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Thread: Newbie, House Renovation, Suggestions pretty please?

  1. #1
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    Question Newbie, House Renovation, Suggestions pretty please?

    Hi all

    Right-o, I might as well apologise in advance for a long post - but I want to get all the details in so none of you waste time asking me questions I could've answered from the start! I'm posting here as more of a 'general thread' to the question I posted on Kevin's joggler app post on the xAP forum (link), as he has suggested.

    So, me and the fella bought our 1st house in April, and we've gone from just changing a few bits & bobs to gutting and totally renovating just about the whole bloody building (we've knocked that many walls down & built new ones it may possibly have been easier to knock it down and start again!). I'm a tech fanatic, and HWMBO is a gadget lover-if not understanding any of the tech behind anything he does (he appreciates end results, but isn't interesting in learning how to get there).

    My 'capability' level in tech varies - I can build a PC with my eyes shut, can design a (very) basic website using html (but as a print-designer prefer WYSIWIG until I know more...), have spent literally months on here/AV Forums/Google, etc, lurking almost every day and trying to research all the various options open to me. I have wired up most of the house with Cat6, and am in the process of having everywhere plastered right now, so will be connecting it all up very shortly. When it comes to coding, however, I know pretty much nothing - although am exceptionally keen to start learning some basics asap, just can't seem to figure out where to start.

    FYI, my poor man's equivalent of a 'Node Zero' is just in the office - where the router (currently a BT HomeHub) will be connected directly to my PC (Windows 7, good quad-core spec PC for my graphic design work but power hungry), a printer and a scanner, plus a 24 port switch, which will be wired up to a 24 port patch panel. From here I have 2 Cat6 runs to our bedroom, terminating behind where the Freeview/PS2 will be when we first move in (have no current plans for these, just wanted to get them in), 4 Cat6 runs to the lounge (fella's PC, which I'm *hoping* to turn into a Media Center/HA hub, Wii, PS3, plus 1 spare), and 2 Cat6 runs to the kitchen (an O2 joggler, plus a spare). I've also run a Cat6 to the hall, which is just coiled up under the floorboards, for if we later add CCTV, etc.

    I've ran telephone extensions up into the office, plus into the lounge for the Sky+ HD box, new aerial wiring from the loft down to the bedroom and the lounge, plus x2 Cat 6 and a Coax directly between the lounge and bedroom to one day send tv over using baluns + a magic eye. I've also ran the satellite wiring to the lounge, and left it coiled up in the hall, for when we move in and actually have the dish installed. I've also run 2 satellite wires to the bedroom, which could be used for Freesat one day.

    I haven't run anything to the dining part of the new kitchen diner, which I have a feeling I might regret, BUT, the wires which go into the lounge and kitchen run through a space under the stairs, which I will still have access to, albeit through a kitchen cupboard - so I'm presuming I could add another switch in there if need be, and figure out how to run some extra wires).

    The fella's PC, which I'm hoping to use as the 'house pc', has the following specs:
    - Windows 7 32 bit
    - AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5600+
    - PC2-4300 (266 MHz) 2Gb RAM
    - Mobo is just what came with the PC (he brought the Acer Aspire T180 off the shelf before we were together, I've just upgraded it for him bit by bit) Apparently it's a "EM61SM/EM61PM"
    - Graphics card is NVIDIA GeForce 6100 nForce 405 256Mb

    It has a fantastically quiet PSU, though I admit I don't know how energy efficient it is, and at the bare minimum it needs a freeview card adding.

    Between us we have a PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, 2 laptops, x2 iPhone 3GS, x1 iPhone 4, a Sky+ box, O2 joggler, wi-fi digital picture frame.

