Complete Home Automation Help


Old 11-01-08, 08:55 PM
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Complete Home Automation Help

I am coming up with ideas/planning for a new home. I would like to completely automate things such as lighting and would like to be able to control lighting and other such things with an lcd touch screen display(in the wall and portable). I have tried alot of research and have not found any good reference books, info on what the wiring would be. I am very knowledgeable on residental wiring(5th year apprentice) and would like to know what i need to run to each light fixture to make this doable. I do not plan to have alot of switches, I want most of the lighting controled through the lcd displays. If anyone could give links or any type of info it would be much appreciated. I do not have programming skills and do plan to get a Automation Contractor to take care of that but i prefer to run all the wires myself(ive seen security/automation wires ran before and it absolutely appalls me on how little they care about organization/neatness.).
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Old 11-05-08, 03:51 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
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There are different cabling requirements for the competing systems on the market, so you'll have to make your chopice first and then build the infrastructure for it.

The two companies I'm most familiar with are Crestron and AMX.

The Crestron lighting system can be retrofit to existing 120VAC cabling. An equipment box is installed near the service panel. The box contains the dimmer packs. The controller responds to the touch panel via Wifi either through the LAN or via it's own dedicated Cat5 in the docking base. Hard-wired "backup" switches in each room use Cat5. The system controllers are lan-based (which means you can also monitor and control the devices via Internet), and can also control audio/video equipment and virtually anything else that can be remote-controlled.

Get ready, though. One recent installation of a whole-house Crestron system was more than $100,000.
Old 11-24-08, 09:13 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Portland, Oregon - Planet Earth
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Wink General good advice for home automation wiring.

I have been planning my own smart home for several years and am getting ready to install my stash of electronic wizard gear. The one thing I have realized, as I have watched the industry and various manufacturers, is that things continue to change. Do not wire your home for any particular brand, wire it for any brand.

For my own lighting, I am installing home-run wiring throughout the house, meaning I am running a separate wire from each lighting fixture to a patch panel/junction box next to my breaker box in my equipment room. Also, I am using #14/3 w/G in case I wish to get fancy later, like adding a ceiling fan or some other add-on or (who knows?). I am using #14 because wire is getting so expensive and a home run system uses more wire. In the old days I used #12 for everything. The good news is, lighting continues to get more efficient and uses less power so the #14 is no problem.

For my light switches, I am also home-running everything but I am planning for the future by adding an unused cat5e wire to each switch box in case I go low-voltage (LV is wiring using less than 24 volts AC or DC) in the future (my preference). You can put cat5 (LV) in a regular box but you can't put 120v wire in an LV box. Cat-5 is cheap so run lots of extra everywhere. Be sure to use wire rated for vertical runs (through floors,(CL2 or CL3), or plenum rated wire (CMP, which is the most expensive) Check your local codes before buying your wire. I have a bunch of rolls of really pretty speaker wire that is rated to lay on your living room floor, that I bought before I thought about speaker wire ratings.

I have a sneaking suspicion that within a year, maybe 2 you will see inexpensive lighting control panels begin to come out. A year ago a zoned heating panel cost well over a thousand dollars and now Honeywell makes a great unit for under $500 with all the accessories for 3 or more zones and it is networkable too. I believe that inexpensive lighting panels are not far behind.

I am also installing occupancy sensors in each room so I am including wiring for that also (cat5). Each room has an AV control station so I am including (2) cat5s in each low-voltage box along with (2) #14/2 (stranded) for speakers. I would use 14/4 but I got a great buy on the 14/2 so I will double it. Use shielded if possible, especially if you cannot separate the LV wires from your 120v by less than 24". Use cat5 for all of your phone wires, that way you can use the jack for network or phone (they are becoming one). Run extra cat5 whenever possible (it's cheap). Home-run all of your wires to a punch-down patch panel in your equipment room and you can figure out your exact layout later or make changes as needed.

There is a company that sells a browser controlled DIN mounted relay panel for about $200 that controls 8 circuits. That is a cheap alternative to an expensive lighting panel and can be controlled using your touch panel with a custom web page that is easy to design. I'm using a copy of my floor plan for the master page which will show all the lighting status throughout the house. I have also considered making my own relay panel using LV latching relays operated using a momentary contact switch at the switch plates.

I am using Linux MCE for my AV controller and it will allow me to control everything using a touch screen panel (and it's free). To avoid using $1000 factory touch screen controllers from any particular manufacturer, I am using regular touch screen monitors that I purchased off of Ebay for less than $100 ea and I am home-running those also to the equipment room using long VGA cables with a USB cable for the touch part. The monitors are all 12v wall wart models so I can recess them into the walls and run 12v LV wire to my power supply panel. Linux MCE uses a server and, what they call a director, for each room. The director is just any kind of small computer that is used to communicate with the server. You can even use a bluetooth cell phone as a controller. Google Linux MCE and read more about it or go to to check out the commercial version. If you are not computer savvy or just want a turnkey system, check them out, their great folks. Also the kool thing about using computer monitors for my controllers is I can watch TV on them using the tuners in my server/directors or access my security/door cameras.

I have tons & tons of web sites and materials, gleaned over a bazillion hours of web searches and late night Googlefests, over the past two years. Too much to post here. I am in the process of building a web site to share my info and experiences and hope to have it up and running shortly (before Xmas). The URL is Check it out once in a while. I'll get it up and running ASAP. Or email me with any questions.

There is too much information for a simple post. I have enough for a good size book on home automation, wiring and did I mention I home-ran my plumbing also using PEX? I even installed speakers in the shower. It is still a work in progress but I plan on finishing up in early Spring so I can sell it and build a new, bigger more complicated/snazzy home using everything I learned on this one.

As a kid I always wanted to live in the Jetson's home of the future....I guess the future has finally arrived.

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