DIY Whole Home Automation System Choices - AVS Forum
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Old 01-09-2007, 01:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone - First I apologize for the length of this post, but I am trying to get a view of the entire system

I am new to the home automation DIY area, but am not new to DIY projects. I have a fair bit of experience in home remodeling, electrical, etc as well as quite a bit of technology experience (I have been designing product architectures for smart phones for the last 6 or 7 years). My project is a complete home remodel and addition (4000 sq ft) that I plan on living in till the end, and has a limited possibility for upgrades internally later because the entire house is made of adobe (we are burying the wires directly under the stucco, so no future fishing of additional cables, etc is going to be possible). I'd like to avoid professional installers and save the cash because I am relatively resourceful (though have no experience in C+ programming) and I also have a fair bit of time on my hands. The kinds of things I would like to do are also a bit cross functional - ie, a kid runs by the pool, the motion sensor goes off, which turns the camera on, and displays it automatically on all the in-wall LCDs. I don't foresee a ton of over the top things like hallways that light up as you walk down them, etc, but a few cool features would be nice. So, basically, I'd like to bounce my system ideas off of you guys, and get some feedback. The biggest things I am worried about are:
- Cost
- Reliability
- Ease of use - esp for a wife who can be very intimidated by technology, but understands it can improve a quality of life
- Support from the parent companies for DIYers
- Presentation - I am going through all this, and I def want a few color touchpanels and nice looking light switches, volume controls, etc. This is a multimillion dollar home that is putting me in debt till 2036.

The finalists' I have spec'ed out are:
Controller Finalists
- Cortexa:
Pros: It is definitely marketed as the perfect solution for me since it is targeted at DIYers and has all the bells and whistles (touchpanels, iTunes built in, etc). It can integrate irrigation, weather, security, cameras, etc. How easy is it do all this? I don't mind spending a few weeks on this, but it I'd like to know its possible. All the subsystems listed below are compatible with this guy.
Cons (maybe): How reliable is it? It looks to be windows based, and I worry about its reliability.

- Netstreams:
Pros: Seems like a very easy install. Can control cameras, but unsure on lighting compatibility. No alarm system compatibility. Actually can be used as an audio only subsystem with Cortexa.
Cons: Limited. Just audio, cameras and lighting I think.

- HAI OmniPro:
Pros: Apparently a very stable system, and also a finalist for alarm and HVAC stuff if used with Cortexa.
Cons: No audio. Would have to use a separate system, like ZON, Nuvo, Russound, Niles, etc.

- CQC:
Pros: Really, i have just learned about this from reading all of your guys' posts on other threads. Will it support touchpanels, etc?
Cons: Just my own naivety. I don't know much about it.


Lighting Finalists:
- Insteon:
Pros: This seems to be perfect but I have only seen a couple posts on this. Its marketed for DIYers and only costs $25 per switch. Also designed to be very reliable.
Cons: Initial releases were really buggy, but like all products I wonder if they just released a bit early. I have heard better things as of late. Anyone hear if they have most of the kinks worked out? Also, no auto window shade kind of thing. Is there a workaround that would work? I am basically looking for a reason not to use Insteon.

- Lutron RadioRa
Pros: Industry standard, like Homeworks and Vantage. Very reliable. I also LOVE the idea of hitting one button on the wall, and not only do the lights come on, but the shades come up, or vice versa.
Cons: Super expensive, yes? Like $200 a switch?


Security Finalists:
- OmniPro II:
Pros: I think this is overkill in conjunction with Cortexa, but it seems super reliable and easy to install. Do I need a professional here?
Cons: I prob wouldn't use all of its functionality.

- Elk M1 series:
Seems comparable to the OmniPro, yes? Any reason to go one way or the other?


Whole House Audio:
- Nuvo Essentia:
Pros $2k for 6 zones and add another $2k for 6 zone expander. Can be controlled by Cortexa. XM built in.
Cons: Keypads are lame. Their new OLED pads with the Grand Concerto are sweet - but that system is like $7k, which is abusrd.

- ZON Audio:
Pros: Super cool look. Comparable pricing - about $2-3k
Cons: Not compatible with anything.right?

- Netstreams:
Talked about it above a bit. As a standalone audio system, it seems comparable with Nuvoright?


