[Looking for Advice] DIY Retrofit Project - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 06-16-2013, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
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First, thank you for taking the time to click/read this post smile.gif.
I am using this post to both ask questions / get advice and to organize my thoughts.

  • I am looking to retrofit my current home with some smart home capabilities. I also want to do this myself as I love to tinker.
  • I have experience with several scripting languages and am not afraid to learn a new syntax.
  • As this is a retrofit, I want the majority of the system to use communication over power and/or wireless (such as Insteon).
  • I have started a similar thread over at the Smarthome Forums, but they seem far less active/detailed than the A/V forums.
  • This is something I would want to work on over time (modular) such as setting up the HVAC portion and later doing the A/V portion.
  • I would like as much as possible/beneficial of the system to be integrated together. There are some areas (such as my existing irrigation system) that would not really justify the expense of integrating with the full system and this is fine.

Main Questions:
  • What language/interface program would be suitable to my needs?
  • Looking at the below list of what the full system would be capable of at the end, what should my main interface/modules be?
  • NOTE: I am not looking for a complete list to do exactly what I've written below, but more of a general this is what type of equipment/module types would be able to accomplish what I am looking for. An example would be that C4 or Creston would be a good program to base the system off of and that Insteon or Z wave controllers would be good for this or that part of the system.

I would like to do the following (in a modular nature): Note, this is the vision for the full system, I would be starting out small such as with just the HVAC portion; but I would like to start the system out right so that it is capable of expanding into what the full system would be.
  • HVAC:
    - I would like to start with the HVAC system and essentially build an economizer / zone control. HVAC Economizer Example (Click to show)
    - If Outdoor Temperature is between 70 AND 75 (same set point as Thermostat, would change based on time of day) THEN Open Fresh Air Dampener
    - If Outdoor Temperature is less than indoor temperature AND indoor temperature is greater than 73 THEN open Fresh Air Dampener
    - If Outdoor Temperature is greater than indoor temperature AND indoor temperature is less than 72 THEN open Fresh Air Dampener
    - If Fresh Air Dampener is OPEN then HVAC FAN is ON
    - A similar setup would be used for discharge zone control where a dampener would open or close to a specific zone based on that zone's temperature (Indoor Temperature) and the Supply Temperature (Outdoor Temperature).
    - Rooms with a Thermostat would also be linked to their ceiling fan to turn on at the higher range of the temperature.
    - Indoor Temperature would be an average (or weighted average) of several thermostats.
    - I would likely come up with a lift plate in a closet or bathroom that would relieve pressure to the atic (if it becomes necessary).
    - Going a step further would be attic ventilation control using a similar setup.
    - Finally (at a later stage) I would add in controls for a Green House that I am building that would include mister/swamp cooler/shutter controls.
  • Lighting:
    - Most of my lighting needs could be handled by non connected controls (such as light / occupancy sensors).
    - I would want some connected controls such as lighting scenes for dinner / movie watching.
    - I would also want some whole house or zoned lighting control for cases when the wife wants all the indoor / outdoor lights on, or having a switch by the door that would turn all house lights off.
  • Outlet Control:
    - There are several outlets that I would want to control with either switches or timers / scenes.
    - An example is having a switch turn on the outlet for the Christmas Tree.
    - We have several incense lights that could benefit from a timer as well.
  • Security:
    - At this point the wife would insist that we start working on the security system.
    - I would want the standard door/window/motion switches.
    - We have 2 gates that we would want sensors on.
    - Approach sensors (that could also be used for turning on lights).
    - Exterior / Indoor Cameras
    - Smarthome seems to have a decent monitoring service that we would want to connect up into.
  • Access Control:
    - For our Front and Back Doors, having the ability to throw in one of those Fingerprint readers would be nice.
    - We often go away on vacations, and being able to just flag a friend in the system as having access would be easier than the key juggling.
  • A/V:
    - Mostly for Audio, I would want to connect several zones and sources to our system.
    - Eventually, I would likely have speakers in all rooms / outside of the house.
    - The idea would be to play music on a combination of zones from a single source (such as our clean up the house music).
    - I would also want to play music on different sources for different zones.
    - Connecting this into the full system would be nice, as an example hitting the dinner lighting button and dinner music coming on.
    - Our current sources are portable players (Zune, iPOD), Computers (Windows Based), and our TV (Cable, Xbox, Radio).
    - We will likely be picking up the Xbox One at the end of the year; I have no idea how that would fit into the full house.
  • Overall Features:
    - I am interested in adding some form of Internet Monitoring / Control.
    - We have several remote control devices such as Android and Windows Phones.
    - I may opt to just use Tablets as interface points, but we would want to be able to pull up things like Cameras and other controls from a touch interface.
    - An example would be having a display of exterior cameras by the door.
    - Notifications such as text/email when people get home (such as the kids fingerprinting in) would also be nice.
    - Adding a weather station to display on the various touch screens would also be nice.
    - We will eventually be putting up some solar panels and power monitoring equipment that would also be nice to integrate into the system.
  • Irrigation:
    - I'm just throwing this here as a note, I put together my own irrigation system with timers and such.
    - I'm likely to expand this (such as rain sensors) but I feel like this system doesn't necessarily have to plug into the house system.
    - It currently does everything that I want it to do.

