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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm building a new house and will have lights, music, shades, HVAC, a pool, and a spa. The budget is as much as it takes to do it like I want.

I'm completely fine using an installer to set things up in a nice way. However, I do want to be able to control my stuff, not have it locked down so I can't do fun and interesting things with it. Specifically, I want a computer to get an event when buttons are pressed or motion occurs and for the computer to be able to issue commands, such as setting a lighting scene or playing music.

I don't mind having a computer in my system, even though it makes for an extra point of failure. It'd be fine if most of the setup ran on the lighting control system, for example, that this switch controls those lights, etc. The computer would just be used for additional control where it's needed. I don't need or want to muck around with wiring or most of the programming, I just want to get button/motion events and trigger commands that are basically equivalent to pressing a button.

I've done this in the past, using a Raspbee2, Zigbee devices (Hue lights and motion sensors, outlets, etc), and other devices with a computer as the glue. The Raspbee2 gives events over a websocket to the computer, which then issues commands to the Raspbee via HTTP/JSON.

I really like dorking with it and customizing the behavior. For example, I have complex logic for motion sensors that control lights. If motion is detected for a while, the lights stay on longer when the motion ceases. When the lights do go off, they dim slowly. If there's motion during the dimming, the lights come back on and stay on for longer (presumably someone is there, just not moving much). My favorite thing is that I choose scenes when lights turn on based on the time of day, so lights are dimmer and warmer at night. For lights that are already on, scenes are automatically set throughout the day so lights change color and brightness gradually, over the course of hours.

Looking at the options, Lutron stands out as very solid for lighting and shades. Lutron HomeWorks with the QSX processor seems to be the latest offering. Having color control of the lights is extremely important to me and I found that Lutron can work with Ketra lights (I'll have ~150 lights). I also came across josh.ai which seems neat. I've tried Google and Alex home assistants and they are OK, but josh.ai seems great to have voice control throughout the house. I haven't looked at how to get audio (eg Spotify) around the house, but I've heard Sonos mentioned.

What I can't really tell is how much control I would have with those options. Can I get events? Can I send commands? From what I've read, it seems Lutron doesn't make this easy. What if I used a third party? For example, josh.ai can obviously control the lights, maybe I can send commands to josh.ai and have it interface with Lutron. Or maybe I can register with or pay Lutron to do such third party development? Maybe convince an installer to give me access?

If Lutron makes it too hard, I can use something else. I see Creston, Control4, Vantage, Savant. Do these or any other systems do what I want? It's really hard to evaluate while wading through flowery marketing language. I realize I'm not the typical consumer for these systems, but I'd very much like to find a way to get the system I want. Thanks for your help!
 

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Sounds like you want / need a DIY system. So, forget about Crestron / C4 / Vantage / Savant and Homeworks and Josh.ai. None of these cater to DIY'rs. They all require an authorized dealer to install the system and to continually maintain it. Yes, there is some capability that Crestron Home and C4 allows the end user to do themselves, but if you want to add / delete hardware and services you need the dealer's engagement.

Our myServer system is similarly capable yet DIY friendly. Homeseer is DIY friendly. Home Assistant is as well. At least myServer and Homeseer support Homeworks. myServer supports Vantage. so, you can have a dealer add your lighting system and then do all rules / scheduling and automation within the automation controller. But once you do that...why pay the premium for Homeworks? RadioRa2 allows for On / Off / Dim - just like Homeworks (and most every other lighting system).

Ketra - on quick read sounds like it is not quite ClearConnect (Lutron) but possibly yet another wireless protocol. If that's the case. Steer Clear. That locks you into their hardware until they get bored of supporting it. Then you have a lot of expensive legacy stuff to replace. Lutron ClearConnect (used in Caseta, RadioRaSelect, RadioRa2) works great. You then have the zillions of options of fixtures to choose from.

If you really want custom, then go with DMX - which is studio / stage lighting and offers infinate control. Pretty high end for residential, but we have done that for several higher end homes that really want highly detailed scene control (RGBW). But that is then going to wire your house very custom (if that's part of the goal).

You can also mix technologies with the right automation controller that bridges inbetween. myServer controls DMX, Z-Wave, all Lutron (including Homeworks), Vantage etc. You could mix and match...not necessarily recommended (for simplicity) but easily doable. My home has all of the above now. Of course it's also my test lab :)

What else will be in your home besides sophisticated lighting? That's only one piece of the pie. A bigger piece. Distributed video is typically the most expensive piece so put good concentration on that. Followed by distributed audio. And dedicated theater etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Interesting, thanks for the reply! I'll check out myServer for sure.