Pool/Jacuzzi control:
- Is it possible to heat up the Jacuzzi through any of these?
Shade Control:
- Ditto, Basically - are these considered appliances'?
Remote controls:
- Pretty much need a few in the different main TV areas and master and I'd like them to control that paritucular theater/AV area as well as access the main system for lights, shades, etc. Will the NevoSL take care of this? Looks very cool and easy to use and program.


I also plan on doing irrigation (Rain8?), cameras, etc but those are lower level and this post is already long enough. Thanks for any feedback, and also thanks for your patience if you actually read this entire post
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Old 01-09-2007, 01:39 PM
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re:CQC. Any of your screens can be rendered on any PC [or touchscreen or tablet PC] or any PPC or lightweight computer that meets some basic minimum specs. If you output the PC to a TV or monitor, you can also see the output there.

here's a thread with pics of my wallmounted Fujitsu 3400, a tablet PC that's now down to $160. Since those pics were taken, i've buried all the cables and run hardwired CAT5, so it looks a little cleaner. Some CQC folks have also flushmounted theirs using a metal bezel for more of a pro look.

There's a VERY active user community. Frankly, the only forum i've ever seen with more activity is avsforum. You'd have to add up all the traffic on the HTPC and all the A/V Control subforums to match it, though. Plenty of folks to help you with the install.

And, if an active community isn't enough, we have 1-2 user group webex'es per month where you can dial in and learn from others.

Finally, I'm writing up my journey in this document here. Only chapter 1 is recent - everything after that is relatively old, so don't read that bit. But chapter one has what i'm doing, including a complete parts list and cost estimate to boot.

As far as your equipment goes, if you make sure you get something with serial control and a published protocol, CQC can control it. I know there's a driver for some jandy pool/spa stuff, but i don't know much about it since I don't own one.

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Old 01-09-2007, 01:49 PM - Thread Starter
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IVB - i am honored. I actually have been reading a number of your threads and that is the reason why i joined and posted. Really like the tablet wall mount idea. The pdf is really helpful - thanks.

It looks to me like the Cortexa stuff is a "consumerized" version of the CQC products. They basically tried to simplify the install and provided a suite of HW and SW solutions, and then charge a premium for the simplicity (though its still about a quarter of a Cortexa type install). Is that a fair statement?
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Old 01-09-2007, 01:58 PM
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I don't know so much about Cortexa, but my blanket concern with using a consumerized version of anything is that *may* limit what options you have as far as hardware devices go. With CQC, it comes with drivers for dozens upon dozens of actual hardware choices, so you're not limited in that support. I wouldn't be surprised if there's >100 actual hardware bits supported. Where this helps is, for example, with video switchers - there's 7 different ones supported. I didn't have the coin to buy the fancy neothings unit, so I waited and waited and found a GREAT deal on an autopatch 4YDM, which is one of the supported devices.

Some other thoughts surround 1) rapid improvement, and 2)support. For example, I went with direct CQC control over zWave even though the driver wasn't super-complete at the time as opposed to using my Elk automation panel because I knew Dean could rapidly upgrade that driver. Using a hardware-based controller that isn't easily upgradeable means that I'd wait months. Dean has probably upgraded that driver 5x by now, with each iteration getting better and better. And by "better", I mean that he's putting stuff into the driver that overcomes my zWave-unfriendly environment, so there's error correction that hardware guys may not be interested in doing.

And, as said above, I know that support for CQC, from both Dean and the users is unparalleled by a longshot.

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Old 01-09-2007, 02:24 PM
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If you went with CQC, you could go with either an Omni Pro II or Elk. Either are good, though the Omni is more oriented toward pro installers. You could go with Russound or Nuvo on the audio front. RadioRA would be a good choice on the lighting side, though we support various other pro level lighting systems.

Netstreams isn't really an automation system and would have to be combined with something on the automation side.

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Old 01-09-2007, 02:47 PM
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myurchochko,
From the list of hardware you list, Mainlobby supports HAI, ELK, Netstreams Musica, Rain8, Yes you can heat the pool w/ automation (free Jandy script), Insteon and RadioRa (and others), IP and bullet cameras (including streaming), shade control (depends on the control system). We also have a hardware lineup which will soon include touchscreens. Top shelf touchscreen support.

We also have TabletKiosk and Samsung UMPCs preloaded with software.

Very active forum as well.

We also offer graphical and programming services to augement your time investment and skills.

No support for Zon today.

