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Commerical Building Automation for the Home?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I am building a new home and considering options for automating lighting, HVAC, security, and access control. One approach is to use a consumer-oriented system, like Crestron or Control4. After doing some research, I am close to concluding that commercial building management systems may actually be more flexible and cost effective. It appears that automation in the commercial space is far more common than in the home sector, and there are far more vendors servicing that market (making it possible to competitively bid a job, by the way). Interestingly to me, though, it appears that the products basically solve the same sorts of automation problems many consumers tackle with Crestron or AMX.

Let's start with HVAC. My system will have perhaps 10 zones, with a combination of forced air and radiant. Commercial systems can easily handle the coordination between the boilers, valves, pumps, and zone thermostats. You can get full PID control. With a residential system you might be able to cobble this together, using Creston to like things up, but it is not really something standard. Commercial lighting systems are commonly integrated into the building management platforms, and offer a great deal of flexibility (proximity sensing to turn lights on and off, schedules, coordinating with HVAC, etc). Security ties in are also very common. Granted, the commercial systems do not handle audio and video - but that is not really my primary automation objective. It should be possible to tie together Creston with a building system via some sort of gateway if that really is necessary.

I'm wondering if anyone here has had any experiencing going this route? One system that frequently comes up in commercial applications is the Siemens Apogee system. It's a closed architecture, with gateways to common building management protocols (like Modbus and LonWorks). Another approach is to go totally open-system, making everything in the house talk LonWorks. Various devices (like HVAC controllers, thermostats, security systems, proximity sensors, etc) would hang off the LonWorks bus and be coordinated with some central controller.

Is it sensible for me to even be thinking this way?

Also, out of curiosity, does anyone know why LonWorks seems to have vanished in the consumer product space. Ten years ago consumer grade products based on LonWorks were announced and even shipped by major vendors like Leviton, as sort of the next generation X10 style device. From what I can see these products have all been discontinued. It's also interesting to see that CEBus is dead. Both of these standards would be very useful in the home automation market today, and would promote better interoperability of components, as they have achieved in the commercial building automation marketplace.
post #2 of 13
I deal with commercial and educational AMX installations. At Infocomm, them and Crestron are the only two automation companies to speak of (Infocomm is the commercial A/V conference).

So, I'm not sure what you would do better than AMX and Crestron "by moving to a commercial-type automation system."

As far as lights (which you mention) every building I've been in uses Lutron. HVAC is done separately, so I can't help you there (though I do know as long as it has either RS232 or Ethernet, AMX and Crestron can both EASILY control it).

Maybe I just misunderstand what exactly you're talking about. Sorry
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ardentfrost View Post

I deal with commercial and educational AMX installations. At Infocomm, them and Crestron are the only two automation companies to speak of (Infocomm is the commercial A/V conference).

So, I'm not sure what you would do better than AMX and Crestron "by moving to a commercial-type automation system."

As far as lights (which you mention) every building I've been in uses Lutron. HVAC is done separately, so I can't help you there (though I do know as long as it has either RS232 or Ethernet, AMX and Crestron can both EASILY control it).

Maybe I just misunderstand what exactly you're talking about. Sorry

As an example, take a look at http://www.echelon.com/. They invented LonWorks, which is now an open networking standard for control and automation. It's very commonly used in building automation. See also http://www.echelon.com/solutions/home/default.htm.
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by siegeld View Post

It's also interesting to see that CEBus is dead.

Do you mean Clipsal C-Bus? http://www.squaredlightingcontrol.com/ will supposedly be selling it in the US within a matter of months.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Also, please see http://vykon.browsermedia.com/galler...ACE-2_0107.pdf as an example of a controller designed for some of the open-system building automation standards.
post #6 of 13
I believe you asked this some time ago:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=745801

I believe you may be creating a distinction in your mind which really does not exist. Insofar as it's very common to use "commercial" systems in large homes and integrate them with Crestron or AMX. And a building management system is different from a control system.

I believe the infamous PHAST used LonWorks. I'm not aware of any other players in the residential market that have embraced it.

Another open standards based protocol for the commercial industry is BACnet. You can read quite a bit about it at www.alerton.com.
Quote:


Let's start with HVAC. My system will have perhaps 10 zones, with a combination of forced air and radiant. Commercial systems can easily handle the coordination between the boilers, valves, pumps, and zone thermostats. You can get full PID control. With a residential system you might be able to cobble this together, using Creston to like things up, but it is not really something standard.

The above is what I mean by creating a distinction that does not exist. It almost sounds like you are listening to someones sales pitch. There are any number of systems that can easily accommodate 10 zones but of course they are going to be more commercial based. Trane, Alerton, Carrier to name only a few. Then you plug them into your control system and/or BMS. Crestron, AMX or otherwise. If you intend to have someone sitting at a desk all day monitoring the building on a PC, or just want to automate a few things with no actual worthwhile control, buy a BMS system too (or instead) .
post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by siegeld View Post

Also, please see http://vykon.browsermedia.com/galler...ACE-2_0107.pdf as an example of a controller designed for some of the open-system building automation standards.