Do I understand correctly that Clear Connect is Lutron's RF network/protocol? Ketra's product pages say "Lutron Clear Connect Type X". Is that different? How does Lutron and Ketra work together? Is it something like Lutron knows the light is Ketra, gives it power all the time, and uses RF to control it? One of the benefits of Lutron was supposed to be that everything is wired, increasing reliability. I would give that up for color control, but then I wonder if Lutron + Ketra is better than ZigBee? A single RaspBee2 can handle 200 ZigBee devices and there are modules for 1-10v dimming for fixtures that can't take a smart bulb. I've done that setup and liked it, though I worry about regretting that for larger house. Also I'd need to hardwire all the lights.

What bulbs/lights would I use with DMX? I need to research this!

I don't mind mixing technologies. I don't even think that's a big deal -- the entire goal is to bring everything in the house together. I'm not impressed with a demo that has a Lutron button turning on music. Pressing a button should be an event and then commands to do anything I want with any of the systems should be trivial.

What I listed are the main things: lights, music, shades, HVAC, a pool, and a spa. There's a dedicated home theater but I only need automation there for the lights. There won't be any TVs in the house except in the theater, so thankfully I don't need to distribute video. I do need distributed audio with 3 zones (great room, pool, gym), maybe 4. It'd probably be sufficient to play the same audio in all zones, just need to be able to turn zones on/off.

Is there a more open replacement for Josh.ai? I've tried snowboy and respeaker (which are very DIY) and it's just not good enough to have it work correctly ~50% of the time. Maybe Josh.ai is one I can keep?

Thanks for your thoughts! It's much appreciated.
 

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I recently went through a lot of these same questions with my new build home, I just moved in a few weeks ago. I spent countless hours trying to sift through the almost unlimited material and products to choose from. I conceded early on that there's no way I could stick to one brand or even protocol for everything. The only thing I kept consistent across all my automation products was they had some form of integration with Google Assistant.

My automation hardware includes zooz light switches, myq lift master garage doors, honeywell thermostats, swann security cameras, euphy doorbell camera, endless pool, elite automated roller shades from blindschalet.com, optoma projector, elite automated projector screen, pioneer receiver, Google home minis and Lenovo display. Basically every product has it's own app that I've linked up to Google. Zooz switches are managed with a hubitat hub-- I went with zooz (z wave) for the control to use the button to do anything I want (haven't set that up yet) and hubitat for the hub as it's one of the few options out there with a solid integration into Google Assistant with no recurring fees (IFTTT now charges monthly so I won't use them). Z wave was supposed to be but reliable but my lights have been a bit buggy unfortunately. Hoping to work through the issues.

I expected to have automation set up in several apps but so far I've been able to leverage Routines in the Google home app for most everything. I love how it has sunset and sunrise built in where you can say 30 minutes before sunrise turn off the porch lights and 30 minutes after sunrise open the shades.

Some Google integrations are retarded like myq, but using Routines helps get around most quirks. I can program a routine to take any number of voice commands and then using freeform text tell Google what actions to take. Myq requires you to tell Google to use the myq app, instead I set up a routine that when I say open garage it uses an action to address Google telling it to use the myq app so I don't have to specifically say it.

Overall I'm pretty happy with everything. Lots to learn still.
 

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I'm a homeowner and still learning, so certainly not an expert. My home automation "stack" is Lutron RadioRa2 for lighting/shade control and in-room keypads, Home Assistant for Integration (running on an Intel NUC), a Conbee Sensor with Aqara Zigbee door/window/motion sensors, Ecobee thermostats, Hikvision cameras, Sonos, Ubiquiti, and some ad-hoc DIY wifi devices (either Shelly Relays or WLED devices). It all works reliably and the automations work reliably. If I were to start from a blank slate, I would probably do the same except try and get wired door/window/motion sensors that integrate with a traditional security panel and the home automation system (e.g. Elk or Konnected.io) or similar. Also, I wish I had a slightly better home audio system for announcements. Everything is "local control" so if companies go out of business everything will keep working without their Cloud. I don't do any integration of Alexa/Google with Home Assistant but my understanding is that it works pretty well. I mostly rely on the individual systems integrating (e.g. using the Sonos skill for music control, Lutron for lighting).