    ---------------------------------------

    So, that's the background (see, I told you it was going to be stupidly long!) Now for what I would like for my new house system (combination of media and HA) to do, both immediately and in the long term:

    - Energy monitoring, preferably accessible over the web and/or iPhone (looking at AlertMe, though I've had many of it's shortcomings identified by Kevin over on the other thread. That said, I'm wondering if it's strengths at energy monitoring make it worthwhile as running seperately from the rest of whatever system I setup? Not sure if anything else at such a low price does the job - i.e. web access, iPhone app, etc)

    - Remote control of lights, both in and out the home, again preferably available via both web and iPhone. On a basic level want some basic on/off modules for a few lamps about the house, but also want to integrate into the bedroom and lounge a mixture of on/off/dim units, for both lamps and ceiling lights. Ultimately I would like to setup something so that one day, whether by software or hardware upgrade, I could setup 'scenes'

    - I'm thinking for the media side, to begin with use the fella's PC as Windows 7 Media Center, with Media Portal as a front end (which I have just this very afternoon learned has at least one X10 control plug in available - just reading up on that now, so not sure of it's capabilities yet

    - Ultimately I would love to integrate cameras/security, although before I really got the HA bug we'd already ordered our alarm system, which I know is a Veritas system but don't have the model number - I'm presuming that won't be compatible, so the security will have to come later.

    -------------------------------

    As it stands, I'm thinking an X10 based system would suffice (money will be tight for a year or 2), maybe running the energy monitoring seperately via AlertMe's 29.99 deal (no monitor, just web/iPhone app access).

    However, I know I will want to add to and expand the system over the next few years, so I want to make sure that whatever I do from the start can be upgraded, and can be controlled via one system - e.g. xAP. I'm thinking maybe the CM15Pro would be ok to start with, though Homevision would be preferably if I had the pennies! I'm never going to want to control things like curtains - a bit of overkill for my 3 bed 1950s semi...

    Something relatively simple would be great to start with, though I'm a quick learner and very keen to learn more asap - happy to put the time & effort in.

    So.... any ideas people? Kevin and chris_j_hunter have come back with some feedback over on the original thread, so off to read through that now, but any ideas/suggestions welcome and appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    Caroline

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    Somehow I managed to miss a couple of things!

    I would love to add a sophisticated multi-room audio system, but don't have the pennies, so for now:
    - All my music is on iTunes on my PC, and the fella's is on his PC - but I know you can now get .aac to .mp3 converters, so potential with various ways of doing things.
    - So far I'm just thinking convert to .mp3, use via Win7 Media Center, broadcast to laptops / Joggler in kitchen.
    - We knew we wanted speakers in the bathroom, which is next to the bedroom, and to be controlled from the corner in the landing which the bedroom and bathroom make. We had to knock down the block wall between the 2 and replace with a stud wall, so, in a cheap & cheerful (and ugly!) manner, I ran a 40mm waste pipe from where we're hoping to put a corner shelf (with maybe a Joggler, wi-fi digital photo frame or iPhone dock) up into the loft, so wires can be run between the 2. We used a dry wall pattress box to run the pipe into, which we will probably cover with a blanking plate, drilled for whatever wires run through it, or one of those brush-like cable entry panels.
    - Because it would probably also need power, and there isnt' any on the landing, we ran some more pipe down from the bottom of the pattress box to another pattress box at the bottom of our bedroom wall, which is next to a double power outlet but will be hidden behind the bed, so mains adaptors could be fished through the pipe and powered from the bedroom.
    - A rough 'n' ready solution, but hopefully it means we can chop and change what we do here in the future - a cheap alternative to proper trunking, etc! (if that sounds like total drivel, here's links to a couple of pics that show what's what: the pipework in the wall, the pattress box on the landing where the little shelf will be .

    - For the kitchen, I'm thinking streaming from the lounge PC to the Joggler...

    The only thing I would love to have that I've no idea how to do is a decent but cheapish way to put speakers in both the lounge, and in the kitchen diner, so that if we were having a party we could stream the same audio into both rooms, maybe even upstairs. I know you can do this via Win7 MC media streaming, but ideally I'd like to add some wiring now so that it could use some decent speakers in the future. At a loss on that one, as know zilch about speakers/speaker wire/audio...
    Last edited by Steelercaz; 20th July 2010 at 06:29 PM.

