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Where to start as a beginner

2425 Views 14 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  maddogmc
Hi everyone!


I wanted to say first of all this has been like my bible the past couple weeks. You guys are incredibly talented and helpful.


My first post will be a question. Home automation seems like a tough topic. As a beginner, where can i go to learn the basics of what's good and what's not?


If you're wondering about the things i'm looking for, the basics. Voice controlled lighting/temperature with some programmable extras. It would be nice if the system could control an advanced home theater as well, since I plan to build one in the next 6 months.


The hal2000 system looked pretty neat but I'm not sure how practical it is to really implement something like that.


I also checked out the X10 stuff on their website and it screamed cheesy informercial so I checked that off my list. I was under the impression that a lot of people use X10 products!


I am worried about ugly control boxes sticking out of every outlet and things of that nature.
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FYI: The practicality of open-air voice control is pretty low at this point.


You don't need to have ugly boxes be visible at all, indeed one of my goals was to hide as much equipment as possible.


The real first question to ask is: Are you sure you want to DIY, because to "do it all" will take a while no matter what anyone else says. I've done just about everything there is to be done, it takes elbow grease and nothing can help with that. There is mucho value to be gained by hiring a pro to take care of it


If you do and you're not scared of rolling up your sleeves, then there's a variety of great first steps you can take and I know i'd be glad to help wherever possible. I presume you will be retrofitting your existing house, and not building a new house (where wiring is easy)?
Yes you're correct. I intend to do most if not all of it myself. Money is more of an issue than time.


We are closing on a house in about a month, and I will need to do some wiring anyways (I want to put network jacks in most rooms). So i'll need to figure out how to do some wire running.


I am trying to do the most planning possible before the big day, and get to work immediately.


I don't think physically doing it will be a problem, it's just the implementation seems so complex and varied from one system to another. I'd be glad to go in whatever direct you point me in.
As IVB essentially said, forget about voice operation. Fun toy, requires much effort and decent monies to pull off with any effectiveness, and I suspect in the real world (other than demos for your friends) you won't use it at all and your family will tell you to shut it down. Touchcreens are were it's at IMHO for automation control. Supplemented by regular IR remote controls for very common functions like channel surfing and volume control.


A lot of people do use X10. The x10dotcom website is very cheesy. Keep in mind that there are many manufactureres and distributors of x10 technology beyond x10dotcom. That website has the low end of x10 devices. Most others are better implementations, but more expensive. With that said, I wouldn't recommend you starting with X10, unless you are on the fence about automation in general and need a dip of the toe in financially. If you are using a power line lighting system (cheapest and retrofittable into an existing home) then Insteon is next best, and next most expensive. UPB is the next step up. You can also look into Z-Wave which is an RF technology and I think on par price wise with UPB.


All of these are better than any X10 flavors. I would steer towards Insteon and UPB from the sounds of you situation.


Next is whole house audio. For now, just make sure you have a central place where all of your equipment and wires terminate. Usually in a decent sized closet in the basement, center of the home. Wire all of you typically stereo pair wires from speaker location to this closet and leave some extra length at both ends. Video tape where your wires are before the sheet rock goes up. Place a tape measure in the video as reference where wire ends are.


Distributed video: This has a lot of permutations...largest decision is HD or not in each location. HD via HDMI for shorter distances, or Component cables (3 RG5 cables) are common. Cat5 baluns to pass VGA is another. Geees, just thinking about this topic and there are so many choices dependent on your hardware and overall system architecture that it's hard to document in a simple post.... I suspect I will write something in our (Cinemar Software's) documentation Wiki as this is a very common topic that isn't easy to post....I suspect there are many posts on same and other websites that do a better job with this topic...stay tuned.
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Well, you asked for it....


First things first, determine what your endgoal HA needs might look like, what you'd want to automate. My list of stuff is here , which I also use as the intro for the "Intro to HA" webinars that I do monthly.


Then determine what the wiring would look like to achieve those goals. Here's a sample wiring diagram , and here's a thread on it. .

Also, here's another interesting and more recent thread on whole-home wiring with tons of great input.


