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Thread: Total Newbie

  1. #1
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    Default Total Newbie

    I am allergic to DIY and do not have much of a clue on home automation. I have got hold of the book "Home automation for Dummies" and am still struggling. I am building a new house and would like to put in some home automation. Seems a good idea to do this whilst house is being built. I assume wired is preferable to wireless as it would be less prone to interference or problems with walls etc.
    I like the look of Idratek and the guy was very helpful on the phone, but I came off with my head spinning.

    Any ways I'll just start with lighting for the minute.
    I'd like to have the ability to turn lights off remotely or maybe moods. I am open to ideas.
    I have seen switches for sale but have noticed you have to be careful to make sure you have all the bits. So I assume a need the front bit for on and off and the workings inside. Maybe one or 2 per room depending on entrances. These would need to be wired up in the normal way to the electrical circuit. I then assume I connect them to my computer via a cable. Having looked at different cable I am leaning towards 5e. Does the cable need to be shielded?
    As it's quite a big house I would need to connect all the cables to a Node Zero?
    Will I need a rack?
    I'm going to have a cupboard or cabinet as node zero I think. Once node zero is connected to my computer I can work the lights using some sort of software?

    Next I want to be able to have multi media in a number of rooms. Now the good news is I'm a bit better on this. I currently have my computer connected to my Xbox via home plugs and can watch stuff on my TV. This works a treat, but I would like to have the same in the kitchen, sun room and a couple of bedrooms. I assume in this case I wire all the rooms with Cat5e, and get myself a separate multimedia computer. Also will need nice wall or ceiling speakers. My electrician can wire up Sky into every room. I think its called back feeding

    It would be nice to control the heating by computer. Downstairs is underfloor heating powered by a ground source heat pump, and upstairs radiators powered by same.

    finally I will be having a security system with cameras alarm and outside lights. But I'm not sure how that could be integrated.

    Sorry to be such a pain, but I cant find anything for the dim witted on the forums.

  2. #2
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Depending on which automation system you choose will depend on what you need to buy.
    Some systems have the modules in a central location such as a node zero. Then you run wires from the modules to the rooms. One set is for the switches another set is for the lights for example. Other systems have switch modules in the walls and these are connected via cat5 cable. The cable is either daisy chained to other modules then a single cable goes back to the main control module or interface. Or you can wire up each module in a star pattern and have the cable from every module going back to the main control unit (hence the name star pattern). Or sometimes due to the way things get laid out you can sometimes do a combination of both.
    Idratek is a good choice, and the guys are always helpful.
    Domintell is another choice.
    Then there is C-Bus and KNX/EIB as well.
    As for multimedia why not take a look at the XMBC stuff. You could have several of these all connected to a central NAS. It is possible to stream live TV such as Freeview or Freesat as well if you have the right equipment, such as a tuner card or usb stick thing. The XBMC works well. Even my eight year old daughter can operate it. So its not a steep learning curve to learn for yet another gadget.
    For networking and other cabling definitely go for at least CAT5.
    You might want to look at Abitana for a few ideas. They have a UK distributor.
    For music you can either use the XBMC or go and have a look at the Sonos range of equipment.
    Lastly you don't need a rack, but you will need something. It all depends on the home automation system you pick as the modules maybe din rail mounted, in which case you will need some sort of consumer unit. The Abitana ones look nice.
    Some other things to think about and or ask. If the computer crashes, will I still be able to switch my lights on etc manually.
    Expandability- think about if you want to be able to expand in the future, its easy to run extra conduit or cable now but not so easy later when the plaster is up. Empty conduit with a length of string inside so you can then pull the cable through is always a good idea. If you are going to do the cabling yourself,then remember no more than 2 bends in the conduit. If you need to have more bends, then fit a junction box that you can easily access.
    Invest in some cheap washing up liquid as you can use this to lubricate the cable, makes it easier to pull through the conduit,especially if there is a couple of cables already in the conduit (you only need to do it after the first couple of meters). Oh and if there is space in the conduit leave a length of string. don't be tempted to run loads of cable in one conduit its better to maybe use 2 conduits. the more cables you have in a conduit the more chance that every time you run another you could damage something.
    Something I do depending on the location of Node zero is to run maybe one or 2 very large diameter conduits, have these going into a large junction box then from there have smaller conduits feeding off to the rooms.
    Invest in a cable tester .
    Oh and lastly always leave about a metre of cable sticking out at the ends as this is the bit that can get damaged during the pulling.
    You will also need help when pulling the cables. So have beer in the fridge
    Last edited by toscal; 15th February 2011 at 09:32 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Cheers Toscal that's a lot to take in, but I'll do some further research.

  4. #4
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    Look to get your cabling infer-structure right... you can put the boxes on the end at a later date....

    eg: for a tv wire 2x coax and 2-4x cat 5 to give you future proofing to enable you to get a tv signal, IR, internet and potentially distributed HD.

    Personally pick your wiring solutions carefully if you pick something like Abitana or Singlepoint you will have to use there hardware as long as you have that cabling solution.

  5. #5
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by automate-me View Post

    Personally pick your wiring solutions carefully if you pick something like Abitana or Singlepoint you will have to use there hardware as long as you have that cabling solution.
    Wrong wrong wrong. Why do you say that. You can use other hardware. As long as its designed to work on a CAT5 based system it will work with Abitana cabling. And how do I know, because I have done it.
    IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by toscal View Post
    Wrong wrong wrong. Why do you say that. You can use other hardware. As long as its designed to work on a CAT5 based system it will work with Abitana cabling. And how do I know, because I have done it.
    I apologise then....

    My point is surely it is cheaper to use standard cat 5 cable than run abitana cable? What is the benefit of running abitana cable?

  7. #7
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    So you can use Abitana's modules.
    The Abitana system is excellent. It just works. Their home channel module is a good idea.
    While I agree its not cheap, its the flexibility of what you can do with it. Being able to not just use Abitana's modules has to be a good plus.
    IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.
    www.casatech.eu Renovation Spain Blog

  8. #8

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    There are some great ideas here. I am pretty new to this and have been looking for a few pointers on where to start and how to go about obtaining quality systems. This thread has been really useful.

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