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    I recently got a joggler too So I'd be interested to see where you go on that one.

    In regards to your sound system... it could be as simple as having two sets of independent speakers which are both joined into the same output socket by a splitter. Otherwise you're probably going to be looking at switchers/matrix systems. On another note... if you have all your mp3s in one big folder... whats to stop you sharing that folder with all your devices? And if you want music in one room to play in others... Does VLC support audio streaming? *scratches head*

    Security... if it (Veritas) has an output that you could connect to an input board on a PC or to HomeVision, then you could detect when the alarm is triggered and send lots of X10 ON commands.

    Energy monitoring... surely you can get an iPhone app for a CurrentCost unit?

    I'm not a fan of AlertMe... even if it's just for the reason that I don't want to rely on an external company... My house should be self-sufficient techwise.

    I can't remember any more of your points but good luck with the project and keep us all informed!

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    P.S. just thought.. if you're still in a situation where you could run more cat 6... do even if you ran 8 to every room you're bound to run out one day.. you can run it all back to your patch panel and then patch it through to whatever arrangement you need it in later

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    For audio have a look at Sonos.
    If Carlsberg made multiroom audio it would be a Sonos.
    IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.
    www.casatech.eu Renovation Spain Blog

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    Caroline,

    I should make it clear from the outset that I'm an Idratek person, but ...

    Much of the HA aspects of the functionality (and more that you haven't yet considered) is provided in an integrated way by the Idratek system. So energy monitoring, automated lighting control, security, cameras, plus sophisticated automated heating control (which I may have missed you mentioning but I'm second guessing might be of interest to someone who is interested in energy monitoring) and much more. Also all accessible remotely and with full data archiving and graphical presentation - with no middle man. There is also xAP, X10 and Rako interfacing though the latter two technologies are somewhat basic and are typically used for simple unacknowledged control functions where an IDRANet network wire can't be run.

    Since you are already thinking of using a PC as the 'control platform' then you already have the platform for the Idratek Cortex software.

    The main problem would be the need for network wiring. This requirement is not so onerous for an Idratek system since it uses a bus rather than hub structure - meaning several modules can hang off a single network cable. Nonetheless if you have already plastered in your existing cables then you may find that some of these cables don't necessarily go where you might want to put a module.

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    With the caveat that i've never used anything else I'm quite happy with my HomeSeer install. Whilst its not that cheap you can start off basic and then work your way up.

    Energy monitoring can be done with the Current Cost (might be able to get them free from NPower or your electricity provider) and a USB cable into the PC - script to get the data into HomeSeer is free, the plugin is about $10 I believe.

    A lot of people say stay away from X10, I have got a X10 setup and whilst not the biggest in the world (about 20-25 modules) the only problems with it I have been able to resolve easily. For ease of use and the fact you can pick modules up on ebay for cheap I think it is still worthwhile to look into. Some of the X10^2 modules have some nice features (local control/soft start/dim) and look a little more pleasing on the eye.

    HS has a built in web interface which you can use on the iPhone or there are some third party interfaces (and there is a iPhone HSTouch plugin, but its extra money)

    Cameras/Security are another relatively easy thing to get into HomeSeer, you might need some additional hardware though. The only problem is that there is currently no media player interface - there was for XP Media Centre and Vista Media Centre but not currently one for W7, it may come in the future though.

    It can be a very powerful piece of software and you can start of small and then work your way up in the future...might give you some ideas...

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    I think just about everyone starts with X10 and evolves. For some it seems to work really well and it's a great entry point.

    Mine was a retrofit in a big old house and I mix IDRATek and C-Bus as each has advantages. I also use HomeSeer software. I have taken a dual approach of getting most mains wiring in a star configuration back to the consumer unit but the switching control is on the low voltage bus (CAT5). I have a few outputs on CAT5 at endpoint positions too , and I've used a bit of wireless stuff for those truly inaccessible places.