What you have probably seen in your travels is that in this day of MCE, everyone always remembers the a/v stuff, but rarely do folks realize that you can also very easily integrate HVAC, security, CCTV, irrigation, RFID, and many others. This can add value by automatically turning on your exterior lights and pausing the sprinkler system when your car pulls into the driveway, or when you open the closet door. You can do what I did, and put motion detectors in *every* room linked to your security system, and re-use them for HA purposes if you're at home at the time. You can have your house "shut down" when you leave the house and arm the security system (turn down HVAC, turn off all stereos, all appropriate lights, etc).


But you can't do that unless you have the right wiring. In your case, find a way to run CAT5 to your HVAC thermo, your sprinkler system. Also see what you've got in terms of security system sensors.


Note: One thing I've learned more about since that Bauer83 stuff above is using Baluns with CAT5 so you can minimize the different # of wires you run in the house. I can't speak intelligently to that yet, but it's def one thing I'd learn about if I were in your shoes.


Welcome to the jungle...
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If I had the chance to do my house all over again. I would run electrical PVC to every control location and snake my wiring after the fact. Yes it would be a PIA but I'm always changing stuff because I can never seem to settle on anything. PVC makes it future proof.


Chip

Quote:
Originally Posted by stefuel /forum/post/0


If I had the chance to do my house all over again. I would run electrical PVC to every control location and snake my wiring after the fact. Yes it would be a PIA but I'm always changing stuff because I can never seem to settle on anything. PVC makes it future proof.


Chip

AMEN AMEN AMEN


All houses should be wired with Raceway tubing, they do it for offices why not homes. lazy i guess.
Not lazy, costly.

Most people are at the very edge of their budget when building/buying a home.

Conduit adds parts and labor money to the mix and is generally (99.99%) declined.


Cut back on fancy fixtures (you can add them later) and do two things.

#1. Conduit

#2. PEX type plumbing with zone control manifolds (should be mandatory).

Quote:
We are closing on a house in about a month, and I will need to do some wiring anyways (I want to put network jacks in most rooms). So i'll need to figure out how to do some wire running.

Run triple the amount of cat5e (or cat6) you think you will need. Run cat5e to kitchen outlets (Behind fridge, center island). Run cat5e to every location you have a cable outlet (run 4 actually!!!), Run it to your thermostat locations, irrigation control, Pool...and so on!! Anything electrical should have Cat5e run to it



When you get the structured wiring done (TV, Phone and security, make sure they run all the cat5e)


This will give you great flexibility. Cat5e can distribution Video (HD quality), it can connect HDMI, Component, It can be used Digitial Audio, it can be used for RS232 or IR.
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Hah, two days after IVB says he things open air VR is probably not practical, he goes out and starts buying hardware to tinker with VR!



I'm just giving him a hard time - hopefuly he will have success and we'll have some VR options inside of CQC.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sic0048 /forum/post/0


Hah, two days after IVB says he things open air VR is probably not practical, he goes out and starts buying hardware to tinker with VR!

Dude, I'm a DIY'er! This means:


1) it was $74 shipped for an AP800, I couldn't afford *not* to buy it

2) I sold off 2 amps and 2 PVR250's, and my cousin sent me the $500 he owes me. I had $600 sitting in my paypal account, and I needed to spend some of it before my wife found out and bought useless beauty junk with it.

3) Parts closet was looking too barren - within 2 weeks, i'm projecting to be at
One more very important thing about running all those wires. Label EVERY one. I used a code where, for instance, KI2 was the second drop in the kitchen. I used colored electrical tape and wrote on it with a permanent marker. For multiple cables in the same drop, I just used different colored tape.


I put conduit from the ceiling for every drop so I can change it later on. This was during construction, so the walls were open. Running the conduit with walls on would be a lot more difficult.
You can label each one, or you can use a tone generator and wire detector. Depends on what stage of the install you can spend the time. Not much harder either way. After the walls are up, you usually have more time. Before and you can hold up the construction works. Generally you pull multiple wires at once for efficiency which makes labeling up front a little harder.
I too am curious about where to learn more on this subject, and have been spending a large amount of time reading through the posts here. Where can I learn more about baluns, specifically how they work and what the scope of their functionality is? From what I've gathered so far, this concept is going to be the best way to future-proof a house (or as close as you can get).


-Yarney
I ALWAYS use products like this to mark wiring upon installation. It makes life MUCH easier when finishing/cleaning up the job. I keep it in a spreadsheet and leave a copy of the wiring scheme in the distribution panel.

http://cableorganizer.com/wire-marker/
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