Home Details:
  • Our home is 1600 SQ.FT, 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage, 1 story with an attic.
  • It does not have any existing infrastructure to wire up a home automation system with.
  • I have a lot of experience with computers and they are normally always on. I would have no issue setting up a home server that is always on to facilitate this.
  • Location is in West Texas.

Room Details:
  • I'll likely populate this later with the specific items I am wanting for each room / zone.

Budget Considerations:
  • I enjoy living under my means, so while I'm not willing to throw a huge amount of money all at once at this, I am willing to spend a decent amount over time.
  • We intend to be living in this house for a long time (10-20 more years) before we build our 'retirement' home (and with the experience from this, it will be awesome).
  • I am looking to spend on the order of $5k/year with a total price tag being <30k total.
  • Those numbers are just estimates as I would not like to overspend and each item/feature would need to justify the expense.
  • At the same time, I have no issue spending more on an item that does justify going over the rough budget.
  • I'm going to sound like my 4 year old when I say "I wanna do this by myself", but this is true. There may be some parts that are cheaper or better to hire a contractor/programmer but until I start beating my head against a wall I would enjoy learning from this experience.

Intention for Updates:
  • Every post/project starts out with the intention of updating as the project gets started and advances. This is no exception. (now to see if I actually remember to update and such)
  • I'll most likely update things during the planning stages to get feedback and such.

  • As mentioned at the start, I do appreciate you taking the time to read / comment on this thread and for any guidance that you may provide.
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Old 06-16-2013, 02:52 PM - Thread Starter
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So far, the Universal Devices has been recommended as the 'base' of this system.
- This would be a stand alone controller / program that by default handles the X10/Insteon/Zigbee
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Old 06-18-2013, 07:02 AM
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I've had experience with Insteon systems installed in two previous homes and I'm about to install a system in a third home into which we just moved.

Looking over your system, Insteon can handle most, if not all, of the items. The reason I hedge a bit on that statement is that I have used Insteon for lighting, HVAC, irrigation (via contact closures), and limited access control/sensing (via motion sensors and contact closures). I have not fully integrated a system into a security system, though I understand that to be possible. I doubt fingerprint ID could be integrated, but it could be (especially if you can get a reader that will output a signal upon a true or false read to a contact closure). You can see more details on my system here, if you haven't already.
What language/interface program would be suitable to my needs?
I feel confident that the ISY would handle all you want. I suggest the one with the most capacity, given all you want to do. Given your comfort with programming and tinkering, you should be able to do everything you want, assuming the hardware is there to support it. With contact closures and relays (e.g., the EZIO units), nearly anything is possible even when a function-specific hardware solution doesn't already exist.

As I said in another thread, the ISY has been rock solid for me and one of the best products I've every purchased and used. The support is great, too. The ISY has been updated continuously since I bought it 5+ years ago. I've updated occassionally, rarely NEEDING to do so. I suggest heading over to the Universal-Devices forums, if you haven't already visited there. The community there was very helpful to me early on. I haven't been active there in several years, but I wouldn't hesitate to go there again for help, advice, or feedback. It even has good participation by UD staff (where else do you find personal responses from the company's president?).

Theater L'Idiot RIP
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:45 AM - Thread Starter
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I appreciate your response and confirmation of the route I'm looking at.

When browsing their wiki I stumbled upon an ALPHA board they are working on (and apparently you can acquire) that will add Z-Wave support. This would bake this ~ $400 controller able to handle X10/Insteon, Zigbee and Z-Wave which is perty cool.
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Old 06-18-2013, 05:24 PM
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Since you have scripting experience, I would use a PC based system. Take a look at Motorola Premise. It has a very intuitive and advanced IDE that allows you to use vbscript, and a full fledged SDK that allows you to use C++ and .net. There was a wiki and a site maintained by Motorola, but they went away. The download link and forum for it can be found here: http://cocoontech.com/forums/forum/51-premise-home-control/

Did I mention it's free!?!

Personally, I would stay away from anything that is "professional" only. Premise was originally professional only, but Motorola discontinued it and now gives it away! Users like me have kept it alive adding all sorts of new features like Z-Wave lock support, OBi110 (versatile VIOP box) integration, etc... There's 100's of modules to look through at the forum too, and they are all opensource.

Premise, a FREE home automation program. Open-source Z-Wave Premise Module found here.
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