What am I shopping for? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 10-12-2012, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Howdy, folks. Been a while since I posted, but the wife and I are getting ready to sell up and build a new house and I need to get up to speed on the current state of the home automation world. I spent 10 years as a custom home builder, and I did all of the low-voltage wiring and trim work in my current home. I will likely do this work for myself again in the new build, to save on labor costs.

Briefly, I'd like to add a little bit of automation to the house, prepare for some future expandability, and upgrade the user experience - and I'd like to do as much of it as possible without having to hire an integrator or "authorized distributor." I realize this may not be possible, particularly in the case of the higher-end stuff like Savant, Crestron, etc., but if there is a similar solution that can be had for do-it-yourselfers, I'll likely lean that direction.

Here's what I'd like to do:
  • Control the home theater (LED TV, Onkyo receiver, DirecTV DVR, AppleTV media server)
  • Serve audio and video to other outputs besides the home theater (i.e. watch movies in the game room, listen to music in the craft room, etc.)
  • Control a small lighting system; I'm not going to have the entire house wired to the lighting control system, but there are some areas where I'd like to have a single wall switch instead of a bank of switches; the Centralite Elegance solution seems to be what I'm looking for).
  • I would like to be able to run either several (3 or 4) TVs in the media room (think sports bar), or do some kind of video tiling (a la Savant's SmartView system) on a really big TV.

Control via iPhone and/or iPad would be the ideal setup, although dedicated universal remotes aren't out of the question. I've been through Prontos and Harmonys and used several different URC models, and the URC models are my preferred units.

In my limited research, the following seem to be the roadblocks:
  • Serving video to remote locations in a cost-effective manner. Is video-over-ethernet a thing? Seems like I've seen HDMI-to-ethernet wall plates, which might serve the purpose, but I've never attempted this before.
  • I hate hate hate crappy-looking DIY solutions like X10 and the like. I'm sure there's a way to make these things seem high-end and professional in nature, but the X10 website just screams "nerds in their parents' basements" to me. I like DIY stuff, but I tend to do it up right and make it look professional; if I can't, then I'll hire it done.
  • Feeding multiple TVs in the same room without multiple DirecTV boxes seems to be an issue. That's what I like about the Savant SmartView deal, although I'm not sure where all those video sources are coming from; there might be a half-dozen DirecTV boxes in the back of the closet for all I know.
  • And, of course, the biggie - are there ways to purchase the gear for DIY guys?

Thanks in advance for your advice - I always appreciate the pointers I get around here.
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post #2 of 3 Old 10-13-2012, 07:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ataylor View Post

I'd like to do as much of it as possible without having to hire an integrator or "authorized distributor."

Note that buying from "unauthorized" sources means you're not likely to get warranty coverage. Plan accordingly...
Quote:
Serving video to remote locations in a cost-effective manner. Is video-over-ethernet a thing? Seems like I've seen HDMI-to-ethernet wall plates, which might serve the purpose, but I've never attempted this before.

It is, but you probably mean HDMI-over-Cat5e, which is what almost all of the solutions are. They use the same type of cabling as Ethernet, but have nothing else in common. HDMI matrix switches with HDBaseT for distribution are definitely something you should look at.
Quote:
I hate hate hate crappy-looking DIY solutions like X10 and the like. I'm sure there's a way to make these things seem high-end and professional in nature, but the X10 website just screams "nerds in their parents' basements" to me. I like DIY stuff, but I tend to do it up right and make it look professional; if I can't, then I'll hire it done.

Several mid-line solutions that can be DIY'ed, including Lutron's RadioRA2.
Quote:
Feeding multiple TVs in the same room without multiple DirecTV boxes seems to be an issue. That's what I like about the Savant SmartView deal, although I'm not sure where all those video sources are coming from; there might be a half-dozen DirecTV boxes in the back of the closet for all I know.

Not an issue, a fact. Each set-top box (with some very minor exceptions) will produce one output. If you want three different channels running at the same time, that's three set-top boxes.
Quote:
And, of course, the biggie - are there ways to purchase the gear for DIY guys?

Yes, best avenue is usually to work with a dealer to obtain the gear and backing, with the understanding that you're DIY and won't be burdening the dealer for assistance in exchange for a good deal on the hardware... And then stick to that.

Spend some time in the A/V Distribution forum above, as that covers a lot of what you're trying to do.

Jeff

Rock Creek Theater -- CIH, Panamorph, Martin Logan, SVS PB2000, Carada Masquerade, Grafik Eye, Bar table, Green Glue, JVC RS50 
Theater build photos: http://photobucket.com/autor-ht

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post #3 of 3 Old 10-14-2012, 12:13 PM
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In addition to Jautor's solid advice, I'd suggest checking out the "Remote Control" section of AVS to look at some of the iPad/iTouch apps now available. In the last 12 months or so there have been some great advances in comprehensive, easy to use control apps.

The two I'm most familiar with are iRule and Roomie - iRule is more customizable and is probably a better fit for whole house control, but it has a steeper/longer learning curve - Roomie is fantastic for getting things running in a very short period of time, but lacks some of the flexibility that IRule provides. These apps need to be mated with appropriate hardware devices, but they allow control over video distribution, lighting, whole-house audio, fans, etc.

[There are other good apps, such as DemoPad, but I don't have first-hand knowledge of how they perform.]

Dave
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