To call Cortexa "consumerized" is I think not appropriate. If anything, I call it "Dealerized". they might also be DIY friendly, but I believe their direction is the dealer market. I see them at each EHX dealer show with good audience. I believe they are putting a Linux hardware server together for a more "dealerized" turn key system. "Consumerized" runs two major different paths - "I want to plug it in and it work and not know or care about the details" and opposite the "DIY" that "I want to tweek every possible cranny in the system to make as complicated but cool setup that automates everything and took a few years to get to this "labor savings" level"

Good luck with your project and fee free to visit our forum or ask more questions here!

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Old 01-09-2007, 06:07 PM
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I just wanted to clear up a couple of things from your first post.

The Elk M1 is also a full feature automation panel very similar to the Omni Pro (Elk doesn't distribute video while the Omni Pro can with the right hardware - but most people distribute video with their audio and most want some HD as well which means different hardware). You had it listed strickly as a security system.

CQC, Mainlobby and other software automation systems are generally hooked up to a hardware automation board like the Elk M1 or Omni Pro to create more programming space and to tie in a lot of other systems/hardware that may not be directly supported my the ELK/Omni systems. However, you could go with a software solution and use a cheaper security panel (like the GE Caddex systems) that doesn't also do any automation, and simply use the software to do all of your automation.

Audio(and video) distribution - using a "prepackaged" system as I like to call them (the Russound, Nuvo, etc) provide an independant system. The automation systems can tie into the audio distribution system to provide some really neat integration, but it will still work if the automation system goes "offline". However there is another option that isn't listed here. That is to use a audio/video switcher (neothings, autopatch, etc) and use the automation system to directly control it. The downside is that if the automation system goes "offline", so does your audio/video distribution. The other negative is that you would NOT have the built in keypads that come with the Russound/Nuvo type systems. On the other hand, as you have already seen, there isn't a "perfect keypad" outthere INHO (or at least that is affordable). I will probably go this switcher route and have some strategically placed touchscreens around the house (currently I'm leaning towards the lilliput 7" screens - they look very professional when wall mounted and fairly inexpensive at $200-$250 each). The advantange there is that my touch screens will control everything, not just the sound system. I think in the end I will end up spending the same amount or less money than I would have puchasing a "prepackage" system that would fit my need, plus it will meet all of my needs and I won't have to compromise. For example, if I want 9 zones, I'd have to buy two prepackaged systems (actually expand one system, but it is as expensive as buying a whole new unit). What if I want 10 sources? I can't unless I go the way of a hardware switcher.

Anyway, this post is already longer than I meant it to be. Keep reading and researching and posting your questions.

- Brian

CQC user since 2005

SageTV user since 2007

PBX in a Flash user since 2012

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Old 01-10-2007, 11:18 AM
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sic0048:

How are you going to hook up your lilliput 7" screens ? I have been trying to decide how to put together my system, and it sounds like what you're planning is similar to my conclusions, but I am already wired for certain panels, and would need a way to hook up the monitors...I think I have cat 5, but that doesn't plug into the touchscreens, right? I would need something like IVB has which is a computer I could hook up to the network? My head hurts from thinking about all of this, and I'm not much closer to making a decision since I started looking a month ago. Time is running out.....

Anyone else please feel free to reply as well.
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Old 01-10-2007, 11:49 AM
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One of the CQC guys posted lots of pictures of his lilliput here. With a lilliput you do need a PC as it's just a touchscreen, but dang does this guys setup look much cleaner than mine given it's only a touchscreen.

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Old 01-10-2007, 11:54 AM
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Actually, I think that sic had the Elk M1 in the correct category. The M1 is a great product; I was gung-ho to use it in my house. However, upon researching on the forums, it was pointed out that the M1 is a security panel first and a HA controller second. These comments are from people who own and love their M1's.

Yes, the M1 has HA functionality, but you have to figure out exactly how much HA control you need. Many owners run out of programming space. There is another issue with available logic commands (no nested if/then, I think).

Again, a great panel. I may be adding it in the future for the hardware link between a computer-based HA program and relays etc. However, you must realize its limitations.

