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Thread: Yet another 'just starting out' question!

  1. #11
    Automated Home Jr Member
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    Thanks everyone for your replies!

    I'm afraid I now have more questions though

    Noel - I have read the wiring guide (and would recommend it to anyone else in my position - very helpful indeed). I'm certainly considering star wiring now. I've already ordered a lot of Cat5 and Cat6 in various colours for various things, and I already have patchbays and things from work so nearly ready with that side of things.

    I'm still not sure what to opt for by way of audio stuff - both cable itself and the system which runs it - it needs to be a relatively affordable thing at this stage but without ruling out the possibility to upgrade in the future. Any thoughts? In fact I'm still open to suggestions on general media and distribution - I have a Topfield freeview recorder, DVD etc, and I'm hoping to hide these in Node 0. Maybe XBMC is an option?

    Paul - It's interesting what you say about C-BUS, I hadn't thought about it as a gradual upgrade path, but it makes sense. Also, the pink Cat5 is good - I have been wondering about how to use cat5 in the backboxes while staying inline with the regs. Any idea where I should buy it though? Although I've only googled it quickly so far I haven't found it in the UK.

    For general control I'm considering getting HomeVision (especially as there's a discount on offer atm) - but my only concern is that I might be buying into old technology? Now I don't want to start an arguement here - just interested in people's opinions

    I realise that it's very reliable, but is it the same unit that it was when it came out or has it evolved? The pictures on the website of the TV menu look very dated indeed... Let me know what you all think. Is there anything I can't do with HomeVision that I might want to? Also, how useful is the two-way IR? Do people keep the unit in their lounge? If not, what's the IR actually for?

    The last question really is do I need an alarm panel as well as HomeVision (or similar)? What advantages are there? I'm sorry if this is a stupid question - it's not obvious to me at this point

    Thanks a lot for all your help thus far - it's really helping me make up my mind!

  2. #12
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    hi, no worries on the questions no prob at all, glad the guide helped.
    Home vision is an automation controller but does not provide any alarm functions, a Home automation enabled alarm will allow you to do an awful lot and as Paul said Comfort can do a massive amount and integrate with most systems you'd require.

    Essentially i'd sit down and draw a map of your house and then think room by room what you'd like to do and see and hear and control. both now and also maybe in the future. By the time you get to the future you might have changed your requirements but thats life!!

    The main thing as we've said is cable cable cable, spend the money on that now and in the future you can do anything.

    Pink cbus cat 5 cable I assume would be available from the cbus shop (google cbus shop and i think it should appear) otherwise I'm sure Paul or other will be able to advise.

    A lot of this, as ever, depends on budget, for multiroom audio the medium to high end users rate Sonos as being the absolute top notch of multi room audio, for those of use (like me) without the demand or the budget I'm using an ipod touch and a bunch of airport expresses to provide me with near enough the same ability in numerous rooms.

    Video distribution as we've discussed is complex but iirc I think we pretty much got there on that front?! Would strongly reccomend xbox's with xbmc to get you started and maybe in the future (if required for HD content) upgrade to a mac mini with osxbmc for say the main lounge and keep xboxes in other rooms? I love them and they work great.

    Xantech IR distribution is excellent, its pretty expensive but fantastic quality, good prices can be had from the states on this stuff and it also pops up on ebay now and again.

    Lighting....suggestion here but it depends if you're willing to go without automation in some rooms until you can free up more cash. I would be tempted to suggest saving the money you plan to spend on say x10 and purchasing some cbus equipment, say enough to do 1 or 2 rooms, that way you a) get a fantastic system that will wow you and 'just work' b) gain very high wife approval factor which will ease the next round of budget discussions!! but it will also let you begin to play with integration between systems, say if you did go for homevision or comfort etc.

    Just a thought!!!

    N

  3. #13
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    I use the IR on my Homevision quite a lot. I use a Harmony 895 remote and an RF receiver that came with it. Programmed the remote with TV commands for a Philips TV, re labled the buttons on the LCD display to lights etc. Taught HV that when it receives certain IR commands it turns lights on or off, or just brightens or dims them. Works quite well.
    Also used the HV once to start recording on the VCR, via IR. This worked.
    As for audio has to be Sonos. But also take a look at Sonelco they do some pretty good whole house audio stuff. Thats resonable in price and it could be connected to a Sonos system at a later date. Their Easy Series is very good, http://www.sonelco.com/ing/products/products.html if you need prices, connection diagrams etc let me know.
    Have a look at Abitana www.abitana.com for structured wiring, would give you video distribution, TV, Telephone etc around the house.

