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Just (re)starting my home automation... suggestions

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I've been out of the home automation/theater environment for 5+ years, but now have a brand new home with theater room that I'd like to start automating. I have history with xlobby/girder/mainlobby and a few other DIY automation packages.

Basic starting equipment:
Middle Atlantic rack with custom equipment shelves
Harman Kardon amp w/rs232
Sony DVPCX777ES x 2 w/rs232
CE labs switcher x1 w/rs232
Speakers; hodepodge of Klipsch to get me going but will replace eventually
Home theater pc ===> possibly change out for home troller
Media server; not purchased yet but plan on ~10TB networked
Projecter; not purchased yet
Screen; not purchased yet
Screen Curtains; maybe, maybe not

~3500 sq. feet single story
dedicated total dark media room ~14x21 ft with celing cans and rope, wall sconce lighting too

Goals in priority:
Fully automate media room AV and lighting control
Add lighting control to remainder of house (must be highly robust)
Add audio distribution to remainder of house
Add video distribution to remainder of house

So, here are my initial questions:

1) what's the recommendation for lighting? Z-wave, upb; lutron, insteon, levitron?
2) what's the recommendation for control software; homeseer, mainlobby, other commercial. I see a bunch of stuff up on the app store, but most requires dealer integration. This is a DIY for sure.

Any comments/guidance welcome.

Thanks, Russ

Picture links:


post #2 of 8
Your two questions don't have specific answers as there are multiple good choices.

In the lighting area, if you have neutrals available in the switch boxes, you can use most any of the choices you listed. If some boxes are without neutrals, the Z-Wave approach doesn't require neutrals for most dimmers. Z-Wave seems to be gaining a lot of ground with more and more things available, UPB seems much more limited in that regard. Insteon, IMO, is sort of all over the place. I've sent enough Smarthome things to the landfill that I don't warm up to the brand much. I think if you do a lot of research, you'll discover that no one of those jumps out front, it more boils down to what you become comfortable with.

Software is a little different. In the DIY field Homeseer, Elve, CQC sort of lead the field these days. I use Elve myself and absolutely love it's robustness, stability, ease of programming and low entry cost. The Elve Touch Screen interface is rock solid without any bad habits. I run my entire system from an iPad and have never had a glitch.

HomeSeer has by far the biggest user base, having been around the longest. My personal reaction when I tried it was that I didn't like the fact is was browser based, but that's just me. It has a lot of good features and a big following. It's far more expensive to get into than Elve.

CQC is highly respected, but is more expensive and from what I have read, the learning curve is a bit steep. The author, Dean Roddey, is highly regarded. I can't comment much on it since I have not downloaded the trial for a test.

Just for kicks, here's a link to my home theater site. If you go to the Control System section, you will find an interactive iPad demo with my home automation screens on it.

post #3 of 8
Oops, just one small correct, it's CQC, not CGC, short for Charmed Quark Controller :-) It can have a little longer spin up, because it's more of a pro level product that is DIY friendly. So it's designed for maximum power and flexibility. Though we do have some good auto-generation capabilities now, and it's only the first generation of that. The next round will take it a lot further. Here's an example:

http://www.charmedquark.com/Web2/Downloads/Video Tutorials/Demos/SpeedInstall.wmv
post #4 of 8
Dean, I knew that quite well. I've spent a lot of time on the CQC site. Just happened to type fast and my aging brain coordination with my arthritic fingers must have had some mis-firing neurons. Glad you corrected it.

Jeez, just notice I misspelled Roddey also. I think I'll go out and mow the grass and see if I can get that right.
post #5 of 8
Believe me, I know the feeling. What were we talking about again? Are you Eunice's daughter? She was so pretty on the ship when we went to England after the war.
post #6 of 8
Darn it was too hot to mow much of the grass. Summer the first of May. It's going to be long and hot here in Nebraska.

Glad you pointed out that CQC is a pro-level product. As a matter of fact, I believe that CQC and Elve are about the only pro-level products in the mainstream readily available for the DIY market right now. Potential users should definately visit the various sites and see what fits there specific needs because one size doesn't fit all.

My own goals were for robustness, simple programing for my 77 year old brain and reasonable cost. I'm put off by software that requires I pay more every time I want to add a driver. I just want to pay once and get everything I need.

These are, of course, only my own opinions. Others mileage may vary.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys,

I guess I should have also added that I'd eventually like to fully integrate all my media into the control system (mainlobby did that really well), as well as implement controlled logic for lighting and other events. I might even go so far as to include some motion sensors, garage door sensors, and weather control for irrigation. My one concern about irrigation is that I have 11 stations. Most irrigation plug-ins mate up with Rain8, and can only control 8 stations. I suppose I could look at two controls and see if that's possible.

post #8 of 8
Certainly with CQC you could just load two drivers, one to talk to each.
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