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Home Automation Knowledge Thread

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Hey Guys,

I've been doing alot of research on Home Automation Systems over the past few months. While this forum has been a HUGE help to me. I've found alot of the information is scattered all over the place. I see a TON of new posts asking for advice and the same questions over and over again, so I'm going to attempt to consolidate some basic information about the major competitors in this market into this thread. A few disclaimers before i begin.

I do not currently have any home automation system in my house, I've been doing the same research as alot of you, and have not pulled the trigger. This info is just a result/contribution of information that i have researched.

-By far I have researched LinuxMCE/Control4 the most, so by default those sections will probably have more detail than the rest.

-Please help me by posting any information (and letting me know of incorrect information) that should be added/removed to this thread. I will do my best to maintain this. In addition if you have useful threads that contain information i'm missing, please link to them and i'll do my best to add them.

-I'm doing my best to not be bias or subjective in this thread, if you feel that attitude comes out during certain reviews, please let me know.

-I am not a dealer or associated with any of these systems.

-It is safe to say that all of the solutions below support the basic, Cameras/Lights/Video/Audio. There may be other specific things that some systems support that others don't, if there is big differences here, let me know.

Based on what I could find, here are the big players in the industry right now.


Cost: $$$$
Requirements: Atleast one "Home Controller" as well as a dealer for setup.
DIY skill level: N/A
Protocols: Zigbee ( <1.8.2 ) and Zigbee Pro ( >1.8.2 ), WiFi, Ethernet, RS232, Relay, IR

Pro's: Big budget hardware backing, Control4 can integrate with 3rd party hardware, but also has a large selection of their own hardware (amps/controllers/switches/remotes) to make integration real easy, provides a very seamless easy to use interface that even non-tech savvy people could operate. Control4 has also done a great job of keeping up to date with latest trends to make sure their hardware/software supports new devices/protocols/media. In addition the limits of the system are very well documented so you should be able to gather all the information you need about compatibility etc before taking the plunge.

Con's: Price, Control4 is a dealer maintained and installed system, Because of the architecture users can't really tinker much with the system and will always need to involve a dealer. It is possible to purchase a Composer HE license and do some programming with the system, but you will always need a dealer/integrator to bring new devices into the system or perform any types of upgrades/bugfix.


Cost: $$$$$
DIY skill level: N/A
Protocols: WiFi, Ethernet, C-Bus, RS232, RS485, Relay, IR

Pro's: Professional Interface, Large resources, specific/dedicated hardware.

Con's: Price, and lack of DIY.


Cost: $$$$
DIY skill level: N/A
Protocols: WiFi, Ethernet, RS232, RS485, Relay, IR, X10

Pro's: Professional Interface, specific/dedicated hardware.

Con's: Price


Cost: $$
Requirements: 1 PC per automated room,
DIY skill level: Medium
Protocols: WiFi, Ethernet, Z-Wave, X10, RS232, IR (Via globalcache)

Pro's: Lower cost, DIY, fully configurable

Con's: Fairly complex for an average DIY'er, Requires a PC in every room, interfaces not as easy to use or pretty as some of the more expensive competition. Non-dedicated hardware.

Notes: I gave LinuxMCE $$ because of the requirement to have a PC/frontend system in every automated room. The actual LinuxMCE software is free.


Cost: $$$
Requirements: 1 Mac controller.
DIY skill level: Medium
Protocols: WiFi, Ethernet, Z-Wave, X10, RS232, IR (Via globalcache)

Pro's: Lower cost, DIY, Configurable via applescript

Con's: non-dedicated hardware, Price of Mac's could be hefty.


Most if not all of these systems generally require atleast 1 drop of Cat5e/6 to each room you plan to automate. But depending on the level of automation, more may be required. I see alot of posts about "I'm wiring a new house, what do i need?" The answer to this question is, What do you want? Here is some common things people are running to basic rooms. (Bedrooms etc) The number of cables/drops usually multiplies if the room will be used for an office/theatre/entertainment room.

HDMI - Keep in mind the workable length of HDMI is only about 25 feet, while people have had luck with cables 35-45 feet, This is out of spec and not recommended, For longer runs please look into HDMI Extenders.

Analog Audio - RCA red/white jacks for audio distribution/in-wall speakers

Cat5e/6 - New construction is running 1-2 of these per room, Home Automation enthusiasts are running even more, 3-4, Keep in mind that if you plan to run HDMI distribution over extenders that you will need atleast 1-2 for HDMI alone, additionally people are using Cat5e/6 to carry Network, and IR.

RG6 - Standard Coax, used to carry just about anything (but generally only standard definition television in the US. Regardless of what your implementation is, most houses have RG6 run to each room that a TV might be located in, you may need this for the following : Cable Internet, Cable TV, Satellite Antenna.
post #2 of 3
Thread Starter 
I have begun to do some basic research on a newer product called "commandfusion", so i'll be adding this to the list soon.
post #3 of 3
Would you include Insteon on this list paired with iRule/demopad/roomie remote?

Cost: $
Requirements: ISY99 (recommended), global cache, iphone/ipad
DIY skill level: Medium
Protocols: WiFi, Ethernet, Insteon, X10, RS232, IR (Via global cache)

Pro's: Very Low Cost (can build as you go), 100% DIY,

Con's: no dealer to provide support
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