  4. #14
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    More questions I'm afraid-
    How does the HomeVision get IR if it's in a cupboard? Presumably I need more IR distribution to do that too? Where does the RF receiver that came with your remote get involved? I really do need to look at the Xantech stuff.

    Does anyone here use the TV menu from HomeVision?

    I'll take a look at the Sonos system (it seems to be well recommended all over this forum..) too. Thanks for the links toscal - that speed things up a lot.

    Noel - I found the Cat5 on the C-Bus shop, thanks. And not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. I'll look into C-Bus for a couple of rooms as you suggest. I'll certainly wire to allow for it in the future. I also like the Airport Express idea..

    As far as Comfort and the SC9100 - What kind of alarm functions are we talking about? HomeVision presumably would be capable of triggering a siren of sorts if I ever wanted, and would work with sensors wouldn't it? Is it just phone stuff that it can't do (without the add-on)? What else wouldn't I be able to do without a dedicated panel? Is it just an ease of use thing? I'm probably missing something obvious

    Now, I have a really stupid question about star wiring - presumably you're only talking about lights - you wouldn't star wire the sockets would you? Just checking...

    Thanks again everyone

  5. #15
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    You have a big, and fun project ahead of you and lots of choices to make about the various constituent parts that will make this all work. There are many different solutions covering big price ranges in almost every area and one of the key , and not so easy aspects will be getting them to all interact with each other. You have to think too about what your preferred interface will be to control things eg IR remotes, touchscreens, TV screen, web browsers, pocket PC devices , your phone, or other smarts like room occupancy detection, temp sensors etc etc. Everyone has their own preferences here and the solutions are evolving on a daily basis almost.

    My big recommendation at this stage , just like the others have said would be to ensure you get the wiring infrastructure right and this will allow you make more gradual decisions on your chosen hardware , even as has been suggested choosing an entry level solution eg X10 and migrating to a better system eg C-Bus ,Idratek etc as funds and experience permit. Intermixing such systems is very do-able.

    Really , really think hard about the cabling. Do install star mains wiring (think about table lamp socket stars too) and be overly generous with CAT5 as it can be used for so many things. If you later need to add devices or data/media feeds and the cables are there you've saved so much time and effort at minimal upfront cost. Retrofitting cabling is a nightmare and quickly alienates SWMBO and t he other alternative (wireless) is not always an option.

    Pulling wires under floors once carpeted is a lot harder than doing it now - put draw strings in - and if you have solid floors give it some real thought as to cable paths. Try and create a good accessible route to allow cabling to run between floors and across (even outside of) your house, and keep the CAT5 away from mains cables both from a regulation and interference point of view. Cables crossing at right angles are much better than cables running parallel.

    Think of sensors too eg temperature, light level, outside and inside PIR's of course if you're doing your own alarm install. Maybe even door sensors on internal doors for occupancy use. You are probably going to have to make early decisions on you alarm system but most of the other bits, can be phased in. Obviously the alarm functionality impacts these decisions so you do have to do this research before choosing one. Just programming the alarm system will keep you busy for a month or so, and if it's a very capable panel - like Comfort - you will constantly be refining it. You don't mention anything about your experience with programming but I get the feeling you comfortable with that.

    I'm a great supporter of choosing appropriate/best tools for the purpose so an alarm should serve that purpose and not say be implemented by an automation controller or heaven forbid a PC software application. Choosing well designed separately functional solutions for areas eg 'lighting' 'security' 'heating/climate' 'Audio' 'Video' provides a really good basis for these systems to continue working 24/7 , which is critically important for keeping other users (particulalry SWMBO) onside.

    The key here is choosing the right separately functional devices with capabilities that still allow them to be integrated by some overseeing control system . Often 'best of breed' solutions deliberately isolate themselves from such integration as they are concerned that being open could create problems. Sonos and early Danfoss Z-Wave solutions as well as C-Bus to an extent are such examples. This is where the fun starts and taking things slowly will help you get it right.

    I would encourage you to adopt a system that performs all basic level functionality independent of a PC - and then to just supplement the fancier layers of control/display - usually relating to richer data ( eg email, newsfeeds, weather forecasts, caller ID , pictures/video etc) using a capable PC application. Not having too many different devices each trying to control your system will make things much easier to program and diagnose.

