Should I consider Home Automation - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 04-25-2011, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
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My wife and I are starting construction on our new home next month, hopefully, and I'm trying to decide if HA is going to be cost effective for us. This was started because I was interested in distributing video throughout my house from a centralized A/V rack. Once I researched that a bit, it seems the video matrixing can be done, but I also need a method of controlling it. Enter HA.

Is it possible to start out small (and inexpensive) with just video distribution and gradually add functionality such lighting, home audio, motorized shades, security, HVAC, and so on? There are so many options that it's difficult to decide if it's even worth researching from a cost/complexity standpoint.

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post #2 of 19 Old 04-25-2011, 06:40 PM
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If you aren't already sick of hearing from me , my biased opinion is that it makes a lot of sense for someone in your position. Especially with the advent of entry level controllers that can be scaled to do so much at pricepoints we haven't seen before. ie Crestron Prodigy, Control4, Elan G! etc. To answer your question yes it is possible to start small and grow as desired. Since I am on the blue team I have to say check out Crestron Prodigy but there are other options out there. The reason I like Prodigy is there is great iphone/ipad support, a good line of other interfaces like keypads/touchpanels, inexpensive lighting compared to systems like RA2 and HomeWorks, temperature controls, multi-room audio and now video, and of course is friendly with any kind of non-Crestron device you can think of. All backed by a tried-and-true company.

All you need to start is the processor/controller. It will control IP, RS-232, and IR devices out of the box. You will probably want a remote too but not absolutely necessary if you are using iDevices.
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post #3 of 19 Old 04-25-2011, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by iimig View Post

If you aren't already sick of hearing from me , my biased opinion is that it makes a lot of sense for someone in your position. Especially with the advent of entry level controllers that can be scaled to do so much at pricepoints we haven't seen before. ie Crestron Prodigy, Control4, Elan G! etc. To answer your question yes it is possible to start small and grow as desired. Since I am on the blue team I have to say check out Crestron Prodigy but there are other options out there. The reason I like Prodigy is there is great iphone/ipad support, a good line of other interfaces like keypads/touchpanels, inexpensive lighting compared to systems like RA2 and HomeWorks, temperature controls, multi-room audio and now video, and of course is friendly with any kind of non-Crestron device you can think of. All backed by a tried-and-true company.

I'm glad to get some feedback! I realize I'm asking a question that's probably asked daily on these forums, and everyone gets tired of giving the same old replies. However, this really is an area that's difficult to figure out where to start. So I appreciate your patience.

I'm actually surprised to hear that Crestron has an entry level product. The posts that I've read so far seemed to imply that a Crestron system would start at $20,000 for very basic functionality. How can I learn about the capabilities of these things and the cost without involving a dealer? I'd like to know what equipment they can control (eg my dune player) and can I stream music from my iTunes library, and what is the interface for the lighting etc.? I would hate to spend tens of thousands of dollars only to find out it will only play NON-DRM music and will not cooperate with security system, or Dune player, or whatever else I have. There just doesn't seem to be much documentation available.

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post #4 of 19 Old 04-26-2011, 08:48 AM
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I think whether or not you decide to do it now, or never, I implore you to consider having network and AV distribution wiring done while the wall are still open...

Trouble is you will have no idea what to run if you haven't decided on anything, but when the walls close, your options will quickly start to narrow
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post #5 of 19 Old 04-26-2011, 10:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by total control View Post

I think whether or not you decide to do it now, or never, I implore you to consider having network and AV distribution wiring done while the wall are still open...

Trouble is you will have no idea what to run if you haven't decided on anything, but when the walls close, your options will quickly start to narrow

I'm planing to run LOTS of CAT6 all over the place in hopes of future proofing, but you're exactly right. No matter what I do, I will inevitably miss something. Fortunately, my builder seems to have done this a time or two, and without prompting mentioned that they run smurf tube to locations that will likely need new cables later as well as between floors.

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post #6 of 19 Old 04-26-2011, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_P_A View Post

My wife and I are starting construction on our new home next month, hopefully, and I'm trying to decide if HA is going to be cost effective for us. This was started because I was interested in distributing video throughout my house from a centralized A/V rack. Once I researched that a bit, it seems the video matrixing can be done, but I also need a method of controlling it. Enter HA.