In particular, I'm very happy with the Lutron RadioRa2 system for light/shade control. You can do the online training (takes just a few hours) and get access to their programming software so you never have to work with an integrator. It's also extremely reliable (which is super important for lights). My understanding is that people can't get the Homeworks software. Also, I recognize budget may not be a consideration but my understanding is that Ketra is very, very expensive. Depending on what you want, it may be worth looking at other products.

Hope this helps!
 

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I'm a long time Home Assistant user. I have zwave and wifi switches and smart plugs, zwave thermostats and hardware I made from ESP's (I'm an engineer) to control sprinklers, pool and spa and sense door closures. HA can also interface with my Denon receiver and Sony TV. In addition to HA, I have another pi running Node Red which I think is easier to use for simple programs. I also have cameras around the house. So lots of DIY'ed smart home stuff, and continuing to add to it. I use Alexa to issue voice commands to my home. With HA and NR, you can add an Alexa interface that works pretty well.

In reading your first post, seems like you want someone to install/setup the system, and then hand you the keys so you can tweak it.
If that's the case, I'd look for local installers, and see if anyone around you does that. I don't think that is typical. A normal installer might actually expect a continuing revenue stream from his customers as they make changes or additions. If you can find an installer that will let you take over, then what he offers might drive your decision.

If you do go the diy route, another option to look at is homeseer. They sell smart home software and systems. The learning curve would be much lower than for HA, and there is actual support, not just a user forum.

I've spent a lot of time making my smart home setup, but I'm too cheap to pay someone else to do it. And its now is fairly capable, so I'm pretty happy with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Myq requires you to tell Google to use the myq app, instead I set up a routine that when I say open garage it uses an action to address Google telling it to use the myq app so I don't have to specifically say it.
This is the reason I never ended up using GA for much! I really didn't like the "ok google tell blah" prefix. This workaround is quite interesting.

I'm very happy with the Lutron RadioRa2 system for light/shade control. You can do the online training (takes just a few hours) and get access to their programming software so you never have to work with an integrator.
It is great to know there is a legit way to do that, at least with RadioRa2. I've read the free training gives you Essentials software with some limits, one being you can only have a single main repeater. If you need two repeaters because you have > 100 devices, which I will, then it's $400 and wasting a day or two in a classroom. That's pretty crazy IMO.

my understanding is that Ketra is very, very expensive.
Looks like a Ketra A20 bulb is $100 versus Hue at $42 ($15 for white, $20 for white A21), so yeah pretty expensive ($10k for 100 Ketra bulbs). I found this teardown showing the internals and Ketra has some fancy stuff to measure its actual light output. It's hard to say if that makes a tangible difference, maybe for matching bulbs in the same area. The teardown shows Ketra uses ZigBee (must be what Clear Connect Type X means!), not Lutron's standard 434mhz wireless (Clear Connect). I've read Lutron's wireless is superior to Z-wave. I'm not sure about Lutron vs ZigBee, but since Ketra is ZigBee it's likely not more reliable than Hue. It may have better ZigBee hardware but the difference is likely small at best. Sadly there's no teardown on that site for Hue, but there is for IKEA's smart bulb.

seems like you want someone to install/setup the system, and then hand you the keys so you can tweak it.
If that's the case, I'd look for local installers, and see if anyone around you does that.
Agreed, I will do this soon and see how it goes. I think there are reasons it may not be possible, eg they may need to give me their copy or credentials to access Lutron software.

What makes this all so hard is I can't easily tell how to interface with a system. What I want is something that integrates with all the different systems and provides an API I can use to get events and trigger things. Nothing provides API documentation, except Deconz. Most don't mention an API and even those that do (eg CQC) don't have documentation.

I know I could use RaspBee (ZigBee) with Hue motion sensors to easily get motion events. That only leaves me with needing events from switches. I'd like a consistent look for wall switches, so light switches should look like switches for other things. I want light color control so my only options are RaspBee + Hue or Lutron + Ketra. With Raspbee I know I can get events and it will work like I want. Ketra is ZigBee, so the only reason to go through Lutron is if I want the fancier Ketra bulbs, but I can't figure out how if I can get events from Lutron buttons. Does anyone know if that is possible, directly or via a 3rd party? Lutron being so closed gives me a bad taste.

