Overview Help for a Newbie - AVS Forum
Home Automation > Overview Help for a Newbie
aerofan34's Avatar aerofan34 03:22 PM 09-15-2009
Hi there. I am new here and I have spent about 30 min using the search to find something like what I am about to ask for, but I have been unsuccessful so far. (the problem might be Pebkac though)

I am new the space and looking for recommendations for a DIY HA solution for HVAC/Lighting/DA/Home Theater/Security - emphasis on lighting.

I am having trouble differentiating between technologies/brands/platforms etc.

Let me give you an example. I saw one of the solutions was Cortexa and I thought another was HAI, but when I read about Cortexa, I see that they are compatible with HAI - Omnistat2 RC2000 - I thought HAI was a brand/product?

The long and short of is I am hoping that someone can point me towards a directory/overview of the space and maybe give me a recommendation on which "system(s)" to use for a newbie with decent computer chops, but hasn't done anything more complex than Wattstopper Miro.

AnthonyZ's Avatar AnthonyZ 10:37 PM 09-15-2009
Neurorad's Avatar Neurorad 07:16 AM 09-16-2009
Be prepared to spend several hundreds or thousands of hours researching this stuff.

Good rec, Anthony.

Most of the control systems accomodate most of the lighting technologies (your most important need you say), so that won't be a big problem. However, if you're picky about switches and keypads, you'll have to physically touch each one. Everyone says that Lutron has the best, but I really was not that impressed, when I finally put my hands on them (Lutron automated switches have the same feel as the non-automated ones at HD/Lowes).

When looking at controllers, your first decision will be PC-based software or a dedicated device/component/controller. That google spreadsheet that Anthony linked has a field for 'Controller' accessed at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Great comparison. Once you decide on the platform (hardware vs. software), you'll have about 5 to compare. Spend a few days (or weeks) researching each one.

Then spend a few weeks researching the different subsystems - HVAC, AV, lighting, security, etc.

You mentioned security - Elk and HAI offer alarm controllers that also have HA features (both listed on the spreadsheet). Most DIY people end up with one of those, and then add the PC/software control a year or 2 later when the alarm/HA system becomes too limiting. Security should be rock solid (don't want that crashing at the wrong time), so it's a very good starting platform for HA. Even though lighting is most important to you, the switches (usually) will still operate if the control fails.

If you love to tinker, and want a robust system that is very flexible, go with the Elk M1.

If you want an off the shelf solution for all/most of the subsystems, go with HAI.

I don't know who said it first, but "DIY HA is not for the faint of heart, or faint of wallet".

Edit - if you hadn't mentioned security, I'd have suggested differently.
aerofan34's Avatar aerofan34 10:52 AM 09-16-2009
Thank you both!

I know I am in for a long-term commitment, but I guess you have to start somewhere right?

I will check out the suggestions.

Thanks again!
aerofan34's Avatar aerofan34 11:42 AM 09-16-2009

if you hadn't mentioned security, I'd have suggested differently.

Might I ask what you would have recommended instead? Thanks!
Neurorad's Avatar Neurorad 04:17 PM 09-16-2009
Start with the non-security controllers - CQC, HomeSeer, J9, Premise (it's free!), HAI Lumina (HAI without security), MainLobby, etc.
aerofan34's Avatar aerofan34 09:09 AM 09-18-2009
Thanks so much for your help! I am checking them out.

I have to say that the mainlobby seems to be the most compatible with other systems that I might want to integrate.

Thanks again!
AceCannon's Avatar AceCannon 11:02 AM 09-18-2009
Originally Posted by aerofan34 View Post

I am new the space and looking for recommendations for a DIY HA solution for HVAC/Lighting/DA/Home Theater/Security - emphasis on lighting.

Is your house new construction or retrofit?

Just as a starting point, I am in the middle of a DIY project in my new construction. We've been in the house for 2 months or so. I chose:

lighting: OnQ ALC (hardwired)
HVAC: Aprilaire
Video: component video distribution, Extron
Audio: Nuvo Grand Concerto and 2 vanilla surround receivers
Security: Elk (which will interface with lighting and HVAC)

CQC: will control and integrate all of the above
IVB's Avatar IVB 11:15 AM 09-18-2009
The site in my sig has a bunch of stuff.
sic0048's Avatar sic0048 11:18 AM 09-18-2009
As far as lighting goes, there are three main camps: hardwired, powerline control, and wireless. This refers to the control aspect of the lighting since obviously the 110v lines are all hardwired.

The powerline systems actually piggyback the control signals on the HV lines. So the HV line carries both the regular 110v plus the control signals that they system uses to communicate with all the different switches and dimmers. These systems include X10, PLC, UPB, Insteon (although Insteon uses both powerline and true wirelss), etc. These tend to be the least dependable since you can get noise introduced into the control signal from the HV signal.

A wireless system sends the control information over a wireless signal. Some of the newer systems use either Z-wave or Zigbee (which are two different technologies even if their name sounds the same) as their wireless carrier. The newer wireless techology (like Z-wave and Zigbee)is proving to be pretty dependable but it is still possible to have interference introduced into the system.

Hardwired systems are generally 100% reliable. But they can also be expensive. It can also be harder to retrofit an existing home with a hardwired system. OnQ ALC, Clipsal, Lutron, etc ll make hardwired systems.

In the end, you'll see that each techology has its positives and negatives. So you have to read about them and figure out which system will be best for your situation.

PS - I'll go ahead and give my 2 cents. In a retrofit job, I would seriously look at the Centralite Jetstream lighting system. It is a Zigbee based wireless system that seems to have good reliability. It is an average price (ie not too expensive compared to other technologies) and it is super easy to install and program.

If it is a new construction job, and the budget allows, the hardwired system are going to be the best. But the prices can get very high depending on your needs.
aerofan34's Avatar aerofan34 11:17 AM 09-28-2009
The project is a basement build-out. Right now there is basically nothing there. However, I am also thinking about making the lighting, hvac, and DA controllable too, so those would be retrofit.

Cost is A concern, but not the only concern.

I will definitely check out Centralite Jetstream as well as OnQ ALC (hardwired).

the other key component for me is I want to control from my iphone, but as I understand it, I am going to be able to do that as long as I choose compatible devices and the right controller.

Thanks for your input!
Mobile  Desktop