Is it possible to start out small (and inexpensive) with just video distribution and gradually add functionality such lighting, home audio, motorized shades, security, HVAC, and so on? There are so many options that it's difficult to decide if it's even worth researching from a cost/complexity standpoint.

JPA,

I'm nearing completion of a home building project, and can briefly give you my experience. At my dealer's recommendation I went with Elan g! instead of Control 4, mainly based on the interface and his greater familiarity with elan and Homelogic products. I'll be able to control/monitor HVAC, lighting, whole-house audio, and security off the bat. We may use the irrigation function down the road as well.

My advice, if you're going to automate, either go ALL DIY or ALL pro install from the get-go. DIY was more than I wanted to tackle, and there are several midrange products including but not limited to g!, C4, and Crestron Prodigy to choose from. If you decide on a pro install, you'll need to lay out what you initially want, what your ultimate goals are, and your budget. I would actually let the pro run all of your cabling, rather than just running a bunch of cat6 all over the place. Once they know what you want, they will run all wiring prior to your drywall going up, and when hookup time comes along, they can be much more efficient at setup since they won't spend time figuring out how YOU wired everything.

One specific issue that was a pain in the rear for me. Motorized shades. Despite numerous discussions about needing 3-4" of casement around windows to accomodate shade mounting, the home was framed with 2 x 4's and windows were installed with only 1" recesses. I hate the look of shades sticking out from the wall. Solution, they had to fur out multiple walls to accomodate undermount shades, which ended up being pricier than just framing with 2 x 6's to start with. The other thing is that these shades need power. Depending on what you choose, you'll either need outlets put in the corners of the windows for each shade, or low-voltage power run to each window casement. With Lutron shades, the installer was able to run multiple low-voltage runs from a power source in the basement, with just a small hole in the casement to carry the wire. Much better aesthetically than an outlet.

The point of this is that planning a system out with an integrator is important up front, and particularly before drywall goes up. My integrator and his crew ran all wiring right after HVAC and plumbing were done (to avoid meddling), in concert with the electrician. A nice perk was that they ran the wires in short metal sleeves where they attached to framing so that the drywall guys couldn't put screws through cabling

Good luck on your endeavors, it will all be worth it in the end!
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post #7 of 19 Old 04-26-2011, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Those are good points. I had not considered the thickness of the casements. I will certainly mention it to my builder, I'm just not sure how much it will cost to go with 2x6 exterior walls. I did plan to run some conduit up to each window for power and control if I ever decided to add motorized shades.

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post #8 of 19 Old 05-04-2011, 04:26 PM
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Might I suggest as others have mentioned, plan entire system out with everything you ever might want. Pay an integrator to prewire for you, so that the right wires are run to the right places. Just running cat5 everywhere will take Care of 80 to 90 percent of your needs, but that last 20 percent is really gonna make you say "why didn't I spend a little more money before to get what I want now"

Cost difference between 2x6 verse 2x4 should be minimal btw.

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post #9 of 19 Old 05-05-2011, 10:05 AM - Thread Starter
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There is no question that it would be better to have a professional come in and pre-wire everything. I know the extra money now would save money later as well, unfortunately, I think all the extra money we have now will be going to things like insulation and window upgrades rather than the "possible" future HA project. It might be worth getting a quote at any rate. Thanks for the input!

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post #10 of 19 Old 05-19-2011, 07:27 AM
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I'm in a similar situation. Just started building (waiting for it to dry out in cincy so we can pour foundation) so i'm exploring options. it's 3 levels with 8400 ft of living space

first, i met with a c4 dealer who gave me a quote i thought was insane (58k for 12 rooms of audio, 8 rooms with video and lighting control, including all necessary tv's, av gear, speakers)

Nest i met with crestron guy who came back a little over 60, but the equipment he spec'd out was lower end. as i looked at proposal, all of the special programming for each room and little crestron this and crestron that were waht were adding up, not the av gear. his quote didn't include video distro either, which would have added another 20k to the system!