If I use RaspBee, I'd use hardwired ZigBee switches and wire the lights to be always on. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to also wire the house for Lutron, but not actually use it at first. If ZigBee fails me in this larger deployment, then I could change to Lutron. It would also allow the house to be changed to hardwired Lutron rather than using RF bulbs, eg if I ever sell it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
It just occurred to me that since Ketra is ZigBee, I should be able to use Ketra bulbs with the RaspBee, leaving little reason to use Lutron. I would not be surprised if there was some proprietary nonsense preventing it, but otherwise I could use Ketra in a few more important areas and Hue in the rest. I need cove lighting and the Ketra G2 Linear light seems like it would be great there. I'm not really satisfied with Hue LED strips for grazing lighting, the LEDs are too widely spaced. There are other ZigBee strips or ways to use any strips with a ZigBee controller, but I'd need to evaluate them.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Aye, there are ZigBee "profiles". Ketra gives no information about it, naturally. I contacted Dresden Electronik and they expect Ketra bulbs to work with Deconz, but they haven't tried it.

I've gotten pretty confident about being able to integrate with Lutron to do what I want. It's annoying that they are so closed to the owner and require a 3rd party to configure things, but I can get over that as long as I can get events when buttons are pressed and motion sensors are triggered.

I looked into writing the Lutron integration myself. There are a number of libraries available that use telnet and it's not difficult. However, the QSX processor doesn't support telnet anymore and the replacement API, called LEAP, is not published. Lutron works with Creston/etc behind closed doors to enable them to use LEAP. It's really stupid to hinder adoption of their APIs, especially since QSX breaks all existing integrations, meaning many people are left without a way to fix what they had working. Lutron does claim to publish the LEAP API eventually, though it's been 4-5 months and nothing. The only way a slow rollout makes sense is if it's beta quality. Anyway, maybe in ~12 months when my project is done the API will be ready.

The plan is now to implement Lutron almost like a normal Lutron customer. All the keypads and light fixtures will run to an equipment closet and there will only be keypads on the wall. I'll use a ton of Lutron hardwired motion sensors, one in almost every room/hall/etc. Where I'll differ from most Lutron installs is that most of the lights will be hardwired always on and I'll use mostly ZigBee bulbs for color control. Keypad buttons for lights will have no load, instead I'll handle the event and control the ZigBee lights, giving me a hybrid Lutron/Zigbee solution. Since I'll have Lutron and QSX, I'll be able to mix in Ketra if I want, even if Deconz can't control Ketra.

In other news, I talked with josh.ai. Currently they only have their micro device which you plug in like GH/Alexa. Their nano device will be available Q2 2021. It has a mic but no speaker, which is stupid IMO. I hoped to litter the nanos around the house, so I can use voice commands anywhere, but to do that I'd need audio somehow. I want traditional whole house audio so I can have proper speakers, not Sonos. It's possible to use that, but more complex. I'm not sure it's worth dorking around with josh.ai, maybe I just use GH/Alexa.

josh.ai doesn't publish their pricing, which I think is really dumb, so I'm happy to tell it here. They charge $600 per micro or nano device and the nanos require a $1200 controller. Next there's a yearly fee for their service of $1200/1yr or $4500/5yrs or $12k/life. That's if you have more than 9 rooms, where a room is a group of devices. There's a lesser fee for 9 or fewer rooms, but I don't remember what it is and it'd be limiting to keep the number of groups that low anyway. They claim they are more accurate than GH/Alexa and do better NLP, but I'd need to see it in person to really judge.
 

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Josh.Ai is a premium. But your information is not sold like it is by Google/Amazon/Apple. The reason why an Alexa is $25 is because your data is worth a ton and Amazon obviously sells it. Josh.AI is making money off the hardware/platform, not the data. The Nano doesnt have a speaker because it is meant to play with larger home automation systems that have distributed audio. I believe it has an audio feed off that controller which goes into a WHA system. I have not used or tested Josh.AI but read a lot of reviews - both in the trade papers but also from end users.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Re: josh.ai, yup, I understand. I don't mind the price and I like the idea. I would probably install it everywhere if the nano had audio. Integrating with WHA makes things more difficult (except for the Sonos bois) and even with WHA there are often rooms without speakers, eg bathrooms, laundry rooms, hallways.
 

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So get the josh hardware with the micro device. You don’t have to wait for the nano if it doesn’t suit your use case? With something like triad/Control4 WHA or crestron, savant etc it would be nice. I have 10 audio zones - pretty much can hear anything from those speakers regardless of where you are in the house.

