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Thread: Newbie, House Renovation, Suggestions pretty please?

  1. #11
    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    One other methodology that I personally think is really important... HA is great when it works but can be a nightmare when it fails and can rapidly alienate the family... nothing worse than not being able to turn a light on, the music off or even change channel on the TV (been there).

    I've tried to take an approach of allowing everything to function without a PC being required - eg all the heating and security/alarm. The lightswitches control the lights directly , and the AV system can be controlled in any room. They are all effectively standalone systems.

    I then add extra smarts provided by say a PC or even better a dedicated controller as they don't usually crash or get turned off/rebooted. The extra smarts link these systems and add features like bringing lights on during the day if the room is occupied but it goes really dark.. etc.

    I'm pretty averse to the PC as a controller - unless it's pretty much a dedicated PC for that purpose, but I know most people here probably use them for logic and scheduling, and are quite happy. If I can have all the bits running in a standalone black box (embedded) then I'm far happier.

    Just about all the main lighting systems based on a low voltage control bus can run standalone. Although IDRANet supplements it's behaviour using the PC application Cortex it has a fallback 'Reflex' ability so that buttons can control lights dependably even if the PC goes AWOL.

    K

  2. #12
    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steelercaz View Post
    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 was really suggesting these because it seemed you might not have the star mains wiring or low voltage bus structure in place for ceiling lighting. There are quite a few RF solutions - some two way and some single way. The C-Bus solution is , as you say 'top end' and although these switches are cost effective later expansion would be at a price...


    Yes there is a remote control available . The switches are UK sized but require deep back boxes, also best for new build style walls rather than thick stone. To later control these via xAP you would need the C-Bus wireless gateway/bridge and a xAP gateway which is going to cost maybe 300 or so at retail. If you're not intending a fuller C-Bus system then this route probably isn't going to appeal even though these switches are well priced.

    Another thought take a look at HomeEasy from B&Q which is very low cost.

    Don't dismiss X10 as it isn't necessarily a bad route, even if you do decide later to replace it with something else, there is still a second hand market.

    K

  3. #13
    Automated Home Legend Karam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steelercaz View Post
    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?
    The Idratek system is quite different to other HA solutions in that it is more concerned with automation rather than just control. You can of course use it in the same 'control' vein as X10 or CBUS but that would not be making full use of its capabilities.

    It can be installed by someone with reasonable technical competence though anything interfacing to mains would likely need to be either done or signed off by a suitably qualified electrician due to the current electrical legislation. 'Earthing the wiring' is nothing complicated but more of a professional level precautionary measure. When you have a system that can easily be controlling and collecting data from 100's of devices around the home 24/7, and is intended to run with minimal user intervention, then it is wise to take every measure you are aware of to ensure reliability.

    For a simple system the core components can just be an MPD module (power/network connection point), a 12Vdc supply, an IDRANet/PC interface module, some cable and connectors. You will also need the Cortex software which is free if you just want to do basic Reflex programming, but realistically you will want to run a network with Cortex so at a minimum you will need a core license. This collection of items will currently cost around 200. Obviously I haven't included the PC platform itself. As Kevin pointed out it is best to treat this as a dedicated item so that you don't have the risk of ad hoc applications causing issues. Having said this I must confess to having run my own house on a non dedicated machine for several years ....

    Beyond these core components its then a question of what you want to do. If for the sake of extreme example you just wanted to control a single light then you might choose any one of various flavours of modules that contains a relay, or you might choose a dimmer module. This module then gets attached to an IDRANet network cable and to the light in question. Without anything else you'd now be able to control the light from Cortex. Most modules have general purpose digital inputs so another thing you could do is connect an off the shelf switch to the relay or dimmer module digital input and you'd then be able to affect the state of that light using that switch. This would typically be done via Cortex, i.e. the switch state will be reported to Cortex and then Cortex will send a control command back to the dimmer or relay, alternatively the interaction between switch and light can be entirely carried out in the module itself (self Reflex). If you want the light to be automated based on light level then you will need another module containing a light level sensor. This module would be physically located in a suitable sensing location and connected to the IDRANet cable. Now the light level from this module can be used by Cortex to perform a more automated light switching operation e.g. switch on when dark (or even map dimmer level to different darkness levels). It would also be possible to perform this simple gating function via Reflex alone i.e. the light level sensing module will send a direct command to the relay/dimmer module to switch on the light when dark threshold transgressed and off when a 'bright' threshold is transgressed.