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Old 01-10-2007, 11:58 AM
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reagntmel,
Re: Lilliput touchscreens
You can put a Cat5 balun on the VGA output of the touchscreen and run the video via Cat5 to the PC where there is another Cat5 balun plugged into the PC VGA video card output.
For the touchscreen, buy Serial type touchscreen and run that on another Cat5.
there are also USB / VGA cat5 extenders (Gefen) but they get pricey.
You can use a multioutput VGA card for multiple touchscreens, but the software has to allow for this in a fluent way (like MainLobby does).

you can also run the VGA to the closet behind the touchscreen and put a lower powered PC in there connected to the PC LAN.

sic0048, are you saying that most ML / CQC customers use an integrated security panel? I would say that is inaccurate, at least from an ML perspective where we have sales tracking to know that. Many more copies of Mainlobby get sold then we sell of security system plugins as customers use MainLobby for lots of purposes. If there was a "most", it would be to control their theater room media.

Are you saying that most ELK / HAI customers use automation software too? Again, I would disagree on that one too knowing the number of panels that HAI and ELK have sold and how relatively tiny the PC HA software business is.

Is tying an automation panel to a PC based rest of automation system a good thing - you bet. That I would agree with.

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Old 01-10-2007, 12:15 PM
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The majority of CQC users probably don't use an automation panel, though a pretty good percentage do, since CQC is often used for more ambitious whole home automation, in addition to media/theater management stuff. Maybe it's like 25% or so, and it's definitely not a requirement. The big reasons you'd go that way is that you want a security system or you have some sort of need for a large amount of digital I/O for some reason, which those types of panels provide. CQC supports 8/16 channel digital I/O PCI boards, but these panels can support way more than that.

And, frankly, some folks just are paranoid about running their home on a PC, so they use a panel for the most fundamental stuff and layer something like CQC over it to provide the high level features (fancy touch screens, media management, weather data, etc...) and integrate devices that the automation panel will never control, like theater equipment.. I think that a PC based system can be made robust enough, and we take that very seriously, but if that's what makes the customer feel comfortable, then of course more power to them.

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Old 01-10-2007, 02:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

The majority of CQC users probably don't use an automation panel, though a pretty good percentage do, since CQC is often used for more ambitious whole home automation, in addition to media/theater management stuff. Maybe it's like 25% or so, and it's definitely not a requirement. The big reasons you'd go that way is that you want a security system or you have some sort of need for a large amount of digital I/O for some reason, which those types of panels provide. CQC supports 8/16 channel digital I/O PCI boards, but these panels can support way more than that.

And, frankly, some folks just are paranoid about running their home on a PC, so they use a panel for the most fundamental stuff and layer something like CQC over it to provide the high level features (fancy touch screens, media management, weather data, etc...) and integrate devices that the automation panel will never control, like theater equipment.. I think that a PC based system can be made robust enough, and we take that very seriously, but if that's what makes the customer feel comfortable, then of course more power to them.

Dean,

Considering I am a CQC owner, I am curious as to what you would recommend for a new house. If we are placing a security system in our house, it is wiser to go with the ELK? I thought that this was the main way of being able to tie in all your lighting/sensors/thermostats/etc... Is there a cheaper security panel that CQC currently supports?
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Old 01-10-2007, 02:37 PM
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If you just want security, then we support the Networx NE-8 panel. There are some lighting systems that we don't yet directly support, such as UPB, which the Elk or Omni does, so for the short term such a panel would open you up to more options on the retrofit front. We directly support RadioRA, Homeworks, GrafikEye, Vantage Q, and Z-Wave (limited to hold ACT controllers for the short term.)

But you can certainly set up a system with a dedicated security only panel, and have everything coming back to CQC. We support various thermos, the previously mentioned I/O boards, and so forth. So you can do a quite powerful system without a panel.

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Old 01-10-2007, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

If you just want security, then we support the Networx NE-8 panel. There are some lighting systems that we don't yet directly support, such as UPB, which the Elk or Omni does, so for the short term such a panel would open you up to more options on the retrofit front. We directly support RadioRA, Homeworks, GrafikEye, Vantage Q, and Z-Wave (limited to hold ACT controllers for the short term.)

But you can certainly set up a system with a dedicated security only panel, and have everything coming back to CQC. We support various thermos, the previously mentioned I/O boards, and so forth. So you can do a quite powerful system without a panel.

What about EDT I-Line Lighting? Would I need to buy the ELK in order for this to work? Also, is there any other features that would be missed by not going to an ELK based automation controller?
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Old 01-10-2007, 03:15 PM
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We don't have a driver for that system, so you couldn't directly control it via CQC.