    To create a successful HA system still requires a lot of understanding by the designer of how things interact - and indeed if they can. Hence my recommendation to take things slowly in terms of all the various hardware choices you make so you make appropriate choices.

    You're going to enjoy this though as it stimulating and rewarding trying to get all the bits working as you wish.

    Kevin

  6. #16
    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    Just on a couple of your specific Q's...

    To get IR into cupboards etc you use a system that repeats IR on it's own wired network - like Xantech and others. You can also do this via some of the wireless RF based repeater devices , which are cost effective compared to a Xantech solution but Xantech addresses multiroom much better. Keene electronics have some interesting solutions too.

    I use HomeVision (and C-Bus via a gateway) but I don't use the TV screens much at all . As you say they are rather basic in terms of appearance. I wouldn't suggest you use HV as a security system really though - I would instead recommend a stand alone system purposed for security and an ability to interface to that from a controller. Keypads for example are very difficult to support via HomeVision and programming entry exit delays and zone types can get long winded. Alarm system panels are inexpensive generally although capable ones (eg Comfort) along with it's optional UCM interfaces can be a very significant cost. There are even wireless alarm systems that you can interact with from HA controllers. (Visionic via an RFXCom unit for example).

    If you wish to switch the appliance attached to a plug then yes you should star wire it. In practice there aren't many heavy current devices you'll actually want to do this for though. Table lamps are something you should star wire though - and then use one of the 2A round pin plug sockets at the wall so that you can't accidentally plug an appliance in.

    K
    Last edited by Kevin; 18th May 2008 at 01:06 PM.

  7. #17
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toast0r View Post
    More questions I'm afraid-
    How does the HomeVision get IR if it's in a cupboard? Presumably I need more IR distribution to do that too? Where does the RF receiver that came with your remote get involved? I really do need to look at the Xantech stuff.

    Does anyone here use the TV menu from HomeVision?
    I have my HV in another room and the RF receiver just sits on the top of it with an IR emitter pointing at the IR eye on the HV unit. The good thing with the Harmony RF receiver is that it has 4 IR ports on it and you can via the PC program each port for a different piece of equipment, or equipment groups.

    Never used the TV menu but it can be customised.

    Quote Originally Posted by toast0r View Post

    As far as Comfort and the SC9100 - What kind of alarm functions are we talking about? HomeVision presumably would be capable of triggering a siren of sorts if I ever wanted, and would work with sensors wouldn't it? Is it just phone stuff that it can't do (without the add-on)? What else wouldn't I be able to do without a dedicated panel? Is it just an ease of use thing? I'm probably missing something obvious
    HV could work as a wired alarm system, but you would then need to program the HV with what it needs to do when a sensor is triggered, plus you would need to add on some form of keyfob or keypad activation. Though some of this could be done via the control plug in on the HVXL program. Have a look at my post in the HV forum here http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/vbull...ead.php?t=1716

    As for star wiring, most mains wiring here in Spain is essentially star wired, no ring mains here.

  8. #18
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Forgot to answer the alarm question.
    What I have found in general is that alarm panels do a good job on the security side, but aren't as good in the home control side of things. Most alarm panels will have simple on off, events based on sensor triggers and timed events for X10 or for other systems via some sort of control interface. The SC9000 and 9100 have this X10 interface built in. The SC panels do a better job on the home control side but then on the security side they have a few annoying traits. When you change the batteries in the sensors you have to delete the sensor from the panel install the batteries and then re-install it. The sensors don't remember their serial number, and are issued a new one every time new batteries are installed. And its difficult to connect an outside bell box. Though I believe the new Marmitek PROLINE ProGuard800 has solved this, but its not cheap.
    Where as something like the Visonic panels just require you to, go into install mode, swap the batteries out, and that's about it. But do require an additional X10 interface
    Can't comment on the Comfort panel though.
    IF you want to go the HV route then you might want to read this from the HV forum http://groups.yahoo.com/group/homevi...s/message/8326
    Also have a look here oh and sorry to add another choice to the pot http://www.smartsystemstech.com/flash_index.htm
    http://www.smartsystemstech.com/images/pdf/trifold.pdf
    Have seen a demo version at last years Domogar in Valenica. The unit was armed via iButton keyfobs. Which is quite a good idea, until you loose your keys.

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