    Cortex - which is the software that controls IDRANet is very very different to most other HA offerings in that it is functionality oriented. It takes key areas eg security, heating, lighting that Karam mentions above and applies lots of smarts behind the scenes which make things happen almost by magic. It automatically uses input sensors and outputs via links to create very capable models that would take months of programming in other HA systems. Cortex has far greater inbuilt control flexibility than a standard C-Bus system.

    C-Bus I use mainly because I chose it first and I prefer some of their switches, touchscreens etc. Both systems can use standard switches of your own style wired into input units too. This helps in less contemporary rooms. In C-Bus it's the switches that really push your install cost up rather than the dimmer/relay electronics.

    Because I use xAP the actual hardware or switch can be totally mix and match - a button on a C-Bus switch or touchscreen controlling an IDRANet dimmer or even X10 , or an IDRANet temperature sensor turning on a ZigBee controlled fan... That in a roundabout way is a key benefit of xAP in that you don't necessarily commit yourself down one road and can migrate gradually. Cortex offers inbuilt xAP whilst C-Bus requires a hardware add on gateway.

    AV integration within either of these systems is bit more awkward however.. another topic (I use Sonos)

    The Joggler came along as a really affordable touchcsreen - ideal for HA and so by creating an application that interacts via xAP you can use the Joggler screen for C-Bus, IDRANet, X10, Dynalite, Homeseer or whatever... as long as it's xAP enabled.

    K

    PS I know you're mostly finished with your wiring Caroline, but if you're stuck then the usual retrofit suggestion is RF based, perhaps ZigBee or Z-Wave as they are both two way. Rako is one way.

    Anyway just to mention I have a load of C-Bus Wireless switches that I bulk bought. They are basically a relay or dimmer switch that replaces a standard switch and then they talk to each other creating a network - that can also be bridged onto a C-Bus wired network later should you want. If you or indeed anyone is interested then let me know - these ones could be very affordable ;-)

    http://www.clipsal.co.uk/downloads/C...e%20Uk%202.pdf
    Last edited by Kevin; 21st July 2010 at 05:49 PM.

  9. #9
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    Hi 'add' - thanks for your thoughts. I have a feeling the Joggler-hacking may be quite addictive, there's a serious community sprung up around it - not sure if you've seen www.joggler.info? A great value way to get a decent little machine with a pretty good touch panel...

    I need to do a lot more research into the audio side of things - kept putting it off, as know so little about it, but the lounge will get getting plastered shortly so pretty much need to have it sorted by Saturday latest! When you say "it could be as simple as having two sets of independent speakers which are both joined into the same output socket by a splitter." - do you mean just using the 'audio out' jack on the PC and using one of those headphone splitters? If so, how are the speakers controlled - literally just removing the plug if you don't want it playing in that room? I can't emphasise enough how little I know about audio - I know ZILCH about speakers, amps, wiring, etc...

    The AlertMe product having to work through a web interface grates with me too - if you could control it directly it would be a huge improvement, but I doubt they'll ever do it (since they couldn't charge you a monthly fee then!) Not sure about an iPhone app for Current Cost - haven't seen one, but will have a dig tonight.

    I already wish I'd ran more Cat - particularly as I have loads left, but it would be really difficult to do now: my runs into the bedroom go up through the office ceiling, across the loft in some 40mm waste pipes, and down some trunking under the plasterboards in the bedroom - I don't think I'd fit another wire down any of the trunking, so only way I could run any more would be to cut into the plasterboard. Hmmmm, tempting! As for downstairs, it runs down through some boxing the fella built for me in the hall, which is now plasterboarded round ready to be plastered in, under the floorboards, through some waste pipes (notice a theme here?!), then into the little cubby. Not sure I'd be able to push it down the hall boxing - but I'm tempted to try tonight.... My fella will kill me, he thought the hours of cabling were over!!

    My biggest regret already was only running 2 Cat6 to the kitchen, which go to a little recess I got a carpenter to build that's been plastered now and sits above where the worktop will be. Why didn't I run any into the ceiling/walls?! The kitchen diner is going to be a 'feature' room, so why did I completely ignore it in terms of HA/audio?! Doh......