    If you want to remote control the light using an IR remote handset then you need an IR receiver module. If you want to remotely access the light or check its status via the web then you need an internet connection to your Cortex computer and you will need the web server license option. And so on ....

    Various modules are available with multiple functionality, for example at the end of the scale a DFP module has pretty much all other module sensors, intercom, an LCD display, and 4 relay drives. So one DFP module placed in a room might give you all the sensors and control elements that you need as well as a local user interface. But in practice you will find that you will probably need more than just this in some rooms and less in others, and in some cases you may wish to centralise switching eg. star wired mains rather than ring.

    But really it is important to understand what I mentioned at the outset - which is that the Idratek system is really geared towards more integrated automation without the user having to program their own logic to get things done. We like to call it 2nd generation HA . So even though you might want to start small it is useful to have an understanding of what a fully fledged installation can do because it is not a linear expansion of functionality. For example a very important facet of the Idratek system is automation based on room occupancy inference. This feature allows you to properly automate lighting and heating in a manner which will hopefully not alienate non technophiles whilst giving you convenience and significant energy savings. But In order to achieve this you will need motion sensors in pretty much all rooms and a few door sensors would help too. Without a properly sensorised house you can do basic control like any other system, but when you have a properly sensorised house you then get a sudden jump of capability. Also, having all these sensors means you now have the basis for a very capable security system without much further effort or expense.

    Not saying that this is necessarily the system for you, but hopefully my long winded answer might shed some light on some aspects of your questions.

  4. #14
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steelercaz View Post

    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...?

    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...
    The first Sonos node has to be connected to your network but after that its all wireless.

    X10 does have feedback. Most of the modules we install Xanura or Marmitek micro modules all come with feedback except the ones that don't require a neutral. So when a micro module changes state it will transmit its status. We also have a range of X10 mini modules which can be polled to give you their status, these don't automatically send out their status when they change state. But can be useful for certain applications, like checking to see if outside lights are left on. We also have a special adapter that enables the micro modules to be fitted into a din rail cabinet.
    IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.
    www.casatech.eu Renovation Spain Blog

  5. #15
    Automated Home Guru JonS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karam View Post
    The Idratek system ... It can be installed by someone with reasonable technical competence ....is intended to run with minimal user intervention,
    ... I must confess to having run my own house on a non dedicated machine for several years ....
    ...which is that the Idratek system is really geared towards more integrated automation without the user having to program their own logic to get things done. We like to call it 2nd generation HA . ...
    ... properly automate lighting and heating in a manner which will hopefully not alienate non technophiles whilst giving you convenience and significant energy savings. ...
    ... when you have a properly sensorised house you then get a sudden jump of capability.
    Not saying that this is necessarily the system for you, but hopefully my long winded answer might shed some light on some aspects of your questions.
    Hi Caroline
    I started from much the same point as you a few years ago and I am still completing it, so I can confirm the lack of expertise required, but do get a friendly electrician involved early otherwise it will be tricky to get sign-off - I used one recommended on ukha_d.
    For me work can be intensely busy at times and it can be months between having time to touch my Idratek system - it just works - and now with Reflex automated programming even when the non dedicated PC goes AWOL (my fault usually) the house still works with button presses rather than automation :-) I would never have had the patience to programme the system in the way Cortex provides frmo scratch so the built in automation is good too and simple enough for SWMBO + kids to use without trouble.

    From what you have said the hard bit will be the install from your current position... the "sensorising" for occupancy is a core part of Idratek automation - its much the same as a comprehensive alarm system, but is is wired and the wires need to go to doors (door switch), room corners (PIRs) and light switch positions ... not places you'd put cable if you were thinking of a data network.

    For multiroom audio I use a pair of amplifiers each with two switchable pairs of speakers (one in each room) with IR control for volume (bought of a bloke at work) and a squeeze box ... its not flash but it does and with the infrastructure inplace it can be upgraded as finances allow.

    If poss pause the plastering until you're clear about what you want to achieve with the infrastructure. I've jotted some thoughts here in the past. http://neuralhome.wordpress.com/

    HTH
    JonS
    JonS

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    I was really suggesting these because it seemed you might not have the star mains wiring or low voltage bus structure in place for ceiling lighting. There are quite a few RF solutions - some two way and some single way. The C-Bus solution is , as you say 'top end' and although these switches are cost effective later expansion would be at a price...


    Yes there is a remote control available . The switches are UK sized but require deep back boxes, also best for new build style walls rather than thick stone. To later control these via xAP you would need the C-Bus wireless gateway/bridge and a xAP gateway which is going to cost maybe 300 or so at retail. If you're not intending a fuller C-Bus system then this route probably isn't going to appeal even though these switches are well priced.