I talked to another crestron guy and got similar results. It seems like crestron is much more custom, and you pay for it.

everything is crestron is more expensive. c4 has remotes for $120 and $200...granted they aren't touch screens, but i don't want to spend $1000 for each remote * 5 like crestron! you can also compare teh costs of in wall touch panels to get an idea of the difference. $200 here, $800 there really adds up when you are doing a bunch of rooms!

I'm going to look at elan G! next week.

I really just want to control my stuff in a simple fashion. i don't need a custom UI, control4 looks like it will meet my needs at a much lower price point.
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post #11 of 19 Old 05-19-2011, 11:31 AM
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While the numbers can seem a bit out of reach, you have to remember that home automation is also an investment into the equity of your home. Once installed, programmed, and working, it adds value to your home, so you can recoup some of the money invested.

If you are going to do it, I would suggest doing it right. While that can seem kind of a wishy washy statement as opinions vary on what is right or not, I wouldn't shy away from the more expensive option just because of price if it is near your ballpark.

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post #12 of 19 Old 05-19-2011, 01:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blowne30M3 View Post

While the numbers can seem a bit out of reach, you have to remember that home automation is also an investment into the equity of your home. Once installed, programmed, and working, it adds value to your home, so you can recoup some of the money invested.
.

I would be interested to know what the typical return on investment would be for a HA system. I think like any customization to a home, you are limiting the market that will be interested. As an example, before we decided to build, our realtor took me into a nice home with a dedicated theater that used a GE for light control. She stopped at the door and said she can never figure out how to turn on the lights. My realtor is not old, and I would average tech savvy, but she has no interest in that sort of electronics. So, for her, the automated lighting was a detractor to the home.

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post #13 of 19 Old 05-19-2011, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_P_A View Post

I would be interested to know what the typical return on investment would be for a HA system. I think like any customization to a home, you are limiting the market that will be interested. As an example, before we decided to build, our realtor took me into a nice home with a dedicated theater that used a GE for light control. She stopped at the door and said she can never figure out how to turn on the lights. My realtor is not old, and I would average tech savvy, but she has no interest in that sort of electronics. So, for her, the automated lighting was a detractor to the home.

Well that respectfully comes down to the engineering and programming of the system. A well thought out designed system should incorporate both physical lighting keypads or switches and touch panels. Good programming will allow ease of use for anyone to simply walk up and within 15 seconds perform the operation they want to with no explanation.

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. - Bill Gates

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post #14 of 19 Old 05-25-2011, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Blowne30M3 View Post

While the numbers can seem a bit out of reach, you have to remember that home automation is also an investment into the equity of your home. Once installed, programmed, and working, it adds value to your home, so you can recoup some of the money invested.

If you are going to do it, I would suggest doing it right. While that can seem kind of a wishy washy statement as opinions vary on what is right or not, I wouldn't shy away from the more expensive option just because of price if it is near your ballpark.

That's good feedback, and certainly part of the reason i've struggled with this whole decision. I haven't found bad reviews of either c4 or crestron, so it seems like i will be ok either way. I'm sure a crestron system is nicer and prettier, but the functionality is similar. i'm looking at integra components, not anthem, so c4 might be more my speed
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post #15 of 19 Old 05-25-2011, 01:31 PM
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I'm about to get a Crestron prodigy system installed (4x audio, 6x4 hd, partial lighting and blinds)

One thing that did come as a bit of a surprise is that for full, solid integration thou seem to need a tv with an rs232 port. Most consumer sets don't have them. So when you are eyeing up that nice new thin samsung led u are likely going to be disappointed...

Anyone else come across this?
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post #16 of 19 Old 05-25-2011, 11:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nhoynes View Post

That's good feedback, and certainly part of the reason i've struggled with this whole decision. I haven't found bad reviews of either c4 or crestron, so it seems like i will be ok either way. I'm sure a crestron system is nicer and prettier, but the functionality is similar. i'm looking at integra components, not anthem, so c4 might be more my speed

It doesn't matter if the only thing you control is a satellite box. Speaking as a Crestron Programmer, one of the major flaws I see people box themselves into is lack of expandability. You always want to account for you (or a future homeowner) adding to the system. Now, do you want to pay an arm and a leg for this later, or slightly more now? A lot of Crestron's new product is designed for single wire communication. The Sonnex audio distribution is really lightyears ahead of the competition, as well as DM. This equipment obviously is not what you are looking for, but it gives you an idea of the quality you will get by going with them.