    By the way, if anyone wants any decent Cat6, I have a spare 305m roll, for some very boring reasons - drop me a PM if you're interested.

    Hi Toscal - I've spent a fair bit of time looking at Sonos, but unfortunately most of that time was pointing out to myself that I can't afford it! I guess it can be added later though, since it can be wireless...?

    Hi Karam - I've been looking at Idratek a fair bit today after comments over on the original thread, but since it needs wiring and the house is already half plastered I'm probably a bit stuck. Plus, I've read everything on the Idratek site, plus all the FAQs on the Idratek Automated Home forum, and still really quite confused as to what components I'd actually need to get up and running, and how much it would cost. Terms like having to 'earth the wiring' left me a bit cold - not something I have any experience with.

    I wish I'd given this option more thought earlier on - got swayed towards X10 due to its simplicity, but most people here are pointing out issues with reliability and having no feedback... Do you think Idratek could be installed by a complete newbie, if I did manage to figure out how to do some extra wiring?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    I think just about everyone starts with X10 and evolves. For some it seems to work really well and it's a great entry point.

    Mine was a retrofit in a big old house and I mix IDRATek and C-Bus as each has advantages. I also use HomeSeer software. I have taken a dual approach of getting most mains wiring in a star configuration back to the consumer unit but the switching control is on the low voltage bus (CAT5). I have a few outputs on CAT5 at endpoint positions too , and I've used a bit of wireless stuff for those truly inaccessible places.

    Cortex - which is the software that controls IDRANet is very very different to most other HA offerings in that it is functionality oriented. It takes key areas eg security, heating, lighting that Karam mentions above and applies lots of smarts behind the scenes which make things happen almost by magic. It automatically uses input sensors and outputs via links to create very capable models that would take months of programming in other HA systems. Cortex has far greater inbuilt control flexibility than a standard C-Bus system.

    C-Bus I use mainly because I chose it first and I prefer some of their switches, touchscreens etc. Both systems can use standard switches of your own style wired into input units too. This helps in less contemporary rooms. In C-Bus it's the switches that really push your install cost up rather than the dimmer/relay electronics.

    Because I use xAP the actual hardware or switch can be totally mix and match - a button on a C-Bus switch or touchscreen controlling an IDRANet dimmer or even X10 , or an IDRANet temperature sensor turning on a ZigBee controlled fan... That in a roundabout way is a key benefit of xAP in that you don't necessarily commit yourself down one road and can migrate gradually. Cortex offers inbuilt xAP whilst C-Bus requires a hardware add on gateway.

    AV integration within either of these systems is bit more awkward however.. another topic (I use Sonos)

    The Joggler came along as a really affordable touchcsreen - ideal for HA and so by creating an application that interacts via xAP you can use the Joggler screen for C-Bus, IDRANet, X10, Dynalite, Homeseer or whatever... as long as it's xAP enabled.

    K

    PS I know you're mostly finished with your wiring Caroline, but if you're stuck then the usual retrofit suggestion is RF based, perhaps ZigBee or Z-Wave as they are both two way. Rako is one way.

    Anyway just to mention I have a load of C-Bus Wireless switches that I bulk bought. They are basically a relay or dimmer switch that replaces a standard switch and then they talk to each other creating a network - that can also be bridged onto a C-Bus wired network later should you want. If you or indeed anyone is interested then let me know - these ones could be very affordable ;-)

    http://www.clipsal.co.uk/downloads/C...e%20Uk%202.pdf
    Hi again Kevin

    More brilliant info, thanks!

    So, if, for example, I were to buy some of your C-Bus switches, presumably I would need to get a remote to control them initially, in a simple way, but could move to controlling via xAP later? Could they be controlled simply by the Joggler app, or would they need some sort of interface between the two?

    I haven't really looked at C-Bus, as I thought it used a proprietary wiring system that was considered pretty much the 'top end' of HA.

    Could you PM the details of what you have? I'm definitely interested based on your post! (I take it from the pdf they are for US backboxes though, not standard UK single gangs? )

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