Don’t underestimate bathroom speakers. I added invisible ones to my master shower. During planning and build my wife kept laughing at me. Now it’s one of her 2-3 favorite features in the entire smart house.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I'm in the house planning stage, so the nano appealed to me for a built-in solution. You're right I could add the micro after move in. That's still a long way off.

I've barely begun planning WHA and it's not 100% clear to me how it will work. I'll have 5 zones and I will mostly listen to Spotify. I could use one Chromecast Audio for each zone -- that would solve the inputs, allowing any cell phone to send Spotify (or other audio) to any combinations of zones and also control volume. Next I'll need amps and 3 zones have subs (looking at Triad Silver Flexsubs). I guess I leave the amps on all the time? Lastly, one of the zones has a TV, so I need some way to switch that zone between WHA and TV audio. I saw an automatic sensing audio switch that could work.

I guess that covers what I need? Is there a better way? I looked at eg Autonomic Mirage, but I'm not sure that would be better for my needs.

If my WHA is how I described above, nano integration seems a bit tricky. How does it work if I'm playing audio at high levels and Josh needs to say something? How does Creston/C4/etc handle sending the josh audio to all zones? Do they fade audio that was playing then have josh speak at a reasonable volume? GH/Alexa would fade the audio, then speak at the high volume.

I agree, shower music is nice! I've planned all the Lutron panel button labels and the master bath has a music button. Your comment has me considering a speaker for the outdoor shower. The bathroom will have audio and the glass sliding door could be opened (screen door closed), but it might be cool to have a speaker outside too.

Do you have subs for your WHA? How do you amp and control inputs for all the zones?
 

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There are many ways to do WHA - it really depends on your budget, what sources you like to use, flexibility, if you are using an automation system what plays nice with it, etc.

For my WHA I am not using subs. I believe there is a time and place for critical audio listening. When chopping veggies in my kitchen listening to Pandora I do not need subs. Any decent 6-8'' in ceiling speaker I think is adequate. If you are listening to EDM or something very bass-centric and its a critical area sure throw in a sub. Outdoor shower - why would you want a sub? I dunno. If you have an unlimited budget sure. But end of day, you are listening to streaming digital audio files 95% as background music. I have a nicer audio zone with a stand alone AVR, nice speakers, etc and there is a sub there. but that zone is also tied into my WHA. but for bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, dining room, I personally do not feel a sub is needed. If you have an unlimited check book sure add it why not

I cannot go into every permutation of WHA, there are enough threads on this forum. to speak to my experience, I have control4 and its rather "simple" in nature and wiring. The Controller for C4 has native streaming services built in (Sirius, Pandora, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, etc) plus there are DLNA drivers to pull music off a NAS or something. Depending on what controller you have, you have anywhere from 1-5 streams (a mix of analog and digital) you can use. So on an EA5, you have 2 coax digital outputs, 2 stereo outputs and an hdmi output you could strip audio off of, so basically you can run 4-5 independent streams. from there those audio outputs go into an Audio Matrix (C4 or other brand). I have a 16x16 matrix so I can put 16 inputs in and go out to 16 zones. So I have the 4 outputs from the controller into the matrix, and then I have outputs from the matrix (RCA stereo cables) that go into 2 different 8 channel amps (I have 10 zones). then the amps are wired to the speakers. Control4 handles all the distribution, etc, just use the app/keypad/remote/touchscreens to control the audio. you can program some stuff with alexa/google to pause/play/skip tracks, etc.

The c4 system works for me because 90% of my listening is pandora and 10% is split with Radio.com and SiriusXM. People say the Spotify and Tidal integration is a little lacking but again does not impact me. You could always add Sonos, Roon, VSSL, etc into a C4 system as well (with various pros and cons)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
What's this!? This is AVS, I thought it was mandatory to suggest 2-3 subs, at least! ;) I'm considering subs for the great room (it's a huge space to fill with sound), lanai (outside), and gym (EDM!). The master bed/bath doesn't need a sub (mostly there's not a great place for it, unless it's a flexsub in the WIC...) and the 5th zone is the HT, which of course has huge subs. The outdoor shower doesn't need a sub, but maybe a speaker.

Thanks, your description helps. Just adding "matrix" to my searches is bringing me to much better information. Cheers! 🍺
 
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