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Old 01-10-2007, 05:46 PM - Thread Starter
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This is really helpful. So let me see if I understand the controller landscape correctly:

SW Solution: Runs on a single PC. CQC and Main Lobby are thus far the best examples - and certainly the forums, Dean, etc add another layer of help. Couple questions:
HW Hookup: I am a bit confused how all of this hooks up. If I had, say, 4 Lilliput screens, would they all need to be serial cabled/Cat5e to the same computer or to their own computers that are then networked to the main server? Secondly, does this direction mean I should have a PC somewhere near my HW closet where all the subsystem controllers reside?
"Out of the box options": When one of these solutions are downloaded, do they come preloaded with, say, a dozen different graphical looks for the touchscreens? Do they come with a package of presets that would, say, turn on the lights over 10 minutes at dusk, or is that something that needs to be programmed using C++? Downloaded code? Simple driver install?

HW solutions: Cortexa doesn't seem to be getting alot of love here, and I guess that's because its a system where a premium is being paid for a certain set of functionality out of the box - kind of the opposite desire for HA hobbyists that want complete customization/control and very much want to Do It Themselves...does that seem fair? CQC for example seems to be limitless in its options, but what kind of price do I pay in terms of time to set up? I have 2 kids, am building the house, and I love martinis...so....I understand that as a hobby, any of these solutions can take up as much time as the user wants to play with it, but can anyone speak to the general scope of work required in some of these solutions where the house functions normally (minus the super fun macros like having the sprinklers turn off, the security system temporarily turn off and the outdoor lights turn on when the dog needs to go pee)?

Re: Elk and Omni as an HA - yup, I understand that they are security first, HA second. And after checking their subsystem compatibility list it seems that Cortexa is leveraging them directly as the HA in most cases. Regardless, if the Elk is a bit more DIY friendly, that's the direction for me...

Audio: I like the idea of the switchers in general, but I am worried a bit about the "other keypads" - ie, when the music is controlled by something other than the lcds. I already think the Nuvo pads are a bit janky (excepting the OLEDs)...I need to look into this more though - its a good idea.

Lighting: I know there has been much discussion elsewhere about this, but considering the overall scope of this project, does anyone have an opinion of the right system? Homeworks and Vantage are not really DIY but why is that? Besides getting the hardware (I have plenty of conncetions to get the parts) - is there something difficult about the install I am missing? RadioRa is DIY, but spendy. Insteon...still not hearing anything from the crowd. I have done some googling on this and I still can't find any h2h comparisons on the systems in terms of price, reliability, etc - any leads or opinions? Also, if a lighting system doesn't have the motorized auto shades as part of its product suite, is there an X10 solution out there that anyone recommends?

Pool: Jandy. Perfect. Thanks.

One last thing to put this particular project in budget perspective: I am expecting to be shelling out about $35-40k for the HW part of this system, and basically with my sweat equity, for it to act like a $100k crestron. So, I am not necessarily trying to save a couple hundred bucks here and there. I'd rather pay a bit more to make the install easier up front and make the system more reliable in the long term....

Thanks again everyone - this is great. Def a member for life now...
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Old 01-10-2007, 06:01 PM
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Only got a few mins, here's two quick thoughts:

1) If you run all your lilliputs to the same PC and vidcard (ie splitter), then they'll all show the same image. Could pose concurrency issues (ie, multiple folks using different screens at the same time) but I personally think that's a red herring for anyone who doesn't have >10yr old kids. If you/wife use the system concurrently, tell one of you to get over it - the incremental cost isn't worth it.

2) Re: Out-of-the-box UI's. CQC has none - you need to build your own, ML has one. However, for CQC, there's about a dozen of us who've shared our templates, so it's not like you have to write it from scratch. Widely divergent flavors and look&feel's, so you can pick whichever style you like. For example, while I think MainLobby and many of the CQC'ers have beautiful screens, for me&my family they feel too sterile. You can see that my stuff looks VERY different. But, many folks dislike my screens too. You can choose which person to get templates from, and learn/extend those.

Lighting: If you can afford a more expensive system ie RadioRA, def go for it. You won't regret not worrying about whether it'll work as you can just add another RF extender to your system.

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Old 01-10-2007, 06:14 PM
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sic0048, are you saying that most ML / CQC customers use an integrated security panel? I would say that is inaccurate, at least from an ML perspective where we have sales tracking to know that. Many more copies of Mainlobby get sold then we sell of security system plugins as customers use MainLobby for lots of purposes. If there was a "most", it would be to control their theater room media.

