---
    Z-Wave works mostly well enough, and I use this to automatically turn on lights when motion is detected, turn off lights after a while with no motion, or turn off when I go to bed. Unfortunately the turn-on the signal can take up to several seconds on a large 1-wire network, so even when the motion sensor triggers quickly you can still be halfway across a room before the lights turn on which is a pain. On top of that, I cant disable the z-wave dimmer soft-on and soft-off feature which is a pain when you're trying to get quick response. For the turn off, it's probably not worth it since I upgraded to LED lights as the power saved is negligible.

    At the price of parts + install being $150 - $200 per light fixture it's not really been worth. A few minor conveniences and a lot of annoyances. I think I'd be better off with no automation on most regular light fixtures, and just some inline z-wave switches on frestanding lamps and mood lighting. Maybe automation on the living room and master bedroom for convenience / scenes.

    -- Temperature / Humidity ---
    Temperature and humidity sensing in every room has been great. In Australia where I live it's quite uncommon to have a whole house climate control system, so I've used these to help come up with a automated strategy for every room that integrates the available air conditioning systems. Also I've used the temperature, humidity and (calculated) air speed in each room to create a "feels like" temperature. Controlling against this rather than the dry air temp has given a much better result.

    I've been using 1-wire devices as sensors, which need 1 or 2 twisted pairs for comms and power - cat5 is great. The DS18B20 temperature sensors are very cheap, have been very reliable and can send signals over long distances. Unfortunately the DS2438 based humidity sensors are not as good and I've had to partition the network a 1-Wire hub. Currently I still have intermittent errors with just 30m of cable on each DS2438 leg, whereas the DS18B20 temperature sensors could cope with a load of 100m plus. If I was building a new house I'm not sure if I'd use them again due to the issues with humidity sensing, but I'm not convinced there's many other affordable alternatives either. For reference the DS18B20 sensors are costing me about $2 each, and the DS2438 based humidity sensors (using a Honeywell humidity IC) are about $20 each from parts. Since I work as a control engineer, my next preferred option would be modbus slave devices over RS485.

    -- Air conditioning ---
    For the split reverse cycle aircons I used a central GlobalCache IP2IR infrared blaster, and then ran long wires with a concealed IR emmitter fitted inside the aircon head units. This works fine but the IR programming for air conditioners is painful. I wish there was an automation interface standard for them.

    For the ducted aircon I had to integrate the zone controller using an arduino for digital IO, communicating back to the central server via RS232 serial (over cat5). I upgraded the fan to use a VFD (variable frequency drive) and this can be controlled directly over RS485 using MODBUS RTU.

    -- Conclusion --
    If I had my chance again I'd probably just run multiple cat5e or cat6 to every room
    - 2 to 4 at floor level for computers and TV's
    - 1 or 2 behind the light switches for potential CBUS or other wired lighting control systems. These would be wired to a seperate patch panel
    - 1 or 2 behind a wall mounted sensor enclosure - this could then have both a temp/humidity sensor and IR emitter fitted. These would also be wired to a seperate patch panel

    Ideally I wouldnt run any mains power to wall light switches - all of t

  • by El Puerco Loco (31491) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:17PM (#45947671)

    If my staff were so absent mindedly leaving so many lights on and doors unlocked that I had to consider installing a home automation system, I would begin by replacing the butler. He really ought to be doing a better job of keeping the help under control.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:34PM (#45947745)

    In my first house, I put in coax everywhere for 10BASE2 to be on the cutting edge. It was cool until copper came out.
    In my second house, I put in CAT5 everywhere for 100BASE-T to really future-proof the wiring. Then fibre was the rage.
    In my third house, I put in fibre everywhere for ATM and wasted a lot of money. Did I say I wasted a lot of money?
    In my fourth house, I put in CAT6 everywhere for 1000BASE-T since it should also do 10GBASE-T. But my runs were longer than 55 meters.
    In my fifth house, I said, #%!% it, and didn't wire anything. It became a ghost house where if I pick up my wireless phone, my Wi-Fi connection dropped, my Wi-Fi cameras went nuts, and my Wi-Fi controlled lights flipped randomly. It was great for Halloween.

    Movin's a bitch.

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @07:35AM (#45949663)

    I like the idea of conduit for wiring because it allows you to add or replace cabling you otherwise wouldn't be able to, but I think you have to be smart about the structure of the conduit so that you have accessable, big junction boxes to enable long pulls or pulls between areas that aren't in a straight line.

    One thing I'd like as an existing homeowner is video cameras and monitoring. I don't think I'll ever have them where I want them, though, because the wiring to corners of eaves and other locations is so onerous. In a new house I'd definitely want to plan for this because these are a lot harder to retrofit than wall locations.

    The same is true for alarm wiring.

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