I would be happy to help you put together a system if you want. It's part of the reason I'm on this site.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Acamp76144 View Post

I'm about to get a Crestron prodigy system installed (4x audio, 6x4 hd, partial lighting and blinds)

One thing that did come as a bit of a surprise is that for full, solid integration thou seem to need a tv with an rs232 port. Most consumer sets don't have them. So when you are eyeing up that nice new thin samsung led u are likely going to be disappointed...

Anyone else come across this?

I think you have been given misleading or flat out wrong information. The Prodigy system can control anything any other Crestron processor can. The only thing it lacks is extra ports for IR or 232, but honestly the market is trending towards ethernet or HDMI control anyways.

But as far as that information goes, it is wrong, the Prodigy system can control all that, IR, 232, or ethernet.

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post #17 of 19 Old 05-26-2011, 12:18 AM
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I think you misunderstand my point. I know that prodigy can control most devices, my frustration is that most of the "consumer" tv sets about ( like the new d7000/8000 LEDs) don't have an rs232 port for prodigy to control.

The alternative is a ir flasher? Not exactly high tech when spending 30k on an automation system!
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post #18 of 19 Old 05-26-2011, 08:02 AM
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I was researching HA some months ago. My conclusion: Whole Home Automation currently is fine if you are a hobbyist and you will be doing it yourself (because you enjoy doing it) or if you want that HA "Wow factor" and cost is not an issue. To the question if HA is worth it "from a cost/complexity standpoint", my own conclusion is: definitely not.

Sure, HA can offer certain conveniences, but unless you have a huge house, or you are disabled, most of those additional conveniences will not worth the money you will have to spend to get them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that HA has some ongoing costs. If for example after a few years you decide to buy a new AV receiver, you will have to call your Installer and ask from him to integrate the new receiver in the HA system. Things in a HA system are not "plug and play", they need to be programmed.

There was recently some announcements by Goggle for Android@home. If this (or similar) efforts are successful, then consumer electronics could become "HA ready" without an additional cost.

Regarding video distribution, what exactly and how would you like to distribute? From my research some months ago it seems that reliable HDMI distribution with a matrix is complicated and expensive. I don't know if things changed now. What is certain is that everything AV will become IP based soon. Blu-Ray will probably be the last physical media. Even cable TV set top boxes might soon connect to the network and stream their content to compatible TVs and other devices (link).
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post #19 of 19 Old 05-31-2011, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nhoynes View Post

I'm in a similar situation. Just started building (waiting for it to dry out in cincy so we can pour foundation) so i'm exploring options. it's 3 levels with 8400 ft of living space

first, i met with a c4 dealer who gave me a quote i thought was insane (58k for 12 rooms of audio, 8 rooms with video and lighting control, including all necessary tv's, av gear, speakers)

Nest i met with crestron guy who came back a little over 60, but the equipment he spec'd out was lower end. as i looked at proposal, all of the special programming for each room and little crestron this and crestron that were waht were adding up, not the av gear. his quote didn't include video distro either, which would have added another 20k to the system!

I talked to another crestron guy and got similar results. It seems like crestron is much more custom, and you pay for it.

everything is crestron is more expensive. c4 has remotes for $120 and $200...granted they aren't touch screens, but i don't want to spend $1000 for each remote * 5 like crestron! you can also compare teh costs of in wall touch panels to get an idea of the difference. $200 here, $800 there really adds up when you are doing a bunch of rooms!

I'm going to look at elan G! next week.

I really just want to control my stuff in a simple fashion. i don't need a custom UI, control4 looks like it will meet my needs at a much lower price point.

I think you'd be happy with Control4. I'm biased; that's what I install, but we do systems of that size & I think you'll get what you want and save some money over Crestron. Make sure your dealer knows what they're doing & good luck!
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