Are you saying that most ELK / HAI customers use automation software too? Again, I would disagree on that one too knowing the number of panels that HAI and ELK have sold and how relatively tiny the PC HA software business is.

Is tying an automation panel to a PC based rest of automation system a good thing - you bet. That I would agree with.

I will certainly bow to your knowledge in this area. I guess it is just that the people that I see that post on these types of sites seem to use an ELK or Omni Pro either with or without a HA system attached to it. Obviously these sites don't represent an accurate picture of the overall market.

Thanks for the clarification with sales numbers.

- Brian

CQC user since 2005

SageTV user since 2007

PBX in a Flash user since 2012

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Old 01-10-2007, 07:34 PM
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Brian, I don't believe that Forums come even close to what the real market is....
forums have a much higher proportion of "hard core DIY"rs. And, it would "appear" that certain things are "truth". The great majority of customers of Mainlobby will never post on this forum (or even Cinemar's). Many are "lurkers", but don't post. Forums take a LOT of time to keep up with. Only someone who really likes this as a major hobby (DIY'r) take that time. The rest are watching a good movie or listening to their sound system.

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Old 01-10-2007, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by smoothtlk View Post

Brian, I don't believe that Forums come even close to what the real market is....
forums have a much higher proportion of "hard core DIY"rs. And, it would "appear" that certain things are "truth". The great majority of customers of Mainlobby will never post on this forum (or even Cinemar's). Many are "lurkers", but don't post. Forums take a LOT of time to keep up with. Only someone who really likes this as a major hobby (DIY'r) take that time. The rest are watching a good movie or listening to their sound system.

You know, i've heard that many times before from various folks (ie, MarkP says all Cinemar guys are out hiking, not working on their systems), and there's something I just don't get about that: I probably spend 90% of my time overall on hardware/non-CQC stuff, a la this past weekend where I ran wiring for my HVAC, or this upcoming weekend where I'll install more zWave switches or run wires for the Elk sensors, or mount the speakers in the last few rooms of the house. Honestly, it'll take all of 2 hours max to do the software side of what will probably end up being 30 hours of work. And that includes anything I need to do in ElkRP, not just CQC.

How is it that your customers don't do that? I don't mean the music-only ones, but the Elk and other HA folks? I wonder if they're just richer than I am, and can afford to pay folks to come in and do all the grunt wiring.

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Old 01-10-2007, 08:41 PM
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IVB, of course every one has their own story, but a lot have Dealers install their system. I would say that most of the DIY'rs either do modest systems "I just like to launch movies from my Sony Changer" or "I just like to listen to music that I pick from MusicLobby". Of the ones that get into lighting, most just install the driver either have an electrician or figure out how to replace a receptacle with Insteon / UPB / X10 and use the prebuilt MainLobby scenes - most don't wire their systems HOT - MARKP!!! (equally guilty many a time, but don't recommend it! - even full 300 amp panels - how dumb is that)
The rest post on Cinemar's forum for those that get more adventurous. Once in a while on Homeseer's forum (where there is tons of info). And then, sometimes here or cocoontech.

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Old 01-10-2007, 11:03 PM
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IVB, for me, I enjoy messing with this stuff but my hobby is different than HA so I tend to come up with a plan and get every part needed for an install. Then I pick an open day to install a couple things at once. I usually try to have the interface ready prior to install as well.

To cut down on interface time I keep a list of notes of things that we would like to add or change with design sketches. This helps alot so you can edit and get done quick.

I truly try to spend as little time as possible working on my system. Althought I do enjoy reading forums to get away from the normal computer work. I do it myself so I can afford it. I want to get in and get out so I can enjoy the system.

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Old 01-10-2007, 11:21 PM
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Thanks for the replies, that makes sense. When I was just doing HT work, I didn't spend a lot of time on my setup either.

It's really been now that i've branched into implementing a true HA system that I've been sucked into the vortex. In the end, all an HT needs is a few cables here/there, a few speakers, and you're done. With HA, it's much much more. For example, with the Elk alone, i'll have 60 sensors, 5 speakers, 1 siren, 1 hub, 3 zone expanders, 2 keypads, and 1 proximity reader. That's 73 wire runs all in a retrofit house. There's literally zero chance of doing that in anything less than 150 hours, which at 6 hours/day (which is all I'll get) means 25 days. And then there's the 8 cameras, HVAC, and lighting.