    Another thought take a look at HomeEasy from B&Q which is very low cost.

    Don't dismiss X10 as it isn't necessarily a bad route, even if you do decide later to replace it with something else, there is still a second hand market.

    K
    Morning Kevin!

    I investigated the light switches I was hoping that I could use these on last night, and unfortunately they all have 25mm back boxes. I could change 1 of them, which is in a new stud wall we've built, but the other 2 are on external brick walls...

    It's a shame as, even away from the HA side they would have been really useful, as the lighting controls downstairs are a royal pain in the ass - you enter the house in the hall, and walk into the lounge - there's a light switch for the lounge ceiling light and what was the other half of the open-plan room on another - this space has now been walled off with a stud wall, and is one half of the new kitchen diner. So far so good. However, on walking through the stud wall into this dining part, the only switch you have at the side of the door is for the new under-cupboard lights in the kitchen half of the room. You have to cross to the other half, by the back door, to turn on the kitchen or dining lights on.

    The wireless linking up would have totally fixed this! Is there any other solution, even if it was standalone and not tied into the bigger picture of HA, that could do the same job in 25mm back boxes, without costing the earth? I wouldn't mind about controlling these lights remotely - I'm planning on using lamps more for that for now.

    I'm spending some time refining exactly what my requirements are now I know a little more, and putting together a 'spec' of what I want to achieve, long and short term. Hopefully that will help me be a bit more succinct on here!

  7. #17
    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    In my sisters newbuild they even managed to put switches behind the opening door as you enter teh room...

    Take a look at that B&Q stocked HomeEasy range... does have both xAP/xPL possibilities later down your path. Switches are just stick on with batteries. Dimming is a little weird on some models (press to start and again to stop). There is an LCD remote that also allows scheduling.

    http://www.homeeasy.eu/home.php

    K

  8. #18
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    a few thoughts, hopefully useful (all IMO) :

    + X10 - see :

    http://jvde.us/x10_troubleshooting.htm

    for why we've kept well clear ! Not so cheap, either, when everything's taken into account, IMO ...

    + Cat-5e / Cat-6 - getting more in now will cause less upset than later !

    + the Idratek guys tend to under-sell their system ... the cost of it can be quite modest, compared to alternatives, when it's all added-up ... and the intelligence they have built-in goes way beyond what's available elsewhere ...

    + did you see Gumby's blog on his Idratek install :

    http://www.gumbrell.com/archives/hom...ation/2005/03/

    month by month he includes lots of useful info' & examples, from his installation ...

    + IDRANet has a free topology, which gives a lot of freedom for getting the wires in - run a wire from your HA PC, and run it around the house (no need to come-back), branching-off it (typically at a module, 'though it doesn't have to be that way) as many times as might be convenient ... and wherever it goes, it'll be just one wire (unshielded, or shielded if intercom features are part of the set-up) ...

    + wall-switches are not strictly necessary - if the lights are automatic, the switch is only for user-input & could be more convenient when placed elsewhere ...

    + speaker-cables - we've found we get much better sound quality when we keep them as short as possible - so running them between rooms is not (IMO) a good idea - ie: it's better to do the running (cable or wireless) at pre-amp or digital level & use active speakers (ie: ones with amplifier built-in) - we find it makes a big difference to clarity & fidelity ! Speaker cables can be quite expensive, too ... and there's a lot of mumbo-jumbo said & written about them, in regard to their various pros & cons, but the essential issue is something called damping factor - see here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speaker_wire

    which includes guidelines for maximum length, and here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damping_factor

    HTH

    Chris


    PS: Idratek have lots of datasheets :

    http://www.idratek.com/DLDatasheets.htm

    scroll-down for their How To Wire guides !


    PPS: more options, for control from your iPhones / iPod touch / iPad :

    http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/vbull...ead.php?t=2767

    we're hoping to go this way (got the builders in at the moment, so a lot of noise & dust & not quite ready to do our install & then try / sort this approach - but expect it to work) ...
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 25th July 2010 at 07:21 PM. Reason: PS & PPS

  9. #19
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    PS: Idratek have lots of datasheets :

    http://www.idratek.com/DLDatasheets.htm

    scroll-down for their How To Wire guides !

  10. #20
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    PS: more options, for control from your iPhones / iPod touch / iPad :

    http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/vbull...ead.php?t=2767

    we're hoping to go this way (got the builders in at the moment, so a lot of noise & dust & not quite ready to do our install & then try / sort this approach - but expect it to work) ...

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