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In the design phase of my new home...for home automation, what things to consider?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm in the stage of designing my new home, and in few months, it will start building.

I would like to know, what are the basic things to consider before the final design>?

My plan is to automate as much as possible in the house, as well as i'm having a dedicated media room.

I'll have a small server room, for a rack or two, as I have NAS, servers, UPS....etc.

I know the question is too broad...but I'm seeking some help, and from your inputs, I'll hopefully ask different questions and so on...

thanks guys.
post #2 of 7
The most important thing to consider is that it's going to be easier (read: cheaper) to run wire during the construction process. Are you going to wire/install/program yourself or hire a pro?

What do you want to automate? Audio/video? Lighting? Security? Surveillance cameras? HVAC? Shades/blinds? Doors? Garage Doors? Gas fireplace(s)? Water shutoff? Irringation system? Pool control? Those are just the basics.
post #3 of 7
Are you doing this yourself or having someone else design and install? If the later, sit with them for a couple of hours and they can scope out what options you might have.

For the former, then you need to find out what DIY systems are available to you. Unfortunately your options shrink significantly as many products are dealer only.

The other thing is to nail the scenarios you want to have. Without it you will be shooting blind. You can run all the wires you want but you invariably find you missed some. When I first started on my own home, I went room by room and created schematics for each one (this was before I had my company). That helped tremendously in organizing my thoughts and keep track of the architecture and wiring.

The other bit of feedback is that you can't do this planning early enough. We have a remote garage and I did not think about running wires to it and had to have the trench dug up twice! Imagine the expense. On the other hand, I was super organized with my electrician giving him complete wiring diagram for all the electrical connections for my lighting system, switched outlets, etc. So it is great that the house is a few months away. Get everything done if you can before construction starts.

If your budget is north of $10K, I highly recommend consulting a pro and see what they can do for you. I designed and programmed my own system but you couldn't pay me to go and run all the wires and such. it is just not fun work. I have 72 cat-5 and cat-6 connections. I terminated a few and got bored to tears and asked my crew to come and finish them smile.gif. Yes it will cost more than you doing it but you are paying a lot of money of your home. Spend a bit of it on this stuff and get it done.

Also, consider some luxuries. We put in powered shades. They are Lutron and boy do they dress up the house in how quiet and luxurious they are. They close automatically at night and are always a great conversation piece when we have guests over and the four shades in perfect unison and quietness close. They help with home safety as they close when we leave the house, and save you energy cost by shutting off sunlight. We put in half of them a the time of install but ran wiring for all.

Per above think through what automation you can put in that doesn't require any user intervention. My outside lights come on at night and they and all lights left on shut off in the morning. They add safety to the home and I don't have to do a thing to get there.

Anyway, random thoughts which are hopefully useful smile.gif.
Edited by amirm - 7/24/12 at 9:48pm
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks cshepard and amirm for the initial feedbacks.

I'm gonna let a pro do all the work, but for now, I'm trying to understand the basics actually.

I see many components (AV, shades/blinds, climate, security...etc.)

now, for all these different aspects to talk to each other, they need a central system. am i right?

And there are various technologies brands that I'm learning (e.g. blinds by Lutron, AV by Crestron....etc.)

Let's talk about shades & blinds for example....what has to connect to what? I mean, the cables I need to run, will start and end where? to what controller will it connect?

I hope this gets me started in explain what I'm trying to do for now, at least

basically at this stage, I'm trying to ask around (you the pros), to guide from your experience...and Im trying to understand every part (high level at least, I'll leave the low level to the pros who will do it), so when im ready to make decisions, I wanna make the right one...

post #5 of 7
(The statement below is made with the caveat that your builder will allow you to use an outsider, and not his own wire guy. Many do not allow outside contractors not retained by the GC on-site).

Since you are going to hire someone to do this, then the time to get them involved is NOW. You will want to select an a/v integrator/installer/whatever they call themselves (after carefully researching backgrounds, checking references, etc) and have them design the wiring plan. Though you can start with a very broad range of wiring if you are unsure what you will want, it will be much better to design the system and wiring up front before construction begins. Since you mention blinds/shades, it's even more critical, as those could require significant rip and patch work to wire power/control later depending on what type of shade or blind you decide upon. In general, plan to run a couple of coax and 4-6 cat6 cables to each room (you will want some for a/v distribution, some for networking, etc.) for a/v equipment alone. But this is just a broad guess at what's needed. Do you want a distributed audio system? That might require speaker wiring and cat6 drops for wall mounted controls, depending on the system you choose. Do you want centralized lighting - that will impact how the electrician runs the lighting wiring. These are all questions that you should be sitting down and discussing now with your selected a/v pro. You might not figure out all the details right away, but at least determining something like "I want central lighting, I want automated shades in this room, that room, etc." will allow a professional to design a robust enough wiring scheme to significantly reduce the need for post-build wiring drops.

There are a number of threads in this section on "wiring". I would suggest you read those, if you haven't already. There's probably a link in one of them to the corresponding section on cocoontech.com about "wiring your home". That will give you a good starting point.

So to take your question about shades - that has different answers depending on the brand and type. In general, you need power and control wiring run to the shade mount location. Some shades can operate over wireless control, so they only need power. And there is a very narrow line of shades/blinds from Lutron that is battery operated and wireless connected, so no wiring is needed. Do you start to understand now that your questions can have a myriad of answers, including "it depends"?

Bottom line, if you don't get a pro involved now in designing your wiring scheme, then anywhere you THINK you might have something you want to control, run power and cat6 to that location.

P.S. - I'm not a pro, I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn last night, but I THINK I've learned a lot from reading this forum over the past 5 years or so. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips here, you just have to search and read.
post #6 of 7
I would interview integration companies ASAP, the sooner the better. Check with references.

It's the 'custom installer,' or 'integrator,' who will make the decisions about which manufacturers are best for the application. And he will decide what cables will be needed for the install.

High level home automation: Central controller, connected to various subsystems. Subsystem may have a controller of its own (lighting controller, security controller) or the controller may connect directly to subsystem devices (thermostats, AV source equipment).

This diagram shows one of the many ways that this can be accomplished with Crestron:

+1, Mike is dead on with the shades. I would definitely decide on a shade manufacturer before running the cables.
post #7 of 7
where are you located?
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