Don't get me wrong - it's not that I don't enjoy my system, and it's not like I *want* to spend my life running wires, it's just that in order to achieve my objective which is a complete smarthome that's stable & easy to maintain, there's just a ton of hardware setup/wiring required.

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Old 01-20-2007, 07:44 AM
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I'm a little late to this thread...but better late than never. I own a Cortexa (and have no ties to the company). Perhaps I can answer a few questions.

The Cortexa (like any product) is not perfect for everybody. I'm a programmer and a Linux system administrator. I don't mind writing my own code to make an HA system do what I want. The Cortexa would seem to not be the system for me because it is not meant to be hacked and modified. However, it's a fairly powerful system and I'm impressed with it so far.

My brother and one of my good friends are housing contractors. They build custom homes and they are both interested in installing home automation systems to set their homes apart from other builders. I chose the Cortexa because I wanted a system that would work for me and I also wanted to be a guinea pig for my brother and friend. My main goal was to find a system that was powerful enough for me and at the same time a system that could be used by new home owners who may not be
geeks.

As others have said, the Cortexa is a hardware/software combo. It runs FreeBSD. It has no hard drive (it uses RAM and Compact Flash) and no fans. I like this. I think it makes it much more rugged than a PC. Mine has been very stable (and running FreeBSD it should be).

The Cortexa is meant to be your gateway router for your house. It has a built-in firewall, can do traffic shaping, port and IP forwarding, VPN, etc...

You won't have the ability to do raw programming, but their macro "language" is decent. It's all done from drop-down menus. You can set up events based on time, day, weather, other events, etc... They have what they call "flags" (which are really integer variables) that you can use in setting up your macros.

If you have specific questions, I'd be happy to answer them. I have set up a website that chronicles my installation of my thermostats, security system, X-10 devices, etc... You can probably find a lot of answers there.

Overall, I like the Cortexa a lot. It's not as flexible (hackable) as some systems, but it gets the job done and has a lot of nice features.
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Old 01-20-2007, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Ryan - this is great. I actually went into Hometech Solutions the other day to go over my whole plan and unfortunately they didn't know much about the Cortexa either. From best I can gather it looks like it leverages the functionality of a variety of different systems and streamlines the install a bit. For instance, there wouldn't be script programming on an HAI or those tables on an Elk. Can you please post your website url? I think that would be most helpful...
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Old 01-20-2007, 06:04 PM
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- Nuvo Essentia:
Pros $2k for 6 zones and add another $2k for 6 zone expander. Can be controlled by Cortexa. XM built in.
Cons: Keypads are lame. Their new OLED pads with the Grand Concerto are sweet - but that system is like $7k, which is abusrd.


The Nuvo is priced at:
Simplese 999.00
Essentia 1999.00
Concerto 2999.00
Grand concerto 3499.0

None of the Nuvo systems have tuners built in, its an additional tuner..Dual AM/FM/WB or 1 side AM/FM/WB and other side XM or Dual XM

all systems include controller/amp, Keypads, Emitters, Wall connection plate for Kepads, remote

the Concerto and Grand concerto require the LEarner for programming
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Old 01-21-2007, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by myurochko View Post

Ryan - this is great. I actually went into Hometech Solutions the other day to go over my whole plan and unfortunately they didn't know much about the Cortexa either. From best I can gather it looks like it leverages the functionality of a variety of different systems and streamlines the install a bit. For instance, there wouldn't be script programming on an HAI or those tables on an Elk. Can you please post your website url? I think that would be most helpful...


The website is:

http://www.lightscamerahome.com/

I'm trying to add data as fast as I can, but only manage to update the site once or twice a week. I'm hoping to go back and add a lot of detail as time goes on.

I haven't posted any info about how to set up events yet. If this is your primary question, let me know and I'll try to get you information more immediately.
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Old 01-21-2007, 07:33 AM
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Nice writeup so far Ryan.

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Old 01-21-2007, 10:54 AM
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the Concerto and Grand concerto require the LEarner for programming

Not entirely true. The Configurator software does come with the IR Learner, and you do need the Learner for building IR databases for any connected equipment, but you can get the Configurator software only by calling Nuvo. They used to list in their download section even, and I believe the Grand Concerto configurator software is there now.
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