From the link:

"The JACE-2 serves data and rich graphical displays to a standard web browser via an Ethernet LAN or remotely over the Internet, or dial-up modem."

If that's what you want go for it but it is in no way shape or form remotely related to a customized GUI that you interact with to control your home.

I really don't have a feel at all for what YOU want to do, what you want your house to do. All I'm getting is that you are attracted to the idea of an open standard that different products can plug into and use to intercommunicate. But I don't know how you want to interface with those systems? That's why I'm not clear on the distinction you are drawing betweem Crestron and a BMS. More....
post #8 of 13
...As an example, let's suppose you have 10 zones on a Trane HVAC system. Those zones can all be monitored and managed EXTENSIVELY using a PC/browser and their own application.

Now add a security system.

Now add a BMS and tell it that when the security systems is armed in away mode you want all HVAC zones to go to xx degress. Which you could also do with Crestron or AMX. There is always some overlap and the need to decide what will do what. For that matter, you might not need a BMS or Crestron system at this point. The HVAC system itself might allow such a trigger via Ethernet direct from the security system. But add another system or a little complexity and you'll need your BMS or Crestron.

Now add all the different systems. Lights, HVAC, security, pool & spa, shades, etc.

If ALL you want is automatic integration, I suppose a BMS system could do that. But I've never had anyone that wants only automatic integration. They want INTEGRATED control with a cohesive GUI that ANYONE can use. Most BMS systems provide anything but.
post #9 of 13
I'll shut up now and wait to hear what you want to accomplish .
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
My goal is to "automate" the house. It's easiest to describe the sorts of things that I want to do by example:

* Have proximity sensors in rooms that are used by the alarm, lighting and HVAC system. When a room is occupied the temperature goes to occupied. When a room is not occupied (for so many minutes) the temperature is lowered and the lights turn off.

* Have card key access to the house. When you enter, the alarm is disabled and lights and HVAC go into occupied mode.

* When alarm is activated lights and HVAC go into unoccupied mode, hot water recirculation pump turns off.

* When house goes into vacation mode, hot water heaters turn off.

* Depending on the time of day, light switches do different things.

* Have lots of temperature and airflow sensors to measure and report diagnostic information on the HVAC system. Automatically report unusual conditions or failures of the system to me via email.

and so on...

So, the question is, what would be the right "brain" for all of this. The "rule" programming and glue logic to hook together different systems could clearly be done with Crestron or AMX. However, I'm starting to conclude that it would be better done by using a LON or BACNET network controlled by something like a JACE BMS. The JACE would be the brain, coordinating the LON or BACNET devices, providing the logic to achieve the above type of behaviors.

As I see it, an advantage of this approach is that all of this is based on "standards" which allow me (or I should say, the installer - since I do not plan to do the initial work myself) to integrate various vendor components together, which gives a great deal of flexibility and should also save money (since you are not locked into one vendor's hardware).

If I desired touch panels and integration with say a whole house audio system, a Crestron could be installed to communicate with the JACE, but the programming of the Crestron would be limited mostly to the UI. The actual logic of the system would be in the BMS. The Creston would issue and receive simple commands from the BMS at the task level.

Another advantage I see to this is the DIY angle, in that after the BMS system is turned over to me, I would have full access to the programming of the system and even support from the vendor, unlike with Crestron or AMX.
post #11 of 13
You can certainly pay lots for high end equipment and installation. All of what you are asking can also be done with PC based automation solutions. Bridges across many different technologies and communication types. Handles the time of day, vacation, monitoring needs handily. You might want to integrate PC based with an ELK or HAI security system for the access control portion.
post #12 of 13
I'm not educated enough to speak to commercial or whatever BldgMgmtSystems even means, but I'd encourage you to think about fault-tolerance. For the DIY-centric, windows-based model, that means multiple servers. What I did with my setup was to use one (very cheap) server for all the "mission-critical" HA stuff, another (more expensive) server for the other stuff (ie, HT). Heck, technically I'll be moving my PC DVR to it's own, 3rd, server b/c my wife feels that's now mission critical and doesn't want any issues with the HA setup getting in the way of American Idol playback.

That way, if god forbid something were to happen, I could restore my entire setup to another machine within 24 hours (or less). Of course, this drives the price up, but for any serious HA implementation where it's not some single-pc-gee-ma-look-no-hands, it's a must-have.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
I agree you must think about the fault tolerance issues for all this. The JACE (I think this stands for Java Application Control Engine) will not be required for basic operation of the house. The mission critical devices (for example, the HVAC control system, lighting, security) will be stand-alone, but communicating with the JACE via LonWorks. If the JACE were to fail, the system would operate without the integration rule logic that the JACE is providing, but the individual subsystems will still operate.

The JACE, which is considered a commercial BMS, could be though of as a more powerful Elk or HAI-style controller. It supports standard protocols (like LonWorks or BacNet - and TCP/IP, HTTP, SNMP), has graphical tools for hooking components together (I think similar to the approach that Crestron takes), and also allows you to extend its capabilities and create more complex logic via Java.

By the way - the price point of this is not so bad. It is around $1k for a base system. I think I'm going to order one to test it out and learn more.
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